Cattle of Chhattisgarh are suffering from malnutrition and anemia

Alok Prakash Putul

Malnutrition in the cattle of Chhattisgarh has increased rapidly and farmers are worried about it. Dry paddy straw has long served as the primary feed for cattle in Chhattisgarh, a landlocked state. However, in recent years, a concerning trend has emerged: the cattle are increasingly suffering from malnutrition and deficiencies in vital nutrients, leading to weakness and illness.

Agricultural experts and veterinarians attribute this alarming development to changes in land use over time, which have resulted in the disappearance of green pastures across the state, depriving the cattle of essential grazing resources.

In Raipur, Laboratory tests on blood samples from cattle reveal that more than half of them are malnourished, with significantly lower-than-normal levels of haemoglobin. This has prompted farmers to recognize the critical role of fodder in the health of their livestock.

Expert underscores the pressing issue of nutrition, particularly for the indigenous cattle breeds. The absence of green fodder for almost eight months exacerbates the problem, compounded by the waning interest of the younger generation in agricultural practices.

The 20th Livestock Census of 2019 reports a significant cattle population in the state, with 99.84 lakh cows and 11.75 lakh buffaloes, yet their overall health remains a concern. A 2022 report from the State Planning Commission’s Task Force on Animal Husbandry highlights the widespread weakness and low productivity among cattle, with only a few breeds showing any promise.

Malnutrition affects most animals, large and small, with deficiencies in proteins, minerals, vitamins, trace elements, and hormones hampering their growth, productivity, and fertility.

Agricultural experts note the longstanding tradition in Chhattisgarh of providing paddy straw as cattle fodder, with vast green pastures once prevalent in villages. However, the gradual disappearance of these pastures has left farmers with no choice but to rely on paddy straw, despite its limited nutritional value. The straw, primarily serving as bulk filler, contains minimal protein (about 3-5%) and high levels of oxalate (8-13%), contributing to calcium deficiency and weakened health in animals.

A Raipur based veterinarian emphasizes the nutritional requirements of cattle, advocating for a balanced diet comprising green fodder, dry fodder, and animal feed. However, economic constraints force over 80% of farmers, predominantly smallholders, to resort to feeding paddy straw to their cattle.

To address this challenge, the state government has embarked on initiatives such as building ‘Gauthan’ at the village level, where green pastures are cultivated. Despite these efforts, challenges persist, exacerbated by the unfortunate practice of abandoning non-productive cows, which further strains the situation.

farmers asserts that marginal farmers in villages cannot feasibly cultivate green fodder specifically for cattle. In such circumstances, they have no choice but to resort to feeding them paddy straw. Nonetheless, feeding them urea-treated paddy straws is considered preferable.

According to agricultural scientists, treating the straw with urea involves spreading one quintal of straw in a six-inch thick layer, followed by sprinkling 4 kg of urea water dissolved in 50 liters of water onto it. This process is then repeated with another quintal of straw placed on top. This layering continues until 8 to 10 quintals of straw are stacked.

The stacked heap of straw is then covered with a polythene sheet to prevent gas from escaping. It is left aside for 20 days, after which the straw becomes suitable for cattle consumption. However, before feeding it to the cattle, it should be left in the open for 10 minutes to release any trapped gas.

Agriculture scientists explains that the oxalate present in the paddy straw becomes nearly inactive due to the ammonia gas produced during the urea treatment. Furthermore, the process also eliminates silica astringency from the straw.The protein content in the straw increases from 0% to 4%, and the energy content rises from 40% to 56%. Implementing this method would greatly benefit the farmers, although currently, it remains a distant aspiration.

scientists acknowledges that treating paddy straw with urea enhances its nutritional value while reducing the oxalate content. However, he notes that there is confusion among farmers regarding this method, and many are hesitant to adopt it.

A farmer from Dhamtari,acknowledges the potential benefits of treating paddy straw with urea to enhance its nutritional value and reduce oxalate content. However, widespread adoption among farmers remains elusive due to confusion and resistance, highlighting the need for comprehensive support and education to improve livestock nutrition and health outcomes in Chhattisgarh.

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