This rare breed, which averages 87 cm in height, 124 cm in length and 130 kg in weight, takes its name from a village Vechoor in Kottayam, Kerala. It is the smallest cattle breed in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. Around 4,000 heads of Vechur cattle are believed to exist today in Thrissur, Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Ernakulam, among other districts.
Bovines are known for their huge diet. The average weight of a cow/buffalo in India is about 350 kg. And this weight is managed by a cow / buffalo by drinking about 40 liters of water and about 4-5 quintals of fodder. This is the average intake of an Indian breed which after feeding this much gives about 20-25 liters of milk in a day and is valued for the larger amount of milk it produces relative to the amount of food it requires.
The Velacur Breed of cows are known for their high milk productivity when compared to others depending on their diet. The Vechur cow was popular in Kerala until the 1960s, but became rare when native cattle were crossbred with exotic varieties. And this breed faced a serious extinction in the 1980s. The Vechur animals were saved from extinction due to conservation efforts by Sosamma Iype, a Professor of Animal breeding and Genetics along with a team of her students.
In 1989, a conservation unit was started. A Conservation trust was formed in 1998 to continue the work with farmer participation. In 2000, the Vechur cow was listed on the FAO's World Watch List of Domestic Animal Diversity, in its ‘Critical-Maintained Breeds List', pointing to imminent extinction as breeds are included in the list when the number of breeding females and males fall to very low levels. About 200 cows are supposed to exist today, nearly 100 of them with the Veterinary College.
In a conservational effort, Muhamma pachayat in Kerala’s Alappuzha district, these smallest cattle was breed by setting up a natural mating centre. The ‘super speciality’ Vechur cow reproduction centre is the first of its kind to come up in the State. The centre would be set up on 56 acres of pasture land.
Natural breeding will be focused by allowing the cows to roam freely and graze in the vast green pastures. Once the cow is impregnated, the animal will be returned to its owner.