Difficult to rear but worth the effort say farmers

Agriculture: Seven years ago farmer Khadka Bahadur of Giri village took a gamble. Often losing his paddy to wild animals, he decided to call it quits and take up cattle rearing.

The 72-year-old is all smiles now, as his cows that he considers no less than his children, surround him. The animals have literally turned into cash cows for Khadka Bahadur. It is seven years now with a steady income since he started with selling milk, butter, cheese, and other dairy products.

Khadka Bahadur and family also have a bitter experience when his daughter-in-law lost some fingers to a grass-cutting machine three years ago. The incident, however, did not deter them from doing what they are renowned for in Giri village.

At the back of the kitchen are five healthy milking jerseys. The high-bred cows produce 20kg of milk in the morning which is sold to the ice-cream factory in Sipsu. The evening milk is churned for butter and cheese.

The family does not maintain a book of accounts but the Giris sell products worth at least Nu 1,600 a day. But that doesn’t go straight into the savings account. They have to pay for cattle feed, fodder grass, and care, the latter being the most difficult. About 10 bags of feed are required in a month with a bag costing Nu 1,100.

The Giris bathe their jerseys thrice a day and employ a full time helper.

The farmers strongly believe their cows are prone to sorcery. “High-bred jersey cows are easily affected by sorcery,” said Khadka Bahadur. For this fear, some villagers even deny entry into the cowsheds. Locals shared some jersey owners had even wrapped the animals with plastic sheets in their sheds.

In the next village, Kothigaon, the cattle rearing business is even bigger. With the help of the Business Opportunity and information Centre (BOiC), the Dorji Jersey Farm (DJF) bought 11 milking cows.

Sonam, a Kalimpong university graduate said this dairy business is solely her mother’s venture.

“My parents were interested in cattle herding and dairy products from their young days,” she said. “She wants to do it on a big scale.” The family bought 27 jersey cows. A milking cow and two calves died two weeks after they bought them.

Sonam said jerseys need the same kind of care given to newborn children. From timely feeding to bathing and medications, the jerseys need it all.

Unlike the Giri family dairy business, DJF is relatively new. It is four months old. The farm gets about 20kg of milk every morning, which is also allocated to the ice-cream factory. The evening milk is used to make dairy products.

DJF produces 2kgs of butter and 24 pieces of cheese in a day. DJM is currently breaking even as a business.

Almost all households in the village own at least one jersey cow.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing