A CASUAL conversation about council livestock auctions inevitably lead to a discussion about stray cattle and how they are being auctioned. A revelation by a colleague during this discussion left me conflicted on how to feel and how to react.
This colleague revealed to me that he bought 34 cattle from stray cattle auctions last year. I got conflicted because he is a colleague and I should ordinarily be happy for him for making serious strides in establishing himself as a livestock farmer but at the same time I also feel for the farmers who were the owners of these cattle. This means that there are probably 34 farmers who were made a cow poorer.
I have written extensively before about the unfairness of the auctioning of stray cattle by local authorities and their penchant and efficiency in execution of this devilish role but the loud cries have received deafening silence from the concerned parties.
I wish to reiterate that the auctioning of stray cattle and other livestock by local authorities despite it being supported by legal provisions, is still painful and grossly unjust to smallholder livestock farmers. I simply feel that it is highly unfair for local authorities to seek to survive on the painful losses by smallholder farmers. As it stands, one would argue that local authorities and a few similarly callous individuals are inadvertently conspiring against the struggling smallholder farmer.
The individual who keeps the stray animal and reports it to the police gets 20 percent of the value of the animal when it is finally sold three months from the time of reporting it. One can therefore, assume that there is a scramble for finding stray animals and holding them in one’s custody for the singular objective of cashing in on the 20 percent windfall.
I have it on good authority that one district sold a cow with a calf on foot this past week for $1 050 which translates to $210 for the individual who was keeping the cow and its calf while the owner is frantically searching the veld over! One is tempted to theorise that farmers are failing to find their animals because some greedy individuals are holding their animals captive while waiting for the three months grace period to elapse and the equally greedy local authority jumps in to auction farmer’s animal.
It is common knowledge that some of these people keep stray animals for more than five years and only report to the police when they feel that it has given them enough calves. There are cases where the cow has been with the person for close to a decade and when it’s eventually sold, it is sold as a single animal with no calves at all.
I think more needs to be done in investing in efforts to locate the owner than cashing in on the misery of poor farmers. While I fully concede that farmers need to brand their animals for easy identification I find it no excuse for swindling those that failed to brand or at least ear tag their animals.
The whole process around stray cattle management needs to be revisited with a view of disincentivising the beneficiaries of this flawed process.
As an example how would the process play itself out if nothing were to be given to the keeper of the stray animal and council auctioned with all the proceeds going to the host community? Would they continue to have the same levels of appetite to dispossess farmers of their cattle? Maybe not.
Honestly, why should everybody else benefit except the farmer who paradoxically is the owner of the asset.
It is common knowledge that all officers present at this sale, such as the police, veterinary officers and others go away with field allowances for conducting this sale, council smiles all the way to the bank and so does the stray animal keeper, all at the misery of the farmer. No! Let’s find the real owners of these animals and bring back their smiles.
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