Rising fodder expenses, worsening heat and lack of adequate water have forced the cattle farmers of Anantpur, Kerala to look out for other feasible options. And the locally bred heat tolerant dwarf cow is the answer.
A team of researchers from Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University and the state government's Animal Husbandry Department are now promoting a switch to Vechur and Kasargod cattle, the two local varieties known for being easy to raise, resistant to diseases and most important, better at tolerating high temperatures than the more popular crossbred cattle.
The crossbred cattle have a high appetite which ultimately raises the fodder costs. But the biggest problem faced with it is its inability to withstand high temperature. The crossbred cattle are also easily prone to mastitis, a common udder infection. Kerala farmers lose at least 250 crore rupees (around $40 million) each year due to mastitis in crossbreed varieties, according to the researchers at the animal husbandry department. On the other hand, not a single case of severe mastitis has been reported among dwarf cows.
That is not all. These cows can also play a key role in controlling global warming and climate change. Methane gas (CH4), which is produced from cattle waste is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Dwarf cattle eat less and ultimately produce less waste.
However, not many farmers are opting for dwarf cows citing low commercial returns. In order to produce 10 litres of milk, a farmer has to rear at least four Vechur cows instead of one crossbreed, " says K. Ravindran, a farmer from Palakkad. Basha Balakrishnan, another farmer from Calicut maintains that people from upscale localities are willing to pay more for milk from Dwarf cows as it is believed to be more nutritious.
The issue has given way to yet another quality versus quantity debate. As per agricultural experts, only 6.5 per cent of cattle are dwarf varieties out of 2.3 million in Kerala which clearly implies that dwarf cows have not still gained widespread acceptance.