ROAD traffic accidents caused by the abundance of stay cattle on roads in the Ndlambe area should be minimised following an agreement by the Bathurst Cattle Owners Committee (BCOC) at a meeting on Monday to support the branding of cattle as well as the fixing of fences and gates along roads in the area.
It is estimated there are more than 150 cattle owners in the Bathurst area alone, and more than 2 500 animals.
The initiative was in response to a recent visit to the area by the MEC for Safety and Transport, Weziwe Tikana, who was concerned about accidents in the area and asked for an urgent report to be submitted to her office in order to address the problem.
Tikana suggested, among other things, that cattle could be fitted with reflective harnesses to make them more visible at night.
Over the past few years the incidents of cars hitting cattle has increased significantly and has led to cattle owners refusing to brand cattle to avoid being sued for not securing their animals behind fences.
“Someone is going to be killed if this problem is not resolved,” said Dan Wepener of the Eastern Border Farmers Association.
The BCOC meeting at the Bathurst Showgrounds attempted to find a resolution to the problem.
Secretary of the BCOC, Simphewe Nobebe, said it was in everyone’s best interests to ensure the safety of cars and their occupants as well as cattle. However, he also pointed out that fences and gates were often uprooted and stolen by local residents to build fences at their own properties to prevent stray animals from trespassing on their land. This led to stray animals wandering onto roads, particularly at night, and that many accidents had occurred as a result.
Rangers have been established to monitor and control stray cattle, but their efforts have not prevented countless accidents on the roads as well as stray animals wandering onto private land, destroying vegetable gardens and causing some land owners to mistreat animals in an effort to protect their properties.
“The problem is that rangers only work from 6am to 6pm, while most traffic accidents occur when animals stray onto roads during the hours of darkness,” said Wepener.
“We need to keep the pressure up and impress on the MEC the urgency of providing help to cattle farmers to help secure their animals, and to provide equipment to enable them to correctly brand and register their animals.”
The committee resolved that specially-marked poles and brightly-painted fences would be utilised to help prevent theft. However, they also asked that the MEC consider training be provided to enable cattle to be branded correctly and registered. By law all cattle must be branded and registered.
One of the biggest issues with regard to branding cattle is that, when accidents occur, the victims are entitled to sue the cattle owners for damages, a situation that most informal cattle owners cannot afford. It was mooted that a government-sponsored and affordable insurance policy for cattle owners could encourage them to comply with the law. The meeting also resolved that rangers should be issued with fence-mending equipment so they can affect repairs to damaged fences.
There were also questions raised about the municipal pound in Alexandria, and the possibility of reopening the pound in Bathurst to eliminate the cost of transporting stray cattle. It is estimated the cost to a cattle owner to retrieve stray cattle is in excess of R3 000 per animal, including transport, veterinary services and food. If the animal is impounded for weeks, the cost can exceed the price of the animal.
“The first time an animal is impounded it is held for 24 hours at the Bathurst Police Station while the owner is identified and notified. However, unbranded cattle, or the second time an animal strays it will be taken immediately to the pound,” said Wepener.