1. Animal Husbandry

Sheep Farming in Jammu & Kashmir Must Be Prioritised By the Government

Chintu Das
Chintu Das
Sheep Farming

Youth are being encouraged to start sheep farms by authorities from the J&K Sheep Husbandry Department. Government is offering many ways to get financial aid in order to start the sheep farming business. 

Many people are aware of sheep farming because of television and radio programs but few people are aware of the problems that sheep farmers confront, particularly when a disease epidemic occurs. One such illness that impacts our sheep herd is Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). FMD is primarily linked to cattle, buffaloes, and goats in scientific journals. They are extremely vulnerable to the illness. 

Sheep in other parts of India are relatively unaffected by this illness, while FMD is a prevalent disease among sheep in Kashmir. In J&K, sheep are particularly vulnerable to FMD. There are hundreds of FMD cases in the Pir Panjal mountains' pasturelands in Budgam district in the previous three months. The illness is still uncontrollable. It appears that the government is unconcerned about the sheep and mutton sector. 

At Liddermud, a highland meadow, a huge number of sheep were infected with FMD. Many sheep farmers from Surasyar Budgam villages had trekked all the way to Liddermud to view their sick animals. Because just two authorities were on the ground, some of them were vaccinating the sheep themselves. One was a freshly hired stock assistant, while the other was a sheep husbandry department class IV employee. 

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) 

Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) is a highly infectious viral illness that has a substantial economic impact on cattle. Cattle, sheep, goats, and other cloven-hoofed (feet divided into two parts) animals are the most commonly affected. Fever and blister-like lesions on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats, and between the hooves are symptoms of FMD. 

While the majority of animals affected recover, the illness frequently leaves them weak and crippled. FMD is caused by an aphthovirus from the Picornaviridae family. Seven strains (A, O, C, SAT1, SAT2, SAT3, and Asia1) are prevalent in various areas across the world. To confer protection to a vaccinated animal, each strain requires a unique vaccine. India is believed to have Type A, O, C, and Asia 1 strains. 

FMD-Related National Program 

Since 2003, the Government of India has been implementing an aggressive Foot and Mouth Disease Control Programme (FMDCP) in phases, with all districts throughout India covered by 2017-2018. All vulnerable animal populations, such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and pigs, will be vaccinated under the FMDCP. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi established the National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) in September 2019 to combat foot and mouth disease (FMD) and brucellosis in India. With a total investment of Rs.13,343.00 crore over five years, the Modi government plans to vaccinate 100 percent of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, and pig populations for FMD and 100 percent of bovine female calves 4 to 8 months of age for brucellosis (2019-20 to 2023-24). 

The National Animal Disease Control Program (NADCP) for FMD and Brucellosis aims to eradicate FMD by 2030 and control it through vaccination by 2025. This will result in greater domestic production and, as a result, increased milk and animal product exports, such as mutton. 

Vaccination Against FMD in J&K 

The NADCP is a centrally supported system in which the Union Government provides the States and UTs with 100 percent financing. Despite receiving 100% financing, the authorities in charge of J&K have been unable to purchase adequate anti-FMD vaccinations. These vaccinations are in low supply, particularly in Kashmir. 

Officials from the sheep husbandry department claim that their department is the nodal agency for NACDP implementation and that they are responsible for procuring vaccinations. Officers in animal husbandry departments state that the purchase was delayed due to COVID 19 second wave, but is this a satisfactory explanation? Since June, the second wave of COVID 19 has decreased dramatically, although vaccinations are still in low supply in Kashmir. Sheep farmers get FMD vaccinations from the market for between Rs 25 and Rs 35 for each vaccine. 

Bahaks Has No Veterinarians 

On one hand, the sheep husbandry department continues to advise educated young people to go into sheep farming because it is a "profitable" business, but when these young entrepreneurs or sheep farmers require the department's services, particularly their qualified veterinarians, they are rarely seen on the ground, especially when the sheep are sent to highland pastures with shepherds. 

There isn’t a single trained veterinary doctor in the meadows near the higher reaches of Doodhpathri or Yusmarg from June to August this year, or even last year. When FMD first appeared in June of this year, even para-vets were unavailable, and shepherds were mocked by sheep farmers after many sheep died. 

Vets' jobs do not need them to sit in offices, especially during the summer months when sheep herds are at their peak. In reality, a duty roaster is kept for vets and para-vets who must be accessible in pasturelands on a rotating basis from mid-June to the end of August, but many vets ignore their responsibilities. 

The government pays these officers a fair sum of TA and DA for their duties in the highlands, but the cost of this duty is borne by para vets and class IV workers. Poor shepherds and many sheep farmers who visit the bahaks assume that the sheep department's class IV personnel or para-vets are veterinary physicians. They're all referred to as doctor sahib. Unfortunately, the genuine doctor sahibs have vanished. 

Closure 

Why do sheep farmers or shepherds acquire FMD vaccinations from the market if the government of India provides 100 percent financing to Union Territories? Sheep farming in J&K has a lot of promise. In Jammu and Kashmir, there are more than 40 lakh sheep. This may be quadrupled in the next ten years, boosting the economy because of the high demand for mutton in the area. This can only be feasible if the animals are healthy and free of illnesses such as FMD. Every year from June to August, the government must guarantee that adequate veterinarians are stationed on pasturelands. 

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