The Sunday Mail
More than 80 000 cattle have been registered under a new electronic livestock tracing system that is currently being rolled out across the country by Government.
The scheme, which is referred to as the Livestock Identification and Traceability System (LITS), was launched in April this year to insulate farmers against livestock loss and theft.
In essence, the system relies on a plastic chip that is inserted in the ear of the animal and electronically linked to a database that is stored on a server.
Government has formed strategic partnerships with private players to facilitate the ease of implementing the system.
In an interview last week, principal director in the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services Dr Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu said 86 000 cattle — 82 000 in Centenary, 1 500 in Goromonzi and 2 500 in Mount Darwin — have already been put in the database.
“We are making steady progress, especially in areas where funding support has been obtained to meet the initial cost of registration, as well as data and communications costs of the traceability system,” said Dr Ushewokunze-Obatolu.
Further, all cattle under the Command Livestock programme are required to be electronically traceable, of which 800 have so far been registered.
It is believed that a large number of A2 farmers have adopted the new technology.
All farmers with cattle that are at least one month old, she said, can access the system through their local Veterinary Services office.
“The Vet Office will arrange with ICE-CASH (Pvt) Ltd, the contracted service provider.
“The start-up cost is $2 for a once-off lifetime coded tag, plus a subsequent $1 per year, for database and record transaction administrative costs,” said Dr Ushewokunze-Obatolu.
The system enables a user to establish the movement, ownership and health history of an animal, as well as its location at any given time.
It has been successfully used regionally by South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, among other countries.
The LITS scheme is a prerequisite for sanitary and quality assurances when trading livestock on the international market.
Through it, all livestock moving from one area to another will have their health history examined before entry into a new area is authorised.
Dr Ushewokunze-Obatolu also discouraged people from consuming meat from diseased animals.
“It is unethical to slaughter any sick animal for food. Illness naturally disrupts the metabolic make up of tissue and generally, the meat will not keep well for storage and processing,” she said.
Of late, Theileriosis — also known as January disease — has been affecting animals in some parts of the country following the erratic supply of chemicals used at dip tanks.
Current budgetary constraints have been making it increasingly difficult for the Department of Veterinary Services to supply the critical chemicals since last year.
Government has, however, intensified efforts to combat the disease and there has been noticeable improvements.
Plans to increase animal health centres are underway.
Presenting oral evidence on agricultural development in Zimbabwe before a Senatorial Committee on Indigenisation and Empowerment last week, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Mr Ringson Chitsiko said animal health centres will help train livestock farmers on livestock rearing.
Since the introduction of Command Livestock, Government has facilitated the training of 200 farmers.
Mr Chitsiko also said the number of communal dip tanks has increased from 2 170 to 3 880 countrywide.
He said the distribution of bulls to communities is currently underway.