Only one-third of the total demand for mutton in Kashmir is met through local supply. For youngsters taking up sheep husbandry after proper training, there is immense scope for profit .
The rearing of livestock has been one of the traditional avenues of unemployment in Jammu and Kashmir. In the last few years, those engaged in the rearing of livestock complained of challenges like inadequate availability of feed and fodder, lack of modern breeding facilities, low conception rates, inadequate infrastructure, lack of knowledge regarding good management practices and balanced feeding, and also lack of sufficient knowledge regarding disease prevention.
Livestock farmers also complained that the government was not providing them enough field training to make them professional cattle or sheep farmers.
Proper Training Essential
The culture of livestock rearing has witnessed a revival in urban as well as rural Kashmir. Education and training have played a vital role in its revival. The demand for mutton is two times more than the available supply in Kashmir. There are good profits for those who are taking up sheep rearing activity. The youth have realized the high potential of this sector and are coming forward in good numbers to take up this mode of employment.
The new sheep breeds grow faster that the local breeds of Kashmir. The new entrants in the sheep rearing business are adopting the rearing of these breeds. The rearing of these breeds requires proper training, because these animals need proper care and also vaccination on schedule. Hence the education and awareness of the livestock farmers is a critical factor for the rearing of these breeds.
Sheep husbandry has flourished with higher allocation of budget for this sector. In 2021, sheep husbandry grew in Kashmir after the Department of Sheep Husbandry sponsored 1000 units in different categories. This year too, the Department sponsored 1000 more livestock rearing units in different categories. The Department provides support for the quality of feed, fodder and vaccination. During the awareness programs, the department guides the livestock farmers about the precautions, the proper feeding schedule and also the vaccination schedule for the animals.
Aarif Hussain Malik Of Anantnag
Seeing the high potential of this sector, youths who are post graduates, have done degrees in management and even some IT professionals have chosen sheep rearing either full time or as a part time activity.
Kashmir Central found one such entrepreneur named Aarif Hussain Malik, who hails from a small village in Anantnag. After doing MBA, Malik went to Saudi Arabia and worked there for two years. But staying far from home did not appeal to him. Malik felt that earning money must not be the sole motive of a human being.
Talking to KASHMIR CENTRAL, Malik said, “I felt that caring my loved ones must be my priority. So I quit the job there and returned back home. At home I considered many options which would enable me to earn money. Finally I decided to go in for sheep rearing business. For proper knowledge, I visited the Sheep Husbandry Office of Anantnag. I equipped myself with knowledge about the best breeds, high quality feed and fodder, the environment and vaccination needed for the particular breeds, and importantly about the demand of sheep for mutton. The officials gave me proper knowledge about the methods for proper sheep cultivation, and I am pursuing this activity now.”
Zubair Ahmad Teeli of Mattan
Zubair Ahmad Teeli of Mattan, Anantnag, completed matriculation in 2016. Looking at the high demand for meat, Zubair discontinued studies and chose sheep farming as a career. He started his own sheep farm to support his family. In the beginning, Zubair purchased six sheep of the local breeds. With time, the number rose to about 30-50 sheep every year. The demand goes high during Bakra Eid Festival.
Zubair called his venture the Merino Sheep Farm. Today he has two breeds. One is the cross merino breed and two are pure merino breeds. Zubair says that he sells the sheep mostly in south Kashmir and some parts of central Kashmir. “My average annual turnover rises up to Rs 8 to 10 lakh, and I earn a good amount from my business,” said Zubair.
Zubair says that during the 2016 agitation, he saw many people suffering due to the prevailing law and order situation. “I thought that I must have such a business which would not be affected by any kind law and order situation. I found that I had very low chances of getting a government job. This inclined me towards sheep rearing,” says Zubair.
Interestingly, Zubair did not depend on the seminars and awareness programs organized by the Animal Husbandry Department for equipping himself with knowledge about sheep rearing. Zubair told KASHMIR CENTRAL, “I acquired knowledge of sheep rearing from the Internet. I also hired a private veterinary doctor who provides me information regarding the food, fodder and vaccination for the sheep,” Zubair said.
The young man believes that no job is good or bad. “It is our thinking that makes any job good or bad. Sheep rearing has many benefits. It is also part of our culture. Our youth must come forward and adopt sheep rearing. This sector has immense business opportunities,” said Zubair.
Director Sheep Husbandry Dr Abdul Salam Mir
Talking to KASHMIR CENTRAL, Director Sheep Husbandry Dr Abdul Salam Mir said, “Unemployment and passion for the culture of sheep rearing has made many educated youths adopt sheep rearing as a career. In the past, the youth were influenced by urbanization. They thought of sheep rearing as a low-profile activity. It was also considered that perhaps sheep rearing is an activity only for a particular tribe of people. But now our youth have realized the high potential of this sector. They are seeing it as a good livelihood opportunity and even the educated youth are adopting it,” said Dr Mir.
Schemes For Sheep Rearing
The Sheep Husbandry Department of Kashmir is providing support to the youth who are passionate to sheep rearing. Dr Mir informed that the department has many initiatives like Integrated Sheep Development Schemes, RKVY, Tribal Sub Plans and more.
Dr Mir informed that ISDS is an innovative government program designed to augment and complement the existing animal husbandry schemes in the union territory and the Centre. The Scheme provides beneficiaries with a total number of 10 eves free of cost. After three years of establishment of the farm, the Sheep Husbandry Department retrieves two female sheep every year.
“We also provide subsidy to the beneficiaries. If the unit cost of a beneficiary is Rs 2 lakh, then subsidy of Rs 1 lakh is given to the beneficiary. The remaining amount is paid back by the beneficiary. We also have shearing machines that we provide to the beneficiary on subsidy. Many youngsters are coming forward and are taking advantages of the schemes. Now with more players in this sector, there is competition among unit holders at district and block levels in Kashmir,” said Dr Mir.
Dr Mir said that Kashmir offers rich opportunities for the sheep rearing sector, because we have abundant pastures at diverse altitudes. He informed that many people also grow fodder in their fields two so that they do not have to face any fodder deficiency.
Demand for Mutton More Than Supply
Dr Mir informed that the demand for mutton in Jammu and Kashmir is much higher than the supply. As per the sheep husbandry data, only 33 percent of the mutton demand is met locally. The rest 67 percent is met through the mutton brought from other states to Kashmir. “If more and more of our youngsters adopt sheep rearing, it can provide immense opportunity for livelihood, and will also cater to the local demand. One must have a passion for sheep rearing, because it can lead to healthy profit. Kashmir alone has demand of 3 lakh quintals of mutton per year. Of this, only 1 lakh is produced in Kashmir. Approximately 2 lakh quintals of mutton is brought from other states. If our youth come forward to fill this gap, they shall earn well and also provide employment opportunities to others,” said Dr Mir.