The dwindling Cross bred dairies (1990-1993)

Dr Ranjit Dash, a free lance veterinary doctor worked to organize milk cooperative societies for Cuttack Milk Union. Along sides of NH 5 from Kendrapada to Chattia, 13 societies were formed and began functioning with great enthusiasm.

It was the days when un-employment was acute and young, motivated entrepreneurs, in and around societies, procured-in cross-bred Jersey & Holstein cows; with an aim to create a livelihood. Banks extended dairy loans liberally and soon the numbers of cross bred cows in the area multiplied. There was twice a day door step collection from societies. Dr Dash imparted trainings on dairy farming skills to the farmers. Concentrate feed was made available to farmers by OMFED.

In spite of all these measures, after showing an initial rise, each & all societies collapsed one after another, only because of poor milk pouring by farmers. 00’s of farmer s could not repay their debt. Eventually almost all the dairy farms were closed down.

At first we thought that the failure lies with the skill and went on to blame the feed quality, milk pricing and so on. Finally, it was concluded that it was nothing but, donor breed’s intolerance to environment.

Our on-farm experiments (1994-1999)

Mr. Ranjit Kumar Das (“Bapi”), an enlightened progressive farmer, joined hands with Dr Dash to solve the question of poor sustainability of the cross bred dairy enterprises. He got skill training from Dr Dash.

Along with his wife Gitanjali, the couple started a dairy farm in their half an acre premises of their residence at Jaraka (has become a visiting place for farmers). A patch fodder was raised and 2 jersey cross & 2 Holstein cross bred were procured. Experiments were carried on feeding, heeding, breeding practices & their suitability etc, for years together. Simultaneous similar exercises, at nearby farms were followed up and monitored.

At last, we concluded that Jersey & Holstein crosses, at whatever blood level, are too much prone to mastitis, a disease which is not curable satisfactorily and it is quite impossible on the part of rural farmers to prevent combat it. Secondly, beyond 50% blood level the animals were vulnerable to sex hormone imbalance, leading to breeding failures. Finally protozoan diseases, milk fever and ketosis, suppressed lactation & male calf market posed a standing threat to small dairy farms, all lowering the sustainability of cross-bred dairying.

Restocking of Binjharpuri cows: a pleasant experience (2000- 2001)

A major cyclone had hit Odisha’s coast, devastating cattle wealth, in late 1999. Restocking of milch cows, took place at Balia area of Jajpur district, under the aegis of Oxfam. Dr Dash helped in the procurement process, as a consultant veterinarian, wherein 100 Binjharpuri breed of cows with calves at heels, were distributed to 100 farmers. The cows had around 4 liters of milk/ day only. We kept on guessing how these enterprises could sustain!

After a year, we made an extensive visit to the recipient farmers, to find out the effects of restocking and to assess the sustainability. Out of 100 cows 99 were healthy and productive; some male calves had been sold at good prices, pregnancies & calving summed up to 100%. The farmers had made profit and were satisfied with their herd.

The convergence (2000-2001)

Post cyclone activities had brought Biswakalyana Sewak Samaj, a local voluntary organization, closer to the Ranjit duo. Mr. Ashok K Dash, the secretary was an experienced development man and B.K.S.S. became interested in livestock oriented livelihood improvement. Dr Dash was made an advisor to the organization and its slogan called to ‘LIVE & LET LIVE’. Soon B.K.S.S. was all set to work for livestock promotion and started animal health & farming skill training camps in cyclone-hit areas.

A junior college, imparting dairy, opened at Badachana near Biswakalyan and Dr Dash became a teacher in it, to facilitate production of a skilled resource pool of young people in dairying. We decided to bank upon the pass-outs and prepared to train them on an extension.

Mr. Jagadananda, a veteran leader in NGO sector, during his disaster mitigation campaign, came to know of the livestock promotional programs of B.K.S.S. and extended us, a hand of support.

KAAFI- an institution to train trainers (2001)

In November 2001, with an objective to train youngsters as Para-vets and also to sensitize farmers on livestock rearing skills we established a specialized institution within BKSS. We started the training program of 1 year enrolling only 4 trainees. Dr Ranjit was the Director. A two and half acre premises, amidst rural surroundings, was spared generously by Prof. Gaganendra nath Dash, which was named ‘Kapil Adoptive Animal Farming Institute’ (KAAFI). A dairy, a goat farm and a fodder farm was established for trial & demonstration purpose. Simultaneously dairy & fodder farm was also upgraded at R.K.Das farm at Jaraka.

Chaos at restocking cross-bred cows (2002-2003)

Dr Ranjit was summoned to solve a critical problem at a restocking program, in 2002, at Japa area of Erasama Block in Jagatsingpur district. CYSD, Mr. Jagadananda’s NGO, had tried to gift 100 cyclone hit families, with a crossbred milch cow each, as part of a livelihood support program.

The recipient farmers began to complain of poor milk yield, soon after the very 1st lot of crossbred Jersey / Holstein cows arrived. They accused of being cheated by the seller farm at Bhubaneswar; or cursed to some evil spell by a neighbor. The program managers had taken all sorts of precaution, to ensure good purchase. The farmers had participated in the process of selection, veterinary check up and valuation. They had observed the cows being milked for 3 consecutive milking and had assessed lacteal productivity before purchasing. The milk yield fell sharply in most of the cows, soon after arrival. Never the less, the animals had to be fed with concentrate every day, in spite of daily loss. There was chaos among the farming community. The restocking came to a halt.

How could those yielding 10 liters milk a day in Bhubaneswar, give less than half the quantity at Erasama? Dr Dash and his team at Biswakalyan (a voluntary organization) were engaged to find out the reason and remedy to the problem.

Dr Dash & his KAAFI team studied the problems, causes and effect. It transpired that the seller, the Vet & the program managers had done their duties perfectly. The transporters and recipient farmers had taken all care & attention possible. The animals were apparently at good health.

Why then was the milk yield suppressed!

We came to a conclusion that, the syndrome was an effect of stress typical to exotic (Jersey, Holstein) breeds, which are less immune to stressors like high temperature & humidity, transport, feed change, calf death, vaccination, which are quite unavoidable during a stocking program. Had it been an Indian breed, the stocking would have been a success! Is that, the same phenomena repeating throughout the state!

It was the farmer’s skill, that was often accused, and in turn the farmers cursed their fate. But nobody knew what exactly the reason of failure was & the technical reason of “poor stress tolerance” remained hidden.

The Confirmation (2003)

Our findings were proved when in 2003, the Govt. of Odisha admitted failure of the cattle crossbreeding program. In “Livestock in Orissa: The socio economic perspective” an edited version of the ‘Report of the Steering Committee for Livestock Sector Review 1999’ initiated by GoO the editor M.P.G.Kurup did not hesitate to tell that there was ‘rapid disillusionment in cross-breeding’ as a result of which the farmers reversed back to rearing of indigenous zebu cattle.

Why did the farmers retreat away from exotic donor induced cross breeding after 30 (1966-1996) years of propagation? Obviously, dairying with Jerseys and Holstein crosses, were tried and it was so fruitless that the people desisted practicing.

By this time, the Govt. had revamped its cattle breeding policy twice over the original. Initial advocacy of ‘Red Sindhi’, an Indian milch breed, was replaced (was it wise?) with exotic Jersey & Holstein in 1998 and the strategy was refined in 2002, where in Jersey remained the donor universal. The policy makers seemed confused; introducing & subsequently retreating and again reintroducing Red Sindhi as improver breed but harboring a bias in continuing Jersy & Holstein. The exotic improvers cannot be used to upgrade into full blood (nearly pure) and the farmers will always try to do so. Knowing this and not learning from 1996 trend, we could judge a mania running in favor of exotic donors, reflected in the policy. There was (& is) no provision for Odisha’s farmers to use an Indian milch breed universally to upgrade their cattle.

We decide to work (2003):

We decided to make aware our policy makers, a better & appropriate way of cattle improvement for Odisha.Now we had to work multidimensional. Fund, time, skilled hands, people’s participation & information was that we wanted.

We must search and find out an appropriate breed. For this we had to collect information & verify. Think of inputs like semen straw availability, liquid nitrogen supply cryo-cans and so on.
Reaching the people and gaining their faith was a pre-requisite to people’s participation. For this we had to create a team equipped with veterinary skill and extension within legal & pecuniary ambits.
People must be sensitized and motivated to experiment and adopt. People’s acceptance could only prove our theory.
Over and above, since the program was to take at least 15 years, the up-graders must have a respectable, stable & secured livelihood making enough earnings so that they need not switch to another job. As the profession was not without accidental risks, the question of insurance and retirement benefits etc. had to be considered.

Rejuvenating the Training Institute (2003):

Considering experiences at Cysd stockings, the performance of our team there-on and also the renewed objectives and the corresponding needs, we upgraded our training institution in 2003. Advocate Mrs. Manasee Rath, wife of Dr.Ranjit played a crucial role in restructuring the institute, which was metamorphosed as ‘Biswakalyan Training Institute’ (BTI), a wing of BKSS.

Hence forth we took students from a wider section of the rural young mass with a flexible educational eligibility. Syllabi had to be revamped. Apart from primary veterinary care & extension, dairy animal management, breeding & Artificial Insemination was introduced. Learning through practicing approach in a modest Gurukul environment was introduced. People’s farm became our practical-lab and the village ground for post mortem of a carcass.

Mrs Manasee, continues to nourish the trainees. Term of the training was open ended. By now, 7 batches, comprising nearly 60 young men have been trained and have found a stable earning. 29 of our trainees are performing A.I. & 9 impart farmer’s training. 5 exposed to dairying activities outside state.

In search of donor (2004-2007):

We collected information of productivity and suitability of various cattle breeds. We travelled length & breadth of the country, in search of the most suitable improver cattle breed for Odisha. Several extensive tours were undertaken by R. K. Das duo. At last we were convinced that Gir breed of cattle could serve our purpose. The plus points (see ‘Why Gir?’), seem to far outweigh the limitations such as non–white color & late puberty. In fact Gir breed of cattle have proved themselves to match the highest milkers in Brazil and also back home,at “Keshab Mishra Dairy”, Nischintkoili of Cuttack district (our thanks to son Abhaya) which was a model for us.

Starting A.I with Gir (2009):

We could finally procure 200 doses of high quality Gir semen from Sabarmati Ashram Goushala, Ahmedabad, Gujarat; (a NDDB managed Unit) in july 2009. It was a difficult task to store the straws and more difficult to transport it to dairies for A.I. We had problems with our techs most of whom were novices. After we had the 1st calf born in May 2010, there has been no looking back. By now we have done 1500 A.I s and obtained 100 calves. Busy booking orders for A.I.!!!!