Wussan, Baramulla: To popularise rabbit farming for augmenting meat and fur production and providing a healthy alternative to mutton for voracious meat-eaters of Kashmir, the J&K Government established Angora Rabbit Farm in 1979 at the Wussan village of Baramulla district.
Though, the rabbit meat has failed to satiate the taste buds of Kashmiri people as the project did not witness much commercial success. However, due to the recent rising trend of pet keeping in Kashmir, the farm has become a centre of attraction. Rabbit rearing has become the most popular hobby among pet lovers, particularly children, and teenagers.
Run by the Sheep Husbandry Department, the only rabbit breeding farm of Kashmir and probably the biggest in North India sprawls on six hectares of land. About 30 km from Srinagar, the Angora Rabbit Farm is home to several rabbit varieties and breeds imported from different countries. Even new species are regularly brought in either from foreign or from various states of the country.
Presently, seven rabbit species breed in the Angora Rabbit Farm: Californian White, New Zealand White, Angora German, Angora French, Grey Giant, Black Brown and Soviet Chinchilla. Different breeds have different qualities. While the Angora is considered a well-known breed for fur and wool, Grey Giant and others are best known for providing quality meat. Similarly, people prefer to buy the Russian Chinchilla and German Angora for keeping them as pets.
Around 1800-2000 rabbits rear in five sheds of the farm at Wussan. Presently there are 1200 rabbits, both kits and adults, on the farm. These rabbits are available on sale around the year. However, during the winter, the number goes down to 500-600. As the breeding stops during the winter season due to extreme cold.
“During the winters, a rabbit needs extra care, which is also the reason that less number keeps for December, January and February, the harshest three months. The breeding commences again in March when the weather improves,” says Dr Sheikh Ishrat Mahmood, who works as an Assistant Director with the Sheep Husbandry Department and is the present caretaker of the farm.
According to the official website of the Sheep Husbandry Department, the farm was started with the 60 New Zealand White rabbits purchased from Gharsa, Himachal Pradesh. The aim was to popularise the consumption of rabbit meat as a substitute for sheep and goat meat among the general masses and create a new avenue of employment for the youth. While the rabbit meat evinced week response among the public, high demand for rabbit wool and fur could not generate much enthusiasm among the entrepreneurs for establishing their private units. This limited the scope of the farm.
At present, rabbits in Kashmir have only three uses. Youngsters rear them as pets, researchers use them as guinea pigs, and some people with cardiac problems eat them as rabbit meat is considered lean and white with high nutritious value.
However, in recent years rearing them as pets have become very popular across Kashmir. While the cute and fluffy rabbits are liked by one and all, in the traditional homes, they have much more acceptability as compared to dogs and cats, who are mostly considered unclean animals.
“Besides slaughter purpose, we sell rabbits to pet shop owners, as well as, researchers from GMC and SKUAST-K, who try vaccines and drugs on them,” says Dr Ishrat.
Last year the farm revenue from the rabbit sales was Rs 6 lakh. According to the farm officials, the sale figure has grown considerably. “Though from last few years, rabbit rearing as pets is gaining popularity across Kashmir, but we want more and more people to know about the farm,” says Dr Ishrat.
“Rabbit farming is very profitable, and one enjoys doing it. It is a great business idea with huge employment generation potential. Only thing is that we need to create more and more awareness,” he says.
A research scholar of livestock production and management from NDRA, Dr Ishfaq Jamal, writes that there is tremendous scope for poverty alleviation and improving the living standards of small and marginal farmers through the profitable enterprise of cuniculture.
Cuniculture is the agricultural practise of breeding and raising domestic rabbits as livestock for their meat, fur, wool or pelt. “Rabbit fanciers and hobbyists also employ cuniculture for the development and betterment of rabbit breeds and the exhibition of their efforts. Scientists practice cuniculture in the use and management of rabbits as model organisms in research. Cuniculture has been practised all over the world since at least the 5th century.”
According to Dr Ishfaq, there is immense scope for rabbit farming in Kashmir, as the climatic conditions of J&K and Himachal Pradesh are almost similar. The government of HP has promoted rabbit farming along with sheep farming and obtained good results in hilly areas, he writes.
“If properly planned and promoted, rabbit farming can turn into a multi-crore industry soon. There is a need of a proper policy framework, planning as well as collaboration between the Departments of Animal and Sheep Husbandry, agricultural universities and related institutions for framing a composite policy to promote rabbit farming,” says Dr Ishfaq in a newspaper column.
Feeding and rearing of rabbits at Wussan Farm
When it comes to the feeding of rabbits at the Wussan Farm, proper care is taken. The rabbits are fed with nutritious food such as greens, turnips, carrots, cabbage leaves. Rabbits drink clean drinking water twice a day. The feeding items are different for the winter and summer seasons. In the summer season, only greens are given to rabbits, while in the winter season, chopped vegetables are provided as well. Most of the food items are grown within the farm area itself such as radish and carrots. Rabbits are also fed with pellets in addition to greens and vegetables. Kits are fed half of what adults are given.
“We have an agriculture farm here as well where we grow fodder for rabbits,” says Dr Irfan Magray, the farm manager and veterinary doctor.
Random eating is avoided for the proper growth and good health of the rabbit.
Rabbits are reared mainly for three purposes – domestication as pets, research models (guinea pigs) and consumption.
“Rabbits can produce many kits at a time unlike other animals, which is what makes it very good economically,” says Dr Irfan Magray.
Rabbit is known for its fast multiplication, short gestation period of about 32 days and a litter size of about 6-8. So out of a small unit one can have 4-5 crops annually, so from a small unit, one can get hundreds of kindlings per year. Also, its constant state of reproduction, rapid growth and early maturity adds to its high biological potential.
“We usually keep the parental stock with us and give the kits,” he adds.
Young single rabbits are sold within the price range from ₹200 – ₹800, depends upon the breed, where Grey Giant, Black Brown, Soviet Chinchilla costs ₹200 per rabbit and New Zealand White, California White sells for ₹300 per rabbit whereas Angora breed is sold at ₹500 per piece. The pair is sold from 1000 or above.
Rabbits are sold to customers which in turn start their venture at a smaller level for rearing purposes. “I visit the farm often and take rabbits for my venture,” says Gulam Nabi Sofi from Khaag, Budgam. “For a pet lover, this is the best place to visit,” he adds.
“The farm has different breeds and I had taken many rabbits from them, I keep rabbits as pets,” says another customer from Srinagar. “The farm has maintained all sort of hygiene practices and every staff member is cooperative,” he further says.
“The best sellers among the rabbits have always been Angora rabbits, as they are famous for their wool, which is considered second best after pashmina,” says Dr Ishrat.
The life expectancy of a rabbit is 5-6 years. “The mortality rate of the rabbits has come down from 10-12% to 4.5% since last three years,” he adds.
Around 18 employees are working on the farm: 10 technical staff and eight helpers. Each one of them is strictly looking at the management of the farm and rabbit farming.
“This farm is only of its kind in the whole J&K,” says Dr Ishrat.
Talking about the plan ahead, Dr Ishrat says now they want to open units of the farm at various parts to avoid third-party interface. “We have sent a request to the higher authority to open up the farm units at different places where we have high acceptability of the rabbits,” says Dr Ishrat.
In addition to this, the rabbit farm intends to do training programmes and attract more youth towards rabbit farming. The farm display, its stall at Kisan Melas as well. “We can also help the\youth by giving them employment and also technical know-how free of cost,” says Dr Ishrat.
“The rabbit farming has a great scope in the Valley but awareness is needed, we do as much publicity as we can.”
“The funds the farm gets are not sufficient for infrastructure,” Dr Ishrat. “We want to attract more customers, but we lack funds,” he adds.
The medical supervision of the rabbits is planned in accordance with the help they need. “Usually, we do flock treatment but if someone needs individual treatment, we give full attention to it, we give them anti cognizant drugs with water if needed,” says Dr Irfan.
Rabbit farming is a lucrative business, which demands attention from the government as well as the individual level.
Slump in Dairy Business
Tajamul Islam Salroo
Slump in Dairy Business! Dairy Business has been showing unexpected disruptions on and off for the last couple of years. And this time it is once again showing a slump. Being associated with the dairy business I have tried to come up with some possible reasons for the ongoing dairy business slump as described below.
It is observed that consumer preferences and expectations have changed over a period of time. People have become more informed and hence, expect more freshness, taste, and nutritional value in dairy products, in particular and other food products, in common. With the rise in the number of brands for the same product people have a good amount of choice to make before purchasing the one. It has been seen that consumers look at labels and ingredients and then decide what must be taken. A good percentage of consumers are inclined towards traditional dairy products while some more health-conscious people have already reduced the intake of dairy products in their day-to-day lives.
Over the last few years, many substitutes for dairy products have come up. As far as I have observed there is a distinct consumer base for different dairy products with the same application, unlike earlier times. Earlier many people used to think that milk powder was not a milk product but made from something unknown. Similarly, people could not believe milk could stay fresh for months altogether as they were not so informed about UHT processes and the hi-tech packaging that retains the freshness of these dairy products. Now consumers ask for Whole Milk Powder, Skimmed Milk Powder, Dairy Whitener, UHT Milk, Soya Milk etc. Thus, a division has been created among dairy consumers as per their choice of preferred storage and consumption.
It is also a hard fact that the present-day consumer has become quite conscious of the contamination and adulteration of essential food products. Many expect dairy products from reputed companies to be unadulterated, tested adequately before dispatching to markets and meeting all the standards of freshness, taste, and nutritional value. In the past several years the information disseminated through various media sources about contamination and adulteration has given rise to the introduction of analogue products that are being promoted as a better alternative by its manufacturers. And people have started switching to those alternatives.
We must not sideline that a section of consumers has turned health-conscious and mindful. Many people don’t want fats in their diet and they have hence moved either to skimmed milk or milk-less beverages. Nowadays a large number of people are seen taking black or green tea instead of traditional milk tea which was not the case a few years back. And that is a challenge for the dairy business.
Organic dairy products have evolved and are believed to have a smaller carbon footprint and are therefore preferred by the contemporary consumer who pays due attention to the labels and opts accordingly for the food of his choice. It is also noteworthy that small dairy business units have been established by young and educated youth to sell organic dairy products in the markets of Kashmir.
Last but not least individual economic condition over the last few years has worsened with inflation which seems to be a big reason for cutting down on daily needs to a certain extent. Though it is believed to get better in the next couple of years but the present situation is dismal.
It, therefore, becomes necessary for dairy business firms to get into a good research methodology and innovation to develop new products with an emphasis on best quality control and nutritional benefits.
An MBA graduate, Tajamul Islam Salroo is running a Dairy Processing Unit at the Lassipora Industrial Estate
SKUAST-K developed maize variety released at national level
KDM-30 released for cultivation in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttara Khand, Assam, Meghalaya, Ladakh and Manipur
Srinagar, May 6: Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST-K) developed maize variety has been released recently at the national level for cultivation in the cold climatic Northern Hill Zone of the country.
Cold resistant early maturing high yield maize composite, KDM-30, suitable for cultivation in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Ladakh and Manipur, was recently released in the 66th Annual Maize Workshop held at GBPUAT, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand.
“The variety (KDM-30) performs better than the best national check, Vijay with 13% more grain yield and moderate resistance to diseases and pests like Turcicum Leaf Blight and Maizw Stem Borer,” said Dr Zahoor Ahmad Dar, associate director at the SKUAST-K’s Dryland Agriculture Research Station (DARS), Rangreth, Budgam.
Dar, who along with Dr Ajaz Ahmad Lone was leading the team of scientists involved in developing this cold-resistant maize variety, said KDM-30, besides being highly cold tolerant, gives more yield and better disease protection than Vijay, which is considered the best maize variety in the country.
The maize composite is derived from materials obtained from international and national nurseries, which were subsequently hybridized with the local material to incorporate uniqueness like cold tolerance, early maturity, and high grain quality.
The SKUAST-K developed maize variety possesses a high level of carotenoids as well as the unique expression of cold-tolerance-regulated enzymes at the molecular level. The KDM-30 is going to replace Kishen Ganga-1 (KG-1) variety in high-altitude areas of the Northern Hill Zone (up to 2500m amsl) and can be a potential candidate to serve in cold arid Ladakh Region as a dual-purpose crop where it has been initially evaluated for grain-to-grain maturity in native cropping window.
While congratulating Dr Zahoor Ahmad Dar and Dr Ajaz Ahmad Lone for developing the high-yield maize variety, Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, directed upscaling seed production and utilizing rain-fed ecologies for grain and fodder production to sustain the dairy and poultry industry.
Deteriorating legacy of saffron industry in Kashmir
Saffron industry in Kashmir
One of the oldest and yielding family occupations prevalent in the valley of Kashmir has been the cultivation of Saffron. The karewas of Pampore are internationally known for the quality and quantity of saffron across the world. Through the ups and downs of time and periods of natural and man-prompted disasters, this sector has been quietly yielding a stable and rather steadily growing output over the period of time. Generations after generation have been associated with the cultivation and rearing of saffron. People across the binary gender, residing predominantly in the Pampore area have been habitually and evolutionarily working in this sector.
On the technical side, though India ranks second only after Iran in terms of productivity of cultivation in Saffron it ranks seven. This points to the existence of huge inefficiency in the saffron production of the country. For years at a stretch, there has been under-production happening in the saffron production of the country. More than 90% of India’s saffron cultivation comes from Kashmir, estimated to be around 15.04 metric tonnes (MT) for the year 2021. However, for the last fifty years, there has been a considerable decline in both the cultivable land and the overall Saffron productivity in the valley of Kashmir. While in the year 2009, the total area under cultivation for Saffron was 2667 hectares with a production of 5.61 tonnes, almost a decade earlier in 1997 it was 5707 hectares and 15.97 tonnes respectively. These numbers highlight a decline of 114% in area and 184% in yield in a time period as short in span as 12 years.
For years at a stretch, there has been under-production happening in the saffron production of the country. More than 90% of India’s saffron cultivation comes from Kashmir, estimated to be around 15.04 metric tonnes (MT) for the year 2021. However, for the last fifty years, there has been a considerable decline in both the cultivable land and the overall Saffron productivity in the valley of Kashmir. While in the year 2009, the total area under cultivation for Saffron was 2667 hectares with a production of 5.61 tonnes, almost a decade earlier in 1997 it was 5707 hectares and 15.97 tonnes respectively. These numbers highlight a decline of 114% in area and 184% in yield in a time period as short in span as 12 years.
Results like these are an outcome of a number of factors that have cumulated over the years. Some of the most commonly identified factors include; lack of availability of good-quality corms as seed material, poor soil fertility, lack of assured irrigation, infestation by rodents and diseases, poor postharvest management, improper marketing facilities, increased urbanization on saffron land, the helplessness of the Government in checking adulteration and clandestine smuggling of cheap saffron (allegedly from Iran), which is later sold and marketed in the name of Kashmir saffron.
Simultaneously from time to time, certain measures have been put in place to restrain the underproduction in Saffron cultivation, so as to bring in a change and reach as closer to the potential output as possible. The fundamental channel of intervention and attainment of the aspired output is from the government directly to the grower. Quite contrary to this, the existence of intermediaries leads to multiple failures towards the attainment of the prosed outcomes. Analysing the current trends, it turns out that in the past decades the maximum marketing margins were accumulated within the pockets of intermediaries (retailers and agents) followed by wholesalers, leaving the primary saffron growers with an unfair share of their very own produce.
The saffron growers reveal that in contemporary times the causes of less productivity across the Kashmir region are: climate change, non-availability of timely irrigation and information asymmetry between those framing the policies for the farmers and the farmers themselves. Though the government has been initiating measures to revamp the damage, the Saffron cultivators conclude that almost 60% of the land under which saffron is cultivated was brought under a pipeline network scheduled to irrigate the land. However, in practice, the project has been full of flaws and thus ended up failing miserably. Leaving the land yet again to the mercy of timely and untimely rains. The saffron growers in the first place lack scientific knowledge, do not have access to modern know-how and technology and at the same time lack all sorts of trust over the government. One such typical example is the sale of hybrid saffron corms that the government announced some years ago. Given the mistrust between the people and the government, it was rumoured that the sowing of the hybrid saffron corm distributed by the department of agriculture will transfer the private property rights of the owners to the government. As a result, the vast majority of saffron cultivators didn’t take those corms and the productivity and output ended up remaining under-attained.
Whatever interventions the government and administration intend to make, the campaign of enhancing the productivity of saffron would not bear the desired results unless for starters a certain level of trust is established between the saffron cultivators and the government. Following this, facilities for assured irrigation need to be created, at least at the pre-sprouting and pre-flowering stages. Irrigation facilitates lead quick activation of buds, further leading to the corm sprouting and the eventual timely flower initiation. An empirical study by Nehvi (2004), and Nehvi and Makhdoomi (2007b) bring forth the fact that an annual saffron crop requires an average of 10 irrigations, and needs to be sprinkler irrigated for seven days at the sprouting stage (which is approximately around 25th August to 15th September) followed by three irrigations at the post-flowering stage (around 8th to 30th November) at weekly intervals.
In a recent and rather unusual move, the Government of India initiated a National Saffron Mission (year) with a financial outlay of Rs 3.74 billion for resolving the saffron crisis in Kashmir through different programmes. This program includes rejuvenating saffron farms by corm re-planting, digging bore wells for irrigation, and setting up a modern Saffron Park with a quality control laboratory for providing adequate marketing cover to saffron growers, thus eliminating exploitation by middlemen. However, from the ground, there are mixed reactions and opinions coming from the farmers about the initiation and implementation of the mission. The actual attained outcome from this mission and its various programs is yet to be ascertained for success or failure. Saffron Industry in Kashmir.
“The JK Agro” is a registered saffron firm which has been gainfully employing generations of the Khanday family from Pampore. It has been around six years since the third generation has overtaken the business. The upcoming generations from the saffron families have been trying to expand and diversify the business. One of the most common channels has been through proper marketing, e-marketing and processing of the saffron and allied products. JK Agro, in an attempt to expand, has been making huge investments. But the major hurdle faced by it in attaining the expected growth has been the declining productivity of output. As a result, the younger generation of small and medium-scale saffron farmers have steadily been moving out from the industry and instead looking for other sources of employment. However, families like Khanday’s are of the opinion that complete dependency on saffron might not be enough to fulfil their subsistence needs and hence are trying hard to find jobs distant from their ancestral domain…
Given the various facets discussed above, the broader conclusion drawn is that the decline in the cultivable land and productivity of saffron in Kashmir is the basic reason behind the ever-increasing crisis in the heritage-saffron industry of Kashmir. The most appropriate channel to win back the industry and the people associated with it is to stake strict actions towards the restoration of the karewas land and to scientifically enhance the overall productivity of the saffron in the Kashmir region.
The authors are affiliated with the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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