Bargur cattle rearers sceptic about expanding headcount
While appreciating the initiatives of Animal Husbandry Department to motivate preservation and propagation of indigenous breeds of cattle, rearers of Bargur variety say they have reason to be sceptic about increasing its headcount.
Restrictions imposed by the Forest Department on grazing in forest land in Tamil Nadu have a direct bearing on the fall in numbers. The rearers, who have been taking their herds to Karnataka side of the border, have, of late, been finding the going tough since they are unwelcome there now, as local politicians there have allegedly started making an issue of the herds being brought in from Tamil Nadu, notwithstanding the fact that the cattle-owners belong to Kannada-speaking Lingayat community, according to Madhan, owner of two cows and an ox.
“The number of pure Bargur breed cattle on the hills does not exceed 3,000. Unlike decades ago when rearers used to own herds of 50 to 100 cows, the number has fallen to just two or three, due to grazing restrictions,” according to E.N. Sivasenapathy, president of Bargur Hill Cattle Breeders’ Association.
A senior Forest Department official said the Bargur cattle was indeed not permitted inside the areas of wildlife movement, but there was no restriction on the animals grazing on grasslands. The rearers were apparently complaining since the ban on ‘penning’ was being followed strictly.
‘Penning’ was banned in the thick of the hunt for forest brigand Veerappan by the Special Task Force. But, even after his death, the ban continued, said Sevanan, another rearer, lamenting that they were in a quandary as ‘penning’ of cattle on the Karnataka side of the forest was not possible anymore.
The Animal Husbandry Department officials, however, said the apprehension of the rearers was now well understood by the Forest Department. There was bright scope for increasing the number of the cattle, more so, owing to the impending establishment of the Bargur Cattle Research Station by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University. The sturdy variety that is sought after by the farming community for ploughing and hauling loads on carts yield just one to two litres of milk, but has vital medicinal property. Casein 2 protein present in the milk has a curative effect on cardiac patients and diabetics, according to Animal Husbandry Department officials.
A milk society formed for their income generation is expected to address the problem of the hitherto traditional rearers’ migration to the plains for making a living. Just as milk of Kangeyam cow is sold in Erode for Rs. 100 per litre by a Tirupur-based rearer, there is no reason why the milk of Bargur will not fetch a premium in the region.
In the long run, Bargur breed cow’s milk would be positioned in the market in the premium product, a senior Animal Husbandry Department official said, exuding hope that the rearers would make the most of the milk society to improve their living.