The Ministry of Agriculture is advising livestock farmers to ensure their animals are properly secured within their premises.
This follows complaints received from crop farmers of Viti Vanua and Caboni settlements in Tavua during an informal talanoa session with the Minister for Agriculture Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy yesterday.
Farmers registered the losses they suffered on their crops due to damages done by stray animals like horses and cattle.
Advisory Councilor and farmer of Caboni settlement, Mr. Mukesh Chand said the stray animal problem has been an ongoing one in the area for the last 15 years, with livestock owners failing to take heed of the complaints made by neighboring farmers.
Mr. Chand explained that ten years ago, he usually would harvest 3,000 tonnes of sugarcane however, recently, due to damages done by stray animals, he is only able to harvest just 400 tonnes, which is a huge loss to him.
The issue is experienced not only by sugarcane farmers, but crop farmers in both settlements are also being affected.
Minister Reddy has issued a stern warning and is urging livestock owners to take control of their animals because the Ministry of Agriculture would continue to capture stray animals in the area from next week.
“This is a serious issue, because farmers are losing their source of income due to the carelessness and lack of responsibility of some animal owners,” said Hon. Reddy.
“Livestock such as cattle, horses, goats and sheep caught will be sent to a designated pound of the Ministry of Agriculture until the owners claim their livestock. Animals not claimed within 10 days of pounding will be auctioned by the Ministry,” said Dr. Reddy.
A stray animal is an animal that is not tethered, not confined to the owners property and does not have any official identification (brands, ear tags and/or license). Any poundable animal is one that is found tethered and wandering, straying or lying in any public place, street, square, quay, others farms, wharf or highway may be seized and sent or taken to the pound by any person finding the same.
All livestock farmers are required under the law to brand their animals as proof of ownership. In the case where the animal is without brands, the Ministry of Agriculture demands that owners claiming these animals must provide statutory declaration of ownership before animals can be considered for release. After ownership is confirmed, the farmer can then facilitate and apply brand requirements under the Act and pay the necessary pound fees before animals can be released.
Charges paid by owners for the release of animals taken to the pound are within the guidelines of the Pounds Act.
Farmers are strongly encouraged to brand their animals and ensure that they are confined to the owner’s property at all times. Livestock farmers can report cases of missing animals at the nearest Police Stations.
Farmers must ensure that their animals are tethered.