A new computerised system for keeping records on livestock will benefit farmers in North West a great deal, experts reckon. The province has set aside R1.9 million to implement its livestock identification and traceability system (LITS).
Desbo Mohono, MEC for the department of agriculture and rural development in the province, made the announcement during the recent tabling of her budget vote, where she said LITS would form part of an effort to align the province’s agricultural sector with global technological developments.
The director for veterinary services in the province, Dr Langa Madyibi, tells Food For Mzansi that the digital system will make life much easier for farmers and government officials who currently still use a paper-based system.
“Over the year, reporting movement of animals has not happened as it should, resulting in gaps in recording animal movement,” Madyibi says. “This has resulted in a deficiency in tracing the origin of animals upon export or slaughter.”
LITS, a national IT database system, will change that as it will be used to trace animals and animal products from farm to fork.
Farm management made easier
The system is not only able to trace the origin of animals but also the chemicals that animals have been subjected to in the rearing process. It can also aid disease control by making the disease status of animals traceable.
“The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease presented a perfect opportunity to trial the system,” says Madyibi. “Beyond the disease, it will be used to incorporate all aspects of regulatory operations of veterinary services like vaccinations and exports.”
Corine Steyn, manager liaison at the National Red Meat Producers Organisation, says that the introduction of the traceability system is a step in the right direction.
She points out that a traceability system usually incorporates a farm management system, which will enable farmers to know when exactly to vaccinate their animals for whatever disease. This, she believes, will make farm management a whole lot easier for a great many farmers.
“Traceability is very important in terms of animal movement, especially from controlled foot-and-mouth disease areas,” she adds.
If implemented, it will also give consumers the assurance that the meat they buy is healthy, hygienic and slaughtered at an accredited abattoir.
Steyn believes this will also “ensure market access [for farmers]; not only domestic markets, but also in terms of exports”.
No one will be left behind
Meanwhile, the department promises to ensure that farmers in rural communities with limited technological abilities are not left behind.
“We will intervene to ensure that all farmers of the province participate and are in the system,” says Madyini. “Otherwise, there would be no value if some animals are left behind and not recorded.”
Steyn is particularly excited for the system to help curb stock theft as animals that have been recorded on the traceability system would now be easier to track down.
She points out, however, that no system is 100% fool proof and she believes that some kind of back-up system should be available. “Luckily, nowadays, technology has made life much easier and simpler, and a huge manual system will not be that necessary,” she says.
She also cautions famers against putting all their animals onto a traceability system all at once, as it would be a costly exercise.
The new system is still in the process of being implemented but Mohono said during her speech that operators were already being registered in the national database. This will be followed by registering farms and facilities before individual animals will be registered.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.