Anand: The lumpy skin disease that’s swept Gujarat and Rajasthan has claimed thousands of cattle. But in Anand, India’s milk capital and home to Amul — India’s largest dairy brand — the impact has been minimal.
Home to the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation — India’s oldest and largest dairy cooperative that markets ‘Amul’ — Anand and neighbouring villages have recorded 1,507 cases of the Lumpy Skin Disease, a viral disease that affects cattle, since April 1.
At Amul, H.S. Rathod, head of administration at GCMMF, is amused at all the attention that the disease is getting this year.
“The disease is not new. It entered India from Bangladesh in 2019. Since then all states have been reporting cases sporadically. The first case in Gujarat was reported by us in 2020,” Rathod said when ThePrint, after having visited Kutch — the district that has been among the worst hit this year — visited Anand.
Rathod referred to a 2017 FAO report that shows that the disease entered the eastern states of India from Bangladesh and slowly spread to other states.
The LS, he said, had “very low mortality” and could be easily managed. Last year, south Gujarat faced an outbreak of the disease — then, it spread from Maharashtra to Surat, Kaira, Baroch, and Anand.
“We had more than 40,000 cases in Kaira district last year, reaching its peak during July and August last year. However, death was less than 1 per cent,” Rathod said.
In an interview with ThePrint, GCMFF Managing Director R.S. Sodhi said that there was just a 0.25 per cent dip in milk production in Anand district because of the disease.
So why has Anand been spared of the horrors and heartbreak seen elsewhere in Gujarat, especially in Kutch? The answer could lie in vaccination and hygiene standards.
At Anand and its neighbouring villages, the cattle are fully vaccinated against the disease, said Rathod. Additionally, dairy farmers keep in touch with Amul’s veterinary tea, said Rathod.
Sanjay Patel, the Chief Executive Office of Amul’s Research and Development division, said it was years of efforts to ensure the cows are protected that paid off.
“We have been training the cattle owners on how to maintain hygiene in the cowshed. They understand that this is a vector-borne disease — so they bathe their cattle regularly to prevent tick infestations,” Patel told ThePrint.
Also read: ‘They’re family’ — confusion, heartbreak in Kutch villages as cows keep dying of lumpy skin disease
‘Better hygiene standards’
In Anand, where India’s dairy revolution began in 1973 — the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation collects milk in small quantities from every farmer. This milk, and other dairy products, is then processed and sold under the brand name Amul.
Patel said that hygiene standards include advising farmers to burn neem leaves to keep away mosquitoes and flies.
“All the cattle here are stall-fed, which means they are not sent out to graze,” he said.
The cooperative has assigned secretaries in every village to report any new cases of diseased cows. The artificial insemination technician in each village also keeps an eye out for symptoms of the disease and reports new cases, Patel said.
“If the farmer is aware and calls the doctor in time, the disease gets cured within 10 to 12 days,” Rathod said, adding that stray animals that are not duly fed and have nutritional deficiencies are vulnerable to the disease.
Anand also has a higher proportion of hybrid cows, Patel said — which should make them more vulnerable than the indigenous population.
“However, because the cows are very valuable, they are fed good quality food and nutrition, which puts them in a better position to fight the disease,” he said.
In Gopalpura village, which is about 4 km from Anand town, cattle farmer Rajni Bhai Patel, says that on 6 August, he noticed that one of his cows had lumps and immediately alerted Amul.
Rajni bhai is one of the few farmers in his village who has reported the disease. Despite having 13 cows and buffaloes, he was able to contain the spread of the infection to just one cow by keeping the others away.
“I was milking the cow on 6th (August) when I saw that it had developed some lumps. So I immediately got her treated by the doctors at Amul,” he told ThePrint.
His other cattle were vaccinated against the disease during the outbreak last year but this particular one was pregnant at that time.
Gopalpura seems to be faring better in general than some of the other severe cases that ThePrint witnessed in other parts of Gujarat, where the disease left cattle unable to either stand or eat on their own.
Dr. Sanjay Patel thinks last year’s outbreak could have given the cattle here some immunity against the disease.
GCMFF’s dairy training isn’t restricted just to Anand district. In Mau Tanda, a remote village in Bhiloda district — some 215 km from Anand — Amrut Moti Banjara and his family own more than 15 cows and buffaloes and have a good grasp of how the disease spreads.
“We wash our cattle twice daily. We wash the cowshed floor too to get rid of the dung and the urine,” he told ThePrint. “We spend a lot on feeding them nutritious food. They are like our family.”
Despite the fact that his cattle have not been vaccinated, none of them have been affected by the disease.
“It’s common sense,” his brother Madhur told us. “If we as humans do not take regular baths, we too will be more vulnerable to sickness.”
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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