Alert farmers and workers reduce incidence of stock theft

Although stock theft remained rife in the Free State over the 2023 Christmas season, without the involvement and attentiveness of farming and local communities the situation would have been much worse.

Alert farmers and workers reduce incidence of stock theft
SAPS arrested a suspect in connection with the theft of 41 sheep in Helibron, Free State.
Photo: SAPS
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This is according to Dr Jane Buys, Free State Agriculture (FSA) Safety risk analyst. She referred, among others, to a stock theft incident earlier in January in the Heilbron district where members of a farming patrol came across three people herding a flock of sheep.

The three suspects fled upon detection, but one was later apprehended and arrested by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS). The police confiscated 41 sheep as part of the investigation.

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“Local community patrollers, farm watches, the effective use of safety cameras, active control rooms and well-organised white-and-blue light initiatives, among others, played a decisive role in preventing more animals from being stolen.

“The fact that grain planting took place until late in the 2023/24 production season also added to the visibility of farmers and employees on the land, which could also have deterred potential livestock thievery. I must also highlight the invaluable role of FSA’s private investigators in the quest against these kinds of crimes,” Buys told Farmer’s Weekly.

FSA established its own private livestock theft investigation initiative in 2023 and made R1 million available for establishing the initiative.

Francois Wilken, FSA president, said at the time that Free State livestock producers suffered astronomical financial losses every year as a result of organised livestock theft.

According to him, the situation was exacerbated by the SAPS’s limited ability and capacity to combat crime in the province.

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Buys added that the private investigators worked in partnership with FSA’s Rural Safety committee and the LVG private security company.

“We are at the moment conducting a survey pertaining to the numbers of livestock that were stolen over the past holiday season. What I can confirm is that vast numbers of sheep have fallen prey to stock thieves. We have had cases of more than 170 head of sheep stolen in a single incident.

“I call on all FSA members to get involved with our safety and security structures as a matter of urgency,” she said.

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Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.