Darious hails from Chavara in Kollam district of Kerala, is not a full-time farmer, as he has a lot of activities including politics.
His father was a teacher who was interested in farming, especially in animal husbandry. Darious has fond memories of childhood when his father offered to go for film in return for collecting grass for the cows. He was later involved in all the work, including cleaning the barn. Although he was busy as a tutor, an official at Minerals and Metals Ltd and a politician, Darius always had in mind a dairy farm.
Darius did not think that he would have to start a dairy farm in Sasthamkottah, about 15 kilometers from his house, when he bought a friend’s one acre of land there. After the purchase, he faced many issues locally and cases including criminal one from the relatives of the owner. The dairy was not the first to start. It was a brick making unit. The plan was to run the furnace on the ashes of coal accumulated at the factory of Minerals and Metals Ltd. It started by bringing in workers from Tamil Nadu. But with not enough coal ash available and the non -availability of good guest workers, the business turned into a loss-making one. It was then that he decided to start a dairy.
The dairy farm was started by buying two cows in Sasthamkottah for the family of the woman who came to look after his mother at home. But the son-in-law of that family was an alcoholic and could not carry it well enough. That’s how he picked a family from Nagercoil,Tamil Nadu to look after the cattle.They done an excellent job and the farm grew into a good unit with 20 cows. That’s when Darious’ mother said that you were giving good milk to the public and I am getting the Milma milk.He then decided to start one unit at Chavara too. There are 8 cows in the barn. Darious and his family look after the farm with the support of a Tamil Nadu native.
He began his practical thoughts on animal husbandry after the establishment of this farm.
To make livestock profitable
These are some of the suggestions that Darious puts forward to make cattle breeding profitable.
1. Milk should have a good market and maximum price. The Co-operative society(MILMA) buys milk for Rs 33-34 and sells for Rs 50. A dairy can be profitable only if the farmer gets Rs 50 per liter. Awareness on quality milk among the consumers is also important. Normally, consumers buy milk on low price, regardless of the quality of the milk. That is why adulterated milk and low quality milk come to Kerala from other states in bulk quantities. Now the attitude of Keralites is changing. People are ready to buy quality milk at a higher price. At the same time, farmers and farmers’ associations need to be prepared to produce and sell value-added products. Curd, buttermilk, butter, ghee and ice cream are no doubt more profitable than selling milk
2. Cattle feed is another issue. Most of the feeds come from other states. Good quality fodder could be produced in the state at low cost and delivered to the farmers. Darious argues that animal husbandry is not profitable if it is fed entirely by ready-made food. Grass and straw should be part of the feed. Readymade feeds are high in urea. This can seriously affect the next pregnancy. It is impossible to even remember the plight of a cow bought for more than Rs 50,000 to be parted as meat. Therefore, the department should focus on promoting grass cultivation, paddy cultivation and maize cultivation and providing nutritious fodder at subsidized rates.
3. Another issue is the lack of milkers(karavakkaran). On an average, a milker visits twenty households daily. Most of the milkers are from Tamil Nadu. Milking starts at 12 o’clock at night. The farmer should be awake as per the convenience of the milker. The milker does not have to be hygienic. The great tragedy we see today is that the milker who milks a sick cow becomes a carrier of the disease. If the milker is an alcoholic, he may not come for milking on certain days. Darious said the Dairy Development Department should take the initiative to create adequately trained groups of women to do the job and be provided milking machines on panchayath basis. In milking,it is important to pay attention to the last drop of milk. It is high in fat and that to be sucked out to avoid diseases.
4. Diseases are becoming a major headache for dairy farmers. Although the disease cannot be eradicated, sincere doctors are needed to control it. Veterinary doctors are mostly women. Those who work only on the schedule from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you go to the hospital and explain on your animal’s disease, they will give medicine. Doctors rarely show kindness to animals that the farmer sees as his own child. If the doctor has to come home, the fees, travel expenses and cost of medicines will be big. If a person makes a living from a cow, he will break down as the expenditure to handle diseases are on higher side. Darious demands that there be at least one 24-hour veterinary hospital with all modern facilities in an assembly constituency. Darious said the government should issue licenses to experienced veterinary doctors who have retired from government service to start private veterinary clinics.Veterinary medicine in the field of Ayurveda and Homeopathy should also be used. Arrangements should be made to use traditional medicine that is not available elsewhere.
5. The people’s representative of the constituency can provide great assistance in this area. Dairy farmers and animal husbandry officers should meet at least once a month under the chairmanship of the MLA to discuss the problems of the farmers. The Government should be prepared to nurture animal husbandry as that of agriculture ,since the most essential manure for agriculture are cow dung and cow urine.
6. The ration given by the government to those above BPL is used only by a small community. Some people buy rations just to keep the card live. Others sell the ration given by the Government to dairy farmers . Darious says, the ration should be limited to those who need it and a livestock ration system should be introduced to provide rice, wheat and maize to the cattle. Darious suggests that if we act realistically, we can save tons of food grains from being stashed away in the food corporation and can feed it to cattle.
Darious has a bitter experience of neglect by veterinarians. One of Darious’ cows had severe labor pain at night. He called a doctor. Doctor said not today night, will come tomorrow morning. Another doctor said he was staying far away. Finally he called an experienced livestock assistant. He said he did not know how to take delivery, but Darious insisted him to attend the case. He put his hand into the cow’s uterus and realized that the baby was coming in reverse angle. The pelvis of the baby is tucked inside the uterus. Darious instructed him to push its back legs forward. He did so. With that, the situation was ready for the child to come out. If he had waited for the next day, the child and mother would have died. Darious says private clinics can help prevent such a dangerous situation.
Return of expatriates and marunadan Malayalees
Cattle rearing is an area that can be relied upon by the Malayalees who have lost their jobs due to the economic collapse due to Covid . If 3-4 cows are reared scientifically, one can earn Rs.25,000/- a month. But he must be ready to see it as his own job. Most of the farms started with 10-15 cows, closed within six months due to inexperience of the entrepreneur. Therefore, Darious advises entrepreneurs to enter the field only after doing a clear study and if only ready to become a worker than the owner. Investing lakhs on building cow sheds are a mere waste. When old or diseased coconut trees are cut, the wood can be used making the shed. Hygiene and minimum expenditure are the basis for the success of the dairy sector. Now license is not required to raise up to 20 cows. Dairy farmers are well versed in human resources, finance and marketing. Darious also said that those who have been successful in the dairy sector for five years should be honored with MBA degree. Darius believes that anyone who succeeds in raising cattle will have the strength to do anything else to survive.