Since 1995, the project has benefited 2,537 households, bringing in around 5,750 bulls
Contract Bull Production Program: Dairy farmers in the country have had busy years, in trying to meet local demands. The milk their cattle produced met 72 percent of domestic demand, records show.
They also way surpassed the 10th plan target by producing 29,722MT against the 7,897MT for 2013.
This, agriculture ministry officials said, was made possible by introduction of crossbreeding and the contract bull production program (CBPP) that focused on “improved cattle” production.
Records show about 62 percent of the total milk production was through the improved cattle.
Since its inception, the program that started in 1995 has involved about 2,537 households bringing in around 5,750 bulls. Every year, they produced about 150 pure Jersey and 15 cross calves, of which 50 percent would be female.
National dairy development centre officials said, of the four bloodlines, the Jersey, Brown Swiss, Mithun and Nublang, they crossbred only Jersey and Brown Swiss. Jersey was categorised into Jersey pure and Jersey cross.
Animal production specialist, Dr MP Timsina said there were, however, many criteria in selecting the cattle.
“If there are 75 male cattle, about 15 would get rejected if they’re unhealthy, or if their colour wasn’t right,” he said.
The rest would be added to the 20 Jersey cattle present at the national Jersey breeding centre in Samtse. The government would procure and distribute them for free to the farmers, who do not have access to artificial insemination (AI) centres.
Most often, farmers chose to keep female Jersey cattle. But if they already had enough, they sold it to the government. The rejected bulls were either kept or taken to the slaughterhouse.
Meanwhile, records reveal, as of 2011, there were 69,654 heads of improved cattle in the country, of which 64,677 were Jersey and 4,977 Brown Swiss.
The livestock department officials said, until mid-1980s, cross-breeding of cattle in Bhutan was practiced by supplying “breeding bulls” to the farmers.
“It was very expensive to import breeding cattle from abroad,” an official said. “We had the geographical barrier, and many cattle would barely survive few days after reaching here.”
Thus, artificial insemination (AI) was formally introduced.
However, importing frozen semen and liquid nitrogen from India created endless problems. It was not only expensive, but the liquid nitrogen would evaporate over time.
NDDC’s animal reproductive specialist, Dr Lham Tshering, said they then had to install their own liquid nitrogen production plant and a semen-processing laboratory in Wangchhutaba in 1989.
The laboratory was shifted to Yusipang in 2009.
“We have another liquid nitrogen plant installed in Kanglung to cater to six eastern dzongkhags,” Dr Lham said, adding today, they produced enough semen and liquid nitrogen to store it in, although they imported some of the materials from India.
From 2010 to 2011, about 7,000 artificial inseminations were performed, of which only more than 2,000 progeny were recorded.
There are 102 AI outreach centres in the country that have access to motorable road.
Dr Lham said they are planning to charge the farmers from the next plan for the bulls, to inculcate a sense of ownership in the farmers, and for sustainability of the program.
By Sonam Choden