Dairy Farming Gets a Fillip in Shopian, Kashmir

Being an agrarian region, the agriculture sector contributes 16.18 per cent to Jammu & Kashmir’s GDP, of which 35 per cent is contributed by the dairy sector. Under the Integrated Dairy Development Scheme, 43 dairy farming units have been set up in Shopian with a subsidy of Rs one crore.

Mudassir KulooMudassir Kuloo   25 Jan 2023 12:44 PM GMT

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Dairy Farming Gets a Fillip in Shopian, Kashmir

Data provided by the Animal Husbandry Department reveals that Kashmir produces 4,000,000 litres of milk per day. Photos by Mudassir Kuloo 

Shopian, J&K

Asiya Bashir was in college when in July 2020 the Integrated Dairy Development Scheme (IDDC) started an initiative to help rural people in Shopian district of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) set up small dairy farms. Under this scheme, a male beneficiary can get a subsidy of Rs 1.75 lakh, while a woman or a Schedule Caste/Scheduled Tribe can get Rs 2 lakh to set up a dairy farming unit of five cows. One can even avail subsidy for multiple units.

The 21-year-old, who lives in Aglar Chirat village in South Kashmir’s Shopian district, learnt about the scheme and thought of starting a small dairy of her own. She discussed it with her father Bashir Ahmad Rather, who was then running a grocery shop in his village, which is 20 kilometres away from Shopian town.

The father-daughter visited the Chief Animal Husbandry Office in Shopian district and completed all formalities for setting up a dairy farm. In December 2020, they purchased five Holstein Friesan (HF) cows from Punjab for over four lakh rupees for which the government gave them a subsidy of two lakh rupees.

And, since then, Asiya along with her parents and sister have been running the dairy and earning a livelihood.

According to official figures of the Animal Husbandry Department, 43 dairy farming units have been set up in Shopian under IDDS in the last year with a subsidy of Rs one crore. In addition, subsidies have also been given in procuring different machines like mini-tractors.

Apart from supporting rural residents in buying cattle to set up their dairy farms, this scheme also supports the dairy producer by providing a milking machine, a cheese making machine, and mechanised help in the form of a khoya making machine, a dahi maker, cream separator, ice cream maker, butter and ghee making machine, a milk van and a milk ATM at 50 per cent subsidy.

For instance, Asiya’s family has bought a milking machine which cost around Rs 50,000 for which the government gave a 50 per cent subsidy under the scheme. They have also built a cow shed for rearing the animals near their home.

Although the production of milk has increased over the years in Shopian, Shakir said providing marketing avenues were neglected.

The dairy sector is thriving in Shopian, said Ishrat Ahmad, Chief Animal Husbandry Officer, Shopian. “The IDDS has been beneficial to farmers. The farmer is provided with a fifty per cent subsidy to set up the unit and also helped with procuring milking machines, transportation milk vans, etc.,” he said.

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Dairy sector in Kashmir region

Being an agrarian region, the agriculture sector, according to figures of Animal Husbandry Department, contributes 16.18 per cent to J&K’s GDP, of which 35 per cent is contributed by the dairy sector. A vast population living in rural areas relies on dairy and livestock for its livelihood.

In Shopian district, there are 62,000 cattle registered with the Animal Husbandry Department.

Data provided by the Animal Husbandry Department reveals that Kashmir produces 4,000,000 litres of milk per day. Therefore, improving the position of the dairy sector in Kashmir is directly proportional to improving the socio-economic condition of people.

Dairy doubles farmers’ income

Our income has more than doubled, said Asiya’s father Bashir Ahmed Rather. "I would make a profit of fifteen thousand rupees a month through the grocery shop and it was a struggle to meet family expenses. But, since we started the cow farm, our income has more than doubled,” the 52-year-old dairy farmer said.

Explaining the break-up of their earnings, Asiya said: “These cows give us 80-100 litres of milk a day which we sell locally for Rs 35 a litre. On an average we earn about three thousand rupees a day and in a month we make about ninety thousand rupees.”

Of that, Asiya explained, Rs 50,000 goes towards the cost of fodder and other expenses like medicines for the cattle, etc. This still leaves them with a profit of Rs 40,000 a month.

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Starting the dairy farm has given Rathers a good start and the family has saved up money to start more such units. "I now also have the money to marry off my two daughters, and educate my three sons," Bashir said.

Meanwhile, Asiya looks forward to setting up more such farms in the future and won’t look for government or any other job.

Young dairy farmers of Shopian

Arwaz Khurshid, a college student, who comes from a horticultural family from Malik Mohalla of Shopian town, has started four units of dairy farming with five cows in each. He bought 20 cows on December 6, 2021.

“For each unit, we got a subsidy of Rs 1.75 lakh. We produce up to four hundred litres of milk a day that we sell to dealers," the 21-year-old said. The family has also begun home delivery of milk for which they have hired a person and sell the milk at Rs 45 a litre.

“We earn fifteen thousand rupees a day. We spend about eight thousand rupees a day on the feed and on paying our five employees and make over two lakh profit a month,” Arwaz said.

His father Khurshid Ahmad Malik, who is a gas dealer, said their income has doubled since they started the dairy farming. “I have been running a gas agency for more than three decades. But I found, dairy farming gives us more profit and it is double what we make through the gas agency,” he said.

Arwaz has plans to buy 20 more HF cows and create their own brand in Shopian and make organic butter, cheese, ice cream, and ghee from the milk and sell them both within Kashmir and elsewhere.

“There are so many schemes available through which young people can earn. Dairy farming gives good returns,” said the 21-year-old. He said that young people should become job givers rather than job takers.

Also Read: Strawberries sweeten the labourer-landowner bond in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki

From pesticides seller to a dairy farm owner

Farooq Ahmad Thokur, from Hefkuri village in Shopian, was selling pesticides to farmers for over five years. In October 2021, he bought 25 cows and set up five dairy farming units. He availed a subsidy of Rs 1.75 lakh for each unit.

Since then, he along with his brother have been looking after their dairy farm. The brothers are earning up to Rs 60,000 a day.

“We produce 200 litres of milk daily and sell at Rs 30 a litre. We earn Rs 180,000 per month, of which we save forty thousand rupees, the rest going into the dairy,” the 32-year-old explained.

He said that the profits were not as much as they would have desired as they had to contend with purchasing fodder at higher rates from the market. And, the winters had reduced the amount of feed they could grow themselves. “But things are getting better now as we will be having our own feed from grass in our orchards. The cows have also calved which will hopefully raise our profit level,” said Thokur who has studied Horticulture from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-Kashmir).

Twenty-six-year-old Fazila Farooq and her husband, Mohammad Aamir, started dairy farming in October 2021 at Shermal village, Shopian on 0.25 acres of land.

“We had to import milk from neighbouring districts. So, we started four units with five cows in each. We got a subsidy of two lakh rupees for each unit," said Fazila.

Now, Fazila and Mohammed’s dairy farm produces 150 litres of milk that they sell at Rs 30-35 a litre.

Mohammed was running a grocery store prior to setting up the dairy. “I was earning up to twenty thousand rupees a month. Though we have not yet enjoyed much profits, we are hopeful the dairy will bring us more,” he said.

Dairy farming has huge potential, said Manzoor Ahmad Mir, a government veterinary doctor posted in Shopian district. “Dairy farming in the districts of Pulwama and Shopian has raised the income of farmers there. Other districts are also picking up. Number of dairy animals is increasing across Kashmir. Even well qualified youth, some of them PhD scholars are joining this sector,” he pointed out.

Also Read: Angora Rabbit Project Brings Windfall to Farmers in Sikkim

High cost of feed a challenge

All the dairy farmers had problems with the cost of feed. “There is less local feed available during winters in Kashmir. Government should provide feed to farmers at subsidised rates. Besides, we are selling per litre of milk at low costs as compared to other parts of the country," Asiya said.

Shakir Shafi Wani from Hushangpora village, Shopian set up three dairy farming units with five cows each in September 2021.

“I started after researching online about this sector and got to know it has a huge potential,” the 22-year-old college student said. While Shakir said that they were earning about Rs 1.5 lakh a month, they had not yet made any significant profits, but had just broken even.

“All the money we earn goes in expenses on fodder and two labourers. So far it has been no profit, no loss for us," Shakir said.

“We had not stocked fodder, and had to buy feed at very high rates during the winters. However, there is enough grass available now in our orchards which we can feed these animals, and hopefully we will make profits,” he said.

Shakir also hoped the government would provide feed to farmers at subsidised rates.

But, most importantly, he said, those who want to set up units should first think about the availability of fodder in their respective areas.

Marketing challenges

Thokur said that marketing the products was a challenge too. According to him it is easy to produce milk in Kashmir but very difficult to find a market. He added that there was a need for quality checks and fixed rates as middlemen make a good profit.

“If we sell one litre of milk to a middleman for thirty rupees, the final consumer, the customer buys it for forty five rupees,” he explained. He said if the government could directly purchase the milk from the dairy farmers at a good price and then export it to outside companies, it would work wonders for the local dairy industry.

Although the production of milk has increased over the years in Shopian, Shakir said providing marketing avenues were neglected. “We have to sell produce for meagre amounts. The government needs to provide us with a better platform of marketing. They can rope in companies which can purchase our milk at good prices and use it to make other dairy products,” he suggested.

“We also need industries in Kashmir where the milk can be converted into various products like ghee, butter, milk juice drink, ice cream or cheese,” Thokur added.

Talking about the challenges Arwaz said that with planning teething problems could be overcome: “The HF or Jersey which we have introduced in Kashmir several decades ago can be adopted in any climate in India. The farmers only have to keep enough feed available.”

According to Manzoor Ahmad Mir, the government veterinary doctor, HF and Jersey cows that are reared in these places are good breeds that can be reared anywhere in India. “They give good returns to farmers,” he said.

Meanwhile Ishrat Ahmad said there were plans to set up a cooperative society for these newly set up dairy farming units so they get a good price for their produce. “Those who set up dairy farming units in Shopian have an advantage as they also have orchards where there is abundant grass available during summers for these animals. The cow dung of these animals is also used as fertiliser in their orchards,” he added.

#Dairy Farm Dairy Farming #Kashmir Kisaan Connection 

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