The Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir was a net exporter of live sheep/goat, desi poultry and desi ghee to neighbouring state of Punjab at the time of independence, but now there is huge gap of demand and supply in live sheep/goat, milk, egg, feed and fodder. As per the 19th Livestock Census conducted in the year 2012 there is steady increase of livestock population in Jammu and Kashmir except in Ladakh region. J&K is at fifth position in sheep population, first in yak population, second in horse/ponies/mule, sixth in donkey and 17th in poultry. But it is surprising to note that we are not self sufficient in animal production. The LS sector is emerging as important growth leverage to state economy and contributes 11% of GDP as 73% of state population resides in rural areas with LS rearing as main occupation. But, as per sample survey the average production of animal products per animal is very low as per national average (5.6lts for CB cow). Thus there is need to rethink and remodel the animal sector to make the state self-reliant in quality livestock production and their products.
The agro-climatic conditions of Jammu and Kashmir are conducive for growth of animal sector with plenty of forests, perennial flowing rivers, alpine and sub alpine pastures rich in leguminous grasses and trans Himalayan cold desert of Ladakh. Notwithstanding the new challenge of climate change and emergence of militancy in the year 1990 the LS industry was hit the most – recurring droughts and floods, denudation of forests, shrinking of migratory routes and degradation of highland pastures , it to time to revisit the whole policy and planning for LS growth. The Govt. of J&K took a very bold step in the year 1962 to create an independent department of Sheep Husbandry to carter the specific needs of sheep/goat rearing communities and to increase the production of fine wool and mutton as many communities viz. Bakerwals, Chopans, Gaddies and Changthangies are exclusively engaged in sheep/goat rearing. Again in the year 1982 separate Head of Departments were created for Kashmir and Jammu divisions for both animal and sheep departments. Jammu and Kashmir govt. is incurring huge expenses in running the twin departments.
The larger states in India with larger S/G and other livestock population as in Rajasthan or Andra Pradesh have a single AH Deptt. However, GOI undertook major schemes for improvement of animal sector in post independent era with major schemes in disease eradication, crossbreeding and fodder production – Jersey and Holstein Friesian germplasm were selected for achieving white revolution and fine wool breed of sheep like Merino and Remboulette. The much needed flip to sheep breeding was initiated way back 1930’s by Maharaja Hari Singh by importing fine wool sheep breeds from England and started a sheep farm at Reasi. Over the decades the crossbreeding programme has been implemented meticusoly and desired results have been achieved by intervention of new technologies like frozen semen. The fine wool production has reached a niche and its demand has decreased dramatically due to globalisation and India singing WTO regime. The good quality fine wool with larger staple length is being imported from other countries in cheaper rate for apparel industry. The demand of fine wool from J&K has decreased dramatically for many years and the breeders are bearing the brunt of low prices of their produce.
Of late the animal scientists in India are advocating breeding the indigenous breeds which are sturdy, disease resistant and can face droughts. In dairying, Indian breeds as red Sindhi and Tharparker are well suited in Indian conditions. India is a world leader in terms of buffaloes breeds and population as this animal has involved from India. Buffalo’s milk is rich in fat component and constitutes 45% of total milk production in India. The state of J&K is wonderful in S/G sector as the long hair meat variety Kagani goat is bred by tribal bakerwals which is only breed in the world, but irony is that this breed in not registered in the world, like is the case with the magnificent bakerwali dog a Himalayan mastiff. The Kagani breed has survived by the inherent selective breeding carried out by the bakerwals as only best male animals are kept for breeding and others are castrated. Pahashmina goat found on the pleatue of Changthang area of Ladakh and produces the best pashmina fibre of world. Likewise the local breeds of sheep like Poonchi, Karnahi, Gurezi, Kashmir valley are known for their sturdiness, adaptability, disease resistance and presence of fecundity gene. The good news is that the Sheep Husbandry Deptt. Has introduced meat variety Dorper breed of sheep in Jammu plains which is giving good response.
The constraints in LS production are – animal disease control and feed/fodder production. Animal health cover facilities are indispensable – disease monitoring and prompt reporting feedback system are crucial factor. It is a fact that the dispensaries of animal and sheep husbandry departments are restricted to cover the specific LS. A veterinarian is trained to treat all kind of LS including pets and wild animals. He/She is trained for fodder/feed production, breeding and extension activities. There are vets both for AH/SH at block level, district level and provincial level but their hands are tied to treat and cover specific kind of LS. The coordination needed to control animal diseases at village or block level is totally lacking in the sister departments. The state Vety. Council Act came into existence in the year 2001 but unfortunately it has not implemented in full letter and spirit. As per the law no Para vet or class 1V employee can practice veterinary medicine as misuse or low level of dosing or blatant misuse of antibiotics can cause loss to LS production and development of resistance to drugs.
Most of the states of India have banned cow slaughter except in few states where cow slaughter is not banned. Surprisingly the Muslim majority state of J&K has and old law enacted in the year 1862 by Dogra rulars banning all bovine slaughter – including buffaloes. The slaughter of cow and similar animal (Buffaloes) is a cognizable, non bail able offence with 10 years jail and fine of the five times of cost of animal. The Kashmiries are mutton eaters which is imported 42% of total needs. As per Indian constitution and sensibilities of Hindus ban of cow slaughter is okay but there is no rationale behind the ban on culled and male buffaloes which can supplement the income of farmers. It is a fact that old and culled buffaloes and male buf. calves are starved to death. This law needs partial amendment.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has a special status and is least developed. The way legislatures behave in assembly and waste time on non issues like recent uproar on Article 370 and abrupt closure of budget session is very unfortunate. The real issues of farmers are not addressed. The Horticulture sector is getting good attention of GOI and special assistance of Rs. 500 Cr. is earmarked for it. But the animal sector is ignored for unknown reasons as capital fight of more than Rs. 2500 Cr. occurs in import of live LS and their products per year. There are roughly 1000 trained veterinarian unemployed in the state. It is need of hour that a veterinarian should head a vety dispensary at Panchayat level to discourage Para vets to practice animal medicine, the unemployed vets need to be recruited to implement JKVC Act. The GOI has ambitious project on irradication of infectious animal diseases under ASCAD scheme. The other area is LS insurance like the central scheme of crop insurance to protect farmers for the LS loses. Unlike in health deptt. where procurement of medicines and other supplies are done by J&K Medicine Supply Corporation Ltd. Animal medicines supplies procurement is done by the both the departments separately by State Level Purchase Committees. Due to unknown reasons the small scale industries engaged in manufacturing vety. Medicines are given 15% rebate on rate contracts in tendering. To bring transparency and purchase of quality and cheap medicines the task of all procurement of vety medicines should be entrusted with JKMSC Limited. There are centrally sponsored and state sponsored schemes for development of LS sector which are insufficient as much of the damage has been done to this sector due to troubled conditions and climate change. There is a need to frame a new LS policy for J&K due to its special needs. For this there is need to constitute a task force of experts to guide the government on reorganisation to AH/SH departments. This may include relocating the existing dispensaries to uncovered areas, conservation of specific breeds of LS like kagani goat, double humped camel, zanskari horse and other native breeds of sheep. GOI may sanction Livestock Mission with initial funding of Rs 500 Cr. So that the state can become self-reliant in animal production
The author is a practicing Veterinarian