The lumpy skin disease outbreak in cattle — in Gujarat, among other states — has had a marginal impact on milk production in Anand district, the milk capital of India, with a dip of just 0.25 per cent in daily collection, according to R.S. Sodhi, managing director of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd or Amul.
“The disease lasts for just a few days, and during the course of the disease the animal gets weak, because the cow would be eating less. Naturally, the production of the milk during those 10 to 12 days may reduce,” Sodhi told ThePrint in an interview.
He added: “Out of our daily milk collection of about 2 crore litres per day, we were collecting around 50,000 litres less. That is just 0.25 per cent of the total collection.”
Anand is famous for the milk revolution brought about by Dr Verghese Kurien — regarded as the ‘Milkman of India’ — which made dairy farming India’s largest self-sustaining industry.
Under this model, instead of running huge dairy farms with large cattle populations, milk is procured from every small farmer willing to sell milk to the federation.
The lumpy skin disease — an outbreak of which is reported to have killed thousands of cattle head across Gujarat and other states like Rajasthan and Punjab over the past month or so — affects the milk-producing capacity of infected cows.
It was feared that milk production in Anand would be hit as well, but Sodhi played down the concerns.
Even the “marginal loss”, he said, “is now being offset by a good monsoon”. “Because of the good monsoon, our procurement is increasing day by day,” he added.
Cattle produce the least amount of milk in the summer because the heat causes stress, impacting milk production. However, as monsoon and winter set in, milk production increases because of the weather is more comfortable for the cattle, Sodhi explained.
Caused by a capripox virus, the lumpy cow disease affects both cows and buffaloes. In Gujarat, the outbreak has been reported more among cows, according to district officials.
There is currently no cure for the disease, and treatment mostly targets clinical symptoms. The vaccine being currently administered is the same as that for the goatpox virus, although two institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research have now reportedly developed an indigenous vaccine for the disease, which the Union government is planning to commercialise.
‘Amul’s vets working on vaccinating cattle’
Talking about the extensive vaccination programme being undertaken in Gujarat, Sodhi said, “Fortunately, there is a very affordable vaccine available”.
The goatpox vaccine being used against lumpy skin disease costs Rs 6.5 and district administrations are providing it free of cost, with the help of doctors from cooperatives.
In Anand, the Gujarat government and Amul are working together to vaccinate cattle.
“Amul has more than 1,100 veterinarians who are working on this (the vaccination drive) to control the spread. Around 27 to 28 lakh animals have already been vaccinated in Anand,” Sodhi added.
Talking about the impact of the disease in Gujarat being more on cows than buffaloes, Sodhi said 58 per cent of the milk in Gujarat comes from buffaloes and 42 per cent from cows.
This is one reason why the milk collection in Anand has been only marginally hit, he said.
The other reason, according to him, is that strays and abandoned cattle are being affected by the disease more than domesticated animals.
“Animals that are in cow shelters are not as well taken care of as the animals kept by farmers. Immunity is low, so they get affected more,” Sodhi said, adding that in cow shelters the animals are also crowded in a small space, which helps the spread of the disease.
(Source : The Print 13th Aug 2022 Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)