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Wednesday, Jan 19, 2005

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Nabard offers loans for breeding indigenous cattle

Gaurav Raghuvanshi

A herd of Gir cows at a breeding farm at Gondal in Gujarat. The Gir cow is among several indigenous varieties of cattle and other animals being taken up by Nabard for a new breeding programme.

Gondal (Gujarat) , Jan. 18

FOR a few decades, the focus was on cross breeding of cattle. But with farmers gradually realising the merits of preserving indigenous breeds of cattle and other animals, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) has evolved a host of schemes to promote local varieties.

As its first initiative, the Gujarat zone of Nabard recently organised a "loan mela" for over 60 farmers engaged in breeding indigenous cattle at Gondal near Rajkot.

Gujarat has two indigenous cattle breeds - Gir and Kankrej - that have been identified as having great potential.

The programme was organised under the aegis of the Bhuvaneswari Peeth, a temple trust that has been promoting breeding programmes for indigenous breeds of cattle and horses.

The trust identified potential beneficiaries and Nabard acted as the mediator, arranging loans from the State Bank of Saurashtra, Dena Bank, Central Bank of India and Bank of Baroda, among others.

In addition, Nabard has also identified species such as the Kathiawadi horse, Katchi, Mehsani and Surti goats, Jafrabadi buffaloes and Bhaagraa and white asses for the programme.

"We have prepared four schemes for breeding of indigenous cattle, depending on the scale of the farmer's operations. We have gone a step forward and ensured that the intended beneficiaries got credit for breeding programmes. That involved tying up with the Bhuvaneswari Peeth to identify the beneficiaries and with banks to provide credit," says Mr Bhawar Puri, Chief General Manager (Gujarat) of Nabard..

All the schemes, Mr Puri says, yield an internal rate of return of over 50 per cent for the farmers.

An average Gir cow yields about eight litres of milk (as compared to 16 litres by a cross-bred cow). But each year, the cow also produces a calf that can be sold for over Rs 10,000 after four years, he says.

Cross bred cattle yield higher milk, but are difficult to maintain because they are prone to diseases, cannot be used as draught animals and their lactation reduces with each generation.

On the other hand, the indigenous breeds are fully adapted to Indian conditions, yield milk of a higher fat content and their bulls can be used as draught animals, Mr Puri said.

"The bahmani hump that is found in indigenous cow species makes them ideal draught animals as the yoke rests on it. Plus, they are excellent animals for beef and different countries have been demanding our cattle for cross-breeding. There are records to show that in 1880, Gir cows were purchased by Brazilian cross-breeders," according to Dr Satyanarayan, General Manager of Nabard and a animal husbandry expert.

On horse breeding, Dr Satyanarayan said that the purpose was not to promote a stud farm, but to preserve the indigenous Kathiawadi variety and produce beasts of burden.

Stud farms are anyway not eligible for loans at concessional rates as their animals are used for gambling, he added.

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