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ECape intros tech to fight stock theft

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 16 May 2024
Annual livestock losses are estimated to amount to over a billion rand annually.
Annual livestock losses are estimated to amount to over a billion rand annually.

To curb the spate of livestock theft in the Eastern Cape, the provincial government this week unveiled the livestock identification and traceability system (LITS) to be used by rural farmers.

Stock theft crime has caused emerging farmers to lose millions of rands, with more than 18 000 animals, valued at over R58 million, stolen in the province recently, according to premier Oscar Mabuyane.

LITS is a technology-based ear tag device that the Eastern Cape government is distributing to 120 cattle farming enterprises, with 30 000 cattle across the province.

The provincial government says all the ear-tagged animals and the identities of their owners are registered into a central database, where animal movement is recorded to make it easy to trace the animal back to the owner.

More than 250 veterinarians, scientists, animal health technicians and extension advisors have been trained to lead the implementation of the system.

“You can imagine what that is doing to the economy. When you talk about the province being the home of livestock, you are talking about subsistence rural farmers. We have a problem of livestock theft, and it has been with us for some time now. We are trying to tackle that,” said Mabuyane.

Annual livestock losses are estimated to amount to over a billion rand annually, based on statistics. It is estimated that on average, there are about 182 cattle, 282 sheep and 138 goats being stolen every day in South Africa.

The Eastern Cape’s Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform is implementing the system as part of a national policy, in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council.

The North West introduced LITS in 2022, saying it was part of upgrading the paper-based system of tracing animals to a modern and computerised system.

According to Mabuyane, the electronic ear tag device will also ensure animals are not only branded but their origins will be traced.

“We are trying to introduce a more organised and commercial way of handling these animals. This is part of us trying to fight and curb livestock theft. We are sending a message to all the thieves out there that we will go after them in a better and more organised manner. You cannot sleep today and wake up with a kraal full of cows that you can’t account for,” he commented, adding the system will be rolled out across the province.

The premier stated government wants to see all animal populations being branded properly and given the ear tag to make sure they are monitored better.

The province’s Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Nonkqubela Pieters said LITS will assist farmers in Tsolo, which is one of the municipalities with a high rate of stock theft, and assist the police to identify the rightful owner of the cattle.

“Even if you sell the animal to somebody else, you will be able to trace the origin. If there are diseases, you can trace the origin of the cow. Farmers are going to be trained to keep records of their cattle to make sure that if it was sick, when was it sick, what type of medication has been used, how many times have you dipped your herd of cattle,” Pieters explained.