A threatened breed of sheep found only in coastal Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts of Odisha has been conferred ‘rare and singular species’ tag by the central government.
The National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) has accorded genetic recognition to the breed of sheep, locally called ‘kuji mendha’, officials said.
“It s a typical breed of sheep. These sheep are fast breeders giving multiple birth while those in other parts of the state give single birth at a time,” said Susanta Kumar Dash, a senior scientist in College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry of OUAT, Bhubaneswar.
With NBAGR conferring it genetically rare status, conserving these domesticated species would receive a boost, said Dash of the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics.
Researchers of Fisheries and Animal Resources Development (FARD) Department, Odisha Livestock Resources Development Society and College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry had earlier conducted scientific study on this rare breed and had found the sheep to be carrying a rare gene mutation.
Researchers from state units had laid claim for accordance of rare genetic status on the breed.
“We are glad to know that NBAGR has registered Kendrapada sheep as a rare genetic breed. Extensive study by us has finally paid dividends,” Dash added.
“The sheep that are reared in this part are delicate domestic animals. Sheep in other parts of Odisha are not known for giving multiple birth. This characteristic makes them distinctive from other species.
“In Sundarbans area of West Bengal, Garol breed sheep are found who are multiple-breeders. Kendrapara district accounts for about 75,000 kuji breed of sheep. Special care is needed to protect them,” said Chief District Veterinary Officer (CDVO), Chaitnya Kumar Sethy.
The rare genetic traits lead to the multiple birth syndrome in them. These animals are dwarf in built with the body covered with coarse hair.
The average adult sheep weighs 18-20 kg. Kendrapada sheep are primarily used for production of mutton. The other product of economic importance is their skin. They are well adapted to high ambient temperature, high humidity and heavy rains, Sethy added.
Sheep rearing has not assumed commercial proportion in Kendrapara.
Because of multiple-birth characteristics, rearing of kuji sheep is a profitable livelihood source. District animal husbandry department has begun awareness drive to sensitise sheep farmers on commercial viability of sheep-rearing, the official said.