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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Scarcity of feed and fodder accelerating distress sale of cattle

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Following the reducing population of indigenous cows the population of sheep and goat is coming down heavily in India. It is reported that scarcity of feed and fodder aggravated by climatic changes has forced farmers and herders for distress sale of their animals. The scarcity of feed and fodder has already killed numerous animals in different parts of the country especially in Palamu of Jharkhand state of India. However, Rajasthan and Gujarat too are facing similar conditions where farmers are opting for early migration that may force naturally these states towards severe losses of revenue. Loss of population of small ruminants has already been reported by surveyors and researchers.

Following the Green Revolution and changing trends of keeping hybrid cattle and ruminants farmers in most of the Indian states had already switched on to keeping hybrid cattle and ruminants. These animals have been proved to be the least tolerant to weather fluctuations and other effects of climate change. Monoculture and wrong practices of irrigation together with wastage, overexploitation of groundwater and reclamation of indigenous water bodies have already resulted into frequent drought and crisis of water in many regions.

Reducing population of indigenous cattle

Native breeds of cattle and ruminants that remain tolerant to high or low temperature and to even many diseases up to major extent have been left countable in number. Since hybrid and exotic varieties remain always prone to weather fluctuations caused by climatic changes they become weak and fell ill most frequently. This condition forces farmers to their distress sale to earn even the least possible money.

Changing shapes of villages due to the growth of human population, migration of skilled persons towards cities village commons are fatly being converted into unplanned housing plots due to which least areas of open land are left for grazers. Earlier each village used to have sufficient area of open land where marriage parties used to be located temporarily, village fairs were held annually, or religious ceremonies were organised collectively. Orchards in those days used to remain common properties of villagers with defined share of each family. Thus orchards in big areas were found where sheep, goat, cows and other cattle used to graze the grass on the surface or used to eat leaves falling on ground. But nothing like that exists now. The village common lands have been distributed among certified poor, and the remaining land areas have been bitterly encroached by building houses. 

Moral and ethical degradation

Villages of India have been going through some short of moral and ethical degradation though less as compared to cities and a tendency of land grabbing has started bitterly in Indian villages since two or three decades. People are building houses on empty lands just for grabbing the lands though they don’t need that much of areas to live. Many of those who have migrated towards cities one or two or three decades ago, leaving their kiths and kins in the villages have either grabbed land nearby city areas or have purchased land and made their houses there. These people supply money to villages to their owns residing there, and being comparatively richer their kiths and kins grab land of village commons or of other villagers by force and build their houses there.

Now villages have not left with sufficient land for rearing cattle and adopting mixed farming practices. Thus vast gaps have started to exist between the rich and the poor in Indian villages also. As regards cities, most of the open lands and green lands have been purchased by developers by hook or by crook and apartments are being erected at a fast speed without any care for ground water availability and city environment. Thus no space is left for cattle in urban and semi urban areas too.

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Image-1, 2, 3 : Urban expansion driving away ruminants

The poor cattle owners and growing Khatals in urban areas

Poor cattle rearers can not afford keeping hybrid and exotic breeds of milch cattle and are forced to go for distress sale. The rich are tending to purchase hybrid milch cattle and earn money through milk production. Most of such people are occupying government land for keeping their cattle and selling milk. They live in temporary establishments and tend to escape by boarding their cattle in trucks whenever a smell of government enquiry or inspection comes to their nose. The other side of the coin is that these people manage local officers by offering them money and remain engaged in occupying the land through every possible way. Thus no scope is left for poor cattle rearers and becoming hopeless these people are selling their cattle to butchers on through away prices. On the other hand sprouting dairies or khatals what they are called in local language are polluting the city environment and are not in a mood to leave even after court orders. These khatals owners tend to extract milk from cows and buffaloes by injecting oxytosin hormone and break all records of cruelty. Reports of selling adulterated or synthetic milk and milk products by these people are also in the air from various media.

Images - 4 and 5 : Oxytosin Injection


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Image -6 to 12: Encroachment on government land by illegal Khatals

National Seminar in on ruminants
Coming back to water scarce and drought hit areas I would like to elaborate further that early migration of sheep farmers to escape adverse conditions caused by changing weather is causing serious loss of revenue to some states. Scientists suggest forage production and feeding plan for small ruminants during conditions of scarcity. They are of the opinion that cheap feed and fodder should be transported to other areas in view of protecting ruminants at the times of crisis. A national seminar on the Impacts of climate changes on small ruminants was held recently in Jaipur.It was attended by many eminent scientists of India besides research scholars working in the field related to production and care of small animals. General opinions of papers presented in the national seminar centered on the promotion of indigenous varieties, adaptations of ruminants to weather changes and management of food and fodder in drought prone areas of India. Let these opinions, findings and schemes benefit our poor farmers who are bitterly encircled by climatic as well as by local human forces detailed in the lines in paragraphs above.

Key Words : ruminants;indigenous; green revolution;village commons; land grabbing;feed and fodder;Khatals;pollution; migration; encroachment;urbanisation; developers; oxytocin

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