Combating stock theft through forensics is already common technology in South Africa. It is within touching distance in Zimbabwe
By Donald Mushove
Stock theft is fast becoming a menace in Zimbabwe at unprecedented levels. Recently some goat thieves were intercepted by the police with over 40 goats stolen from Mhondoro – being transported to Mbudzi in Harare.
Stock theft is a threat to the national herd and reverses all gains in the livestock industry. Faced with the ravishing tick borne disease, prevalent in January – stock theft is the last thing farmers expect to deal with. However, forensic biology if well prepared to provide a long lasting solution to the stock theft menace in Zimbabwe.
Stock DNA databases need to be established. What a stock DNA database does is that a farmer will have the genetic profiles of all his cattle or goats captured in the database.
Once an animal is stolen, if a carcass is recovered somewhere, it will be a matter of running the DNA profile of the recovered animal in the database and link it to the owner.
Butcheries will not thus be allowed to sell meat which has not been genetically profiled and checked in a database.
The point is if butchery X receives a fresh batch of meat, such meat will have samples collected by authorities and genetically profiled. The profile is then checked in the database. The paperwork provided by the butchery should then have ownership details of the animal slaughtered matching the details in the database.
If there is no match, this then becomes a red flag. This transforms to say a missing animal can then be traced even in the meat supply chain even as processed meat products with this kind of initiative.
Profiling of livestock is nothing out of this world, as our neighbours in South Africa are already doing it. It does not only help with stock theft but disease management as well as breeding issues.
Zimbabwe is well positioned to pursue such an initiative as the skills are readily available. What is required is a framework of implementation.
Farmers, government and stakeholders in the meat industry should come together and engage the necessary experts to have a stock DNA database. This will certainly bring along serious economic dividends. As alluded to earlier, it presents opportunities in curbing stock theft, disease research and management as well as breeding research.
Once the database is available, access control becomes the next thing. However this does not pose serious issues as it can be addressed right on inception.
Data security is a key element that needs to be dealt with right at the beginning.
The database can have access points at police stations, but having key security features which indicate who did what at what time.
It can also be secured to ensure that not everyone can add or delete information from the system, thus leaving the bulk of users as people who can search the system for information without any data manipulation.
Forensic biology is the next big thing to transform agriculture.
The aim of forensic biology in agriculture is to address risk and security issues or simply loss control management in agriculture. This is an area which needs serious attention for Zimbabwe to have established food security moving forward.
Donald Mushove is a forensic biologist, writing in his own capacity and is reachable on firstname.lastname@example.org +263777479781
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