To beat drought, Indian farmers turn to heat-tolerant ‘dwarf cow’

To beat drought, Indian farmers turn to heat-tolerant ‘dwarf cow’
Drought-ready bovine. (Image: naturalfarmerskerala.com)

Worsening heat, fodder shortages and the threat of drought are forcing many hard-hit dairy farmers in the Anantapur area of India’s southern Kerala state to reduce their herds, experts say. …

But the solution to the problem is simple and small, livestock experts argue: heat-tolerant dwarf cows.

A team of researchers from Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University and the state government’s Animal Husbandry Department are now promoting a switch to Vechur and Kasargod cattle, two local varieties known for being easy to raise, resistant to diseases and – most important – better at tolerating high temperatures than the more popular crossbred cattle. …

Dwarf cows…appear to carry a “thermometer gene” that allows them to better tolerate high temperatures, researchers said.

Dwarf cows were already gaining popularity among some farmers because they consume less food and water than conventional cattle varieties, the experts said. Small-scale farmers need only one or two dwarf cows to meet the milk needs of their households, they said.

The breeds are also less susceptible to mastitis, a common udder infection. …

One issue is cost. A dwarf cow costs almost the same as a larger crossbred – about 20,000 rupees ($300). But a crossbreed cow, when it is healthy, produces much more milk than its dwarf counterpart, making crossbreeds a popular choice among farmers.

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