December 20, 2020 brings back bad memories for Nalongo Nusura Muwanga.
“I had been grooming 500 broilers for the last seven weeks. They were now weighing over 1.5kgs each,” she says. A day before, she visited a chicken dealer at Kalerwe market and asked him to come and take the broilers on December 21.
“I was selling each at sh15,000. I expected to make a profit of about sh3,000 from each of the broilers,” she says. When she woke up on December 20, there were less than 100 broilers in the chicken house! Thieves had cut through the wooden door and stole the rest. This was just one of the many livestock theft cases that happened last year.
It is this time of the year again, when the value of livestock goes up obviously because of the festive season. It is a night mare for farmers as thieves have started raiding villages before carting away livestock. This includes cattle, goats, poultry and in some cases pigs.
During every Christmas season, cases of livestock theft are reported across the country, including the cattle corridor, Luwero, Kiboga, Mukono, Kayunga and parts of the east. The thieves most likely take the animals to the nearest bushes, slaughter them and load the meat in vehicles, en route to the butcheries in nearby towns.
If a farmer loses a mature local cow, that is over sh2m lost. If they lose an improved cow, that is over sh4m lost. If they lose layers, that is at least sh14,000 lost for each hen, minus the eggs it was supposed to lay.
“Throughout the laying cycle, a hen can lay at least 300 eggs, which is the equivalent of 10 egg trays. At sh10,000 a tray, that is about sh100,000 virtually lost for each hen stolen,” Chris Magezi, a poultry farmer and importer of poultry feeds says.
Tips to guard your livestock
- Every animal must have a movement order signed by local veterinary officers. It should have specific description of the color and gender of the animal for avoidance of any doubts. “This permit is given by the veterinary officer from the district of origin and the officer in the destination district,” Fred Serufusa, a veterinary officer in Nakaseke says.
- Have your animals body marked for easy identification if they are stolen. Such markings are put on the skins. They can be initials of your farm name. Moses Mutagubya, a poultry farmer in Manyangwa managed to track his stolen layers at a poultry market in Kisaasi because of the unique way he had trimmed their beaks. “I had cut off part of the lower beak while other farmers cut off parts of both the upper and lower beaks,” he says. After identifying some of the stolen hens, he forced the thieves to pay for them.
- Farmers must avoid selling animals late in the evening. Thieves use this chance to confuse farmers and steal their animals. “When you realise that a buyer is tactfully pushing you to sell them livestock at night, stop it because they may have plans to steal from you,” Godfrey Baguma, a cattle keeper in Lyantonde advises.
- According to farmers, no animal should be slaughtered before 7:00am according to the new regulations. This is because there is need for certification from the area LC1 officer, plus a picture of the animal alongside the owner before the slaughtering is done.
- Farmers advise that movement of livestock at night has also been stopped, largely because it is clear that a lot of these are actually stolen animals.
- Local Leaders at each village should set up a nine-member livestock security unit that will patrol each village every night to stop the thieves. This unit should operate like the LDUs of the early 1990s which were quite effective against village crime.
- If you deal in poultry, do not allow buyers into your poultry house. Personally count the chicken that they have bought and hand them over outside the chicken house. Some chicken buyers confuse farmers during the counting.
- Separate the cattle or goats that you are selling from the main herd. This will stop possible thieving customers from accessing the herd in order to carry out their thieving ways.
- Get trained dogs at the farm to keep guard. These may chase away the thieves and also alert you about the intrusion. Dogs cost as low as sh100,000 (for local breed) and can stay on the farm for years.
- If your herd is big enough, invest in CCTV cameras. A three camera system costs about sh2m, certainly a farmer with over 10 cattle can afford this, because it is a one off purchase. “I can observe the movement of my animals on my farm even when I am not there because my CCTV system is linked to my phone,” says Aloysius Lubega, owner, Bulamu farm in Magigye, near Gayaza, Wakiso district.