Spreading ecofriendly disease management in sheep – MYRADA KVK’s efforts

P Alagesan, M Alamelu and S Suresh

 In parts of Erode District, Tamil Nadu, sheep rearing is an important source of livelihood. The periodic failure of monsoons has turned it into a primary occupation for many households, while for others, it remains on par with agriculture and is an equally important source of income.

Among the various breeds, Mecheri is more popular in the district. Mutton from the district has a good market, and sheep from the southern regions of the district are regularly transported across the nation.

The sheep in this region are maintained in small flocks and open grazing is the normal feeding practice. Open grazing has its advantages but also l limitations such as parasitic infestation. Periodic deworming is a known and accepted practice. Easy-to-administer chemical dewormers like albendazole, panacur and nilworm are what are most commonly used.  Indigenous botanical dewormers like NSKE, neem oil and bitter vegetable extracts are also perceived as being effective; they are locally accessible and ecologically more acceptable but not very widely used.

The Myrada Krishi Vigyan Kendra (MKVK) started functioning from 1992 under approval from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).  Over time and with greater staff stabilization, the MKVK made a conscious choice in favour of promoting ecologically more acceptable technologies and practices to support livelihoods of farmers working under complex, diverse, and risk-prone conditions.

 On farm trials

In 2002, the MKVK was exposed to the benefits of administering aloevera to control endoparasites in sheep and undertook an on-farm trial to evaluate the comparative performance of aloevera with other dewormers in this regard. The study was done in association with the Tamil Nadu Veterinary University Training and Research Centre (TNVUTRC), Erode and Tamil Nadu University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (TANUVAS), Namakkal.  The comparison was between the following four sets of ingestibles:

  1. Albendazole administered at the rate of 7.5 mg. per kilogram of body weight.
  2. Neem oil administered at 50 ml. per animal.
  3. Extract of neem seed (20 gms.), bittergourd (20 gms.), garlic (50 gms.), edible banana stem (50 gms.) combined with jaggery and orally administered.
  4. Aloevera (50 gms. To 75 gms. of edible mucilage) combined with jaggery (10 gms.) and orally administered.

40 sheep belonging to a single flock and similarly managed in all other aspects were randomly divided into sub-groups of 10, with each group being administered one of the above dewormers.  Body weight measurement and blood sample tests were done before and one month after administering the dewormers. Faecal samples from each group were collected and analysed before and on the 7th, 14th and 28th days after administering the dewormers. The results were evidently favourable to aloevera, as shown in the following table.

  Indicators  Albendazole  Neem oil  Veg. extracts  Aloevera 
 Before  After  %  Before  After  %  Before  After  %  Before  After  % 
Body weight 22.6 kg. 23.8 kg. (+) 5.3% 29.6kg. 30.3 kg. (+) 2.4% 29.7 kg. 30.9 kg. (+) 4.0% 14.5 kg. 16.3 kg.  (+) 12.4% 
Haemo-globin % 10.3 gms. 10.6 gms. (+) 2.9% 10.5 gms. 10.6 gms. (+) 0.9% 11.2 gms. 11.5 gms. (+) 2.7% 11.6 gms. 12.03 gms.  (+) 3.7%
Egg count / gm. of faeces 370 10 (-) 97% 1830 160 (-) 91% 1510 100 (-) 93% 1040 0  (-) 100%

As a consequence of these findings, the MKVK started to speak more often and to more numbers of people on the benefits of aloevera use.  It was also engaged in the training of veterinary promoters, and this was one of the subjects of training. Over the next two years, a spread in the use of aloevera among the sheep rearers of the area was observed.

Training and Orientation

MKVK followed up the trial with a number of training programmes, publications in their quarterly Tamil newsletter, and integrating the veterinary promoters in the dissemination process. In the Talavadi area, a number of SHGs that had opted for sheep purchase under the Government’s SGSY loan-cum-subsidy programme were specifically oriented on this practice and approximately 1,400 sheep were administered one dose on a demonstration basis.

Scaling up – aloevera as a dewormer

It is true that even though the MKVK-facilitated trials were conducted in one village (Elur) in one Block of Erode District (T.N. Palayam) in December 2002, the spread of the practice could be confirmed in at least two other Blocks (Talavadi and Anthiyur).  However, it is likely that this spread would not have been an automatic outcome from one demonstration.

To confirm the spread of the activity, a survey was conducted with 40 sheep rearers selected from blocks where MKVK was actively working on several programmes, though aloevera administration had been demonstrated only in one village of T.N.Palayam Block.

The findings revealed the following aspects.

In general, majority have started the practice with aloevera only after the intervention and have understood administering it properly. Spread took place through MKVK directly, the MKVK-trained animal husbandry promoters, the sheep rearers, through discussions in their self help groups, and the MKVK Newsletter.  Interestingly, MKVK-trained veterinary promoters did not initially recommend aloevera because it was felt to affect their own incomes.  Later, there seemed to be an acceptance that it was necessary to share this information both because it was a workable local remedy and because they had to be seen as people who were knowledgeable, and not ignorant, about it.  Thus, over 81% of the 27 aloevera users said that the MKVK-trained veterinary promoters were one of the sources through which they came to know of this practice.

Ironically, none had heard it from the Animal Husbandry Department and none had come to know of it through mainline mass media.

Sheep rearers preferred using it for the following reasons – local availability, ease of use, cheap and effective option and some found it to trigger several positive developments on the health in general.

Those who were not using aloevera felt gathering and preparing concoction difficult and also that the Government Veterinary Dispensaries were not recommending it.


Through this study the MKVK also became aware of the necessity to co-opt local level units of State-run agencies – in this case, the local veterinary hospitals and dispensaries – in order to succeed in a wider outreach.

Interestingly, the practicing farmers not only recommended to the MKVK to take up more aggressive campaigning to popularize the practice, one of them also suggested the need for research to see if aloevera could be made available in the drug market as a ready-to-use formulation.


Recently Published Articles

Women-led farm initiatives

Women-led farm initiatives

By using organic farming methods, developing connections with markets, generating income, and enhancing their own...


Call for articles

Share your valuable experience too

Share This