By DR. MUZAFFAR SHAHEEN
Support for the world animal health organization’s (OIE) concept of “One Health-One Medicine” is increasing. The concept advocated focus on optimization of human health through optimization of animal health. With this theme, world veterinary day 2016 on of April 30, witnessed ceremonious in Kashmir and Veterinary doctors and concerned quarters used the occasion to elucidate the significance of livestock health, production and ecological links with human welfare.
Veterinarians play a crucial role in safeguarding global human health by remaining engaged in the process of improvisation of the health standards and welfare of animals and animal disease mitigation.
It is estimated that five new emerging infectious human diseases appear each year, of which three are zoonotic. The African Ebola epidemic as well as the constantly rising number of human deaths each year, attributed to Rabies, appallingly remind us of the strong human-animal-environment links, commanding need for exhaustive multi-sectoral approaches illustrated through the ‘One Health-One Medicine’ concept.
In J&K the performance of Veterinary Services, in the public and private components, not only emphasizes the control of livestock diseases, but also to tackle food safety issues, being directly responsible for prevention and control of any biological disaster. This has placed veterinarians at the vanguard of dealing with public health issues to prevent animal borne diseases from spreading to humans as animal products enter our food chain.
This necessitated the World Veterinary Day-2016 theme to be focused on how veterinarians continue their education efforts to increase their expertise on One Health topics, such as zoonotic diseases, food safety and the menace of antimicrobial resistance, and highlighted the importance of collaborating with the human health sector to tackle these issues.
However, the other aspect facing this domain, the sustained livestock economy of the stake holders, is imperative. Livestock production, management and health are indispensable parts, which in consonance with each other can go a long way to boost a livestock dependent economy.
The estimated livestock population of J&K, as per integrated sample survey (2011-12), was estimated to be 155.867 lakh, comprising of 31.185 lakh cattle, 37.788 lakh sheep, 7.704 lakh buffalo, 16.748 lakhs goats, 57.195 lakh fowl and 5.247 lakh ducks.
However, meat, milk, egg and chicken production doesn’t meet the state requirements and that has meant huge spending on import of the same. Although apparently the animal breeding policy does not seem to be erroneous, the livestock population, production and health management is far from satisfactory.
Kashmir region witnessed an increaseof 4.63% in livestock population, only half of that of Jammu region, where as in Ladakh region it slipped by 1.44%. The state stake holders in the sector need to seriously introspect to remedy dismal the performance. The sector also needs fresh injection of international expertise in order to reinvigorate it.
The contribution of livestock sector to rural employment witnessed declining trends in recent years with the proportion of workers engaged in it decreasing. The overall milk production in the state is low and it is less than the north Indian states. Farmers still take it as a means of subsistence. Mere 0.13 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) of the state is contributed by this sector at present.
In livestock production, there is a wide gap between demand and supply. The state is largely dependent on livestock and its import. The import of sheep from outside state was more than 12.50 lakh and goats more than 43 thousand in the past some years. The import of milk was 878600 MTs, eggs 5796.00 lakhs and chicks 507.00 lakhs in 2012-13, which is naturally expected to have increased by now.
There was no animal disease monitoring system at the state level, till recently introduced National Animal Disease Reporting System (NADRS), a centrally sponsored scheme. The conformist policy of livestock development needs to be revisited. Besides emerging livestock health challenges the development department’s major role has to be focused on the production management, which is struggling to sustain marginally, left to the mercy of unorganized, open village and marginal private sector.
Rejuvenating visions, translated into practice, only can uplift the morbid state of the livestock economy of J&K which is at present marred by steep escalation in the animal feed, fodder and medicine costs.
The importance of addressing the farmer’s plight — regarding three main constraints, low milk yield (73.33%), late sexual maturity and infertility in animals due to nutritional imbalances and short lactation period – cannot be overemphasized.Some of the other constraints are lack of credit facilities for livestock, high cost of feed, lack of guaranteed price of milk, dairy processing technologies, livestock insurance, timely vaccination, poor veterinary extension services and inadequate cooperative organizations.
True, the harsh winter increases the rearing cost of livestock in Kashmir, on account of fodder scarcity, but the West European and Scandinavian countries with even harsher winter have a thriving and lucrative livestock sector. Unlike the states of Punjab and Haryana, we in J&K are bereft of large scale organized livestock sector, which has increased our dependence on unorganized marginal farming.
In the fast changing global scene, our livestock development planners need to carve out action plans that would actively persuade educated youth pick up the gauntlet and develop successful business enterprises in the sector. The much hyped white revolution of Pulwama district is yet to be witnessed in other districts. The central government sponsored Dairy Development Programme of 2012 which has been confined to only three districts (Kupwara, Rajouri and Poonch) need to be financially widened to other districts. Livestock insurance scheme is confined only to six districts of the state that too covers only high producing animals. Saturation of Veterinary Surgeons in the livestock development departments is cropping up problems of unemployment. There are no mega feed and fodder mills (except one or two small scale in Jammu) and Veterinary pharmaceutical, pesticide and insecticide manufacturing agencies of state origin in J&K.
The situation is further aggravated by the enrolment of large number of students in the pursuit of professional Veterinary education, exceeding the intake capacity of the government sector. Our state desperately needs reformist livestock development policies which would infuse renewed hopes of not only sustaining the overall livestock driven economy but also to patent job avenues for professional Vets. The state has 3000 Veterinary centers as against the need of 4000 (as per planning commission). Globally animal husbandry and production sector assumes a meaningful and economically vibrant industry. Because of the real danger lurking behind, those of fast shrinking of agro-pastoral land in the valley due to encroachment by the human dwelling, livestock rearing practices are dwindling. The state, although a haven of alpine pastures, has never been able to meet its daily meat and milk requirements, forget about exporting.
Many emerging diseases like Rota virus disease, Foot rot, PPR and Mastitis require to be covered under mandatory immunization in the state. The revival of duck, swan, rabbit and hill goat farming has quite fair chances. Even a moderate financial therapy in this sector can yield desirable results.
The self-empowerment scheme from NABARD needs to be widened. Small co-operative dairy farming is assuming tremendous economic significance. Pertinently large scale organized dairy sector development, as witnessed by Europe and Scandinavia, has already taken form in many states from Punjab to Gujarat. An impetus through exhaustive extension is much required. It is eminently possible to create a vibrant mutton and wool industry in the state.
—The writer is a Senior Associate Professor and Scientist, in SKUAST-K, Srinagar.