Farmville in the real world -GS Unnikrishnan

-The Hindu

A.R. Avaneendranathan, a dairy farmer, aims at popularising native breeds of farm animals

“This cow is 83 cm tall, just six cm more than the shortest cow entered in the Guinness Book of World Records. I bought her at Badiyadukka in Kasaragod district. She is a Kasaragod dwarf breed of cattle but has the characteristics of a Malnad Gidda, which is also a dwarf breed. This breed can survive on kitchen scraps and jungle forage,” says A.R. Avaneendranathan, a retired drill master-turned-farmer.

Kerala was once rich in native farm animal breeds that required less care, had high adaptability and were disease resistant. However, certain government policies in the 1960s led to the introduction of exotic cows. This in turn resulted in the vanishing of native breeds.

Nevertheless, with the effort of a few conservationists, these breeds are being saved from the verge of extinction. Avaneendranathan raises many such native breeds from various parts of the country on his farm at Payattuvila, near Balaramapuram.

Rearing of farm animals is a tradition in his family. Avaneendranathan’s father was a dairy farmer. Among his nine children, only Avaneendranathan, the youngest, has a passion for dairy farming. Even while working as a drill master, he had begun a dairy farm. After retirement, dairy farming soon became a full-time job.

It was curiosity that motivated Avaneendranathan to start purchasing native farm animal breeds. Among the ‘dwarf’ cows reared on his farm, Avaneendranathan finds ‘Kapila’ the most charming.

“As the Kapila variety is considered sacred, those rearing the cow for temples are reluctant to sell its calves to outsiders. I had to convince them that as a conservationist, I would give due respect to the cow,” says Avaneendranathan.

Vechur cows, a breed that is indigenous to Kerala, are also nurtured by Avaneendranathan. According to Avaneendranathan, this cow, which is about 90 cm tall is a high yielding breed which requires less feed and is resistant to most diseases.

“I also have a Gir cow with me. This was born on this farm through artificial insemination.”

In addition, Avaneendranathan breeds goats on his farm – Malabari of Kerala, Jamna pari of Uttar Pradesh, Saanen (a breed which comes from the Saane Valley of Switzerland), Sirohi from Rajasthan, Boer goat of South Africa and Canadian pygmy goat, which is just 30 cm tall.

“For me, protecting and popularising these native breeds is a mission. In the future, nuclear families and small farmers might want to rear these breeds as it requires less space and not much of management.”

Avaneendranathan’s wife, Lalithambika, is into poultry farming. She rears different breeds of hens, ducks, goose, guinea fowls and turkey.

Avaneendranathan also has 50 cross-bred cows and buffaloes.

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