Efforts on to save Pulikulam cattle breed
From 90,000 in the year 1995, the population of the breed in Madurai region has come down to 21,225 in 2012
Pulikulam cattle, an indigenous breed with distinct characteristics and known for its valour in ‘jallikattu’ (bull-taming sports), is on the verge of extinction.
Only last year, thanks to the persistent efforts of Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Voluntary Action (SEVA), this breed received recognition from the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal, Haryana, thereby making it the 35th registered indigenous cattle breed in the country.
As per a survey, the population of Pulikulam cattle in and around Madurai has drastically come down from 90,000 in the year 1995 to 45,000 in 2006 to 21,225 in 2012. The number of places where the cattle was reared is also shrinking.
A workshop conducted by the SEVA here on Wednesday gave hope to the preservation of the breed as herders, officials and veterinarians decided to implement an action plan to restore the glory of Pulikulam cattle breed. “Since it is not a milch animal, the attention given to other animals by the Animal Husbandry Department is missing in the case of Pulikulam cattle,” says P. Vivekanandan, executive director, SEVA.
The accreditation from NBAGR was obtained after a characterisation study was done by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University to describe the features of this cattle variety and subsequently SEVA applied for registration of the animal as new breed.
Farmers who rear this cattle are a frustrated lot as grazing has become a luxury. They complain that the Forest Department was not permitting them to take their animals into forest area for grazing. S. Mahalingam (40) of Thenpalanji, whose family has been rearing Pulikulam cattle for the last seven generations, herds over 700 cattle on the dry ‘kanmoi’ in Tirupparankundram on a hot Wednesday afternoon.
He says, “We are victims of nature, there are no rains and no water for these animals. The drought conditions have made things worse. I don’t want my children to suffer like this. I’ve told them to study well in school so that they could find jobs.”
Herders like Mahalingam and P. Krishnan of Manapatti take their Pulikulam cattle where there is grass and water. “Our income is meagre and the maintenance cost has gone up. Sometimes, we sell the calf and make money,” says Krishnan, a fifth generation herder in his family.
According to a SEVA report, this breed is concentrated in Thenpalanji, Vadapalanji, Chettikulam, Perumalpatti, Melakkal, Vadipatti, Manapatti, Idayapatti and Nilaiyur.
The cattle herders take their animals to distant places and for several months they will be away from home. Trained for bull taming events, the Pulikulam cattle are fierce and disease resistant and used for ploughing.
Mr. Vivekanandan appealed to the forest department and district administration to give grazing rights to pastoralists as Madurai has expanded and there was no place for animals to graze.
“With the Pulikulam cattle having been registered at the national level, this distinct breed must be conserved. We have lined up awareness programmes to promote it in a big way,” he added.
Interestingly, Pulikulam village, after which the cattle origin is identified, is situated in Manamadurai taluk of Sivaganga district.
But this cattle breed is identified more with the Madurai region as the community that rears the animal belong to the latter.
A think-tank has been formed to save the cattle breed.
It comprises of B. Muruganandham, Professor and Head, Veterinary University Training and Research Centre, Madurai, Prof. Rajendran of TANUVAS, A. Maheswaran, Assistant Director, Cattle Breeding and Fodder Development, Department of Animal Husbandry, and Jeyasingh Gnanadurai, Joint Director (Agriculture).