A major project for conservation of Cheruvally cattle has been started by the Vechur Conservation Trust (VCT) with the financial support of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board.
The objective is to get the Cheruvally cattle, indigenous to Cheruvally, Mundakkayam and Kanjirappally regions of Kottayam district, registered as a native breed with the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, the same way it was done for Vechur cow.
Sosamma Iype, managing trustee of the VCT and former Professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics with the Kerala Agricultural University, is supervising the project.
The Vechur cow was reportedly saved from extinction by the conservation efforts at the KAU under her leadership in the 1980s.
Cheruvally cattle have been named so by her. In the past three years, the breed has been referred to by scientists by this name.
A flawed breeding policy has brought down the number of Cheruvally cattle. Indiscriminate cross-breeding has seriously affected the country’s animal genetic resources. A comprehensive breed descriptor has to be developed for Cheruvally cattle, the manner it was done for Vechur cow,’ said Dr. Iype. The Cheruvally cow, she explained, was a locally-adapted, heat-tolerant, disease-resistant and low-maintenance breed. It yields about 2 litres of milk daily.
“I conducted a preliminary survey, with the help of Joby George, K. C. Jayan and Jayan Joseph. Local farmers Lijo, Benoy, Minosh and Suresh helped. We found that there are about 4,000 Cheruvally cattle in the Kottayam region. The main problem is that the bulls are crossbreds. They dilute the genetic make-up of native animals. The Cheruvally cattle breed when they graze. Hence, there is no record of mating,” stated Dr. Iype.
She said the relevance of Cheruvally and Vechur cows was increasing by the day with reports of crossbreeds, despite their high milk production, being prone to diseases and less adapted to tropical climate.
“We need to conserve the low-maintenance native breeds as there is insufficient fodder in our land. The prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease and the like makes things worse for dairy farmers. Vechur and Cheruvally are ideal to be kept in your backyard. The keepers need not spend much for the maintenance of the animals. The cows yield enough milk for domestic use. There will be some left for sale too,” she added.