Technology can save your cattle

It is with some frustration that I read the article ‘Fighting stock theft’ (29 June, page 42).

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Complaints about stock theft have frequently been raised over the past couple of years as an important issue affecting food security and the survival of meat producers. Stock theft is undoubtedly wreaking havoc within a strategic industry in South Africa. However, the impression created by various role players that this problem cannot be resolved is inaccurate. Cost-effective radio frequency identification (RFID) tags can now be injected under the skin of livestock, linked to a central database,
providing a lifetime record of each animal.

This includes monitoring transport, sale and veterinary treatment (traceability) which can be achieved at a cost of approximately R15 per animal. Where this system has been implemented in India, livestock insurance claims have been reduced by 40%. With such a system in place, law enforcement officers would be able to determine instantly whether a vehicle transporting animals is doing so legally or not, by simply sending a short code SMS of the registration number of the vehicle.

By providing the officer with a simple scanner, any individual animal (whether on a truck or next to the road) could be identified immediately – indicating its rightful owner and destination. Livestock theft can also be reported timeously and geographically accurate within a system that automatically rings the bell at the right police office. According to Capt Rassie Erasmus (Landbouweekblad, 2 December 2011) an RFID tag system will decrease livestock theft by 60%.

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However, farmers seem reluctant to participate because they are suspicious of what the information will be used for.
Government seems unable to do anything but talk about the problem and so the saga continues. In the end, the police carry the full blame for being ineffective. Let’s be reasonable: they lack the appropriate tools to effectively address this growing issue.