The Animal Husbandry Department is launching a project to conserve indigenous breeds of cattle that have been driven to the verge of extinction.
The department is establishing a farm at Badiadka in Kasaragod where nucleus herds of the Kasaragod Dwarf, Kankrej, Amrithmahal, Kangayam and other dwarf varieties of cattle will be reared.
The project, scheduled to be inaugurated later this month, seeks to conserve the declining numbers of the local breeds and encourage farmers to rear these animals.
The farm will be set up in 3.2 acres belonging to the veterinary dispensary at Badiadka. As many as 20 females and 10 males of the Kasaragod Dwarf variety and one pair each of Kankrej, Amrithmahal and Kangayam breeds will be housed at the farm.
Estimated to cost Rs.1 crore, the farm will have sheds for rearing cows, bulls, calves and heifers. It will be equipped with scientific waste management and rainwater harvesting facilities as well as a fodder farm.
Animal Husbandry Director K.G. Suma said the female calves produced under the conservation project would be sold to dairy farmers. The department, she said, would develop the necessary conservation protocols.
Well-adapted to the local climate, topographical and vegetative changes, the indigenous cattle breeds are valued for their disease resistance, lower feed intake and easier management. They mostly find their own feed by grazing and are resistant to common diseases, making them suitable for low-budget, homestead-level dairy farms. While the average milk yield of the dwarf cows is just one to three litres, farmers aver that the quality of the milk is very rich.
The Kasaragod Dwarf, which is on the verge of extinction, is adapted to arid weather conditions, unlike crossbred cattle which require regular supply of fodder. It is for this reason that the conservation of the breed gains importance, according to the project proposal.
Though extensive crossbreeding has considerably reduced the number of purebreds, there are farmers who maintain the quality of the animals, the report says.
In the past, homesteads used to maintain 10 to 20 animals each. The cattle were reared mostly to produce compost manure for areca nut, rice and coconut farms.
Apart from what they got from grazing, the animals were fed kitchen leftovers, straw and local grass (Parapullu) as well as agricultural by-products such as areca nut leaf or palm leaf. The project report notes that the decline of grazing grounds, fragmentation of agricultural landholdings and the shift to cash crops such as rubber posed a challenge for conservation of the indigenous cattle breeds.
Dr.Suma said the department would undertake scientific breeding of indigenous cattle breeds in future.