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State to be made disease-free zone for animals

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, OCT. 7. In 20 days beginning Friday, the Department of Animal Husbandry targets inoculating at least 80 per cent of the cows, buffalos and goats in the State against the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) under a new programme called Goreksha Mission.

Addressing a press conference here today, the Agriculture Minister, K. R. Gouri, said the purpose of the programme was to turn the State into a `disease-free zone' for livestock animals in five years. Mass vaccination to develop herd immunity to cloven-footed animals would be repeated every year for five years.

Over the past few years, the FMD, a highly infectious viral disease, had caused much damage to the farmers of the State, killing hundreds of cows, buffalos and goats. The programme would also address other less serious diseases from next year, Mrs. Gouri said.

The National Diary Development Board (NDDB) would release Rs. 34 crores for the programme between this year and 2008. The department would collect a nominal fee of Rs. 5 a cow or buffalo and Rs. 3 a goat for a vaccine dose. This is to raise funds to continue disease eradication programmes after the fifth year.

Pilot programme

The department carried out a pilot programme against FMD in Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Kollam districts in July this year, vaccinating nearly 4.5 lakh animals. Eighty-four per cent of the animals in these districts were vaccinated then. Around 30 lakh animals in the other districts would get the vaccine during the next 20 days.

Mrs. Gouri said the State had already enacted a law that banned bringing unvaccinated cows and buffalos across the border. The border check posts would enforce this law. Around six lakh animals cross the border each year to reach the meat market here. The department would insist on vaccination certificates on these animals from the Animal Husbandry Departments of the States from where the animals are brought.

The Goreksha Mission would also monitor the disease immunity of the animals through periodic serum testing. Setting up new facilities in the State for research on epizootic diseases (fast spreading diseases among animals) is a component of the programme, she said.

Bettering breed quality

Under another programme, the department would study the milk-yielding capacity of the cows in the State to devise a plan to improve the breed quality. Mrs. Gouri said the average daily milk yield of a cow in Kerala was around 10 litres, while that of a cow in Tamil Nadu was over 15 litres. Bull selection had always been a top priority for the breeding programmes here, but there had been no monitoring of the quality of the mother cow. This had led to a progressive decline in the quality of the breed as a whole, she said.

The department would identify cows with high milk yield so that they could be preferred for breeding, she said.

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