Says the model dairy farmer of Dewathang, Bhim Bdr Karki 

Rearing livestock and working in the farm may be challenging but dairy farmer, Bhim Bdr Karki of Dewathang in Samdrupjongkhar has shown how to make it a sustainable business.

The 58-year old farmer earns more than million ngultrums annually from his dairy farm alone.

He started a commercial dairy farm after drawing inspiration from the dairy farms he visited as part of the study tour soon after he resigned from the civil service in 1992.

He availed a loan of Nu 70, 000 from BDBL (BDFC then), and imported seven red jersey cows from India, with support from district livestock sector. Each cow cost him Nu 10,000.

Later, he changed the breed to Holstein Friesian (HF), a breed originating from the Dutch provinces of North Holland and Friesland, which is known for producing more milk.

Today, he owns 15 HF cows in the cattle shed located below his house.

His routine work involves feeding the cattle thrice a day, milking and gathering fodder from his 10-acre improved pastureland.

The cattle feed includes about half a kilogram of karma feed, a bowl of wheat husk, five ladles of cooked rice, a bit of jaggery and master cake, salt and lentil mixed with stock of chopped green and dry fodder.

Each cow produces between 18-25 liters of milk amounting to around 80 liters a day.

His total income from milk supplemented by selling heifers comes to around Nu 1.5 million a year. He also owns a mango orchard and sells composed manure at Nu 10 a kilogram. Today, he owns two buildings and has purchased some land. Giving all the credit to his cash cows, he calculates his property value and estimates it to be around Nu 30M in the market.

Bhim Bdr said his dairy farming business is a result of about three decades of practical experience and asserts that it is not through trainings he has undergone.

“Healthy feeding practice is key and if it is there, farming is not difficult,” he says.

He says cattle shouldn’t be over or under fed, but fed with nutritious and hygienic balanced diet.

He said he is willing to help aspiring dairy farmers, from selecting the breed to management.

On the unemployment issue, he said, farming is as sustainable and lucrative as other sources of income.

“Our youth go to town and look for job. It’s high time we go back home and work closely with the community and earn an income from the doorstep,” he said. “The purpose of education is not just about doing a decent job in town. They can always come back learned and put their knowledge into use.”

In recognition of his contribution towards achieving self-sufficiency, Bhim Bdr received the national order of merit (silver) silver at the 2014 national day celebrations in Kanglung. “There is no magic to success. It is due to consistency and commitment in doing a focused job with diligence.”

Today, his farm is a source of inspiration for the communities and regularly receives visitors including farmers’ group from across the country.

Bhim Bdr is also the chairman of Dewathang Milk Marketing Cooperative (DMMC). The DMMC has around 150 members from the locality, and the cooperative sells around 1,000 liters of milk at Nu 45 a liter across the border town of Samdrupjongkhar every day.

Although his seven grown up educated children choose to stay in town, he prefers to live with his cattle.

His 66-year old wife, Yangzom who supports him in his work says that the cattle are his passion.

“I insist him to resign from this tedious farm job and go on pilgrimage as we’re old now, but he never listens,” she says.

“They are the bread and butter of my life, and I won’t leave my animals for whatever reasons,” Bhim Bdr says.

Tshering Namgyal | Samdrupjongkhar