Reduction in the number of cows: A growing concern

Capstone Shahpur Taluk

Shahapur Taluk has experienced a rapid downfall in the number of cattle in the last seven years due to a change in livelihood after the Upper Karnataka Irrigation Project.

By Archita Chakraborty

Shahapur: “A cow is God but she doesn’t help us make money,” said Sangeeta, a housewife from Shahapur whose husband is a farmer. “I own one cow and four oxen. My oxen help my husband by ploughing the land.” She added.

The Yadagiri or “Yadavagiri” district of Karnataka is famous for cows, poultry, sheep, and goats, which comprise the major livestock of the district. But in the past few years, the number of cows has been decreasing day by day, particularly in Shahapur Taluk.

Farmers with their livestock in Shahapur Taluk

Goutam, Assistant Director for Agriculture (ADA) in Shahapur Taluk said, “With the introduction of irrigation, farmers like Sangeetha’s husband are now more into agriculture, rather than cattle farming, because it is more profitable than other businesses. They are growing crops like paddy, cotton, sugarcane and chili.”

Sangeeta’s husband owns two lands, which have become paddy fields. Sangeeta and her husband do not want to invest in their cow because it also includes additional investments in fodder and maintenance of the cow.

The Upper-Karnataka Irrigation Project (UKP) designed to supply water from Krishna River to the drought-prone areas in North Karnataka and Yadagiri is one of them. ADA also mentioned that Shahapur Taluk is an almost irrigated area and the project has proved beneficial by providing farmers with many opportunities.

“Before irrigation, there were plenty of grazing areas for cows in Shahapur. But after the project was launched, farmers became more inclined towards farming cash crops because they brought money and demanded less effort. As a result, farmers started to use their lands for farming and haven’t left even an inch for the purpose of cow grazing. Residents have to take their cows far away or they have to rent someone else’s land for the purpose of grazing.” said Dr. Shanmuk, a doctor from a government veterinary hospital in Shahapur.

He also added, “When people don’t have enough land for their cows, they eventually cut down the number of cows. Selling their cows decreases their spending as well. So, there is no chance in Shahapur to make a dairy farm because in order to establish one, a farmer needs at least 10-12 cows, which is very costly. If there are no profits, the business will eventually be destroyed.”

As mentioned above, Sangeetha and her husband own only one cow. Now, their income comes mainly from investing in their paddy fields. The Upper Karnataka Irrigation Project has also made it easier for them to rely on their paddy fields. They do not see the necessity of depending on their cow anymore.

Sangeetha’s husband derives profits from paddy fields such as this one

According to the 19th livestock census, the cattle population in Yadgir was 4.5 lakhs whereas the 20th livestock census shows that the number now stands at 2.3 lakhs. Earlier, according to the 19th livestock census, the number of cattle was 87993 in Shahapur. Now the number has decreased to 57844. According to the 20th livestock census in India, the total cattle population decreased by 6 percent since 2012. While the total population of cattle in 2012 was 15.17 crore, now the number stands at 14.21 crore.

There is mainly one type of cow breed which is popular in Shahapur Taluk known as Jawari. Another more expensive hybrid breed of cow, known as Jersey, also used to be seen in the taluk but nowadays has become very rare. Cattle farmers in Shahapur have to invest a minimum of Rs. 50,000 for a jersey cow, which can produce three to four liters of milk. The smaller breed, which costs Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 20,000, can produce one to two liters of milk. However, along with the cow, the cattle farmers also have to bear the costs of water, fodder, and other expenses like cow shade or medical expenses as well. They have to invest almost around Rs. 6000 to Rs. 10000 per cow every month for feeding and maintaining the cows for milk and at least Rs. 500 per day, according to Dr. Dayanand G. Satihal, Sr. Farm Superintendent, who is still managing to keep a dairy farm where he has at least 12-14 cows and his own milk procurement center.

“A long time ago, in Shahapur Taluk, people used to have the Jersey breed. But due to the lack of grazing lands and sky-high expenses, they had no choice but to sell all the good breeds. The only change I have noticed in these farmers is that they are accepting buffalo economy over cows.” Dr. Shanmuk mentioned.

Mahesh Gora Subedar, the farmer-leader of Shahapur farmer association said, “Our cattle farmers are not able to earn sufficient profits from their cattle due to a limited number of opportunities. For instance, the expenditure has increased for fodder, supplements, medicine, treatment, and the maintenance of sheds.  Therefore, many of them have quit cattle farming and have moved to agriculture, which amounts to fewer losses and is much easier. The government should allow more funds through various schemes to encourage the practice of cattle farming.”

The cattle farmers in Shahapur Taluk have started to retail milk on their own due to the lack of good prices for milk in milk procurement centers and the eventual shut down of government or private procurement centers in that particular taluk. Sangeetha’s husband is one of the many people who have tried selling their milk to milk procurement centres but with no success.

The cattle farmers had been demanding incentives for milk procurement from the government, and they even stopped selling milk to those government or semi-government milk farms in protest. The procurement centers in Shahapur have eventually shut down owing to lack of collection, conflict with farmers and administrative reasons. The farmers started selling their milk privately. But these developments have started to affect a lot of minor cattle farmers. Eventually, the farmers had shifted their livelihoods. As we have seen, Sangeetha and her husband have stopping relying on cattle farming and have turned to agriculture.

Shruti, the housewife of a cattle farmer who helps her husband from Shahapur, said, “We own six cows, and we get almost 12 to 15 liters from them every day. I used to sell my milk to the milk procurement center in Dronahalli, but it was not profitable. The center was also delaying the payment for procurement. So, many of us stopped supplying milk and started selling it privately. Now, I am getting decent profits by selling milk to hotels, which pay me Rs. 40 for each liter.”

However, the decision made by major cattle farmers like Shruti did not turn out to be a masterstroke for minor cattle farmers.

Dr. Manohar Kulkarni, Deputy Manager of Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) of Yadagiri district said, “We had a center in Shahapur four years ago, but in due course, we had to shut it down. The market was really bad. The number of proper cattle farmers is really low. We used to get supplies from a center in Gogi Village but after some time, they stopped supplying milk as well. Now, we have centers in Shorapur and Yadagiri taluk only. Shahapur usually gets milk from Gulbarga, but the taluk neither has its own dairy farm nor any milk procurement center.”

In Shahapur, there used to be four to five milk procurement centers. But they are all closed now due to the lack of supply.  Moreover, the farmers weren’t getting paid properly. The milk procurement centers are supposed to pay farmers weekly and for each liter of milk, they should be paid Rs. 30 to 35 for each liter with the subsidy of Rs. 5.

“I opened my milk procurement center with a lot of hope. As Gogi is a uranium affected area, the lands are not good for farming. But because the villagers needed livestock, I opened a milk procurement center. However, after some time I realized that my investment was going into a great loss for a number of reasons. There weren’t enough cattle to get milk, and most importantly, fodder became really costly in Shahapur. After irrigation, especially, the cost of fodder and other items increased immensely and people weren’t willing to invest in their cows anymore,” said Sayed Arsad, the former owner of Gogi Milk Procurement center which had shut down four years ago.

“As a farmer who is investing a fair amount of money in his/her farming and not getting paid properly, he or she will then decide to invest in another source of income. The farmers were constantly facing loss and subsequently, they shifted their livelihoods,” Arsad added.

The chief veterinary officer in commissioner of Bengaluru said, “There are two main reasons behind cattle abounding. Firstly, nowadays people from rural areas go to the big city for doing a daily wage job which pays well. The second reason is that they use machines for ploughing the field. In the past, cows or oxen were used, which was better for the soil. To maintain the balance, each household had two cows and two buffalos.”

The smaller cattle farmers also want to participate in cattle rearing as well which means businesses that involve the manufacture of byproducts like butter, paneer, and ghee but are unable to because of the lack of investment. Thus, they want the government to take an initiative to support its objective by providing workspace, market, schemes, and tutorial programs.

“If the government supports us, we can easily launch our business of manufacturing byproducts like butter, paneer, and ghee. This will be especially beneficial to housewives. ” Said Shruti.

The dependence on cows is decreasing rapidly. Even those farmers like Sangeetha’s husband who own only one cow, have given up on cattle farming. Thus, the livestock economy especially cattle farming is at a crossroads in Shahapur. The nature of shifting of livelihoods to agriculture and the usage of machines has reduced the number of cows. There is a growing threat to this sector.


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