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Chapter 4 - Livestock and fodder management

Migration of flocks of sheep and goats
Traditional management practices adopted by Gaddi Shepherds
Grazing in higher reaches for Pashmina Wool
Traditional methods of animal treatment herbal treatment
Ethnopharmaceutical care of cattle
Sustained livestock/animal husbandry
Hay/dry grass storage in fields
Traditional wool combing and spinning

The technologies for increased productivity in respect of animal husbandry include characteristics of migratory grazing by shepherds, health care, veterinary prescriptions and optimisation of animal breeding for milk and draught power. Some of the important ITK systems prevailing in the mountainous regions are summarised here under:

Migration of flocks of sheep and goats

In Bharmour and Lahaul; at the onset of winter (October/November), flocks of sheep and goat migrate to Kangra valley and Pathankot thereby avoiding fodder scarcity. During early April, folks return to their respective villages so as to manure fields, during the early growing season. Thereafter, malundi or shepherds gather the village stock for summer grazing in trakar/pastures situated on dhars/high mountain peaks. As summer approaches the stock migrates to still higher altitudes. At the end of the growing season, (September/October), when winter returns, sheep and goats are brought back to the lower ranges from the high altitude areas, following traditional routes.

The age old practice of manuring fields during October in the lower ranges is still practised. The landlords not only extend their complete cooperation and hospitality to the shepherds, but even provide them with food and other items in addition to some cash payment for manuring their fields through night droppings.

This grazing practice sustains the grazing pressure. It also enhances the nutrient recycling in these areas to a great extent. Fertilization of fields during the to and for movement of livestock enhances crop productivity at low economic cost.

Additionally, sale of crude wool yields substantial economic returns.

Migration of sheep/goats from Kinnaur to Dehra Dun commences at the latest by October end with the downward march of goats and sheep from the Pabo (high pastures) where they had been housed in temporary structures during summer. (These temporary structures often destroyed due to severe climatic conditions such as heavy snow and have to be re-constructed each year). The first halt is in the Rango (also called Kanda, is the highest point where cultivable lands are found above the village), for a few days the flocks are housed in these semi-permanent structures. Subsequently, they travel to the village/Shennang (cultivable lands below the village) - again stay there for a few days and then proceed towards the plains. Homeward migration starts around March end/early April, the same route is followed, albeit in the reverse order. The halt at each "station" allows FYM needs to be met and tile shortage is made good by Kimze (cattle etc.) which are not allowed to migrate but stay in the village/Rango/Shennang. Kimze are retained to meet social, religious, and ritual obligations, besides providing FYM. The people of the area have a well organized system of marking their cattle, generally on the external in the shape of a simple "V" or "U" shaped cut or round or square cut or a combination of two or more of these markings for purpose of easy identification.

For shearing, (twice in a year), special scissors are used. Shepherds carry modem drugs with them, and are competent enough to administer drugs through injection to diseased animals. A herd of sheep and goats is always accompanied by one or two gaddi dogs. Cereals and pulses which were earlier imported into the district are now being cultivated in the Kandas.

The obvious advantage of this practice is that sheep and goats constitute pastoral wealth and as such yield economic/remuneration's. Further, pastoral life is an ecological adaptation in an area where land holdings being small, conventional agriculture is not viable.

Traditional management practices adopted by Gaddi Shepherds

The indigenous resource management found in Bharmour/Pangi involving very limited external inputs, developed by gaddi shepherds in difficult and isolated hilly terrain, is an example in itself. This resource use is still in vogue, in the areas ranging from alpine pastures down to the foothills, and has evolved over generations under to meet the fodder requirements. This agro-pastoral resource use/adaptation is an example of sustenance and sustainability.

Some techniques that have been perfected by the gaddis may be summarised as:

* Crossing high passes without any forecasting device and the timely return for agricultural operations

* The penning practice for securing grazing facilities and support (food etc.) from other cultivators, involves exchange rate negotiation. Similarly, those villagers who own relatively smaller number of sheep/goats hand over their animals to 'puhals' for grazing them nominal charges after due negotiations and duties are shared.

* Their dedication emanates from their religious and cultural orientation centered around Lord Shiva. Their strong engrained attachment to different deities and Lord Shiva helps them face all risks and challenges which are an integral part of the Gaddi lifestyle. Sacrifice of goats is still practised.

* Gaddi rituals and customs to a great extent have also been influenced by sheep/goats. They refer to their flocks as 'dhan' which is a synonym of wealth.

* Isolation for a considerable part of the year, has led them to develop their own system of medicine for curing common ailments.

* Isolation, prevalence of small terrace lands, single growing season, requirement of low technological and other input, high nutritional value and easy storage, dictates that cultivation of coarse cereals - millets (mostly by females) be undertaken. The elderly and a few youngsters occupy themselves with wool weaving especially during winter.

* Gaddies now construct houses at two places viz. one in high altitude areas (Bharmour area) and the other in the low altitude areas (i.e. Palampur, Nurpur, Baijnath, Kangra and other nearby areas). They migrate to the foot hills during winters with family and flock, and cultivate lands there and return to the upper areas during summer.

* In West Himalayan cold deserts it is a usual practice to protect small growing trees and tree trunks against foraging by animals, by wrapping gunny bags or small tin sheets around them. This is found useful because such protection prevents tree mortality since goats chew tree bark for tiding over fodder shortages, specially during the winter months.

* Gaddi sheep are best suited to the challenges and adventures posed by the system. They can walk continuously for miles together, traverse difficult terrain and can pass snow peaks without any significant damage. They are used as 'beasts of burden' in trade and are employed for carrying loads to difficult and inaccessible areas.

* Gaddi dogs (sheep dogs), are reputed for their bravery as watch dogs. They continuously move with the flock acting as an effective measure against theft and attack of predators, they also provide companionship.

* The strong bondage between the members of the Gaddi tribe is unique, since they have to depend on each other for survival

Their adaptation to the hardships and diversity of the migratorial grazing system brings into focus the inherent sustainability element. Emerging changes, no doubt, are exerting great pressure, but proper management mechanism will help in the sustainable functioning of the system which enjoys the advantages of inherent soundness and emotional attachments.

Grazing in higher reaches for Pashmina Wool

Pashmina goat rearing is specific to Ladakh and the north-west upper Himalayas. These animals are large usually and hardy with white fleece though grey and brown animals are not uncommon. They are generally used as pack animals (Fig. 4.1). The body of these goats is covered with silky hair about 10-12 cm long, beneath which is a fur like under-coat of great fineness (fibre diameter is about 14 microns) and warmth, called Pashmina, which is used to make famous Kashmir Shawls. The average yield of pashmina is around 200-400 g per animal per year.

In the temperate Himalayan Zone, flocks of pashmina goats (100-500) are taken up to the alpine pastures with sheep. Goats and sheep are generally grazed together and they move to alpine pastures in April and start their descent in September and are camped in valleys from November till their return to alpine pastures. Good pasture runs in deep gorges and severely cold nallahas in the higher reaches are specifically used for grazing pashmina goats. This comparative advantage embodies significant economic potential. The goats need cellulose which they obtain form grass, hay, silage, straw or leaves and cereal mixtures provide the mineral and vitamin supplement. The per unit requirement of protein and carbohydrates for metabolism in goats is higher than in cows. The goats commonly consume 6-10 per cent of the body weight in dry matter compared with 2.5-3.0 per cent for cattle and sheep. Most pastures in the higher reaches are of temperate alpine type. The selection of deep gorges and nallahs near glacial points by goats is specifically due to the availability of more nutritious material for grazing and browsing thereby ensuring pashmina production of good quality and quantity.

Although it supports a major cottage industry in the Kashmir valley, little is known about this goat. Information with regard to available genetic variability in this species is limited.

Fig. 4.1 Pashmina goat grazing in higher reaches

Traditional methods of animal treatment herbal treatment

Local methods for treating animal diseases have been in use since long. These measures are quite effective and are still in use. Few of these specific to Lahaul valley are:

1. Long grasses found in fields are boiled and are fed to animals with stomach ailments.

2. A bottle of sarson (mustard) oil is fed to animal for stomach ailments

3. Bark of beli tree is wrapped around the injured portion of animals for speedy recovery

4. Wool shedding in sheep is overcome by massaging them with a mixture of sulphur and sarson (mustard) oil

5. Khurda disease (insect attack on sheep feet) is cured by wrapping crushed leaves of karnu tree around the infected feet after washing them with luke warm water

6. A hot soup of zira (Cumin) and garlic is fed to animals affected by fever and cold

7. Garlands of fresh garlic are hung around the neck of cows with stomach problems for effective treatment

8. Application of human saliva to the suffering eye (s) is a most effective treatment for eye sores.

9. Burning grass (Jawanlari) along with black cloth and mixing the ash with oil is fed to cows afflicted by dysentery. This grass is dried and stored for winter months.

10. Sanctified soil of terminatorium is sprinkled over a cow afflicted by stomach pain. A cap of any person is then beaten against the body of the cow. A designated person usually sanctifies the soil before sprinkling. If such a person is not available in the village, an expert is invited from another village.

These indigenous methods of treating common ailments are claimed to be highly effective. These methods have the advantage of utilizing locally available materials which have medicinal properties. For example bark of belly tree or crushed leaves of karnu tree have a bitter taste, but have antiseptic properties and are fly repellents and thus help in speedy healing of the injured portion.

Sarson (mustard) oil is a source of energy and fat soluble vitamins, it removes constipation and is thus it is recommended in times of stomach ailments. A mixture of sulphur and sarson (mustard) oil helps in the prevention and control of skin diseases and provides nutrition to the wool fiber and thus overcomes problem of wool shedding in sheep. A hot soup made of zira and garlic is analgesic and antipyretic in nature, it improves digestion and thus protects body from common cold. Garlands of fresh garlic, due to their peculiar odour, stimulate the eructation reflex and thus treat stomach ailments.

Specific to Ladakh, a locally available shrub called capsion (stem of 20-25 cm dia) is fed to sheep along with its bark. It is claimed to enhance wool production. The capsion wood may be a rich source of sulphur containing amino acids and is thus good for improving the yield and quality of wool

In Kinnaur about 200 ml sarson or wild apricot oil is fed to cattle when they have a swollen abdomen condition. The germicidal properties of the oil help solve the problem.

Locally developed treatments of animals which are claimed to be highly effective, however, lack scientific investigations and thus require further experimentation and critical appraisal/analysis for the broad base application of this indigenous knowledge. This lack of scientific temper is a serious limitation.

Ethnopharmaceutical care of cattle

For the indisposition of cattle, a small cut in outer the portion of ear lobe (of the animal) is made for exudation of blood.

Such treatment is useful/advantageous because in high hills cold and fatigue are the main factors causing minor ailments. The availability of oil from fruits along with boiled water becomes a source of instant energy, minerals, vitamins and antiseptic media for curing the general diseases.

* The exudation of blood for is similar to an indigenous medicinal practice for curing certain human diseases more commonly known as the "Humoral Theory of Disease". The exudation of blood from the infected portion by making an incision helps in the removal of infection, since along with the poison etc. pathogens are also washed away.

To keep yak and dzos healthy, some management practices are followed by the local people viz. these animals are not allowed to drink water after heavy works. This is done by tieing their mouths during their return from fields. Similarly, during summer grazing when these animals return to doksas for recouping salt requirement, the animals are tied for 24 hours for checking their water urge. These practices are useful because the farmers claim that the intake of water after heavy exercise in the fields, leads to formation of tumors in the neck region. This may be due to some physiological disturbances and the sudden contraction and expansion of muscular tissue resulting from sudden changes in the body temperature caused by the intake of cold water. Further, the intake of cold water after heavy exercise also results in abdominal colic, which may sometimes be fatal It may also cause exposure.

* In summer months fodder consumption by yaks and dzos increases their urge for salt which ultimately leads to their desire to consume more water from frequently available glacial streams resulting in inflation of stomach and eventual death in many cases. Heavy water consumption immediately after salt intake leads to the loss of sodium and chloride ions because these two are not stored in the body. Locating salt licks in pastures should be encouraged.

As is evident, the fear of losing the animals has led to the development of these simple practices which require scientific explanation.

* Dysentery is a common ailment of animals. For treating dysentery, especially in Ladakh, a red hot iron is brought near the nose of the animals. It is claimed to be a most effective treatment against dysentery because it probably stimulates the defence mechanism i.e. involuntary contraction of gastrointestinal musculature which in turn may relieve constipation which is the major cause of dysentery. This probable explanation, however, needs to be ratified by veterinary research.

* Indigenous treatment for paralysis in Ladakh involves the use of a locally available white stone, called chaggar, which is first heated and then directly brought into contact with the head of the affected animal. Its advantage lies in its ability to induce nervous stimulation. Any nervous malfunction or any clotting in brain is sensitized by the hot stone, resulting in recovery from paralysis. The scientific explanation for this treatment however, is yet to be established.

Castration of male sheep may lead to a decrease in testosterone hormone (androgen production) which in turn leads to higher estrogen content which facilitates increased wool production.

In Lahaul and Kinnaur, cow urine is used as medicine. Its antiseptic properties shelp in curing small cuts and wounds. The exuvae (skin) of snakes is crushed with common salt and fed to the affected animals. While salt has medicinal value no information is available about the curative properties of the exuvae.

In Bilaspur and Mandi dried her leaves or kuljara (a type of vine) are fed to cattle to increase milk production.

Human saliva is antiseptic in nature and has epidermal growth factor which initiates healing process and thus is most effective for eye sores.

With a view to minimize mortality rates in Ladakh, Lahaul & Spiti, offspring birth is managed in such a way so that the birth takes place during April and May to ensure a higher survival rate. This is controlled either through isolation of sexes or through the covering of male genitalia during winters.

Severe winters and heavy snowfall cause heavy mortality. The relatively warm climate of April and May and optimum fodder in the pastures and the farms bring about minimum mortality.

'Changspass' use goat and yak hair to weave warm blankets in Ladakh and some other regions. Goat and yak hair are very warm and the blankets woven from them, help the shepherds in meeting the harsh climatic conditions.

* Deodar oil mixed with common salt is used to massage the diseased portion of the skin of goats in Kinnaur since both have medicinal value.

* Fresh leaves of Bauhinia species (Kachnar) are fed to buffaloes, because of their cooling effect.

Traditional animal treatment specific to mid hill region of Himachal Pradesh are explained below:

* It is a very common reproductive disorder in cattle and buffaloes in which uterus and vagina come out at the time of pastuarition. This problem can be cured by administering 250 g each of Micromeria biflora, Helimis lanceolatus and Trichoderma indica since a mixture of these herbs have antiseptic properties and cooling effect.

Bamboo leaves and bark are boiled with paddy husk and fed to cows for the expulsion of placenta (after birth).

* Feeding of Leucas lanata (Safeda) and bamboo leaves treats diarrhoea. Also feeding of 200 g of Cissampelos pareira (Batauva) in maize husk treats diarrhoea and dysentery

Involuntary contraction of gastrointestinal tract musculature, induced by these antidiarrhoeal herbs may relieve constipation which is a major cause of dysentery.

Sometimes due to intake of leguminous fodders with high moisture content, lot of gases are produced in the rumen and abdomen. This condition is known as Tympany/Rumen Bloat. Feeding of Murraya koenigii (Gandhala) and feeding of black pepper + kali jiri + gur + onion helps in the release of gases accumulated in the rumen.

* Methi (fenugreek) seeds are mixed with wheat flour and fed to buffaloes in view of the many medicinal uses of fenugreek. Such feeding helps in preventing buffalo from coming to heat.

Sustained livestock/animal husbandry

People inhabiting high altitude cold desert areas in the Ladakh region, through their traditional experiences have identified dzo/dzomo, yak/demo, and donkeys as a source of energy. The males viz. dzomo, yak and donkeys are the desert stalwarts helping the inhabitants in carrying out labour intensive work (ploughing, transportation, etc.), whereas female population - cow (local breed), dzo and demo are the chief milk producing animals. Since most of the livestock is less productive, steps are being taken to improve livestock through selection and cross breeding to enhance quality and quantity of their produce. The people inhabiting the Changthang area and its vicinity (4000-5500 m amsl), are proud owners of both nondescript and pashmina goats. The Changthang plateau, with high altitude grazing lands receiving scanty precipitation (<10 cm/yr.) is fed mostly by glacial melts and it sustains the heavy grazing pressure of the pashmina goats.

The Changpass - Changra goat owners, still practice nomadic grazing right from the Indus river belt to the highland pastures of Changthang region. The landless and the marginal farmers mostly rear the non-Changra and Angora cross goats on their marginal lands and village grazing areas. These are mostly reared in the village vicinity throughout the year. Livestock constitutes an important component of rural life as it forms the life line of the people, providing them with milk, meat and energy. Age old wisdom is managing this wealth.

The Kinnauras have developed a self-sustained system based on the resources available in the area which is still practised.

Sheep, goats, local cows, mules, donkeys and crosses of cow and yak (churu) are kept by the farmers in the district -primarily as a source of manure. Churu are preferred as they are well adapted to the area and their milk yield is also higher. Cow and goat milk is used in this region. Sheep and goats are a good source of meat and wool besides providing manure for the fields.

* Yak (Fig. 4.2) is an important animal of the cold desert region (e.g. Ladakh), for it provides milk, meat, hide and wool. Besides being a beast of burden it is also a draught animal. Yak skin is used as a loose robe by local people at high altitudes. Its long hair is made into fly whisks, ropes and is wooven into a rough cloth meant to cover tents. Bones, horns and hooves of the animal are used for manurial purpose.

Fig. 4.2 Yak: A multipurpose animal

In the west Himalayan cold deserts, as mentioned earlier, where the yak cannot travel, sheep and goats are employed for the transportation of food and other items of daily need.

The cross of yak and cow (churu) is not totally domesticated. In Spiti and upper Kinnaur, to make their use in ploughing, the noses are pierced and rings are put through them, a person walks ahead holding their nose rings to guide them in the desired direction.

The limitations of such animal husbandry practices are rooted in the adverse effects on grazing lands, from increasing livestock population and the introduction of high yielding breeds which require higher fodder intake and greater care.

Hay/dry grass storage in fields

A practice specific to Lahaul valley and also operational in other regions involves cutting, drying and subsequent storing of grass from the natural grasslands (ghasni) at considerable moisture level in the form of ghors. The grass is cut after the dew has evaporated and the swaths are left in the form of bundles (poola) to dry in the field itself by different methods so that its green colour and leaf characters are conserved. To achieve these characters it is dried under shade, along walls, fences, on trees or on roofs. This dry grass which is leafy is known as 'hay' and is used for feeding animals during lean periods i.e. winter and summer months. After drying the grass, it is stored either in a circular or elongated form as per the quantity of hay. The base is first constructed with stones arranged in a circle. The first layer consists of poor quality grass or thorny bushes. The bundles of grasses are then so arranged and placed that their weight completely falls on one another while maintaining the circular or elongated shape. In the case of circular shape, the width is more at the base which starts decreasing from the middle of the structure called 'talent' and ultimately it takes the shape of a circular pyramid. Earlier a cloth made from yak's hair called 'Thobi' was used to cover it, but now a layer of green thorny bushes or poor quality long grass is used as a cover along with wheat or raj mash straw. Stone or heavy wood logs are used for pressing and holding tile ghor in place.

This practice affords the advantage of maintaining the quality of grass by protecting it from snow and rain. Pressure of stones and wooden logs on the upper layers provides protection against strong winds. During winter months, the required quantity of grass is removed from the ghor periodically which remains completely dry and warm and is therefore relished by the livestock.

In most cases the grass is harvested when it is completely dry and devoid of leaves and is consequently poor both in quality and quantity.

In temperate zone, bundles of dry grass from the ghasni is carried by both men and women on their backs (Fig. 4.3) to the farm house in vicinity and is stored there in the form of a "Toli, which is a pyramid shaped structure (Figs. 4.4 and 4.5). Some times bundles (Poola) of long grass are hanged on different branches of trees for drying (Fig. 4.6a &b). In the region paddy and wheat straw is used for feeding the cattles in scarce winter season and straw is stored either in semicircular or conical heaps (Fig. 4.7).

Fig. 4.3 Farm women carrying hay/dry grass

Fig. 4.4 Preparing pyramid structure (Toli) for storage of dry grass/hay

Fig. 4.5 Toli: Storage hay/dry grass in a pyramid shape

Fig 4.6a Storing hay/dry grass on the tree for use in lean period

Fig. 4.6b Storage of lengthy grass on the tree for use as fodder

Fig. 4.7 Heaps of paddy and wheat straw for use as fodder

Traditional wool combing and spinning

Fig. 4.8 Wool combing device (Kangroo)

In temperate Himalayas, farmers use large sized shearer/scissor for shearing wool from goats and sheep. The sheared wool is combed and made smooth either with a special comber called Kangoo (Figs. 4.8 and 4.9) or with a special arrow like device called "Phanani" (Fig. 4.10). The combed wool is stored in a small bamboo basket (Kamoli; Fig. 4.11) in the form of a small pack (Fa, Fig. 4.12). These small woollen packs (Fa) are used for spinning a thread with a special spindle device known as Taklu (Fig. 4.13 and 4.14). These woollen threads are used for making woollen fabrics like blankets (Pattu double and single), long woollen cloth Lahanga/Pattee), dark black woollen cord (dora) and shawls which are generally woven by Gaddies on indigenous handlooms (Fig. 4.15).

* The Gaddies wear a typical dress which suits the physical and climatic requirements of the lifestyle and their terrain. The shepherds, during migration, keep new born lambs and kids under their chola to protect them against the severe climate. The approximate weight of the chola is 5-6 kgs.

Dora is the most important part of the dress of Gaddies and is used irrespective of the age or sex. It is tied round the waist over the chola which aids them in supporting the lower back while carrying heavy loads on the back It is also used as a pillow, especially while travelling.

Fig. 4 9 Combing the sheep wool with a device "Kangroo"

Fig. 4.10 Combing sheep wool with "Phanani"

Fig. 4.11 A bamboo basket (Kamoli) for storing wool

Fig. 4.13 A spindle - 'Takli'

Fig. 4.12 A woman spinning the wool for making woollen thread from combed wool pack (Fa)

Fig 4.14 Combing and spinning sheep wool

Fig. 4.15 A group of tribal men and women in their traditional wool dresses

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