THE cloning of a Gir cow at the Karnal-based National Dairy Research Institute was widely reported in the media. The birth of ‘Ganga’ is said to be a game- changer for milk productivity and improving the quality of local varieties of poor-yield milch cattle.
The news transported me to the days when I was posted as Inspector General of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in Guwahati a decade ago, looking after the troubled area of Bodoland abutting Bhutan.
On a road journey to visit one of the units, I was struck by the poor build of the local bovines. Raised in the fertile land that had produced Sahiwal and Murrah breeds, I wondered how much milk could be had from these small cows.
On return to the headquarters, I asked the veterinarian if something could be done to improve the breed of these goat-like cows through the use of artificial insemination. I told him that I could allocate funds under the Civic Action Programme implemented by the border-guarding forces in these areas.
The vet replied that the plan was doable with the assistance of the state government and proper training of our para-veterinary diploma holders. We decided to open six Artificial Insemination and Animal First Aid Centres in remote parts of Bodoland under our area of responsibility where no such government facility was available. I allocated Rs 24 lakh for the project.
In quick time, SSB para-veterinary personnel were trained in conducting artificial insemination at the Veterinary Institute in Khanapara, Guwahati; medicines were purchased and a few centres were rolled out to test the waters. The Assam government readily joined the project, sharing equipment and resources with us.
To our chagrin, there were few takers, and people had apprehensions about the whole process, which was alien to them. Gradually, the response improved, thanks to their first aid requirements for the cattle and an awareness campaign conducted through our border outreach programme. The local communities were assured that the SSB personnel deployed at the nearby border outposts would purchase the surplus milk. Once trust was built, farmers and cattle rearers started adopting the technique. We had decided to cross-fertilise local breeds using the Sahiwal sperm for better yield. Soon, there was a waiting period, and that’s when we rolled out the remaining centres.
This small intervention, conceived during a road journey, caught the fancy of the local administration and the national media. Today, thousands of milch cattle — the third generation nurtured by this project — provide sustainability and nourishment to local communities.
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