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Dzongkhag educates farmers through Calf Rally

Livestock: Kanglung’s Gewog Centre is populated with odd visitors today. They don’t talk, because they can’t. They bellow instead. They’ve got tail, too. And because they have cute tail each, they make it a point to wiggle every now and then.

Trashigang Dzongkhag’s Department of Livestock has organized a Calf Rally, the first kind in the east. Here, this day, it is not the assembly of gups and tshogpas meeting to decide developmental issues of the gewog. Little calves have taken whole over to flaunt their beauty. They are, indeed, quite a show off.

It is 7.30am. More calves will show up. Thukten, 65, is dragging his recalcitrant little calf to the registration table.

“The best three male and female calves will get cash prize. Here, with this pretty little thing, I want to give it a shot,” says Thukten.

Not long after, the competition begins. One by one, the calves are walked through a show ring where five judges from the Regional Livestock Development Centre carefully inspect them. Best calves are selected based on body conformation and breed disposition.

The rally saw 58 farmers from the two dairy groups of Kanglung and Rongthong participate. The calves were born of artificial insemination (AI) of imported semen.

The National Dairy Development Centre imports semen of selected sires that are progeny-tested.

Under the Contract Heifer and Bull Production Programme (CHBPP), Kanglung was introduced to the imported semen AI in 2012. However, only those calves that are 50 percent hybrid are inseminated with the semen.

The veterinary officer of Trashigang, Dr Jamyang Namgyal, said that the main objective of the rally is to advocate farmers on the importance of AI for breed improvement.

For instance, if a local cow is inseminated with imported semen of a Jersey, the calf (second generation) becomes 50 percent Jersey. The third generation calf would be 75 percent Jersey and the percentage increases with every following generation.

‘We want the farmers to understand that AI is the solution for breed improvement,” Dr Jamyang Namgyal said. “We will also assess the phenotypic and genotypic disposition of the calves.”

At the event, farmers were also made aware of the functioning of Calf Rearing Centre at Wangkha in Chukha. If a female calf is 75 percent hybrid, the centre buys the calf, rears and breeds it. The progenies are then distributed to farmers at a lower cost. In case of bulls, their production capacities are assessed and then distributed as breeding bulls.

“We have also collected fecal samples of calves, which will be assessed for the degree and prevalence of parasites. Depending on the results, we will go for mass deworming campaign,” said Dr Jamyang Namgyal.

Dzongkhag Livestock Officer, NS Tamang, said that the use of AI for breed improvement will help reduce the import of cattle, which Bhutan makes in huge numbers.

“Between 2014 and 2015, Trashigang alone imported about 70 Jerseys and Holstine Fresians,” he said. “We have artificially inseminated 416 cows and produced 121 calves in Kanglung and Rongthong using imported semen.”

Apart from Kanglung and Rongthong, cows in Pam were also inseminated with imported semen in 2009. In future, the livestock department would extend the program to other gewogs as well.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang

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