Punjab returns to goats

Their numbers had dropped but demand for milk and meat has stayed high as ever. Now,goat rearing picks up again

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar | Published: September 14, 2012 3:15 am

Goat farming,once very popular in Punjab,is witnessing a revival after a lull that lasted a decade and a half. This has been due largely to efforts to arrest the reversal by Ludhiana’s Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU),whose authorities credit the government,too,with promoting the trend.

The demand for both goat meat and milk is high in Punjab,which meets around 70 per cent of the meat demand from other states.

GADVASU’s count for goats in the state,4.50 lakh till 1998,had fallen to 1.20 lakh by 2008,a drop attributed to shrinking of grazing facilities,before the fresh efforts raised it to 1.92 lakh by the first half of 2012. Besides,500 applications have been received by the animal husbandry department from various people seeking government help in opening goat farms. The applicants include small,marginal and big farmers.

“From 4.50 lakh goats in 1998 the total decreased to one-fourth in 2008,due to shrinking of grazing fields that come under agricultural land,” said Dr A L Saini,head of GADVASU’s department of livestock production and management,and an expert on goat farming.

“The goats started disappearing but then the Punjab government started promoting their farming and GADVASU too started organising various programmes related to goat farming.” Dr Saini said.

To make up for the lost grazing options,a ‘stall-fed’ technique is being promoted. Feeding goats in the sheds,however,costs more than it would have cost if they had been allowed to graze in the open,Dr Saini said.

GADVASU has been organising fairs and educating farmers in the potential of goat farming.

“Not only are its milk and meat useful but every part of the goat,including its bones,skin and even glands,can be used for one purpose or the other,” Dr Saini said. “Its milk is recommended for people with asthma,TB and dengue,and even people with intestinal problems.”

In European countries,Dr Saini said,goat milk is two to three times costlier than other milk.

And because of the health benefits it is believed to involve,goat milk has seen costs jump in Punjab too. “Last year,when there was a dengue outbreak in Punjab,goat milk sold at Rs 500 per litre; otherwise it costs Rs 20 to 22,” Dr Saini said.

As for meat,he said Punjab is short by 70 per cent of its demand,with around 9,000 quintals available out of 30,000,with the remaining 21,000 being met from other states.

Farmer Gurbakhash Singh Dhaliwal of Naphpura village,near Nathana in Bathinda district,shares his experience in goat farming. He said he started around a year ago with 250 goats and currently has around 800 in his farm. “I want to raise the number to 10,000-15,000 goats before I start selling them for meat as well as providing to other farmers who want to start rearing goats,” he said.

He said despite the huge demand for goat meat and milk in the state,there has been no financial help from the government and that discourages small farmers from venturing into goat rearing. By his count,starting a small farm requires at least 20 goats — 19 females (does) and a male (buck). A good goat costs between Rs 7,000 to 12,000,which is a huge amount for a small farmer,he said.

Brigadier (retired) K S Dhillon of Jalandhar too has started goat farming,rearing over a dozen goats at his farm in Bhogpur. “I wanted to increase the number but there is no support from the government,” he said.

A farm of 20 goats can,according to some farmers’ estimates,earn them between Rs 1.5 and 2 lakh annually after the first one-and-a-half years. An adult female starts delivering kids at the age of 15 or 16 months and does so twice in a 14-month period.

Deputy director (animal husbandry) Dr Jaspal Singh agreed there is huge demand for opening goat farming. “We have received around 500 applications from various people who are interested in opening such farms and demanding financial aid. The government has a scheme of providing subsidy of Rs 1 lakh for opening goat farms,but this is only for the underprivileged section.”

The goats being reared are of the Beetal (Amristar) and Burberry (UP) varieties. Dr Saini said interested farmers are being provided training at GADVASU.

Dr Naresh Gulati,deputy director,Agricultural Development Technology Agency,said the trend has been catching on since about a year ago,with many farms opened in Hoshiarpur,Sangruru and Bathinda districts.

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