The ailing sheep farm and wool grading centre in Shivpuri will soon get a much needed boost following the release of funds sanctioned by the Wool Board aimed at reviving the sheep husbandry initiative programme.
The maiden project, prepared and submitted since its inception totalling over Rs3.5 crore (for three years), was approved by the Wool Board under the Union textile ministry.
The project comprises provision for strengthening infrastructure at the existing sheep farm in Padora village (Shivpuri district) besides revamping of seven cluster extension centres and allied activities.
Proposal to introduce superior quality rams for sheep improvement
Considering the population density of sheep, seven cluster extension centres each in Bhonti, Dinara, Satanward, Magroni, etc. villages were developed earlier. Also, there is a proposal to introduce superior quality rams (male sheep) to these centres for sheep improvement/reproduction as well as supplies to shepherds for improving genetic worth. Even rotation of rams will be done to avoid inbreeding that is considered a primary cause for pedigree degradation.
The survey, monitoring and delivering healthcare, etc. at the doorstep of flocks are also awaiting execution. Earlier, the Shivpuri sheep farm, set up with Austrian collaboration in the 1970s, was aimed at improving the breed of the local sheep population.
According to estimates, the Shivpuri district has a large population of sheep flock (measuring about 64,000). In fact, India has the second-largest sheep population in the world after China.
Sheep husbandry provides export earnings of Rs 250 crore
Sheep husbandry provides export earnings of Rs 250 crore from meat, animal casing and processed meat while the wool industry generates employment for over 2.6 million people and fetches revenue worth Rs 5,000 crore through exports.
There is even a community known as Gadariya which is traditionally involved in sheep rearing with an average flock size varying from 25 to 200 in headcount. Sheep rearing is a major source of livelihood for shepherds who are poor, uneducated and socially backward.
Further, it provides the community with a cushion of liquid assets during distress like drought and famine together with household nutritional food security.
But with the community gradually doing away with its nomadic nature, sheep housing has shifted to small thatched huts with less space for each animal thereby creating problems like respiratory diseases for both the sheep and residents.
Farm director Dr PC Baghel maintained that lambing was done once a year by shepherds involving normal rams.
However, the reproduction process could be increased to twice a year following the introduction of F1 crossbreed rams (improved quality) sourced from outside. He said the wool produced at Padora farm as well as sourced from another farm in Tikamgarh district which is of carpet grade/type is supplied to the wool grading centre in Shivpuri.
The carpet grade/type wool (not very fine quality) is then auctioned and even sent to Kambal Kendra (cooperative owned blanket centre) in Gwalior.
Dr JVB Raju, responsible for imparting training at the wool grading centre in Shivpuri, said the district has the potential of becoming a hub for sheep husbandry and allied activities. And, that could be easily achieved with a holistic and integrated approach like that of the Bhadoi carpet industry in Uttar Pradesh.
Raju was instrumental in preparing the project draft of the project being submitted by the MP Animal Husbandry Department to the Wool Board.