Tamil Nadu is a hot spot of biodiversity regarding flora, fauna and livestock. Let it be plant genetic resources or animal genetic resources, Tamils often take the lead in conservation and breeding.
For Soundaram Ramaswamy of Kathasamypalayam, Nanjai Thaliyur near Moolanur, Tiruppur district, her four bulls are her sons. They are of the Kangayam variety – the pride and identity of Tamil culture — and they run to her if she whistles with her fingers.
A stranger may baulk at the sight of a frail looking woman surrounded by fully grown bulls. But around her they are like pups. “We have been raising the Kangayam breed of cattle for three generations,” says Soundaram Ramaswamy .
Kangayam cattle is a famous breed of western Tamil Nadu and forms an integral element of Korangadu Pasture – a unique silvi-pasture grazing system found in this region. Earlier, this sturdy breed was essential for lifting water, ploughing, hauling the harvest, and rural transportation in general. Several factors, including spread of irrigation, availability of electrical and diesel pumps as well as a rise in property prices, land ceiling act, abolishment of exemption given to Korangadu, and classification of Korangadu as wasteland by the revenue department instead of “grazing land” have resulted in a dramatic reduction of Kangayam bull numbers.
Nevertheless, Soundaram Ramaswamy has specialized in breeding Kangayam stud bulls. Their four bulls serve an average of six cows a day, for a fee of Rs 200 per service.
The bulls also serve Holstein Fresian and Jersey which face difficulties in conceiving via artificial insemination. She is primary caregiver, supplying them with water and recording the services. If a cow does not become pregnant she does not charge in the next cycle. “The bulls listen only to my wife. They become sad if she scolds them,” says Ramaswamy, her husband.
But he is no less when it comes to sharing an emotional bond with them. Ramaswamy points to an old bull and says teary-eyed: “At that age, others sell the bull to a butcher. But my wife insists he will die a natural death with us and we will bury him.”
Soundaram’s Kangayam bulls are pure-bred. She and her husband scout for the best male calves in the area and adopt them for breed improvement. They have won numerous awards after they were identified by an NGO, the M/S.Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation (SKCRF) based at Kuttappalayam, Kangayamtaluk, Tiruppur district.
SKCRF nominated Soundaram for the breed saviour award 2010 awarded by National Biodiversity Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forest. The award is facilitated by LIFE network.
Soundaram was also awarded a special prize by the “Kangayam Cattle Show” conducted by the SKCRF and sponsored by Tamil Maiyam during the “Naam Tiruppurkoodal” two years back. For details visit www.kangayambull.com