Cattle: Two years ago, villagers of Dezama in Choekhorling gewog purchased Jersey cattle with the hope to form a milk cooperative and earn an income.

Villagers claimed that livestock officials assured them that they would benefit.

But instead of reaping any benefit, farmers said the Jersey cattle have become a burden after more than seven of them died after a few months. Despite it being two years since they purchased the Jersey cattle, neither have they produced milk or given birth, the villagers claimed.

The farmers alleged they have been repeatedly raising the issue with livestock officials but to no avail.

Twenty-nine households obtained a bank loan of Nu 50,000 to purchase the Jersey cattle from Guwahati following encouragement from livestock officials.

Farmers paid around Nu 40,000 on average for each Jersey cow or bull. Some households have two Jersey cattle. The balance money was deposited into farmers’ bank accounts.

The livestock department provided cow shed materials free of cost, a subsidy of Nu 9,000 for each Jersey cattle, and bore transportation and fodder cost.

Today, the villagers are paying an installment of Nu 1,730 every month. It has not been easy for many.

Farmers said that instead of the Jersey cattle providing them with an income to meet expenses and loan repayments, they have to depend on their local cattle by selling milk and butter.

“We still remember that we were informed Jersey cattle would produce almost 15 litres of milk in a day and we can earn money,” Dechen, a farmer said. “But it doesn’t even produce milk,” she said. “And even if it does, it does not even produce three litres while local cows produce more than five litres.”

After the village’s orange production failed, the milk cooperative provided hope as the next source of income.

Norbu Zangpo, a farmer who lost both her Jerseys had to resort to housekeeping in a private company to meet his loan installment. “We don’t understand why but the Jerseys’ health kept deteriorating, they became thinner everyday and ultimately died. I don’t have jerseys but I am still paying my loan.”

Many said they don’t know who to complain to or whose fault it may be. But many said livestock officials should have ensured the village got the best Jersey cattle. Many also said they are not sure if they should seek money or better Jersey cattle as compensation.

Another farmer, Rinchen Lhamo said the only option left is to sell the Jerseys to the butchers to pay back their loans. However, she said the villagers will not do that, and even if they do, it would not fetch even half the amount needed.

“We’re really frustrated because Jersey unlike local cows need to be fed and cared for, and we really had great hope during our first meeting with the officials,” Rinchen Lhamo said. She added that officials cannot attribute poor management by the farmers because they are aware much effort was invested.

Another farmer added they would never go for Jersey cattle again. The farmer added that it is important to find out if the quality of Jerseys supplied was the problem.

“We were told the matter was forwarded to the dzongkhag but we never got a response,” the farmer said. “We’ve given up and have only advice that the next time, the government should be careful while importing Jersey cattle because we’ve heard similar experiences have occurred elsewhere in the country.”

Meanwhile, livestock department’s production supervisor, JB Rai, said following complaints an inspection was carried out and it was found that management of the Jersey cattle was poor. He said the Jersey cattle were housed in inadequate cow sheds and improperly fed.

He said that the department ensured that all Jerseys were medically checked and some of the Jerseys were even artificial inseminated.

“There was no problem with the import but it was mainly due to poor management. But we are still attending the problem whenever we get a complaint,” he said.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Nganglam