Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Draught Animal Power - Sunny Narang

When someone said a tractor can do everything a pair of oxen can do, Nammalvar if I'm not mistaken asked, does it give dung?!
Earlier we had grains that grew for 6 months and to several feet height. The saying goes like this,
"Adi Kaattukku
Nadu Maattukku
Nuni Veetukku"
When a crop is harvested, the roots (Adi) are left to be mulched back into the field; Kattukku: Kaadu(field) + ikku(to the).
The stalks (nadu) are given to the cattle; Nadu: middle part Maatukku: Maadu (cattle) + ikku(to the).
The grains are the top are taken to the house. Nuni (edge or top) Veedu (house) + ikku(to the).
This covered the entire cycle of farming!"


(via Sunny Narang)
All of us on the planet are desperately searching for sustainable energy options , and killing off breeds of animal power that for centuries has carried people , products and done farming in India . All they need is fodder . Not Oil. Fodder is renewable . They do not need extracted minerals and iron ore , they just need looking after .
We have the traditional species and the possibilities of designing better carts , ploughs for animal use , that lessen the effort on them.
But the urban mind-set is only about "technology" solutions copy-pasted from societies where less than 1% do agriculture .
In fact not using mechanised power should get carbon-credits .
With almost no increasing employment in manufacturing , what is needed are sustainable solutions using our traditional understanding and processes .
Draught animals had reduced in India from about 85 million in 1971-72 to about 65 million in 1996-97.
Small and marginal farmers comprise over 80 per cent of cultivators in India. They can't afford tractors. Average farm size, too, is becoming smaller due to fragmentation. Also, there exist large tracts of low tractor density. Besides, difficult terrain in several regions (say, hilly areas) prevents tractor use. So, exactly how viable is the small tractor for such farmers?
Despite motorization on all fronts the use of Draught Animal Power (DAP) is still often more economic than the use of machinery and vehicles, especially in small scale agriculture and in remote areas. Animals are produced and maintained locally and don’t require the infrastructure needed for motorization. Where the value of machinery needs to be depreciated over time, that of animals can appreciate because of growth.
Livestock used as draught animals on a small mixed farm. Photo: Ian GrantThe principal environmental advantage of DAP compared with mechanisation is that DAP relies on bio-energy for its creation, maintenance and functioning instead of on fossil energy.
There is a trend to promote motorization in agriculture through development programs and direct or indirect subsidies. Animal traction is therefore replaced by tractor mechanisation. However, the environmental cost of such a change is largely negative notably in respect of energy requirements. Tractor mechanisation requires fossil fuel for production, maintenance and running, while working animals are produced and run on organic energy sources.
The Indian Government has poorly invested in research on draught animals. The only time a concerted effort occurred was in the mid-1980s, propelled by sizeable funding -- from foreign and multilateral sources, alarmed at the African food crisis (the absence of draught animals in sub-Saharan Africa meant that ploughs were pulled by humans).
India has always had the best draught animals. The research funds came to institutions affiliated to the Indian Council for Agricultural Research. By the late 1980s, research papers were generated highlighting the most critical issues in the draught animals sector. This was also the time when the value of draft animals to India's economy was calculated and understood .
India has the world's best draught animals, particularly cattle . They were promoted in pre-Independence India by princely states and temple trusts, which provided funds to develop specialised breeds as well as stud bulls for breed improvement in villages.
Of India's 27 known cattle breeds, most were developed for draught in times the economy ran on animal power.
Milk production wasn't the focus of cattle breeding, then. With the Green Revolution, it was assumed tractors would make draught animals irrelevant. Government support for breed maintenance died out. Provisional figures for the 2003 Livestock Census show indigenous cattle have decreased by 13 per cent from 1992. Crossbred cattle have increased by 46 per cent. So much so, most indigenous cattle -- 80-90 per cent -- is now categorised as 'non-descript'.
With the White Revolution -- milch cattle were its backbone -- the breeding emphasis changed. Breeding programmes turned into crossbreeding with exotic cattle. Meant to improve 'non-descript' animals, it led to the genetic decimation of the best draught breeds.
Among the higher echelons of agricultural policy-making and research, draught animal power is considered a very lame duck. All the research and analysis of the 1980s should have led to a strategy for the draught animals sector. But it didn't. Part of the reason, says an official who was part of the research euphoria of the 1980s, was orientation. "It was driven by funding, not by felt needs. It was a golden opportunity to use money for a critically ignored sector. The research should have created a focus on fodder and genetic improvement .
The most serious challenge today is the loss of the genetic base of draught animals, point out animal breeders. It is very easy to develop milch breeds, for the output is easy to calculate in terms of quality as well as quantity. Developing draught breeds is several times more difficult: the criteria for measuring are not very clear. Breeding experiments with draught animals probably don't exist anywhere in the world. And if breeding draught animals were a serious business, more than 90 per cent of bullocks with proven draught ability would be found castrated, to make them easy to handle.
Government notwithstanding, the potential of draught animal power remains. Can it be realised? Yes, via a concerted effort to maintain breeds. And, soundly managing common pastures: this is possible if development funds of local self governments are tied to the state of its commons. Collective action only comes through collective pressure.

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