National Sheep Breeding Centre

Dechenpelrithang, Bumthang Dzongkhag

Background

The National Sheep Breeding Centre is situated at an elevation of 2,800masl at Dechenpelrithang in Bumthang Dzongkhag. It is 12 KM east of Jakar Dzong and 275 KM away from capital city, on the Thimphu-Trashigang High-way. It has a total area of 580 acres of grazing area. The farm was initially commenced as SHEEP & YAK DEVELOPMENT PROJECT in the year 1974-75 under the technical & financial assistance from UNDP/FAO. The project eventually withdrew its support in 1979. Subsequently, from 1989 until June 1995, the Project was assisted technically and financially by the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau. During that period, the farm has had two units – Dechenpelrithang and Wobthang. Towards the end of 7th FYP period, Wobthang unit was handed over to the local community. The farm was established with the view of up-lifting the rural sheep rearing communities with the set of objectives and strategies. In conjunction with Sheep, German Angora Rabbits was introduced in the year of 1989 on a pilot scheme with the aims of diversifying both husbandry and wool production for weaving and knitting. Due to diseases infection, rabbit rearing could not be pursued further. Presently the unit is rearing sheep and dairy only. It’s financed purely under the financial and technical support of our government. Eventually, over the years, Sheep husbandries around the country gradually waned resulting into conservation aspect at Farm. Due to these, Department introduce rearing of dairy heifer and show case as model dairy farm. Therefore, the National Sheep Breeding Centre is bestowed with two functional units’ viz. National Sheep Breeding Centre (NSBC) and National Heifer Programme (NHP) which was instituted as dairy farm in May, 2005 under the overall in charge for both the unit by a Manager. The NSBC has played vital roles in supporting our rural populace through input supply and extension services. The strides toward pursuing economic self-reliance in wool and woolen products are due the selfless service rendered by the farsighted Farm Managers as mentioned below;

The general set up of farm Management are basically divided into sub-units to effectively cater services deliver and receive utmost care and attention both to the farm animals’ welfare point of view and general staff welfare. The Farm Manager is the overall head of the unit with support rendered by his co-staff. The four sections namely Dairy, Sheep, Feed & Fodder and Adm.  & Account sections are headed by section In-Charges. They direct the day to day activities upon consultation with the Manager.

SHEEP SECTION

Our country is predominantly an agrarian where 79% of the population depends upon agriculture and livestock farming (Tobgay, 2005). Consequently, Sheep farming has played one of the major roles by providing wools and hides for clothing and woolen products to traditional cottages in the country. From as early as 1974, our government started developing local sheep breeds by cross-breeding with the imported sheep breeds in order to develop the production of wool in terms of quality and quantity. As such, Department under the aegis of the then DoAH, DALSS, CLSD, REID, DRDS and subsequently DoL, initiated and supported the introduction of Sheep farm by erstwhile ministry of Development Services, MoA and present MoA&F. According to the research study, it reveals that our country poses four types of native sheep breed, distinct to our environment and climatic conditions (NBC, 2008). But what surprises us today is that sheep farming are slowly waning over the years due to change in farming system. The new generations do not see the importance and powers of such programme as it embraces the age old traditional handloom cultures and as well secure our frontiers. The current sheep farm will only function as development support program as envisaged. Therefore, NSBC now remains to be the only sheep rearing centre focusing on the following mandates; –

Vision (Sheep Section)

To provide technical backstopping to the interested farmers in sheep rearing areas but FOCUSED MAINLY on conservation of native sheep breed.

Mission (Sheep Section)

Initiate research on indigenous sheep knowledge on feeding, breeding, and aspects related to sheep husbandry. The farm will operate as development support unit through efficiently adopting best strategies on technical and economic aspect. With the research, our clients will appreciate the value of indigenous sheep breed and vigorously pursue conservation through essentially focusing on local genetic pool. All in all, this would inversely supplement the generation of income and support the traditional wool based cottage industries around our country.

Objectives (Sheep Section)

To function as technical focal agency for the sheep development and where necessary extend as backstopping to the Dzongkhag Extension Programme.

To improve sheep genetic resources through cross breeding by supplying rams to the sheep rearing Dzongkhags.

To conserve of native sheep breed (Jakar types).

To train farmers on modern sheep farming practices.

To lead research into sheep breed and management.

Strategy

The centre still has a small sheep breeding unit with an extension component.

Sheep Breeding will continue in small scale in the priority areas. At the sheep farm, it is proposed that two lines of sheep will be maintained; the local black Rams & Local Black Ewes, Local White Rams and the Comeback. The breeding will focus on crossing the local black Rams with local black ewes and the Comeback with the local white Rams so as to produce a crossbred sheep suited our local conditions. The sheep would be of dual purpose, wool and mutton.

The possibilities of establishing a mutton farm in south Bhutan will be looked into.

Emphasis on selection of local sheep (e.g. Black sheep) will be initiated and breeding done. This will essentially focus on the process of conservation of the local genetic pool. According to NBC, 2008, there are four main types of indigenous Sheep breed in Bhutan. They are:-

Jakar type: – Small body size, predominantly black coat, brown head and limbs, medium fine hair, most females are polled and males have horn.

Distribution: – Temperate areas of central Bhutan (Sephu, Phobjikha, and Gogona in Wangdiphodrang; Tangsibi, Bemji, Semji, and Jongthang in Trongsa; Choekhortoe, Chumey, Tang and Ura of Bumthang) 

Sakteng type: – Medium body size, white and mixture of black and brown colour, Black or brown head, relatively finer coat, Roman nose with horn for both sex.

Distribution: -Merak Sakteng valley, Khaling, Thrimshing and Kangpara in eastern Bhutan       

Sipsoo type: – Tall, White and patchy colours, black head, a few are polled,  longer coarse fiber, Roman nose, short and tubular ears, known for prolificacy, twins is common.

Distribution: – Sub-tropical areas in south Bhutan (Darla, Dungna, and Phuntsholing in Chukha; Sipsu and Dorokha in Samtse; Beteni in Tsirang and Dagana Dzongkhag) 

Sarpang type: –Small body size, predominantly white coat colour, males have horns, a few females are polled.

Distribution: -Sub-tropical belt in south Bhutan (Bhur, Dekiling and Choekhorling in Sarpang Dzongkhag

Present Sheep stock position

The farm has currently strengthened the sheep numbers from 27 to 104. The programme was vigorously pursued with the help of NBC, Serbithang, in order to avoid inbreeding in the present stock.

Wool Processing:

Traditional method of wool working was quite laborious and time consuming both at the farm and at village levels. This was eventually substantiated after commissioning of wool scouring and carding plant during the year 1992 – 1995 under the financial assistance of the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau. Till date this unit provides fully subsidized custom services facilities to the village based wool users and weavers. However, due to frequent breakdown and unavailability of machine parts, the wool carding machines itself requires replacement.

Constraints

Lack of economic study on sheep farming due to which no required information are available.

The production performance of the cross breed sheep has not been studied so far.

No successful intervention has been successfully carried out in labour saving devices for the cottage industries (Wool carding and spinning) in particular.

Sheep farming received partial attention as compared to other fields due to its subsidiary in nature.

Lack of diversified products leading to economical losses (Religious Sentiments hindering culling and selling of Sheep).

Low national priority attached to sheep production.

Lack of adequate and technically trained farm staff and as well farmers on sheep husbandry.

Area of the Farm

Total Area                               =          1000 acres, recent cadastral survey shows the total farm area at 558.429 acres

Thram No.                              =          231     

Improved Pasture                    =          65 acres

 Animal Stock                         =          144 (Sheep = 104; Cattle = 40)

Pasture Development

According to the Farm’s old lagthram, the NSBC has total area of 1000 acreages. However, the recent drive by the National Land Commission to authenticate the proper land ceiling through cadastral survey has resulted at 558.429 acres. The areas under the improved pasture therefore accounts for about 65 acres and rest is either inaccessible due to the steep topography, swampy areas, rock face and crags. The farm therefore has large boundary line which is a stumbling wedge for proper development of pasture. The porous border, incessant wild animal depredation (e.g. Reindeers, Deers, Bears, Wild Boars etc) and stray cattle posses another concern for proper expansion and stability of improved pastures. The lack of pasture assistant and Farm Tractor driver also attributed for the poor coverage of improved pasture.

Present Scenario

The National Sheep Breeding Centre (NSBC) at Bumthang is the only sheep breeding centre of our country. Over the years various changes have occurred particularly influenced by the various levels of priority it acquired from the Royal Government. In the past, farm has been able to fulfill the target based on the requirement of the rams from the Dzongkhags. But it drastically changed its situation over the couples of years with the change of farming system particularly in sheep husbandary practices. The deficient in focus approach and low national priority attached to Sheep farming has resulted in waning of sheep husbandry. This has eventually guided towards introduction of Dairy Cattle Farm in the year 2005. The recent exchange of stock transfer of dairy cattle between NSBC and Brown Swiss Cattle Farm and subsequent introduction of another 10 numbers of culled cows has resulted into rearing all sorts of Cattle in NSBC. The Farm has Sheep, Jersey and Brown Swiss, Bulls, Culled animals and even Yaks for a month or two. This haphazard multiple programme implementations therefore shadowed the farm vision and mission.

Problems and Constraints

  • The stocks are kept in old modified temporary sheep sheds.
  • No proper drainage system in and around sheds
  • Not fit and hygienic, hence disease outbreak
  • No proper go-down for feed store
  • Inconsistent water supply
  • Old and worn out pick-up truck and Worn out carding machine (high maintenance cost)
  • Risk of being attacked by Wild animals (e.g. Bear)
  • No proper lighting facilities within farm premises and inside dairy shed.
  • Need of Silo pit to substitute winter feed shortages
  • Lack of focus for programme implementation due to multiple programmes introduction
  • Shortages of technical staff
  • No exposure or study tour in relation to sheep husbandry and management

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