Cattle rustling has claimed hundreds of lives besides leading to loss of thousands of livestock in the recent past among pastoral communities. Seven people have been killed and more than 400 cattle and goats stolen in cattle rustling incidents along the Meru-Isiolo border in the last one month.
Rumen boluses that contain radio frequency identification (RFID) microchips which are inserted in a cow’s reticulum for identification and traceability. Livestock farmers in pastoralist areas are still losing animals to raiders as the technology has not been properly implemented.
A pilot project dubbed Electronic Livestock Identification and Traceability System (ELITS) initiated by the Directorate of Veterinary Services in 2011 was expected to tame cattle rustling.
The technology, borrowed from Botswana is a digital animal identification system that uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) microchip inserted in a cow’s reticulum. The rumen bolus that the animal swallows contains a RFID microchip and is coated with a hard ceramic to protect it from digestive juices. ELITS is touted as the solution for cattle theft as it eases animal identification compared to hot iron branding and ear notching. The microchip contains the farmer’s bio-data. The code on the bolus can be detected by a reader at close range. In case of theft, a farmer is required to report to the central data unit through the anti-stock theft unit and the code is blacklisted as a search begins. According to the Meru County Director of Veterinary Services Lawrence Mwongela, more than 8,000 cattle were fed with the reticular boluses under the pilot project.
“The digital identification boluses were meant for animals in cattle rustling prone areas. “8,177 cattle were digitally branded in Igembe North, Igembe South and Tigania East. “The digital information was fed into mobile devices and sent to a central server in Nairobi,” Mr Mwongela says. He says chiefs were also given records of livestock in their areas to enable tracing in case of theft. “The programme is very viable for pastoral communities but it was never concluded. “There is need for the government to allocate resources to revive the project. It can help tame cattle theft,” he adds. Mr Mwongela explains that a more advanced rumen bolus tracker that uses radio receivers has the potential to track an animal within a 40 kilometres radius. “We have been collecting the rumen boluses from farmers awaiting further direction. The devices are to be reused in other animals once an animal bearing the bolus dies,” he says.
Courtesy of Daily Nation.