Livestock largesse

Farmers and livestock owners are herding in a fortune as the animal sciences go into overdrive and squeeze out maximum yields

Published: Sunday 07 June 2015

Livestock largesse

-- RAM Chandra Tokas, a 48-year-old rich Haryana farmer of village Chochran, bought 4 ungainly buffalos 7 years ago to start a dairy business. Today, he makes a fat profit: a single buffalo fetches him about Rs 7,000 annually. Tokas owns 9 animals and does brisk business every year in Haryana's famous Hisar buffalo fair.

Many such farmers and cattle owners have benefited from research and development in animal husbandry. T R Krishnan, senior scientific officer with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), points out that livestock development has been vital to the "white revolution". "India boasts of having the largest cattle population in the world which has remarkable adaptability to the environment. But the lactation capacity is poor. Hence, improving the yield through crossbreeding was the most important component of the country's livestock development programme, which started soon after Independence," he says.

Under the ministry of agriculture, ICAR organises and manages research and education in animal sciences: it has 15 institutions operating under it. Among them, the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) at Karnal, Haryana, is the oldest (established in 1955). The NDRI, which has a network of Krishi Vigyan Kendras and artificial insemination centres, and the Central Institute for Research on Buffalos, Hisar, have developed Karan Swiss and Karan Fries strains. They yield 3,400 to 3,700 kg milk per lactation period -- roughly 11 kg to 13 kg daily. These institutes, owning 7 cattle farms in various parts of the country, have popularised crossbreeding and embryo transfer technology.

But the common Indian sheep yields a pathetic average of 1 kilo wool annually, despite the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute coming up in Avikanagar, Rajasthan, in 1962. The institute has crossbred the Avikalin, Avirastra and Avimanas strains. The Central Breeding Farm in Hisar distributes selective breeds to farmers, shepherds and research institutes, and trains modern sheep farm officials and shepherds.

The Central Institute for Research on Goats, in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, crossbreeds Indian goats with exotic Saanen and Alpine breeds. It has popularised the famous Mohair breed, grading Sangamneri with Angora. It extends training, education and goat healthcare services. The National Research Centre on Camels in Bikaner, Rajasthan, aims at the overall development of camel breeds using germplasm and embryo transfer techniques. The National Research Centre on Yak in Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh, is developing sturdier yaks for increased milk and wool yields. This centre trains farmers and yak researchers.

The Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly is doing basic, applied and adaptive research in livestock health care. It has developed and disseminated immuno-diagnostic kits and vaccines to prevent animal viral diseases, sheep pox and theileriasis (a parasitic disease). The institute offers postgraduate courses in veterinary and animal sciences, besides training common farmers and livestock owners.

Livestock r&d activities are largely confined to the government sector. However, there are some ngos active in this field, the most prominent of which is the Amul Research and Development Association at Anand in Gujarat, which crossbreeds to produce genetically superior bulls. It also provides animal healthcare and disease control facilities. The Bharatiya Cattle Resource Development Foundation, New Delhi, and the Akhil Bharat Krishi Gosewa Sangh in Wardha, Maharashtra, are other NGOs engaged in cattle research.

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