From over 11 lakh in 1990 their population dwindled to just over two lakh now and experts say the declining trend could see their complete disappearance

Promoted by Pattakarar family the elegant medium sized Kangayam breed of cattle known for their draught qualities and medicinal properties of milk were quite popular in the rain shadow region of Tamil Nadu two decades ago.

From over 11 lakh in 1990 their population dwindled to just over two lakh now and experts say the declining trend could see their disappearance from the landscape of the State, thanks to the ‘invasion’ by foreign cattle species like Holstein, Friesian and Jersey from Switzerland, UK and Australia.

“Introduction of some of these cattle consciously promoted by the government has led to situation where the native breeds are gradually disappearing to the detriment of the local communities,” K.S.M. Karthikeya, managing trustee of the Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation told The Hindu after a making a presentation at a side event at the ongoing CoP11.

Shrinking grazing areas

He said it was not only this sturdy breed but even the grazing areas were shrinking. Mr. Karthikeya says the State lost more than 10 lakh hectares of agriculture lands between 1991 and 2003, quoting a report of the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms. Rapid industrialisation and urbanisation was leading to conversion and shrinking of ‘Korangadu’ pasture lands or the uncultivated dry land set aside specially for grazing purposes.

An indigenous grass variety grows in these pastures and animals are let into the paddocks. Livestock keepers spend the entire day monitoring the animals and providing water in troughs fetched from a nearby water source. But all this is on the decline now. Apart from urbanisation triggered by formation of Tiruppur district, industrialisation process was not only eating into these lands but causing pollution. Textile bleaching and dyeing units in Tiruppur, Erode and Karur have contaminated the Noyyal, Amaravathy and other water bodies with Kangayam cows facing several problems including aborted pregnancies.

Promotion of foreign breeds, distress sale of cattle, shrinking of pasture land have all taken a toll on Kangayam breed, Mr. Karthikeya said and listed out various steps being taken by the Foundation to save the native cattle including ‘in-situ’ breeding centre and conservation centre. Pedigree bulls are offered for service in inseminating animals within 10 km radius of the farm. As part of the village livelihood programme, heifers of good quality animals are provided to landless poor.