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Soil lacks adequate minerals for animals

Shastry V.Mallady
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Mapping reveals deficiency of phosphorous, calcium, zinc and magnesium

NO RICH FOOD:Grazing areas are shrinking rapidly.— Photo: S. James
NO RICH FOOD:Grazing areas are shrinking rapidly.— Photo: S. James

: Drought is playing havoc not only on farmers but on animals as well, particularly livestock.

The absence of green fodder, scarcity of rainfall and infertile soil are threatening the survival of animals.

A study conducted by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) across the State has revealed that the mineral deficiency in the soil is a major impediment for the general health, milk yield, fertility and reproductive capacity of cattle.

While nutrient fodder is a luxury under drought conditions, the study points out that the supplying of mineral supplements is an emergency intervention at a time when the greens are missing and grazing in open lands is fast becoming a thing of the past.

“Our university did extensive soil mapping and came out with district-specific findings. In Madurai district, there is a deficiency of six vital minerals- phosphorous, calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper and cobalt- in the soil. To overcome that, TANUVAS introduced ‘mineral mixture’ as a supplement for animals and poultry,” R.Uma Rani, Assistant Professor, Veterinary University Research and Training Centre, Madurai, told The Hindu on Thursday.

According to the study report, the same situation prevailed in Virudhunagar, Tuticorin, Kanyakumari, Sivaganga, Tiruchi, Coimbatore and Thiruvallur districts, where the six minerals were found deficient in the soil.

The university’s research centre along with the Animal Disease Intelligence Unit (ADIU) in Madurai are creating awareness among farmers and the animal-rearing community to buy the mineral mixture packet being sold at a subsidised rate of Rs.55 per kg.

Dr.Uma Rani says that when the soil is mineral deficient, naturally the grass and other fodder grown on that soil will be of questionable quality, thereby affecting the animal.

The Central Feed Technology Unit in the Institute of Animal Nutrition of the Madras Veterinary College has developed a balanced diet for animals by ensuring that the missing minerals in the soil are available in the packed supplementary diet.

Veterinary experts say that the mineral mix should be in right proportion for the physiological functioning and satisfactory growth of animals.

A three-member team at the ADIU, G.Subbiah, Assistant Director along with Assistant Veterinary Surgeons S. Senthil Selvakumar and V.Girija, are monitoring the situation and independently carrying out blood and milk tests of cattle.

“Animal feed should be rich in mineral content if we have to arrest infertility. There is a huge shortage of straw as paddy cultivation has shrunk and raising of animals has become expensive as cost of feeding has increased.

But the great hope is the Department of Animal Husbandry, which is solidly behind the farmers through its fodder distribution scheme,” says Dr. Selvakumar. In Madurai district, the TANUVAS soil study covered a cross-section of areas, including Tirupparankundram and Usilampatti.

According to Dr. Rani, more than 1,000 soil samples were collected from different grazing areas and they were sent to the university laboratory for analysis.

Experts say that one packet of mineral mixture will be enough for one month and about 30 gms have to be mixed in water for the animals- be it cows, buffaloes, goat or sheep- to consume. It is said to be effective for poultry as well.

It was pointed out that phosphorous deficiency was significant in Melur and Vadipatti areas, calling for intervention as there are plenty of milch animals there.

Another Government assistant veterinary surgeon, S.S. Senthilkumar of Veterinary Poly Clinic at Tallakulam, says that micro and macro nutrients are important for livestock reproduction and soil fertility holds the key.

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