Farmers should ensure that each and every incident of livestock theft is reported to the police or the stock theft unit, advises Free State Agriculture’s safety risk analyst, Dr Jane Buys.
This will help the agricultural sector to paint an accurate picture of a widespread problem.
The results of an independent survey done by FSA shows the last statistics released by police minister Bheki Cele were understated, says Buys. In his previous quarterly review, Cele reported an 11.9% decline in livestock thefts between January and March 2020.
However, a Mentimeter survey, using interactive polling, paints a different picture. About 95% of the 168 respondents, believe livestock theft is an even bigger problem than farm attacks (at 51.35%) in rural areas.
Also, nearly 90% of Free State farming communities regard livestock theft as an organised crime, often perpetrated by groups or syndicates.
“When a crime can be categorised as an organised crime, colluding and corruption of law enforcement agencies such as the police comes to the fore,” she warns.
Buys further explains “that groups and/or syndicates of various individuals are involved in the planning, execution and selling of (livestock) to specific markets.”
This can also be dealt with if it’s accurately reported to the authorities. “The correct crime pattern analysis should be determined for crime prevention purposes. All information regarding livestock theft should be integrated and coordinated through a central point.”
In July 2021 alone, seven people were arrested in connection with livestock theft in the Free State. The suspects include five police officers and two animal stockbrokers. According to a media release by the Hawks, these arrests originate from an incident that took place in October 2020, where Brendin Horner was murdered in Senekal.
Buys says these arrests proves what FSA has argued for years. “Task teams should be appointed by the police to investigate organised livestock theft where some police officials are involved.”
How can farmers protect themselves?
Meanwhile Buys and Isabel Kruger, the chairperson of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation’s Free State stock theft forum, have listed a few guidelines that farmers should follow to protect themselves.
“Farmers should ensure that they have a brandmark certificate, issued by the registrar of animal identification, for their livestock. [They should also] ensure that their contact details and address is correct and updated on that system,” says Buys.
Kruger adds that farmers should “keep in mind that the registered cattle have different brand marks according to their breed society”.
The same mark for studs cannot be used on commercial cattle. If a farmer is not registered yet, it is of the utmost importance to do this.
Buys says farmers need to frequently count their livestock. This should ideally be a daily activity. They also need to keep a livestock register.
This becomes especially important when an arrest was executed by the police to show the courts how many livestock went missing with record-keeping.
Furthermore, Kruger says farmers need to brand their cattle. This is typically done with a hot iron or by brand freezing. Calves are often targeted when they are young, and it therefore becomes important to brand cattle before they are six months old.
The same should be done with sheep, says Buys. This is to ensure that farmers can proof that they are owners of the said animals.
“According to law, only the above identification is allowed, especially in court cases. No other mark will assure farmers the recovery of their cattle. Even if you do an DNA test, you will most likely pay a fee for not marking the cattle as stipulated by law,” says Kruger.
Other practical tips
- Farmers should ensure that loading zones for livestock is locked and frequently inspected. Also, ensure that the kraal is protected with additional security measures, including alarms and CCTV cameras.
- Farmers are also advised to place the Agri SA protocol board on the entrance gate to their farm or property. This is to ensure that every person driving through or visiting, should first contact the farm owner.
- When selling livestock or transporting them to auctions, ensure that section six and eight of the documentation is correctly completed. This specifically relates to the stock theft act. “Any mistake on the document makes it an illegal document,” says Kruger.