Scheme to preserve world's smallest cow
KLDB has started production of frozen semen of Vechur bulls
Dhoni Farm under Kerala Livestock Development Board (KLDB) here has started production and distribution of frozen semen of Vechur bulls in an effort to conserve this breed of cows.
This native breed of Kerala originated from Vaikom is considered the smallest breed in the world, said Ani S. Das, managing director of KLDB. Till recently, the number of Indian cattle breeds was estimated at 26. But the calendar of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) on ‘Cattle Breeds of India,' published by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), showed 30 breeds.
The latest addition was the Vechur cattle. Thus it became the first among Kerala cattle, all of which were hitherto referred to as nondescript, to get the stamp of approval as a distinct breed from ICAR.
The World Watch List of Domestic Animal Diversity, published by the FAO, has listed the Vechur cattle under the category of critical breeds, meaning near extinct, Dr. Das said.
The credit of saving the Vechur cattle from the brink of extinction goes to a conservation programme undertaken by Kerala Agricultural University (KAU). Subsequent to the studies conducted by KAU, the Vechur cow is recognised as the smallest one in the world.
Before Vechur caught the attention of the scientific community, a Mexican cow measuring one meter in height was considered the smallest. The maximum height of a Vechur cow is 91 cm. This diminutive cow weighing 107 kg (average) can give an average yield of three litres of milk daily which is the yield of the Mexican cow too.
Proportionate to its body weight, the Vechur cow yields maximum milk in the world.
The small size, low food requirement, and high disease resistance made the Vechur cattle popular for the last several centuries, Dr. Das said. Vechur bulls, (maximum height at hump level 105 cm), are strong and these lightweight animals are used for ploughing marshy paddy fields typical of Kerala.
Till 1960, Vechur cattle were very popular and abundant in Kottayam, Ernakulam, and Alappuzha districts. Then a government programme of cross-breeding of native cows with exotic bulls for higher milk yield resulted in the number of this indigenous cattle gradually dwindling.
Infant mortality has been found to be almost nil in Vechur cattle under farm conditions. It has been observed by scientists of the KAU that these dwarf animals are quite resistant to foot and mouth disease and mastitis, two diseases which play havoc with hybrid cows.
Milk analysis done in KAU supports the empirical findings of Ayurveda physicians. The percentage of fat and total solids in the milk of Vechur cows is higher than in crossbred cows.
So the milk and its products are suitable for infants and the sick. Thus KLDB's effort was to conserve and popularise Vechur cows, Dr. Das said.