The Animal Husbandry Department has drawn up an extended action plan with Central assistance to enhance the domestic stock of milch cows through a subsidy scheme targeting dairy farmers.

The Special Livestock Breeding Programme (SLBP), formulated by the department to support farmers in rearing female calves, is being supplemented with two Centrally sponsored schemes.

Animal Husbandry Director R. Vijayakumar said the Central assistance under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and the 13th Finance Commission allotment would supplement the State Plan funds.

State's share

While the State had earmarked Rs.9.3 crore as subsidy for 50,000 calves enrolled in various districts under the SLBP, the yojana was expected to cover an additional 10,000 calves. The 13th Finance Commission support would add another 12,500 animals to the programme.

At a meeting convened by the Chief Secretary in October, the department proposed the extension of the programme to cover all the two lakh female calves born in Kerala every year.

The SLBP seeks to provide extension support, adequate health and insurance coverage, and quality feed at subsidised prices to dairy farmers to rear female calves from the age of four months to first calving at 32 months.

Under the State Plan, the government and the panchayat together share 50 per cent of the cost of feed, with the farmer bearing the rest. However, under the Union government schemes, the farmer gets a 50 per cent subsidy directly from the department.

Cattle feed price

Officials said the decision to tap into Centrally sponsored schemes was mainly driven by the wide fluctuation in the price of cattle feed.

It is estimated that a farmer incurs a cost of up to Rs.30,000 on feed and fodder in bringing up a calf to the reproductive stage. This proves to be a heavy financial burden on small-dairy farmers.

As a result, most of the calves are given away for slaughter. The tender meat is often passed off as mutton by unscrupulous traders.

Dr. Vijayakumar said the calves enrolled under the schemes would be periodically assessed by veterinary doctors. “Good milk yield is not only a genetic character but it also depends on proper health care and maintenance. Our aim is to ensure a new generation of healthy, high-yielding cows by adopting calves from the time they are born,” he said.

In addition to cattle feed, the calves would be given mineral and vitamin supplements. The veterinary service includes periodic vaccination and de-worming of the animals. The calves would also be monitored for weight gain, a key indicator of good growth.

Will reduce risk

The extended programme is expected to reduce the risk inherent in bringing calves from other States. Officials say calves so brought have been found to harbour blood-borne parasitic diseases that can be transmitted to the animals here.

Several cases of Anaplasmosis, Theileriosis, and Babesiosis were reported from Idukki and Wayanad in recent times, they say.

Kerala started importing cross-bred calves in 2006 to bridge the yawning demand-supply gap in milk. Following the move, the milk production went up from 20 lakh tonnes in 2000 to 26.5 lakh tonnes last year.

The livestock population in Kerala registered a drop from 22 lakh in 2003 to 18.5 lakh in 2007.

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