For crossbreeding programme: Govt to import 430 Australian Merino sheep
Srinagar, Mar 6: Scientists have launched an ambitious programme to create a crossbreed of Australian Merino and Kashmiri sheep to boost the pastoral economy in Jammu and Kashmir. This follows the government’s decision to lift the 25-year-old ban on the import of exotic sheep varieties from different countries. Department of Animal and Sheep Husbandry has decided to import Multipurpose Merino from Australia for crossbreeding. Known for their high yields of meat and wool, over 430 sheep, both males, and ewes would be imported from Australia at an estimated cost of Rs 12 crore. Figures reveal that mutton consumption in Kashmir is double than the national average. Data reveal that the mutton consumption per person per year in Kashmir is 4.4 kilograms against the national average of 2.8 kilograms per person per year. Dr. Imran Khwaja, a technical officer at Sheep Husbandry Department said no exotic variety of sheep was imported from foreign countries for the last 25 years. “The indigenous capacity was severely affected because of the inbreeding caused by the ban on the import of exotic varieties,” he said. Dr. Imran said since the ban has been lifted, the department will now start the crossbreeding of exotic varieties with local sheep species. “Such a move would help us propagate the highly productive breed of sheep among farmers, which would turnaround pastoral economy,” he said. The Merino sheep would be first quarantined in Australia and kept under observation for a month. Then it will be transported to Delhi where they will be quarantined again in March. “Later they will be brought to Kashmir and kept in Government Sheep Breeding Farm at Daksum in South Kashmir,” said Dr. Khwaja. The officer said since the sheep are from a different region, it will take time for the animal to adapt to the new environmental and climatic conditions. “This is why we are rearing them in the controlled conditions,” he said.