The rising temperature in the Himalayan region has increased pests and diseases among livestock. This is affecting wool quality, reducing animal productivity and increasing mortality
Tansi Negi is among a handful of livestock herders left in Sunnam village in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district. About 40 per cent of the livestock population of the state is made up of small ruminants. Despite goat and sheep rearing being a major source of traditional livelihood in rural areas, there has been a steady decline in the number of livestock herders. They often blame climate change for creating a paucity of pastures and weakening their subsistence economy. Photo: Abhijit Mohanty
In Himachal Pradesh, goats and sheep are reared together traditionally by shepherds who migrate with their flocks in search of grass to alpine pastures during summers and to low-lying areas during winters. Recently, there have been rising cases of erratic rainfall and insufficient snowfall during the migration of livestock. Herders had often lost their animals in such incidents. Also, changes in the tree line, snow line and pastoral grounds have adversely impacted the traditional route of seasonal migrations. Photo: Abhijit Mohanty
“Every year, more ice bridges disappear,” Tansi Negi said. He added, “This is happening because of high temperatures. We are not able to access alpine meadows. They are the lifeline for our herds at this harsh altitude.” Photo: Abhijit Mohanty
The rising temperature in the Himalayan region has increased pests and diseases among livestock. This is not only affecting the quality of wool the shepherds once used to produce but also reducing animal productivity and increasing mortality. “Our young generation is not interested in continuing livestock rearing. We may be the last generation rearing goats and sheep in this dry cold valley,” said Tansi Negi. Photo: Abhijit Mohanty
Bhagwan Stanzin is a sheepherder at Chitkul village in Kinnaur district’s Rekong Peo block. “My father used to rear herds of around 600-800 animals. But now the grasslands have shrunk in our valley. I have managed to retain only around 100 animals. As days get warmer, invasive grasses have grown everywhere. These grasses are not palatable and sometime poisonous. Last year, 22 of our sheep and seven goats died due to landslides,” he said. Photo: Abhijit Mohanty
A traditional livestock shed made from wooden logs in Ropakhas village. The first floor is used to keep sheep and goats while the ground floor is used for keeping cattle. The construction style is known as ‘Thathara’. The term is locally used for wooden planks that make the vertical load-carrying columns. The Himalayan region has experienced numerous earthquakes and this construction technique has eventually evolved to resist seismic action. Photo: Abhijit Mohanty
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.