Despite the low numbers of cattle tagged during the second phase of the electronic ear tagging the process is said to be going well. Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that as at 20 September 2015, 252 997 tags have been bought for tagging by the farmers.
The ministry’s spokesperson Geoffrey Pheko feels the process is proceeding well. According to Pheko the high numbers of tags bought shows a good progress. However, of the 252 997 tags bought only 188 000 cattle have been tagged by the same date. Pheko said this could be because of a number of factors. He explained that it could be because some farmers are buying in bulk for future use. “The other reason could be that some even buy and tag only when they want to sell,” he suggested. Nonetheless he urged farmers to tag their cattle in time and not wait for selling time because this is a form of traceability and important. The electronic ear tagging was introduced as a replacement to bolus which proved problematic.
As opposed to the phase 1, in the second phase farmers are expected to buy the tags and tag the livestock themselves. The farmers also then have to feed the information into the system for use by the ministry officials. Phase one was considered a success with 95% of the targeted 2.5 million livestock tagged.
The electronic ear tags have been welcomed by farmers in the past. However now some feel they are costly hence the slow rate of tagging. The tags are sold at P20 per pair for one cow and some small scale farmers say it is expensive for them. A subsistence farmer in the Kweneng region Lebang Peolwane said even though the tags are better than bolus they come at a cost to farmers. “The tags come with a special applicator used to tag and this is expensive for some of us,” said Peolwane.
The tag applicator costs P300 at Livestock Advisory Centers (LACs). Pheko said only this applicator should be used to tag the livestock. He advised farmers not to use any other applicator as it may not be of the right specification for the tags. “This could be harmful to the animals as the right tool will not be used,” said Pheko.
Even though the ministry confesses of educating the farmers about electronic ear tagging there are still some who still seem to be in the dark. When asked about the progress of the programme in their area chairman of Northwest Integrated Farmers Association Simon Bojosi could not shed any light saying he does not know much about the programme. Even Peolwane is of a view that more education about the system is required for the programme to be successful.
However, Pheko maintains that the ministry has rolled out an education campaign to teach farmers about the tagging and the uploading of information into the system. “We have been running a number of trainings on the system and the tagging. The training is continuing and all areas will be covered,” insisted Pheko.
Except of the price issue Peolwane said ear tagging is much better that the bolus system as it is convenient. With the ear tags farmers can tag for themselves and upload the information into the system. “Within seven days of tagging one is able to sell his livestock,” he clarified.
The tags are sold at Livestock Advisory Centres (LACs) in Gaborone, Palapye, Letlhakane, Serowe, Francistown, Kanye, Nata, Tsabong, Gantsi and Machaneng. Pheko also pointed out that the tags will soon be available in Selebi Phikwe. The tags were supplied by Datamars at the tune of P20 000 000 following their successful biding. According to Pheko the procurement of tags was awarded using the open tender model. Datamars is internationally known for its speciality in livestock identification technology and has offices in Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Spain, Thailand, Uruguay and the United States of America.