Samrang mega farm or integrated livestock project will produce and supply improved seedlings and animal breeds to rural farmers, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said at the National Council  (NC) yesterday.

During the question hour session, lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that the mega farm is mostly being used to rear cattle so that improved breed could be supplied to interested farmers. “We will also supply fingerlings, piglets and pullets.”

Responding to Wangduephodrang NC member Tashi Dorji’s query on whether production of fish from the fisheries and removing male chicks amounts to killing and slaughtering of animals, the minister said that Samrang is not at all a slaughter house.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji brought along five officials, including the director for livestock department, from the ministry and he informed the house that he brought them as witness.

He said that of the 860 acres in Samrang, about 400 acres will be used to rear cattle. “In the 10th and 11th Plan, Bhutan imported about 10,000 live cattle from India,” lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said. “About 20 percent die in quarantine station in the southern dzongkhags.”

The minister also said that Bhutan imports about 5000 live cattle annually.

He also submitted before the house that of the 129,000 households in the country, about 45,000 rear cattle, about 6,000 owns piggery, about 24,000 have poultry, and 800 households have a fishery. “Those farmers need seeds for their livestock and we will supply from Samrang.”

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that the ministry’s projection for livestock demand shows that farmers need about 10,200 piglets, 900 cattle, 378,000 for pullets, 500,000 broilers and a million fingerlings.

He said that to be self-sufficient, it is important to boost agriculture and livestock.

The minister also said that there were production farms in the country since the 1970s. He cited the example of Lingmethang farm that started in 1975, Bumthang Swiss Farm, Samtse farm and Gelephu fishery farm.

He said that if all Bhutanese people come forward saying that they want to forgo meat, they would be more than happy. “We are not so interested to do this job. We are doing it because it is our responsibility.”

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji also gave the details of dairy and meat import in 2016. “The dairy product import amounted to Nu 1.1B and Nu 1.2B for meat products.”

He also said that in 2016, Bhutan imported about 26,000 pigs as meat, 17,000 cattle, 300,000 chickens, 600 mutton and 2M fish, amounting to 1,300MT.

The minister kept insisting that people have to think properly. “Everyone has to carry leather bags and wear leather shoes. It is also from animal hide.”

He also said that even in the NC, there is catering service where beef and fish are served.

Tashi Dorji said that the members, chaired by the NC chairperson, visited Samrang a few months ago and officials working in the mega farm informed them that they intend to produce about 1.3MT of fish in 2017 to 2018.

He said that layers, cows and goat that become unproductive, will be distributed to interested people. “Farmers would hardly be interested in taking these animals even at a subsidised rate as they would not lay egg or bear calves.”

He also said experiences from other poultry farms like Lingmithang in Mongar reportedly show that farmers are not keen to take them.

Tashi Dorji said that while the project may not engage in direct slaughter, it might outsource it to meat vendors as well as consumers.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that Bhutanese people do not slaughter cattle when they become unproductive.

Meanwhile, although the minister did not explain the absence of an actual meat-processing facility now at Samrang unlike what he reported in 2015, the members did not elaborate on it.

Tashi Dema