At KVAFSU, farmers are trained in animal rearing, post-harvest preservation and processing technologies
Teaching, research and extension are on the agenda of every farm university. But the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University is trying to break the mould by introducing another important component to it – entrepreneurship development among farmers.
C. Renuka Prasad, who took over as the Vice-Chancellor recently, said the university would share advanced technology with farmers and tie up with private corporations to promote industries based on farm and animal produce.
The first project is to help farmers breed better quality sheep and goats. The varsity has tied up with the Nimbkar Agriculture Research Institute in Maharashtra to help distribute high-yielding and disease-resistant varieties of sheep and goats.
“Sheep and goat rearing is one of the most remunerative farming practices. It calls for small, short-term investments. There is an assured market for sheep and goat meat and wool and rearing them is hassle-free. We want to improve the farmers’ economic condition by training them in breeding exotic breeds like African Dorper sheep and Boer goats that are better than local breeds like Dakhani,’’ he said.
Dorper sheep, a hybrid between Dorset Horn and Blackhead Persian breeds, are self-shredders. They don’t need to be sheared. Their wool comes off naturally every year and farmers can pick it up and sell it. Each sheep weighs 70 kg, twice or thrice the body weight of an average Indian breed.
A twinning gene has been inserted in Dorper and Boer goats and they yield two kids at every delivery. This will also help farmers, Dr. Prasad said. The university has already started supplying sheep to farmers in Bangalore and Kolar. Farmers’ groups are being formed in Bidar, Bangalore and other districts. They will be trained in the maintenance of these exotic varieties and encouraged to breed goats and sell their young ones. An embryo transplant centre is being set up in Bangalore to focus on breed development. It will have facilities for semen freezing, artificial insemination, and neonatal care.
The second project is to transfer low-cost milk product-making techniques to farmers and training them. This will address two problems – adding value to extra milk and selling it, and the protein deficiency among the rural population.
“Now, farmers are unable to sell all the milk they produce as the companies have reduced their procurement. We will teach farm women to make these value-added products at home. They can either sell them in their neighbourhood or feed their children,” he said.
The third project is to distribute quality varieties of pigs. “Our centres in Bangalore are already distributing pigs. In the next phase, we are planning to develop better breeds of pigs by crossing local breeds with exotic ones.” The fourth is the Mudhol hound project. The Canine Research and Information Centre in Mudhol, Bagalkot, has already started breeding these dogs and distributing the pups to farmers in surrounding villages. “We are also setting up a laboratory that will determine the genetic qualities of the hound and create a road map for its breed improvement.”
Yet another project helps farmers grow decorative fish varieties. Training in breeding and market intelligence is provided through micro units of breeders.
The university will improve the teaching-learning process by two methods. First is by providing students with hands-on training in processes such as animal rearing, post-harvest preservation and processing technologies of animal produce, interacting with farmers and research. Students will be involved in all these process in phases. They will work in animal, bird and fish farms of the university as part of their internship, and in food processing centres. The university’s efforts at creating middle-level managers in animal produce-based industries by starting diploma courses have paid off. There is a huge demand for such professionals. New courses like wildlife science have begun attracting students from western countries. We already have students from Malaysia, Iran, Iraq, African countries, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan on our campuses, he said.
New courses such as hygienic meat processing are being started for students and personnel of slaughter houses. Two model abattoirs are being set up in Bangalore and Bidar. The university has seven colleges. Three more are being set up in Puttur, Athani and Gadag.
Faculty and student exchange programmes are being planned with farm universities in Minnesota and Purdue in the U.S. Teachers are also being trained at the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM) in Hyderabad.
The university has set up farmers’ training centres in its Bidar, Mangalore and Bangalore campuses. Farmers referred by agencies like Karnataka Milk Federation, and poultry and fish breeding agencies or industries are trained in these centres. The seven livestock research and information centres across the State are also training farmers.
The university’s research is broadly divided into two categories: livestock improvement and disease prevention. One of the most popular poultry breeds in the country, Giri Raja, is a contribution of the university’s scientists. “We are now working on improving buffalo, fish, sheep, Deoni cows and bullocks varieties,” Mr. Prasad said.
The second important contribution of the university is the development of vaccines for animals, birds and even fish. Oral vaccines have been developed for captive bred and inland fish. The Bangalore-based Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals, which is part of the university, has also perfected vaccines for buffaloes, pigs, dogs, and other pet animals.
The most important benefit of the varsity colleges has been the treatment of animals, birds and fish at hospitals on campus. Expert doctors treat lakhs of animals in the colleges in Bangalore, Bidar, Mangalore, Shimoga and Hassan every year.
“This remains our primary area of service to the people of the State. The university serves as the tertiary healthcare centre for animals. All treatment is free and that has strengthened the confidence farmers have in us,” Dr. Prasad said.