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Use of advanced technology expected to ease stock theft



Staff Reporter

Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development MEC William Bulwane believes the use of drones and digital trackers to monitor the movement of livestock could help improve security on the farms and allow emerging farmers to grow.

According to the MEC, most farmers along the SA border with Lesotho have struggled with stock theft and farm attacks for a long time and he anticipates a new initiative launched by his department on Friday to reduce the high crime rate and allow farmers to focus more on their operations.

“We felt it important to help farmers improve security on their farms using drones and trackers for their livestock,” said Bulwane during the launch of the Risk Management Solution Programme near Wepener.

The programme is aimed at assisting farmers to minimise the loss of livestock, crops and different equipment through the use of technology.

Bulwane said farmers around Wepener, Ladybrand, Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo as well as areas along the Caledon River, Fouriesmith up to Bethlehem have been complaining a lot about stock theft.

The Intelligent Animal Tracking System is expected to help curb the growing problem of stock theft.

“We have been looking at ways to address this . . . at times we did spontaneous patrols using a police helicopter but it didn’t help much,” said Bulwane.

“We wanted something that could give a permanent solution to these problems.

“We then decided to use the drones so that the farmers are able to check on their cattle on their own.

“The system is linked to their cellphones and they keep track of their livestock from wherever they are.”

The drones will not be given to individual farmers but will be allocated to groups and operated by a qualified drone pilot.

The first beneficiaries of the initiative are emerging and large-scale farmers in the Mangaung Metro.

These include farmers in the commonages around Thaba Nchu and Botshabelo as well as commercial farmers from Wepener and Bainsvlei.

About R4.5 million has been allocated for this programme to support 156 farmers.

They will be provided with about 1 706 solar-powered livestock tracking devices.

At least 32 vehicles will also be fitted with the anti-hijack tracking devices.

The programme is set to be rolled out to other parts of the province soon.

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Free State records new cases of foot-and-mouth disease



FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE . . . Infected animals are characterised by development of fluid-filled vesicles and erosions on the mouth and feet of the animals

The Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says three new cases of foot-and-mouth Disease (FMD) have been reported in the province.

In a notice to farmers, Agriculture MEC Thembeni Nxangisa confirmed three cases and said his department was working with the affected farmers to ensure the disease is contained.

“There is one case in Marquard and two cases in Viljoenskroon,” he said.

“All farms have been placed under quarantine after chief state veterinarians were notified about possible signs of foot-and-mouth disease.

“On these farms, the animals showed typical signs of FMD and samples were collected in order for the diagnosis to be confirmed.”

Nxangisa said in Viljoenskroon, two farms were initially investigated but confirmation was received on one farm, while results on the second are still pending.

“The farm where the positive case has been confirmed, investigations are still continuing to determine the source of the outbreak,” he said.

At the second farm in Viljoenskroon where the tests are still pending, the farm owner is alleged to have moved animals from the farm that he owns in the North-West province.

Veterinary personnel are also on the ground trying to curb further spread.

All these outbreaks, according to the MEC, are a continuation of an outbreak that was first reported in March this year which started in the North West.

Around April, provincial authorities reported three suspected cases of FMD following the movement of infected animals from Limpopo province to Gauteng, the North-West and subsequently to the Free State.

The outbreak was eventually contained a few weeks later.

Nxangisa urged farmers and the farming community at large to refrain from moving animals and buying animals from auctions.

He said farmers should remain vigilant and report to state veterinarians any signs and symptoms that may be suspicious.

FMD is a state-controlled viral disease mostly affecting cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.

Infected animals are characterised by development of fluid-filled vesicles and erosions on the mouth and feet of the animals. – Staff Reporter

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A fitness enthusiast who dumped dumbbells for cattle farming



FROM GYM TO PASTURES . . . Young livestock farmer Tumelo Pedi from Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein-born farmer Tumelo Pedi, 30, probably took his spirit of resilience from the gym and applied it to his new found love – cattle farming – and he has no regrets.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) says the young prolific farmer only started with two cows and he applied for land for four years before he was eventually offered a 942-hectare farm near Reddersburg, south of the Free State capital in 2019.

Another stint as a taxi driver could have turned him streetwise and not fear taking risks.

“I lived close to a Brandkop Commonage in Lourie Park where my fascination with farming started,” says Pedi.

“In 2015, I bought two cows that I kept in the commonage while operating as a taxi driver, and later bought two more cows. I had four cows and four calves that I sold and bought 30 merino sheep and began my business in livestock speculation – in which I would buy and sell livestock for a profit,” he explains.

As his passion for farming grew, he turned his focus solely on livestock business.

He decided to try his luck again and applied to the DALRRD for a farm through the Pro-Active Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) programme in 2019.

After four strenuous years of applying, he was allocated Meadows Farm.

The farm is located within a prime area that boasts livestock production just outside Bloemfontein, along the N6 route to Reddersburg.

Today he lives on the farm with his wife and children and has attributed his success not only to his passion, but to his drive to understand the sector through attending various training courses and farmers’ day events to acquire more knowledge.

He also credits his mentor, Laurens Schlebusch, for support and assistance.

“At the time of applying again for a farm in 2019 which I had been doing since 2015, I had 80 cattle, 150 sheep, a bakkie and a four-metre double-deck trailer which I acquired through the livestock speculation business,” says Pedi.

“So, when I was shortlisted that year for the farm, I eagerly produced all my records and financial statements from 2015, which made it easy to show my growth and potential.

“At the time I was leasing a 57-hectare farm which was getting overgrazed due to the large livestock I had at the time, so I desperately needed the farm.”

Pedi employs two permanent workers and has 55 breeding cows, two bulls and plants lucerne which he uses as feed for his livestock during winter.

He also sells to other farmers in need of feed during winter.

Pedi wants to increase the three-hectares of the lucerne he plants to 16-hectares in order to meet the demands of his clients.

He no longer wants to be a middleman, only buying sheep to sell at a profit, but has a vision to become a primary producer and breed his own livestock and sell to the clientele he grew over the years.

Pedi says his clientele has remained loyal such that at some point during the festive season he was selling over 200 sheep a week.

He also wants to start a rural abattoir and create his niche market.

The DALRRD says it believes it has made strides in the empowerment of youth in the province.

It says it is pleased with the number of young farmers that are making progress in the industry and creating their own niche markets, such as Pedi. – Staff Reporter

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Smithfield to hold annual livestock auction



BIDDING FOR LIVESTOCK . . . About 96 cross-bred cattle will be auctioned

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) is set to hold its fourth annual Smithfield Commonage Livestock Auction this Thursday.

DARD provincial spokesperson Zimasa Leputla says the auction is part of the department’s efforts to control livestock numbers and minimise overgrazing on farms.

“The auction is also aimed at providing a platform for communal farmers to sell off their cattle in order to minimise the impact of drought,” she said.

The auction will be hosted jointly with the Smithfield Landcare Committee.

The auction will be held at the Smithfield Commonages from 11:00 to 14:00.

About 96 cross-bred cattle will be auctioned.

Leputla said this year’s Smithfield Commonage Livestock Auction Sale promises to be bigger and better as it will not only focus on the auction but will run parallel with a farmers’ information session.

“The department has opened doors for local livestock farmers who are interested in selling their cattle to participate in the auction so that they can make a profit and be stimulated to enter the livestock market,” said the spokesperson.

“This is also a great opportunity for different sector leaders to network for purposes of economic activities and development,” she added.

The auction is managed by the OVK Group. – Staff Reporter

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