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The Beetal breed is healthier and has better promise for farmers in Barshong

Barshong’s new residents

The arrival of new goat breed from India promises an increase in income of farmers in Tsirang

If you’ve been to Barshong in Tsirang lately, you wouldn’t have missed them. Those huge and healthy black goats with pendulous ears and glinting marble eyes. They are the newbies in the locality.

In a move reminiscent of the 82 jetlagged pigs that arrived in Paro on a chartered Druk Air flight from the United Kingdom, the Beetal goats endured a long train journey across the Indian plains followed by a rocky truck-ride from Sarpang to Barshong.

Supplied through the ongoing rural livelihoods and climate change adaptation pilot project, funded by the European Union and managed by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, the goats are part of the new prosperity that farmers in Barshong are looking forward to.

With the objective to improve goat husbandry for better production, the pilot has introduced modern rearing practices. This includes the construction of improved goat sheds and promotion of better goat breed. The Tsirang District Livestock Office supplied iron roof sheets, cement, chain links, angle posts, and sand to build the improved sheds.

Then came the goats from Agra. Originally from the Punjab region, the Beetal goat breed is used for milk and meat production. The goats have been widely used for improvement of local goats throughout the subcontinent. Forty-five goats were distributed in 2016 and 51 in 2017. Another 20 improved sheds are planned for this year.

“Goat farming has been part of our traditional lifestyle,” says Raj Kumar Moktan, 59, of Gangtokha chiwog. “We’ve been raising goats for meat and manure as well as for occasional cash income.”

Farmers say the native goat breeds were small and unproductive, which gave an average meat production of 25 kilogram per animal. The new breeds are big and healthy. They are expected to give about 60 kg of meat per animal. Farmers expect to sell the meat by next year. At present a kg of mutton fetches Nu 300.

The Tsirang District Livestock Office has helped the farmers form Barshong Raa Sochong Detshen (Barshong Goat Rearing Group), and the Group has already applied for registration under the Cooperative (Amendment) Act of Bhutan 2009 and in line with the Cooperative Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2010.

Officials say this is expected to enhance income and strengthen self-help capacity of the members through collective production and marketing of fresh chevon, kids, and young bucks. There are 69 members in the Group, and every member has a minimum of a pair. The Group has members from all five chiwogs, including both men and women. Five farmers were chosen to raise nucleus farms. They were given two females and a male to maintain the pure line breed. New farmers who wish to rear goats will receive a pair from these farms.

People say the major downside with the new breed is that they seem to contract multiple diseases compared to the native one that seems more resilient. However, the local livestock office has been helping farmers with medicines whenever the goats fall ill. This, according to farmers, could be because of the change in living conditions, weather pattern, feeding, and other adaptation issues. Stress during transportation and care during quarantine were some big issues observed in 2016.

In 2016, 13 goats died. This has been attributed to stress and poor management. Farmers say they had no prior experience in handling the new breed, and perhaps they didn’t realize some of its specific needs. In the 2017 cohort, no deaths have been reported so far. Extreme care was taken during transportation from India to Tsirang. Moreover, in 2016, goats were distributed to the farmers without any advice on management.

The new goats also have many good things about them, apart their big size. For example, they eat more varieties of grass, and they eat less frequently than the natives who eat 24 hours a day. Further, they are adapted to stall feeding, although they are also allowed limited free range grazing within farmers’ own land.

Some new goats have already given birth to kids, and crossbreeding has started as well. Farmers say the crossbreeds look healthy, and they expect the mix breed to rule the roost in the long run. According to Nim Tshering of Gangtokha chiwog, one of the nucleus farmers, people from other gewogs in Tsirang have already expressed interest to purchase and raise the new breed.

Interestingly, a little gender war has begun because of the new breed. Women say they take care of the goats more than men. The new goats eat more, meaning more fodder, which means more time from women since they are the ones who generally collect fodder. These goats also need better management.

“With the arrival of the new goats, our workload has also increased,” says Padma Maya Luitel, 45.  “The new goats don’t eat the same variety of grass that the natives enjoy, and grass has to be chopped into small bits for easy feeding.”

In the meanwhile, a 12-day exposure trip in April 2015 was organized for 10 farmers, community members, and government officials to provide learning opportunity and familiarize them with good practices for promoting goat value chain in Nepal.

Contributed by Gopilal Acharya

Gopilal Acharya is an independent consultant and a freelance journalist. He can be contacted at gopibhutanese@gmail.com or  at 17666222.

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