Degradation in biodiversity, including the reduction in the ‘species specific' grazing lands due to its conversion for commercial purposes, is taking the Kangeyam cattle breed towards extinction.
The Kangeyam cattle population in the ‘Kangeyam tract', spreading from Kangeyam to districts like Erode, Karur, Namakkal and Dindigul, has been fast dwindling during the last two decades.
“The studies carried out by Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University has found that the population in the tract came down from the 11.74 lakh in 1990 to 4.76 lakh by 2000. The present estimates project it at an alarmingly low of 2.7 lakh,” pointed out K.S.M. Kathikeya, managing trustee of Senaapathy Kangeyam Cattle Research Foundation.
Mr. Karthikeya attributes this population dip to conversion of ‘korangadu', a typical grazing area of the species containing 29 types of shrubs and trees once abundant in Kangeyam tract, for real estate purposes, and also due to absence of proper breeding as well as the growing obsession among farmers to opt for exotic cattle breeds.
“Reduction in ‘korangadu' is a matter of concern as it holds an integral component in the Kangeyam cattle biodiversity. At present, just 11 lakh acres of ‘Korangadu' exists in the entire Kongu region against the 22 lakh acres in 1990,” he said.
The ‘Korangadu' is considered by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as ‘globally important agricultural heritage system'.
“However, as per the Revenue Department records, it is given the status of waste land, which needs to be changed and it should be classified as grazing land,” added Mr. Karthikeya.
The lack of awareness of the distinct advantages of pure Kangeyam cattle is the reason cited by experts for its reduction in popularity among the breeders.
“In fact, the Kangeyam cattle due to its sturdy physical features are used for pulling carts with heavy loads and its milk has high nutritious value with no ‘bad fat',” Mr.Karthikeya said.
Also its urine, when mixed with rotten fruits and black gram, becomes a good bio-fertilizer popularly known as ‘amrita karasal'.
In an attempt to save the Kangeyam cattle from extinction, the Senaapathy Kangeyam Cattle Research Foundation is planning to submit a proposal to the State Government for setting up a venture on a public-private partnership model for in situ conservation and breeding of Kangeyam cattle.
“It is important to breed the species in the region itself as the geo-climatic conditions in the area plays a role in getting good offspring,” Mr. Karthikeya said.