Crossbreeding of pig- a means to food security

A. Haldar, A. Rol, M. Chettri and S. Gurung

The mountain region of Darjeeling district is characterized by weak marketing infra structure, high levels of emigration (particularly of males), pre­dominance of female-headed households, money order economics, poor linkage between the formal and informal sector, and low levels of social and political articulation. The existing rain fed agriculture has practically little chance of revival. The only irrigation source is (seasonal and perennial) Jhora (natural falls). This source is used for both drinking and irrigation purposes. The predominance of small and marginal farmers (82%) makes the livelihood options diverse, risk prone and complex.

The article attempts to give a reflection of a small intervention initiated by Kalimpong KVK (run by State Agriculture University B.C.K.V. and funded by I.C.A.R.) in one of its adopted villages.

The subsistence economy – recycling and reliance

The livelihood options are agriculture, livestock, vending different home production in near by market, and daily wage labour either within village or outside it. Here most of the goods and services are produced for their own- private and communal needs. As complete self sufficiency has never existed in any economy, people have always had some of their needs supplied by others, have always exchanged goods and services. The farmers rely on a complex and complementary mixture of enterprises to minimize risk and to meet up the basic necessity. The elements of enterprises are cereals, grains, livestock, poultry, vegetable crops, fruit, flowers, fodder, and fuel wood trees.

The village Tanek is located at an altitude of 3500 ft., 5 km. away from Kalimpong town. There are altogether 54 households in the village belonging to different categories. The village is covered dominantly by tribal families (60%), while 16% families belong to schedule caste and rest 24% belong to other castes.

Pig rearing for some reason or the other gets less attention when compared to cattle and poultry. The role of pig rearing in subsistence economy is enormous while the official programs in Darjeeling hills are mostly dominated by cattle and to some extent poultry. Some of the families are prejudiced in rearing pigs for ethnical or religious reasons. On an average, more than seventy percent of the farm families rear pigs either for sale or for consumption on festive occasions.

Pig rearing in the hills

The size of the pig portfolio in most of the families is small and commensurate with the capacity to arrange feed and other resources. The pig always contributes 30 days of food security when the prominent resources dry up. The issue is to increase income from the pig rearing. The limiting factor is that number of pigs cannot be increased, as it would mean diversion of other resources to arrange for feed. That may imbalance the allocation of resources slotted for different enterprises.

Farmers prefer to keep only one adult female pig, which is maintained for few years and bred time to time by natural service with the use of locally available boar of private farmers. The resultant piglets are reared for 2-3 months and subsequently weaned and sold. Another practice is to buy piglets at 2-3 months of age and rear it for 9-12 months. Farmer slaughters the pig after it attains the body weight of around 50-60 kg. and sells the meat, preferably within the village or nearby villages during October to December. The cycle continues as money earned from selling piglets comes handy in time of crisis.

A common feature of pig husbandry in hills is that pigs are reared in stall fed conditions and not allowed to scavenge, as the hilly terrain is not conducive for scavenging. Simple, low height, thatched roofed stalls or small enclosures are provided for housing the pigs. These constructions are mostly made of bamboos and or wood.

The pigs are fed on concentrate mixture consisting of maize cobs, brans, oil cake and salt. In most instances, shoots and tubers of plants such as maize, sweet potato, tapioca etc. are cut, cooked and fed to the pigs. Squash fruits and its leaves are fed, as it is abundantly available from every farm household. Local weeds, shrubs, grasses, and even banana leaves, banana pseudostem are fed to pigs. Another feed ingredient is the Dungru waste. Dungru is liquor brewed from the millet kodo and consumed in most households. The left over waste is available to be fed to the pigs. All kinds of vegetable wastes and kitchen wastes constitute the bulk ingredient. It seems therefore that every feed item is derived from locally available resources. Thus the optimum number of pigs that the farmer maintains is limited to feed availability. This is sometimes forgotten. Whenever farmers are given some improved breeds in large number, they take it, as it comes with subsidies. Soon these disappear, as they are eaten up, there are unwelcome guests affecting feed allocation, besides being susceptible to diseases. Thus doled out benefits not fitting into the environment, do not sustain.

 Existing practice

The pig stock normally used for community breeding are local, non-descript in character. The piglets born out of this existing breeding practice with traditional non-descript breed are of the lesser weight when compared to the piglets born out of cross breeding with Large White Yorkshire (LWY).

Having studies the positive factors such as better sustainability, disease resistance, low risk and high income potential, Kalimpong KVK identified cross breeding as an intervention to improve farmers income.

The intervention

The KVK animal scientist selected 12 farmers from different villages, namely Bambosty, Tashiding, Upper Tanek, Nassey, and Dalapchand, for offering training.

The training module was repeated and training was conducted twice with a 15 day interval. The focus was on getting farmers accustomed to the idea and make them familiar about proper management of pigs and piglets. Initially, there was a bit of hesitation among the farmers to try it out. The farmers didn’t want to be isolated from their traditional practices, as well as, not keen on trying something new. The apprehension was that the piglets could die because of any unforeseen disease, and offsprings born out of cross breeding would not grow as good as traditionally bred piglets.

Study tours were organised to a government farm where the trainees saw LWY pigs and the piglets born out of cross breeding. A few farmers accepted the idea and showed interest towards crossbreeding in pigs and rearing of crossbred piglets.  A case of one such farmer, Mr. Latshering Leptcha, who adopted cross breeding of pigs is presented in Box 1. The case illustrates how his life changes after adopting this practice.

Epilogue

It was a small and humble intervention intended to make a difference in the lives of Tanek’s farmers. believing in planning with farmers, accepting their reality as ours and believing that their knowledge was not less than ours.

  1. Haldar, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Red and Laterite Zone, Raghunathpur- 723133, Purulia, West Bengal, India. E-mail: avijit@rediffmail.com
  2. Rol, In-Charge, KVK, BCKV, Gayeshpur, Nadia, West Bengal
  3. Chettri, Reader in Agronomy, AICPIP, BCKV, Kalyani- 734235, W.B.
  4. Gurung, KVK, UBKV, Kalimpong- 734301, West Bengal

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