Breeding Kashmir's own Merinos for quality meat and wool

Born in a family of farmers in Chandarhama village of Baramulla district, Hilal Ahmad Yatoo is considered best example of hard work and dedication not only in his village but in the whole Pattan tehsil.

Hilal is the distinct sheep breeder, who is engaged with sheep farming from last many years and is the household the name for providing quality breeds to hundreds of sheep farmers in the whole area.

“I am the animal lover and when your passion becomes profession it makes your work lot easier and gives you umpteen satisfactions. I am attached to this profession since my childhood. Initially, I was attached to poultry farming but left it midway just to focus on my passion, which is sheep rearing and breeding,” says Hilal Ahmad

Hilal’s passion for quality sheep can be reflected from his sheep barn, which is built with the latest design and techniques. The barn where he keeps his sheep is totally different from the average barn in Kashmir. From feeding to soiling everything is managed in a professional manner with clear hygiene.

“I am grazing the quality sheep and taking the care for their proper hygiene is my duty, because they are my bread and butter. I can never keep my sheep in unhygienic conditions, it hurts me internally. When someone is feeding you, you have to feed them back,” says Hilal.

Hilal grazes quality sheep germplasm of Kashmir Merino and has to keep intense care of his ewes when they are at breeding stage and then sells them to the other farmers so that the breed keeps extending continuously. Kashmir Merino is a cross breed of sheep from indigenous Kashmir sheep and Australian Merino.

“Butchers prefer this sheep because of its quality of meat and taste and sheep farmers have also instruction from Agriculture University to remain more focused towards Kashmir Merino. They are also able to give birth to twins and develop mixed ration formulation for the sheep for better lamb weight. Even people from SKUAST-K prefer to purchase ram from me because of its top quality breed. We have bulk of customers throughout Kashmir from both south, central and northern Kashmir,” says Hilal.

Hilal started his journey like a common Kashmir farmer with the help of his younger brother Showkat, who is also fond of the sheep and an animal lover. Initially he had to face lot of difficulties but with every passing day every difficulty faded away due to his will.

“Initially we used to search everywhere and wherever we found quality ewe and ram we used to purchase them from our pocket money. Presently we have almost hundred top quality sheep available with us and we are almost earning Rs 7 lakh to Rs 8 lakhs a year and are providing employment to four people of the village. Rearing expenses for a sheep are about Rs 3000 annually and one needs to really work tirelessly for two months of winters. For rest of the year it is comparatively easy,” says Hilal.

Apart from sheep rearing, Hilal is also involved in fruit business where he earns handsomely and was recently awarded IARI INNOVATIVE Farmer award by ICAR- Indian Agriculture Research Institute, New Delhi for his contribution to the sheep yearning activities and cultivation of paddy, maize and oats on the recommendation of SKUAST.

“It was on 7th of March I won this award. I think I got this award for the hard work and dedication I put in my work because for a single treatment or minor injury to my sheep, I consult top doctors because when you give due care, it ultimately pays you back. This award means a lot for me. In whole Kashmir I was the only one, who won this award. This award gave a kind of identity to me, my work and to my village not only in district Baramulla but in whole Kashmir,” mutters Hilal with a belief

Besides rearing sheep, cows, goats and hens, Hilal is also having pigeons that gives the glimpse of perfect animal lover and is planning to add rabbits to the list to give proper shape to his passion into profession

“Pigeons are also a source of income. I will try to add up more in future. One should not shy away from doing things that he likes. My suggestion to young generation is: don’t wait for opportunities just create opportunities and then avail benefit from them. If anyone is falling short of funds for doing something, one should take benefit of government schemes like the ones available through JKEDI,” he concluded