As noted earlier, CHS co-founder Winin Pereira would have seen Devinder Sharma as a kindred spirit. Winin was one of the five founding members of the Maharashtra Prabodhan Seva Mandal, which was formed to help the poorest farmers. Reading Sharma’s 2010 blog sent the writer to the CHS archives and these words, with reference to imported cattle:
“The fascination for exotic cattle breeds has been the bane of Indian dairy industry. Our planners and policy makers have introduced these breeds without even ascertaining the potential of native breeds. The Indian breeds are suited to the local conditions, are able to resist the heat of summers, need less water, can walk long distances, live on local grasses and resist tropical diseases.
“They can be also turned into high milk producers given the right kind of feed and environment. While the native cattle breeds (they number 30) are despised at home, and roam the streets because of their low productivity and therefore low economic value, the same breeds are doing exceptionally well in Brazil. In fact, over the years Brazil has become the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows. Three important breeds — Gir, Kankrej and Ongole — give more milk than Jersey and Holstein Friesian.”
”Ever heard of a cattle breed called Kasaragod Dwarf? No. Well, I am not surprised. I too hadn’t heard of it till my colleague Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) in Hyderabad brought it to my notice. He talked about how an Andhra Pradesh farmer was rearing this endangered breed, which is among the smallest cattle breeds in the world . . .
”I found out the Kasaragod Dwarf breed is a little taller than the world’s smallest breed, Vechur, also native to Kerala. With an average height of 90 cms, it can survive on kitchen waste and jungle feeds. Requiring about 2 kg of feed per day it’s milk yield on an average hovers around 1 litre. The milk is nutritious, rich in alpha-2 casein proteins which means it is particularly useful for diabetic and hypertension patients”.
The Vechur Conservation Trust aims to ‘preserve this genetic resource’ and Sharma adds that Bela Cattle Farm in Badiadukka panchayat in Kerala is now being developed as a research centre under the Central Veterinary University to study, research and popularise this rare breed.
He directs us to an article in the Times of India, reporting efforts to get the Kasaragod dwarf cattle included in the list of India’s 37 native cattle breeds of Kerala by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources in Faridabad – and the difficulties in tracing ‘a pure Kasaragod breed’.