Floods swamp Kerala’s dairy sector, leading to ₹400-cr loss

Vinson Kurian |Sajeev Kumar | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

A cow finds shelter on the roof of a house partially submerged in floodwaters in Alappuzha district | Photo Credit: Prashanth Vishwanathan

Thousands of cattle have been killed and fodder is hard to come by

The recent floods in Kerala have severely impacted the dairy industry here. Several milch cows were washed away, farms and cattle sheds decimated, and the livelihoods of hundreds of dairy farmers destroyed. It is estimated that the sector has suffered a loss of around ₹400 core while milk production has reduced to half.

The Animal Husbandry Department has estimated that about 10,000 cattle died in the flood-affected districts. Around 12,000 goats and seven lakh poultry are also estimated to have perished.

But the department was able to rescue at least 50,000 cattle and house them in relief shelters across eight districts. These had been left behind by their fleeing owners or been untethered as water levels rose. The department set up temporary shelters at elevated places — bridges, roads, vet hospitals, government offices and public spaces.

Some were in need of urgent medical aid. Prolonged exposure to water had led to skin lesions. Now, after a fortnight, a debilitating shortage of cattle feed, hay and straw has emerged.

Curtailed milk production

A senior vet at Aymanam village in still waterlogged Kottayam district says the impact is likely to be so huge it could drastically curtail milk production further.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the next 10-12 days could prove decisive — be it saving the cattle or curtailing the loss in milk production.

The cattle had starved for at least five days from August 15 when the flood started peaking. By August 20, the heavy rains had stopped and the water had begun to recede. But there was no grass to munch on, much less fodder.

The cattle’s masters did their best, salvaging plantain trunks that had been felled by the flood feeding the cattle. The trunks were in various stages of rotting, but they were indeed a God send, said the vet.

The State government should ensure the supply of feed/fodder on a more sustained basis. Any investment would not be too high here, since it could have a multiplier effect on the local economy.

V Prasanth, Deputy Campaign Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisation, concurred that the availability of feed is rather woeful. Each affected district needs at least 100 tonnes of fodder. He had recently toured the flood-affected areas of Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Thrissur and Malappuram.

“We have already given 10 tonnes of mineral mixture and cattle feed over a week. Since rail and road connectivity has improved, the State should make arrangements to stock adequate fodder,” said Prasanth.

The focus should be on supplying fodder at the micro level, he added. Further, the government should work with dairy cooperatives to maintain supplies.

Kerala has an estimated six lakh milch cattle requiring nearly 600 tonnes of feed, but produces just 30 per cent locally.

There is also widespreadfear about a breakout of communicable cattle diseases, Prasanth said, adding that veterinary camps should be opened immediately in each area to treat milch animals.

TP Sethumadhavan, former Director of Entrepreneurship, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, said the floods could not have occurred at a more inopportune time.

The State was on the verge of attaining sustainability in milk production, touching 77 lakh litres a day against the target of 87 lakh litres, when the floods intervened.

There is a huge scarcity of roughage, including straw and green fodder. Straw may not have many nutrients to boast of, but it is mandatory to feed cattle with roughage if only to ensure a a fibre-rich diet.

Green fodder and roughage are essential add-ons in the diet that can help with digestion and higher production of milk. The lost growth impulse of dairy farming needs to be restored by kick-starting entrepreneurship, Sethumadhavan said.

Published on September 03, 2018
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