Load-shedding a disaster for animals and farmers, says NSPCA

19 March 2019 - 11:48
By Nico Gous
Poultry, dairy, pig and fish farms are highly reliant on electricity, as are large-scale and small farmers.
Image: esvetleishaya / 123RF Stock Photo Poultry, dairy, pig and fish farms are highly reliant on electricity, as are large-scale and small farmers.

As load-shedding continues to leave parts of the country without electricity for hours on end, the impact is being felt by farmers and their animals.

The National Council of SPCAs says it has "grave concerns" for animals that depend on electricity for survival.

"In any intensive farming system, animals are dependent on ideal environmental conditions to survive. These conditions often depend on a constant supply of electricity," the NSPCA said in a statement.

"Not-ideal conditions lead to stress on the animals which leads to immune system failure, illness and even death.

"Electricity plays a crucial role in animal farming. It drives the system and equipment that creates the ideal environment to keep the animals in full health and vigor. Lighting, heating, ventilation, electric motors which run feed lines — electricity is at the core of a productive intensive farming system."

Poultry, piggeries and aquaculture are some of the farm types affected.

"Overheating is a serious threat. If the mechanical ventilation system fails to circulate air through the poultry house, the enclosure can heat up extremely rapidly, and the entire flock could suffer heat stress or even result in slow and painful deaths."

The NSCPA said it has been addressing Eskom since December but has only "received requests for our meter number in return, a query that is completely unrelated to our issues as we do not run an intensive farming operation".

"There are a number of subsistence and emerging farmers who may not have the financial means to buy back-up generators, and even if farms do have these, there is still a risk that when electricity is supplied again, the voltage may be too low which may result in the failure of ventilation systems, water pumps, cooling and heating systems, food lines and the like.

"We are extremely worried about the fate of thousands of animals that may suffer as a result of intermittent electricity deprivation," said senior inspector Grace de Lange, manager of the NSPCA's farm animal protection unit.