Monday, August 26, 2013

Current Availability : Sheep Herds (Ramnad & Mercheri)

We currently have part of our Sheep herd for sale. During their stay at Savera Farms, the animals have always been stall fed, vaccinated and treated for preventative ailments as prescribed (PPR, ETV and regular de-worming). We plan to sell them to meat harvesters / brokers or (hopefully) to future breeders.

Details : 
Breed : Ramnad-white, Mecheri etc Current Availability : 20 animals
Minimum sale : 10 animals
Average weight : 22 Kgs
Age range : 12-18 months
Location : At Savera Farms gate, charges extra for on-site delivery.

In our earlier postings, we had expressed a desire to collaborate with other 'techie2aggies' to form a consortium for collective growth and shared risk. We would be eager to work with future agri-preneurs who are looking to dip their feet into sheep-goat rearing. Our animals can be an ideal starter / breeding herd for those looking to procure from a known source. Buyers are invited to visit, understand our standard of care and review medical history. Our commitment will remain to the buyer around no-charge advice on infrastructure setup, virtual veterinary support and rearing practices - learn from our mis-steps and learned practices.

The current availability includes 19 females and 1 male. The male is young 18 months old, virile specimen and larger than all females. Recommendations resulting in a successful sale (including processors or retailers) will be extended a minor referral fee in appreciation. Please reach out to us directly over email for competitive rates or additional questions.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Goat Ear Tagging - Early Experiences

Our initial herd of goats had been quarantined for about 2 week before we introduced them into our 'general population'. Simply put, we wanted to complete the health screening, de-worming and vaccination process before we let the goats share quarters with our sheep herds. While these two ruminants  share the same stall shed structure, we do not plan to have them co-habitate. As part of our acquisition process, we had planned to secure insurance as well but unfortunately could not make much progress. There was surprising resistance to insurance of goat operations. More about our insurance agency experiences later..

At Savera Farms, we are attempting to document the full lifecycle of each animal - from lineage, to birth, health records and final disposition. To begin this activity, we started with the tagging process. All our animals have now been tagged and detailed information on vaccinations, weight increase, kidding and lineage has been recorded. Our current record keeping is primarily Excel automation but we would like to grow into a process driven (animal) record management software - your recommendations based on past experience would be helpful! While at our end, such cadence allows us to enforces adequate structure and consistent maintenance, we also feel potential customers would appreciate detailed backgrounds on animals they wish to procure - both for breeding or meat harvesting.

The first batch of goats were given PPR (Peste-Des-Petes ruminants) vaccination. 3 weeks later they were injected with ETV (Enterotoxaemia).

                                          Ouch! It is a tad painful for a couple of moments..

And a few exhibited their athletic skills as well..

Tagged for good and for life...

Here are a few recommendations that we thought of sharing and those with deeper experience can add to this list. Happy tagging and may your brood grow! :)
  • Tags should be placed on either ear but on the same ear for each animal of the herd.
  • Ensure you use the correct tag type based on the animal and breed. There are several tag designs available based on animal and desired functionality.
  • Once the staff is comfortable, it is best to straddle the young animal from on top, restrain between your legs and tag the ear. This may not be always possible for large animals.
  • Preferred tag location is about 2/3 distance on the ear from the head. The cartilage is less in the area and damage to blood vessels can be prevented. 
  • Immediately, apply mild anti-septic at tag site to prevent infection. Always disinfect the tagging tool between animals.
  • Tagging should occur during cool weather and comfortable surroundings so the animals can rapidly recover. 
  • Avoid tagging sick animals since their recovery could be prolonged and healthy animals may be infected during the process.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Indian Farm Labor - Misaligned policies, Misdirected potential

Disruption of agricultural labor supply always looms close on the horizon for any operations like ours. There are multiple macro and micro economic factors at play so it becomes especially important to ascertain the localized labor availability (risk) that a new agri-operation might face.With increased literacy rates in rural areas coupled with government supported welfare policies, farm labor is becoming scarce. Despite lower education levels, even north Indian rural populace manage to eek out minimum wage due to programs like MNREGA. While higher wages and better quality of life is indeed a desirable outcome - But at what cost and long term impact?

Personally I am not a big fan of the MNREGA program for many reasons, apart from the obvious impact it has on our operations. The program has spectacularly failed in it's primary objective - to provide gainful employment to rural populace. Projects are initiated on paper and workers are recruited, only to be seen congregating under trees, smoking and drinking during the workday - I speak from personal account. The reality is that they do not earn wages for a days work - the poor are being appeased with 'charity' as part of populist political agenda.Thousands of infrastructure and local projects have been created on paper but very few have been concluded with even fewer that have provided the intended social benefit. Wage rates are very disproportionate to the work output, which has skewed local labor rates. In other words, the output is not worth INR120 per day per person. As a result, prevailing agri-labor rates have been artificially elevated. This illustration (inline) is from several years ago, so we can easily imagine that the scheme has much greater proliferation by now.

Unfortunately, individual operations like ours can do little to directly combat the aggressive increase in wage rates and the poorly designed programs promoting them. In Tamil Nadu wages have risen at an average 10% p.a since 2006 - which is almost twice the inflation rate for that period! The genesis of these programs is often well intended but lack of macro level foresight and on-the-ground enforcement translates into huge drain from the national exchequer with little to show for it. Net result is that the tax paying citizen is subsidizing non-productive operations and in return increasing inflationary pressures upon themselves!  Operators like us have to alleviate the current labor constraints with farm mechanization to reduce dependency. At Savera Farms, we are entirely drip irrigated which is a huge savings in time, effort and labor. Investments in chaff cutter, tractor, brush cutter, automated sprayers, power weeders and others form part of our productivity enhancing toolset. 

Apart from mechanization, I would like the community to share their recommendations on combating this huge problem and managing this scarce resource. Do share your ideas around how do you retain the human resource. Insights into availability of 'farm labor' in particular locations or states would be a win-win solution for all.

Credits : Original publishers reserve copyrights

Monday, August 5, 2013

Goat Feed and Concentrate

This posting is in response to the reader queries around feeding. In regards to the composition of feed, we are currently trying out a few things. Based on my research thus far and discussions with other herd owners, there is no clear consensus on the perfect formula. The general guidance however was based on availability and economics of the feed. 

Fortunately, there is a large wholesale market in Madurai which is helpful to procure grains. Currently we are providing an average of 250 gm of concentrate per goat, devided over two daily feedings.

Our current concentrate comprises of Maize powder, Rice bran, Wheat bran, red Gram powder and Groundnut oil cake. A pinch of salt and chelated mineral mix is mixed in the feeding bowl as well.

Additionally, 2-3 Kgs of green fodder comprising of CO4 and Agathi (or Subabul) is given per day per goat. The general rule of thumb is that green fodder given per day should be 10% of body weight.

Bowls are sorted by color for easy preparation to ensure all ingredigents are included. 

So far the goats relish the feed and none is wasted

Agathi leaves provide much needed vitamins and are supposedly helpful with digestion.

Mineral licks are attached to the stalls for easy access.

Looking forward to hearing back from the community on additional tips and feeding practices!