Traceability key to growing the beef market

Angie Khumalo, presenter of Mzansi Wethu’s agricultural television show, African Farming travelled to the Western Cape to take a tour of Theo van Rooyen’s farm. This inspiring pensioner spends his last days building a farming enterprise and is content in living out his lifelong dream of becoming a commercial farmer. He farms with apples, pears, and sheep.

Khumalo questioned Dr Thapelo Makae, Elanco Veterinarian, during her interviews with the panel of experts: “Sheep is a high-market-value product right now, what can Theo do to become more transparent, as customers want to know where their meat comes from?” she asked him.

Dr Makae said traceability is a hot topic at the moment, not only to be more transparent but also to protect one’s livestock against theft.

“We all know stock theft is currently a real threat that farmers need to deal with. That is why branding of one’s livestock is so important.”

He said that according to South African law every farmer has to register the animal identification mark they use to brand their stock.

“There are different ways to brand animals, especially sheep. You can use ear tags, tattoo their ears, do ear notching or hot branding.”

He said customers are smart; they want to make informative decisions and buy products like meat that are in line with their values and lifestyles. They have access to the internet and want to know where their meat comes from and how the farmer treats his animals. Consumers demand transparency and visibility in all processes.

“This means that farmers will have to invest in developing a reliable traceability system.” 

Livestock identification and traceability systems could offer livestock farmers various benefits as these systems can help them meet various regulatory requirements and can even lead to increased value of products, creating opportunities to enter international markets.

“Traceability is critical in order to access export markets,” said Dr Makae.

Another great benefit of such systems is the management of disease outbreaks, saving the meat industry and the producer from huge losses and growing consumer trust in buying products that are safe to consume.

Animal health is increasingly becoming a challenge, and should be managed more efficiently, as frequent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle, avian influenza in poultry and African swine fever in pigs occur in the country. These diseases are costly for the industry and the country, not only because of domestic rules that are imposed, limiting the movement of livestock to auctions, but also from an export perspective.

For information: e-mail Dr Makae at

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