The new rules on cattle trade notified by the Central government on May 23 are likely to hasten the decline in the cattle population in the State and derail the ongoing efforts to achieve self sufficiency in milk production, according to experts in the dairy sector.
Estimates prepared by the Kerala Livestock Development Board reveal that the cattle population in the State, dominated by crossbreds, has decreased from 17,400,00 in 2007 to 13,290,00 in 2012, registering a decline of 23.62%. Milk production however went up from 25.09 lakh metric tonnes in 2009-10 to 27.91 lakh MT in 2012-13, largely due to the increase in milk yield of crossbred cows which is likely to have plateaued out.
Livestock experts fear that the curbs on trade and inter-State traffic of cattle under the new rules would pose a severe setback to the State at a time when it is exploring means to prevent the incessant decline in cattle population. The new rules require the buyer to furnish revenue documents before the district animal market monitoring committee to prove that he is a farmer with enough land for grazing.
Dairy farmers in Kerala are largely small landholders and depend on animal markets in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for their requirement of calves.
“Up to 80% of dairy farmers in Kerala have less than 25 cents while 10% have less than five cents,” says Ani S. Das, Director, Centre for Bioresources and Agricultural Services, Kannur. “It turns out much cheaper for a farmer in Kerala to purchase a heifer from other States than to rear one. There are farmers in Tamil Nadu who buy female calves from Kerala, rear them on grazing grounds, and return them as heifers.”
From other States
Farmers in Kerala regularly rely on the cattle markets in Coimbatore and evening markets across Tamil Nadu. They also turn to the markets at Chikkaballapur and Mandya in Karnataka for high-value pure-bred cows.
Officials feel that the new rules would make it difficult for small dairy farmers to source cattle from the neighbouring States. “It would be a cumbersome and time-consuming process to get the clearance of the district committees chaired by Collectors. The system could also breed corruption,” says a government official.
Experts point out that a further decline in the cattle population would leave a lasting impact on the State’s milk production.
Source: The Hindu