Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir government has launched Rs 329.50 crore scheme to boost sheep farming and cut down mutton imports.
Jammu and Kashmir, which is the largest mutton-consuming union territory, ranks sixth in sheep farming at the national level. It holds 4.2 percent of the sheep population, producing 320 lakh kgs of mutton per annum. Still, the union territory is unable to meet the mutton demand.
Official figures revealed that around 40 percent of the mutton demand is met through imports. Mutton worth Rs 1400 crore is imported annually from neighboring states.
At a budget of Rs 329.50 crore, the Jammu and Kashmir administration is upgrading sheep farming to make the union territory self-sufficient in mutton production.
Under this programme, the administration is primarily focusing on vertical upgrade through the import of exotic breeds.
“The UT has a smaller number of sheep breeds and predominant breeds produce wool with less priority on mutton production. There is a gap of 225 lakh kilograms per year between the demand and supply of mutton in Jammu and Kashmir. Through the vertical upgrade, an improved carcass yield will be achieved, which will increase mutton production by 18-32 percent,” an official document accessed by The Kashmir Monitor, said.
Dr. Rizwan Qureshi, Technical Officer Sheep Husbandry Department told The Kashmir Monitor that Dorper, Texel, Finn, Romanov, Boir goat and Swiss alpine goat, and other breeds are being introduced to boost mutton production.
“Till now, our focus had been the wool and we have already achieved that goal. Jammu and Kashmir is ranking first and second in the quality and production of wool, respectively in India. Now our focus is mutton, these elite breeds attain marketable weight in just six months and produce quality mutton in quantity,” he said.
The administration has set the target to establish at least 2000 commercial sheep farms in the union territory in the next five years.
“A new concept of horizontal expansion is introduced with the setting up of commercial farms. New 400 commercial farms will be established every year. 2700 elite sheep and goats shall be imported for the upgradation of local livestock. With these elite breeds, marketable weight shall be achieved in half the time (40-50 Kg) /6 months,” the document said.
After setting up the commercial farms, the document said that the extension of breeding cover to all animals will follow.
“Currently, there is no system in place to identify and utilize elite males and females in breed development programs. So, 1,00,000 Artificial inseminations will be done every year to intensify upgradation activities. Seventy-two new breed-based farms will be established to select elite germplasm,” it said.
Dr. Qureshi said that these elite sheep breeds have a good lambing percentage to boost their population in the targeted time.
“The traditional breeds have a lambing percentage of just 80 percent (80 lambs per 100 sheep ewe). But these elite breeds have a lambing percentage of 100-150. So breed-based farms will be set up so that these elite breeds grow in number to meet our mutton demand,” he said.
With a focus on nutrition, the sheep husbandry department will essentially focus to reduce mortality.
“There will be an effective health cover for animals to prevent production losses by 20-30 percent. It will follow marketing and value addition with clusterization, mandis, and sophisticated abattoirs,” the document said.