As strong as its bulls

The country’s oldest jersey breeding centre in Samtse is doing well despite challenges 

Livestock: The National Jersey Breeding Centre (NJBC) in Samtse, the country’s oldest is doing brisk business.

Sale of jersey bulls and milk production from the centre, which occupies more than 100 acres of land, has consistently increased over the years.

Realizing the need to improve the local cattle population and a systematic crossbreeding of locale cattle with exotic breeds, NJBC was started in the first Plan between 1961 and 1965.

The farm initially commenced with eight Haryana cows, eight murrah buffaloes, and two bulls on a 20-acre land. Today the numbers have multiplied to 160.

In the last financial year (2014-2015), the centre earned Nu 952,000 and distributed 61 purebred jersey-breeding bulls.

Farm manager Durga Bdr Chhetri said a bull’s breed-able age is 18 months. “After 18 months, we sell the bulls as per demand,” he said.

Trashigang and Mongar, Durga Bdr Chhetri, said, orders the highest number of bulls. The bulls are most times bought to breed with the local cows.

The centre provides subsidy of more than 50 percent for distribution of bulls across the country. It spends about Nu 36,900 in rearing a calf until it turns 18 months.

Each bull is sold for Nu 12,000.

Due to this subsidy provision, milk production and revenue generation is significant to the centre. About 82 percent of its revenue is generated through sale of milk.

The centre produces about 500 liters of milk a day from its 52 milking cows. Durga Bdr Chhetri said the milk is sold locally.

In the last financial year, the centre produced 144,057 liters of milk, which generated Nu 5.42M (million). Until October this year, the centre earned Nu 1.82M.

Durga Bdr Chhetri shared that a major drawback in their decades of endeavor occurs during winter.

“Due to a large number of animals, we face feeding problems in winters,” the manager said. “Grasses dry.”

However, the centre has adopted right techniques of conserving silage from hybrid fodder grasses and maize plants. NJBC has currently completed mowing the fodder grass, while winter maize is growing along the centre’s vast lands.

Initially, the centre owned 348 acres of land. Today, it has shrunk to 123 acres.

Although centre’s profile statement point out that more than 200 acres were degraded and flood-affected land, Samtse locals shared these lands were handed over to Dhamdum Industrial Estate development, including construction of a dzong, where cattle are not taken for grazing anymore.

Durga Bdr Chhetri, however, made it clear there are not many challenges they face. To tackle the grazing problem, the centre has tailored a system to fertilize the grasses around the office premises after letting cattle graze.

“We apply fertilizers in areas around the office premises after letting the animals graze first,” the farm manager said, adding the leftover grasses however have to be first cleared off. “The grasses grow better next time.”

From the total 160 cattle at the centre today, there are also 51 Karan Fries (hybrid cows). In order to provide an alternate choice of breeding to farmers in boosting milk production, the centre had procured 30 Karan Fries in 2014.

“These animals are under research,” he said, explaining the centre would have to study whether this hybrid performed better than a jersey.

Karan Fries would be distributed across the country only after the study completes.

The oldest and the only nucleus farm in the country for maintaining purebred jersey, the NJBC aims to have 20 dry cows and 55 milking cows at all times at a ratio of 1:3 respectively. The centre also acts as an institution for students to practice and learn.

Rajesh Rai, Samtse

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