The Anantapur town market yard on Sunday witnessed the sale of not less than 300 cattle – most of them oxen – to vehicles that carry these animals to slaughterhouses in the neighbouring States.

Speaking to The Hindu, Khasim of Krishnagiri town of Tamil Nadu says, rather emphatically, that the cattle market in the district is the most reliable for them, as their trucks have never had to return empty or half filled, thanks to the exodus in the sale of cattle the district is witnessing since the last two years. “Mostly, we sell it to slaughterhouses in Bangalore as the demand is higher and hence the price better,” he says even as he added that a considerable number of cattle is sold in Kerala at food processing industries which process the meat and export it to the middle east, which is one of the largest importers of meat in the world.

It is estimated that the district witnesses a sale of more than 600 cattle every week translating into a mind numbing figure of over 28,000 cattle in a year. This means an average production of more than 2,500 tonnes of beef. The entire consumption of beef in Bangalore city is just around 1,000 tonnes as per statistics of the Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services.

While one of the major reasons for the distress sale of cattle is lack of fodder and water owing to consecutive droughts, Y.V. Malla Reddy, Director of AF Ecology centre – an NGO involved in finding ecological and sustainable solutions to the problems of the district – says that the root cause of the lack of fodder is the unmindful shift of almost all farmers to groundnut.

He argues that there is nothing left behind once groundnut is harvested as the entire plant is uprooted leaving nothing for the cattle to graze unlike in the past when cultivation of pulses and lentils meant that there was fodder that was left behind for the cattle to graze. “The shift to exotic breeds of cattle is another reason,” contends Mr. Malla Reddy and argues that exotic breeds introduced by the government as the solution to the vagaries of the farmers in the district has meant that these breeds which are not suited for hot weather conditions require better facilities.