RuVASA/SASVEPM Congress 2018

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RuVASA/SASVEPM Congress 2018

Vetnews August 2018

As common custodians of animal health, production, and welfare, RuVASA (Ruminant Veterinary Association of South Africa) and SASVEPM (Southern African Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine) joined forces to host the first RUVASA/SASVEPM joint veterinary congress in Gauteng from the 18 to 20 June 2018.  It drew just over 400 delegates and was considered to be a resounding success.

Both congresses were opened by chair ladies: Dr Trish Oglesby (RuVASA) and Dr Krpasha Govindasamy (SASVEPM).

Prof Bath – keynote speaker

In the RuVASA hall the keynote speaker, Prof Gareth Bath, spoke about the changes in the veterinary field over the past 50 years in his talk entitled, “Be prepared – the best is yet to come.” On the SASVEPM side there were two keynote speakers Prof C. McCrindle and Prof E. Mundt. They discussed the history of field epidemiology in South Africa and a single vaccination with recombinant H5 antigen which was produced in insect cells and subsequently induced 100% protection against a HPAI H5N8 isolate from South Africa, respectively.

The RuVASA sessions were well represented with international speakers from the United States, Australia, Italy, Spain and Slovenia covering a variety of topics such as European lumpy skin disease, bovine pain management and anaesthesia, dairy postpartum disease and genetics, beef herd artificial insemination, synchronisation and strategies to reduce embryonic loss, optimise reproductive management and improve calving rates.  International speakers were sponsored by Zoetis, CEVA, Ascendis Animal Health and Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP).

Local speakers enthralled delegates with presentations on Cryptosporidium, lumpy skin disease, veterinary public health, pathology, breeding soundness, udder health, and equine certification. Two audience participation plenary sessions were held.  One on the topic of oestrus synchronisation following presentations by Drs Randi and Cutaia and the other on bull/ram breeding soundness evaluation following a historical update on the VETCERT electronic certification system by Prof Holm.


There was a combined RuVASA and SASVEPM session on the first day where Dr Modisane had an opportunity to give delegates an update on the veterinary strategy, brucellosis still being the flagship disease. Dr Vervoort gave feedback from the National Animal Health Forum and the work being done to have all stakeholders working together on animal health in South Africa. He encouraged veterinarians to get involved in their respective provincial animal health forums. Dr Clive Marwick gave feedback from council and discussed hot topics such as the dispensing licences. This session was invaluable in bringing the different sectors of veterinary science together.

The highlight of the SASVEPM congress was the listeriosis day on the second day of the congress. Various experts who were and are involved in the current outbreak dealt with extensive topics pertaining to the South African outbreak. These included the link between Listeriosis monocytogenes and processed meats; useful microbial tests; the rights of consumers and civil class action suits following an outbreak such as this one; the role of education; etc. There were panel discussions at the end of each session where delegates had the opportunity to raise more questions to the panels of experts.  The remainder of the programme was diverse and was divided into recent research and epidemiological studies done in various species and diseases across South Africa and within the Southern African region.


From left:

Dr Nelson Matekwe, Dr Krpasha Govindasamy, Dr Didi Janse Van Rensburg, Dr Vashnee Govender, Dr Charles Katsande

Studies into the epidemiology of anthrax in Lesotho proved to be very enlightening and of great relevance to private and state veterinarians practising within the bordering South African provinces.  Highlights into the economics of sustainable poultry farmers in Zambia, reminded us yet again of the importance of early detection and control of diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza for the well-being of farmers across southern Africa.  This year, SASVEPM also had the privilege of hearing work conducted by the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Research Centre in Hannover, Germany, in collaboration with the University of Pretoria Faculty of Veterinary Science, into the development of a vaccine 100% protective against the HPAI H5N8 South Africa isolate, that was the cause of the first HPAI H5N8 outbreak in South Africa and the southern African region, last year.

The diversity of presentations from South Africa, ranged from the socioeconomic impacts of working horses in urban and peri-urban areas of the Cape Flats, Cape Town, South Africa, to risk factors for bovine tuberculosis in cattle and communal farmers living at the wildlife-livestock-human interface in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. The topics were relevant and applicable to current field work and a great motivation to go back to the field and look for more research and epidemiological study opportunities to improve the livelihood of all South Africans.

The theme of the gala evening, sponsored by Zoetis, was Moulin Rouge. It was a fabulous evening, celebrating both the joint collaboration of RUVASA and SASVEPM as well as Zoetis’s five-year anniversary as a standalone animal health company.  RUVASA presented the Ricky Wilson award to Dr Jannie van der Merwe.  In a heartfelt and moving acceptance speech, Dr van der Merwe reminded us yet again, that the heart needed to persevere within the veterinary profession, is indeed a humble and kind heart.  The rest of the evening was filled with balloons, great food, wine, live comedy entertainment, and dancing.

Dr Jannie van der Merwe

The exhibition hall was a hub of activity as delegates interacted with industry to learn the latest in new products and technology.

RuVASA extends their heart-warm thanks to all their sponsors without whom the annual congress would not be the success and fun that it is year after year. Our three main sponsors this year that need special recognition were Zoetis, who sponsored the gala dinner, registration and Prof Rob Gilbert.  Ascendis Animal Health sponsored Dr Lucas Cutaia and CEVA sponsored Dr Federico Randi, all of them sharing their expertise in various aspects of reproduction management.

The exhibitors this year supporting the congress were: OBP, 4Mix International, Animal Nutrition & Health (ANH), Africa X-Ray Industrial & Medical (Axim), Afrivet, Biotech Laboratories, Norbrook, Boehringer Ingelheim, Barnlab, Chemuniqué, Deltamune, DIAG Import & Export, Elanco, Lomaen Medical, MSD Animal Health, Sonorite, Thermo Fischer Scientific, IMV Imaging, V-Tech, Virbac RSA and Molecular Diagnostic Services (MDS).

Exhibition Hall

A special note of appreciation to Vetlink who organised, arranged and oversaw the smooth running of the congress for four hundred delegates – no easy task – and last but not least a thank you to the number of Onderstepoort students who lent a helping hand.

Due to the success of this year’s combined congress, SASVEPM and RUVASA will be working together again, particularly to increase interaction between the various sub-sections of veterinary and medical science, for a healthier and more resilient human and animal population.

Barbara Mikulski said: “Each one of us can make a difference. Together we make change.”  RUVASA and SASVEPM strive to bring together the people who make a difference, and trust that when this happens, we will indeed see the change that our animals and neighbours, friends and family, hope for.