Kankrej

Introduction

India is considered as the goldmine of excellent and diverse germplasm of cattle genetic resources represented by 30 well-defined breeds ranging from good milch animals to extreme draught type, very tall v/s dwarf cattle, highland cattle to those adapted to marshy climate. Most of those indigenous zebu cattle breeds (Bos indicus) have evolved over the years for their utility under a certain set of agro-climatic conditions as compared to highly selective Bos Taurus (exotic) cattle. These Indian zebu cattle breeds have unique features like adaptability to extreme climatic conditions, Subsistence on poor feed and fodder and better resistance capabilities to withstand environmental stress and tropical diseases. As a consequence, the diverge Indian cattle germplasm could be a rich source of highly evolved and a vast gene pool comprising many genes of immense economic importance. It is considered that Zebu cattle breeds constitute an interesting resource for genetic studies as they present traits different from those of the taurine breed (Bos taurus).

Although, cattle in India is the most important livestock species and plays a major role in agricultural economy, yet most of the indigenous breeds have not been exploited to their full genetic potential and population of some of the important cattle either declining or breed characters are being diluted under the present production system. This depletion of cattle resources would result in loss of important genes/gene combinations responsible for remarkable adaptive traits, further leading to loss in genetic variability vital role of selection and improvement. Conservation of these genetic groups is priority science loss of information will restrict the options available to meet future unknown requirement. However, the selection of breeds for conservation or improvement programs is mostly hampered by an inadequate description of population structure of indigenous cattle breeds existing in India. This bulletin aims to provide descriptive information related to population structure and existing genetic variability in Kankrej cattle-an extremely athletic, useful dairy and draft breed of Gujarat.

Origin and Geographical Distribution

The name Kankrej comes from the area in North Gujarat, South East of Kutch desert. The animals are predominantly found along the banks of the rivers Banas and Sarswati rivers which flow from east to west in the area.

Radhanpur – Wadhiar

Kutch – Wagad or Wagadia

The breeding tract of Kankrej cattle mainly lies in southeast Rann of Kutch comprising of Mehsana, Kutch, Ahmedabad, Kaira, Sabarkanatha, Banskantha districts of Gujarat and Barmer, Jodhpur areas of Rajasthan.  However, the Kankrej cattle is distributed throughout the state of Gujarat. The breed can Survive easily on draught and under scarcity of feeds and fodder.

Breed Survey

To know breed characteristics, utility, management and performance of the Kankrej cattle survey conducted by National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, Karnal in Kutch and Banskantha districts of Gujarat. A total of farmers were contacted, 50 from Kutch and 64 Banaskantha districts. Various parameters were recorded from a total of 31 villages; 17 of Kutch and 14 Banaskantha districts covering 3 talukas in each of the district. The survey was conducted in Bhuj, Anjar and Bachau talukas of Kutch district and Thara, Deodar and Deesa talukas of Banskantha district.

The morphological parameters i.e. body length, height at wither and heart girths were recorded on 429 animals of different age and sex. Various parameters on production, Reproduction and draft capacity of the breed was known by interaction with the farmers in the breeding tract for evaluating breed parameters.

Topology of Breeding Tract

The breeding tract of Kankrej covers roughly 18,000 kmand lies between 21° and 24° north latitude and between 75°16 and 78°15 east longitude. The elevation of the tract ranges from 409 to 455 MSL.

Soil

The soil in the southwestern part of breeding tract is sandy loam and heavy black, whereas on the eastern side it is mostly sandy with some sandy loam areas. The sub soil type yellowish white.

Climate

The climate in the region is tropical to subtropical and dry varying greatly with the distance from the sea. Average annual rainfall is 50 to 76 cm and is usually concentrated during July to October. Temperature of the region varies from 4°C (winter) to 49°C (summer). The average of diurnal temperature (minimum and maximum) in a year is highest in Kutch district. The rainfall and humidity percentage is lower in Kutch district as compared to Banaskantha. The depth of subsoil water is ore in Kutch than Banaskantha district.  

Feeds and Fodder

In the breeding tract Wheat bhusa (Triticum aestivum), karavi of Jawar (Sorghum vulgare) and Bajara (Penniesetum typhoides) are available as dry fodder; Maize (Zee mays), Oat (Avena sativa), Lucern (Medicago Sativa), Sorghum and Bajara as green fodders and Cottonseed, ground nut cake (GNC) and Banas dana are available as concentrates.

Population Status of the breed

In Gujarat state, the cross bred cattle population has increased by 48.04 % and 13.13 % dro year 1992-1997 and 1997 to 2003 respectively. The proportion of crossbred cattle among the total cattle population in the state was 3.40 % 5.07 % and 9.04 % in the year 1992, 1997 and 2003 respectively. It was less by 3.07 % as compared to the proportion of crossbred in Indian cattle population in the 2003. So, the increase of crossbred cattle in the state was less than that in the country. The indigenous cattle comprises Kankrej, Gir, Dangi & non-descript which showed decline of 2.52 % from the year 1992 to 1997, while in increased by 5.92 % from 1997 to 2003. Other than West Bengal, Gujarat is the only state in India which has shown increase (3.26 %) in the indigenous cattle population from 1992 to 2003 compared to an overall decrease of 15.25 % in India. The total and indigenous cattle population in Gujarat in 2003 were 7,42,4000 and 6,78,500 respectively. The Buffalo population in Gujarat showed an increase of 19.30 % and 11.47 % from the year 1992 to 1997 and 1997 to 2003, against the increase of 6.25 % in the country from 1997 to 2003. Annon (2002) estimated the proportion of Gir and Kankrej cattle in Sauratra. Out of total cattle population of 25,05,000, the population of Kankrej and Gir cattle were 917081 (36.61 %) and 8,46,941 (33.81 %) respectively.

In Gujarat, the proportion of different breeds (Milch animal) was 7.18 % exotic/crossbred, 36.63 % Gir, 35.07 % Kankrej and 21.11 % no descript including Dangi breed in the year 1998-99 (Report 1990). There may be more than 23.81 lacs of Kankrej cattle in the state (Report 2003). In addition to this Kankrej animals are also available in Rajasthan State.

Gujarat State Animal Husbandry Department has also conducted district wise survey regarding the population of Kankrej milch cows in the year 1998-99, (report 1999). Based on number of Kankrej cattle, the major breeding tract of the breed includes Banaskantha (154800), Kutch (178736), Mehsana (75176), Ahmadabad & Gandhinagar (74664) and Sabarkantha (59560) districts. The other districts where Kankrej cows are reported to be present in high number were Vadodara (44688), Kheda (44534), Bharuch (26280), Surat (30733), Valsad & Dang (11022), Sureandranagar (11305) and Panchmahals (7400). The Kankrej cows constituted about 26.85% of the total cattle population in 1998-99 in Gujarat. From 1988-89 to 1998-1999, there was increase in the population of Kankrej cows in all the districts except Ahmadabad, Gandhinagar, Valsad, Dang and Sureandranagar. The population trend from 1988-89 to 1998-99 showed that total as well as Kankrej cows in particular increased by 25.87% and 26.85 %, respectively in Gujarat.

Management Practices in the Breeding Tract

Animal Housing

Most often, the Kankrej animals are kept in open type of Kutcha houses with Kutcha flooring. The open houses are mostly made up of paddocks of thorny bushes. The animal house is located either in separate area or part of the farmer’s residence. The percentage of farmers having separate house for the animals varied from 42-76 % in Banaskantha and Kutch district, respectively. The animal houses have proper ventilation, drainage and cleaning. The herd size ranged from 2 to 60 with 2-5 breeding bulls.

Grazing Feeding and Management

The pastures in the breeding tract of Kankrej are seasonal. These are available from July to October. The animals are tried in night during the daytime they are taken out for grazing around the whole year. During the rainy season when pastures are available in plenty, they graze in the nearby areas but in the scarcity period they have to cover long distances. Stall-feeding is not very common practice in the region and only few farmers provide feeds & fodder at stall in the evening/night. Stall-feeding is more prevalent in Kutch than the Banaskantha district. As no fodder crops are grown in the area, only stovers and straws are fed to cattle. Cottonseed and Oilcakes are widely used as concentrates. Clusterbean (Cyamopsis Psoraloides or C. tetragonoloba) is also used as a cattle feed.

The calves are not weaned and are reared through sucking and feeding colostrum to the new born. The male calves are cared better than the feeding colostrum to the new born. The male calves are cared better than the female calves. Ladies are also involved in the rearing of animals. Dehorning is not a common practice. In surveyed area, natural service is preferred way for breeding of animals. Kankrej Cattle are heat, tick resistant and are tolerant to many of the diseases. The use of wormicide and other health care measures are not adopted by the farmers.

Sale & Purchase of animals

Among the farmers surveyed across both the districts, it was observed that all of them get cows either from farm or neighbouring farmers. No businessmen are involved in sale and purchase of the Kankrej cows. The bullocks of Kankrej breed are well reputed for agricultural work and their sale and purchase was also observed in the breeding tract.

Socio-economic status of the farmers

The owners of the Kankrej cattle in Kutch district had larger land holding than the Banaskantha district. Among the surveyed farmers in Banaskantha, 65 % farmers had land below 10 acres while the corresponding percentage of farmers in Kutch district was 18 %, rest all the farmers had larger land holding.

 Fig. 2: Utility of the breed
(Source: Pixabay)

In Kutch, the main income source of the farmers was sale of milk and almost all the milk produced was sold in the market. However, in Banaskantha district, 70% of the farmers utilized their milk at home, 8 % sell their milk and 22 % use it at home and sell as well. Sale of bullocks of the breed is one of the main source of income.

Utility pf the Breed

In Kutch, the main income source of the farmers was sale of milk and almost all the milk produced was sold in the market. However, in Banaskantha district, 70% of the farmers utilized their milk at home, 8 % sell their milk and 22 % use it at home and sell as well. Sale of bullocks of the breed is one of the main source of income.

Physical Characteristics

The Kankrej cattle are highly prized since these are fast and powerful draft cattle. They are also fair producers of milk.  Kankrej are amongst the heaviest Indian breed cattle. The colour varies from silver to grey to iron grey or steel black. The red colour in these cattle has been shown to be due to recessive gene effect. The young calf when born is usually rust red-coloured which gradually disappear within 6 to 9 months. The colour pattern is not uniform, forequarters, hump and hindquarters are darker than the barrel, especially in males. Pigmentation of the skin is dark and the skin is slightly loose and of medium thickness. Hairs are soft and short. It has also been observed that the red color is recessive. The forehead is broad and slightly dished in the centre. Horn are strong and curved outward and upward in a lyre shaped fashion. These are curved with skin to a longer distance as compared to other breeds.

Fig. 3: Kankrej Calf
(Source: DesiBoys)

(Source: DesiBoys)

The strong half-moon -shaped horns are covered with skin to a higher point than in other breeds. The face is short, and the nose looks slightly upturned. The ears are very characteristic, being large, pendulous and open. The legs are particularly shapely and well-balanced and the feet small, round and durable. The hump in males is well-developed but not so firm as in other Zebu breeds. The dewlap is thin but pendulous and males have pendulous. The tail switch is black.  An adult male weighs average 525 kg (range 550-570 kg) whereas female weighs 330-370 kg (average 343 kg).

Fig. 4: The Kankrej Cow
(Source: Farmer Junction)

The gait is peculiar to the breed; it is smooth without any movement of the body, the head is noticeably high and the stride is long with hind hoof laced well ahead of impression of the fore hoof. The gait in Kankrej is locally termed ‘Swai chal’ (meaning royal stride).

Kankrej cattle are known to be resistant to tick-transmitted diseases.  The incidence of contagious abortion and tuberculosis are also quite low.

Fig. 5: The Kankrej Bull
(The Kongunadu Livestock Festival)

Morphometric and Performance Parameters

Body Measurement

 The average body length, height at wither and heart girth was 126.6±1.6 cm, 134.6±1.4 cm and 161.9±1.8 cm respectively. However, Nivsarkar et al (2000) reported the average body length, height at wither and heart girth average to be 148, 158 and 194 cm, respectively, in males and 113.6, 133.6 and 166.2 cm, respectively, in females. In the present study, it was observed that animals in all age groups had more length, height and heart girth in Kutch district than those of Banaskantha district. The average birth wright of the animals, adult body weight of male and female animals was reported to be 23 kg (range 21-26), 500-550 kg and 325-400 kg in female, respectively (Nivsarkar et al. 2000). Earlier Pundir and Sahai (1997) reported the body weight of adult male and female as 589.6 and 430.9 kg respectively.

Lactation yield and lactation length

Lactation yield is an important parameter to access the economic value of cattle. Wide range of lactation yield in Kankrej cattle (800-2196 liters) has been reported by different workers. Pundir and Ahalwat (2004) reported the lactation milk yield of the Kankrej cattle varying from 800-1200 kg. These values were less in comparison to other available reports. The lactation milk yield of 1535.8 kg was recorded by Doodhsagar (Farmers Co-operative Union); 1807 kg by Ambatkar (1991); 1589 by Raj Kumar (2002). Highest milk yield (2196 liters) till date has been reported in one of the earlier study by Md- Nur-UI-Islam (1984) in Kankrej herd of Anand institute of Agriculture. Various reports indicated lactation length of 287 (Raj Kumar 2002); 321 (Md- Nur-UI-Islam 1984); 302.1 (Doodhsagar union); 340.7 (Wadhwani et al. 2005); and 240-300 days (Pundir and Ahlawat 2004).

Peak milk yield

From the available literature (peak milk yield in Kankrej cattle ranged from 6-11.13 kg. Pundir and Ahlawat (2004) observed peak yield in the ranged of 6-8 Kg. Mathur and Uppal (1993) reported slightly higher values of peak yield (7.83-8.17 Kg). However, peak yield as high as 11.3±0.10 kg in Kankrej cattle has been reported by Bhambure (1986).

Wet average and herd average

Average daily yield and average herd average in Kankrej cattle reported by different workers ranged from 4 to 6.8 liters and from 2.78 to 4.45 liters, respectively. Raj Kumar (2002) cited the example of Sardarkrushinagar farm, where in last 25 years, the wet average and herd average has increased more than double fold from 3.17 to 7.44 and from 1.57 to 4.65, respectively.

Dry Period

Rajkumar et al. (2002) reported the dry period in Kankrej cattle as 165±6 days after analysing the data for a long period of time (1984 to 2001) of LRS, Sardar Krushinagar. However, this figure was quite low when compared the data from other Gov. farm (100-265 days, Raj Kumar et al. (2002) and Pundir and Ahlawat, (2004) which varied from 180-300 days.

Service period

The services period recorded for Kankrej cattle by Pundir and Ahlawat (2004) varied from 90-180 days. Ambatkar (1991) and Raj Kumar (2002) also observed the service period within the similar range. Contrary to this, Patel (1988) reported service period of 251 days in this breed

Calving interval

The period between two consecutive calving (calving interval) observed in the study of Pundir and Ahlawat (2004) in the of Pundir and Ahlawat (2004) was 365 to 700 days, which was relatively high when compared with the other available reports. Raj Kumar et al. (2002) reported calving interval of 462±7 days for LRS, Sardar Krushinagar Herd. Several other workers have mentioned CI in the similar range as that reported by Raj Kumar (2002).

Age at first, estrus, conception and calving

Age at first estrus in Kankrej animal of LRS, Sardarkrushinagar, Gujarat was reported to be of 780 days (Gujrat, 1989). In general herd, this varied from 942 days to 1364 days (Raj Kumar, 2002). The age at first conception Kankrej heifers ranged from 846 to 1125 days (Raj Kumar et al., 2004). As per Pandey and Shukla (1993), age at first calving in Kankrej cattle ranged from 1036 to 1520 days. Raj Kumar (2002) reported age at first calving in Kankrej cattle to be 1407 days, whereas, as per Pandey (1990), it was 1127 days.

Work Capacity

Kankrej bullocks are known to have excellent work capacity for different agricultural operation. Pundir and Ahlawat (2004) reported that one pair of bullock could plough 0.4 to 0.6 hectare of land in a day. They could also record the carrying capacity of a pair of bullock as 1.5 to 1.8 tones of load for 20 to 22 kms in a day.    

Performance recorded under field conditions

Under the field survey conducted by National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) team, various performance parameter of Kankrej cattle were recorded in the areas of Banaskantha and Kutch districts of Gujarat. The milk yield in lactation length of 240-300 days ranged from 800-1400 kg. The average values for milk yield in a lactation length were 1535.08 kg and 302.1 days respectively. The observed daily milk yield ranged from 3-5 kg with peak milk yield of 6-8 kg. The age at first fertile service was recorded to be 3 years whereas the age at first fertile service was recorded to be 3 years whereas the age at first calving ranged from 3.5- 4.0 years.

The comparison of the surveyed data with earlier studies revealed that production parameters like lactation milk yield, dairy milk yield, peak milk yield and lactation length were on lower side. While reproductive parameters like age at first calving, service period and calving interval were within the range of different reports available in literature. The performance of cow was recorded be better in Kutch district as compared to Banaskantha district in terms of daily milk yield and lactation milk yield. This was attributed to the fact that milk is the main source of income and hence animals are relatively better cared in Kutch district.

Draft Performance

Dhangar 1998 investigated the draft performance of Kankrej cattle. He observed that the draft generation of Kankrej cattle was 39.61 kg. The main pulling force was estimated to be 23.56, 36.36, 47.08 and 56.72 kg respectively for 340. 620, 900 and 1180 g payloads. Kankrej bullocks could tug the cart at the speed of 3.83 km/h, whereas horse power (HP) production at carting was 0.59±0.01 per bullock. The mean stive length was 1.50±0.02. The draft generation and HP produced per pair of bullock were 79.96kf in 1.07 HP respectively while ploughing and 39.92 kg and 0.52 HP while planking. The performance was also compared with cross bred bullocks.

The Kankrej bullocks can safely be used for 6 hours for medium to heavy work (ploughing) 3 hours for light work (plan work), to a total of 9 hours of work in a day. Engaging bullocks to work 7.00 hours or even earlier in the morning and work during 1600 to 1900 hours in afternoon particularly during summer might result in still better performance of the bullocks.

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