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Tracking device to tame cattle rustling

Jacob M’Mwitari, a livestock farmer from in Tigania East, Meru County lost 47 cattle to raiders one year ago. He is yet to recover them.

During one of his several tracking missions in the company of police officers, he identified some of his lost cattle in Wamba, Samburu from the hot iron brand he had made on them.

He was however not allowed to repossess the cattle since the markings were not enough proof  of ownership.

For farmers like Mr M’Mwitari who painstakingly invest in their livestock, cattle rustling remains their biggest enemy, more so since justice remains elusive.

“It hurts so much; livestock is our livelihood. What will befall us if the government continues to neglect us like this?” he poses.

He shares this desperation with many other farmers in Meru North where 10 people have been killed by raiders and 326 cattle and 430 goats stolen this year alone.

The National Drought Management Authority’s (NDMA) estimated their losses for the eight months to August at Sh8.5 million, based on prevailing market prices.

A stalled livestock tracking project could however, if revived, restore hope for such farmers and their colleagues in parts of the country where cattle rustling is still prevalent.


The Electronic Livestock Identification and Trace-ability System (ELITS) was first initiated by the Directorate of Veterinary Services in 2011 hoping to tame cattle rustling.

The technology, borrowed from Botswana, is a digital identification system that uses a radio frequency microchip inserted in a cow’s reticulum.

The microchip, which is in the form of a bolus, (a type of large pill used in veterinary medicine) is coated with a hard ceramic material that protects it from the cow’s harsh digestive juices.

The device, that were meant to retail at approximately $5 (Sh550), contains the farmer’s bio-data and can be detected by a digital frequency reader in a radius of up to 15 kilometres.

In case of theft, a farmer was meant to report the incident to a central data centre through the Anti-Stock Theft Unit after which the chip’s code is blacklisted as its search starts.

Data base stations were to be stationed at border points and around slaughterhouses in counties where the vice is prevalent.

Farmers and other stakeholders agree that this technology could be the solution for cattle theft as it offers foolproof animal identification compared to hot iron branding and ear notching.

Lawrence Mwongela, the Meru County Director of Veterinary Services, says more than 8,000 cattle were fed with the reticular boluses under the pilot project in Igembe North, Igembe South and Tigania East.