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No cash cow, Army to sell bovines for token amount

No cash cow, Army to sell bovines for token amountThe Army will write off its special, high-yielding milch cows for a token amount in an attempt to cut flab by shutting down its military farms. The write-off — by transferring the cows to state dairy cooperatives and other government departments — comes after earlier attempts to auction, or sell the 25,000-odd cattle, did not succeed.

While the special Frieswal cows are believed to be valued at over Rs 1 lakh each, the lack of buyers who are willing to pay such a large sum has forced the defence ministry to convey a special sanction to transfer of the cattle at a ‘uniform nominal price’ of Rs 1000 per animal.

Orders have been issued in late June to transfer all military farms cattle to central and state departments or dairy cooperatives for the token amount, as long as the cost of transportation is borne by the receiving entities.

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This decision brings to an end an impasse over the closing down of 39 military farms that has been stuck for almost a year over the fate of these cows. A defence ministry panel had recommended shutting down of military farms across the nation — raised in 1889 to provide fresh food to troops — as part of larger measures to free up over 57,000 troops from non-combat duties.

While orders for shutting down of the farms were issued in August last year — with a three-month implementation deadline — the farms could not be closed as all attempts to sell off its living assets were thwarted.

This posed a unique problem as military farms host the highyield Frieswal cows. These cows were developed by cross breeding Dutch Holstein-Friesian cattle with native Sahiwal cattle which produce almost double the national average yield of milk.

There were also fears that in case the cattle were sold to individual farmers or private dairies, the high-yield cows could find their way to slaughter houses. This is because the cows require a high daily investment that could make them difficult to maintain.

With the issue now resolved, the army will move ahead on closing all the military farms that are spread across the country in places such as Meerut, Ambala, Srinagar, Jhansi and Lucknow. The total of 39 farms are spread over 20,000 acres of land but were meeting only 14% of annual demand of milk by the armed forces.

A cabinet decision was taken in August last year to shut all farms down to save expenses (they were allocated `334 crore in the last budget) and cut flab. The land freed up will now be used for other military purposes. At least seven of the farms have been closed already and the rest are now in the process of shutting down with the transfer of livestock.

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