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Poachers slaughter cattle on pasture

South African farmers frustrated as livestock killings intensify

South African farmer Anthony Khourie struggles to protect his livestock and farm from poachers and vandals.

Editors Note: There are always some challenges no matter where you farm, but for this South African dairy and beef producer, it is the midnight raid by meat hunters who slaughter cattle right on pasture that’s causing concern. Even though he has 10 night-time security staff members, it is still difficult to keep up with rustlers. Rural security is an issue in Canada, but fortunately it hasn’t reached this extent and hopefully never does.

Five men are butchering our calves in the middle of the field,” was the cry over the radio as South African farmer Anthony Khourie and his security team rushed to the scene.

When the men arrived, the cattle thieves had been spooked and had fled, but the scene of devastation left behind was gruesome. Early in this mid-December morning, the attackers had rounded up five young Friesian bull calves and killed and butchered them, setting the joints of meat on the grass to take home.

However, Khourie and his security guards saw them and gave chase, forcing the criminals to flee and leave the meat behind. That was two weeks earlier, but now Khourie and his family farm are being intimidated by the thieves who keep coming back at night.

“It’s nothing short of being barbaric,” said Khourie, whose family has run Bosparadys Farm, situated near Magaliesburg outside Pretoria, for more than 20 years. “Two weeks ago they slaughtered five of my young male calves in the field and since then the thieves have returned on different occasions to sabotage us.

“Our security and I rushed to the scene at 3 a.m. and found the spot. When we got there the five men had already butchered three of the animals and the other two were dead.”

Cattle were slaughtered right on pasture, but poachers were scared off before they could load up the meat. photo: Chris McCullough

Dairying is the dominant enterprise on the farm, accounting for 80 per cent of the total farm income, but the Khouries also farm with sheep, pigs, hens, goats and game.

“Last night they came to the farm again and opened gates that we had tied with wire, letting cattle onto my maize crop and destroying the young plants,” he said. “It is finished, the crops are ruined.

“They do anything they can like cutting wire just to aggravate us. It’s becoming a very big problem now. I am appealing for help from everyone to highlight what we as South African farmers are facing each day.”

Violence is increasing

For the past two years there have been almost 100 farm murders in South Africa and countless farm attacks, putting the farming community on edge.

The cattle thefts are also a huge issue, especially for Khourie who must also look out for the safety of his family.

The Khourie operation employs 250 staff who work in all the sectors on the farm. Ten night security staff are on duty, which is a huge expense. Khourie suspects the recent cattle slaughters may have something to do with an ex-employee caught stealing diesel. He also believes one of his 10 night security guards is also involved.

“We are awaiting the results of lie detector tests carried out on the staff,” he said. “Security is one of our biggest costs here in South Africa, you can hardly believe the costs. Our 10 night staff are on a fixed rate of 8,000 Rands (about $700 CDN) a month each, and we still get problems. That cost is essential otherwise you can’t farm in South Africa.”

While the team awaits the results of the lie detector test, Khourie and his guards are expecting more attacks soon.

“So far we haven’t arrested anyone,” said Khourie. “We suspect one of the guards is involved plus the ex-worker caught stealing diesel also.

“We are also awaiting the details from the worker’s cell phone to see who called who at what time in a bid to further catch the thieves,” he said. “Meanwhile we have to be very vigilant and keep our eyes and ears open for further attacks.”

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