Military farms closed after 132 years of service

Move will enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure

Published - March 31, 2021 07:01 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A cross-bred cow under Project Freiswal being milked by a milking machine at Military Farm in Meerut.

A cross-bred cow under Project Freiswal being milked by a milking machine at Military Farm in Meerut.

Military farms have been closed after 132 years of service, the Army said and the formal closing ceremony was held on Wednesday to mark the occasion.

“All the officers and workers have been redeployed within the Ministry to continue providing service to the organisation,” the Army said.

There have been several recommendations in the past to shut down the farms. In 2012, the Quarter Master General branch had recommended their closure and again in December 2016 by Lt. Gen. DB Shekatkar (retd) committee which was appointed to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces.

The farms were set up with the sole requirement of supplying hygienic cow milk to troops in garrisons across British India. The first military farm was raised on February 1, 1889 at Allahabad.

Post independence, the farms flourished with 30,000 heads of cattle in 130 farms all over India. They were even established in Leh and Kargil in late 1990s. “Another major task was management of large tracts of defence land, production and supply of baled hay to animal holding units,” the statement said.

For more than a century, the farms with dedication and commitment supplied 3.5 crore litres of milk and 25,000 MT of hay yearly. “It is credited with pioneering the technique of artificial insemination of cattle and introduction of organised dairying in India, providing yeoman service during the 1971 war, supplying milk at the Western and Eastern war fronts as well as during the Kargil operations to the Northern Command,” the Army said.

The farms were a necessity as cantonments were located far away from urban areas. However, with urban expansion, cantonments have come well within towns and cities and milk procurement is being increasingly done from the open market. Over the years, there have been several allegations of corruption surrounding the farms.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, they established “Project Freiswal”, credited to be the world’s largest cattle cross-breeding programme and they also teamed up with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the development of bio-fuel, the statement said.

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