KERALA, INDIA: With the worsening heat, fodder shortages and threat of drought in India, researchers have found a way to mitigate consequential problems for hard-hit dairy farmers. Climate change has made business and lives so bad for farmers that due to lack of water and fodder, they are early competing to sell off their livestock at throwaway prices, said Ananthakrishnan Kannappan, a livestock agent in Anantapur.
To aid the dairy farmers, researchers from Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University are promoting Vechur and Kasargod cattle—two local varieties that are hardy, disease-resistant, and superiorly better at enduring high temperatures than the more popular crossbred cattle— and especially of the dwarf variety.
Dwarf cows have multiple advantages over conventional crossbred varieties as they require less fodder and water, are less susceptible to disease and mastitis (an udder infection) and are able to tolerate higher temperatures.
Despite these pros, dwarf cows have their cons. They cost almost as much as a larger crossbred, and produce significantly less milk such that farmers rearing them need at least four to put milk production on par with just a single crossbred.
Yet, some farmers remain optimistic. “Though dwarf milk is costlier, many people—especially the rich— are eager to purchase it because it is thought to be more nutritious than crossbred milk,” said Basha Balakrishan, a farmer living in Calicut.
With climate change, lifestyles need to be adapted, said K. Ramankutty, a dairy farmer in Palakkad. “The dwarf cow is a great weapon against climate change.”