Agricultural scientist returns to India leaving well-paid job in USA to improve livelihood of farmers. Based at Buldana, Maharashtra
“I hail from Vidharbh (cotton belt) region known for farmers’ suicide. So I felt people like me are of more use here than anywhere else! Thus I choose to return back and do something meaningful for farmers in India,” says Dr. Abhishek Bharad. He is engaged in goat farming and conducts free-of-cost workshops for farmers once in a month. He sells buck (male goat) to farmers for breeding.
In addition to goat farming Dr. Bharad is working on other sectors of agriculture simultaneously to create a complete model of farming that operates smoothly inter-dependent on one another. “I am doing horticulture with organic farming practices, vermicompost, mushroom cultivation, dairy and poultry farming with native breeds, seed production etc. The basic foundation of the model is that output of one segment becomes input for other. Excreta from cattle is used for vermciompost that produces manure for horticulture farm. Thus it forms an integrated farming chain. We have more such chains in agriculture. I am exploring it all and as it gets standardized would share with farmers,” he elucidates.
“I did my bachelors from Government Agriculture College in Akola, Maharashtra. Next I went to USA for 8 years to pursue masters followed by PhD at Louisiana University. Soon I started working at the university however environment and infrastructure of USA didn’t attract me much and I decided to return back to do some business. To be an entrepreneur was my childhood dream that never went off!” he adds.
Dr. Bharad returned back home in February 2016 and spent some time in researching his course of action for future. “Fortunately I got some consulting clients and realized that it could be ideal to start a demo production farm rather than just focusing on consulting on theoretical basis. It led to setting up of my farm Samrudhi Goat Farm at Sakharkherda village, Buldana district, Maharashtra.” Farm spreads in more than 25 acre area, partly owned and leased. “I came back with some capital that was invested in establishing the goat farm initially and rest I took loan from family and friends for extended activities for farm integration.”
When asked about opting goat farming as primary agricultural activity he says, “Goat farming is less prone to risks unlike horticulture that is largely affected by weather conditions, threat from wild animals and fluctuating market prices. In goat farming we have quite a good control on the business.”
At Samrudhi Goat Farm 8-10 breeds are reared namely Jamanapari, Beetal, Sojat, Sirohi, Barbari, Osmanabadi, African Boer etc. Goats are reared for selling to other farmers for breeding. “I have different selling purpose than other commercial goat farms. I sell bucks exclusively for breeding purpose. The selling price is higher than the male goats sold for meat. Usually the price of male goat sold at my farm is more than Rs. 10 thousand/buck,” he highlights. One year old buck is ready for breeding. He started selling bucks from February 2017 and on an average he sells 10-12 bucks/month. Female goats and kids are sold rarely. “We sell female goats only after 4-6 pregnancies. It is important for controlling in-breeding. Further breeding stock of buck is changed once in year to avoid in-breeding. We keep up-to-date documentation of every animal in the farm.” At the moment the herd size at the farm is 300 all inclusive (kids and adults).
Amongst all the breeds, Osmanabadi breed is most popular in Maharashtra as it is the local breed and has high birth rate. “This breed in particular has higher probability of delivering twin-kids. Although the goat is smaller and the weight gain is much slower than rest of the breeds but its’ ability to deliver twins is higher thus it attracts the attention of goat farmers,” explains Dr. Bharad.
Goats are fed with the mix of green fodder, dry fodder and concentrate. The new born kids are allowed to have mother’s milk upto 3months. Later to which slowly it is introduced to different feeds. “We grow the feed in-house as it is cost effective and rich in quality,” he asserts. Goats usually do not drink much water but must have 24/7 access to clean drinking water. “During peak winters the water intake in goat is less so we mix jaggery into it to enhance the taste.”
As the goats are fed with balanced assorted fodder it improves their resistance to diseases. “In case they fall sick then we prefer to give home remedies instead of allopathic medicines. In addition the standard vaccination schedule is followed stringently as preventive measure,” he shares.
Usually the life span of goat is 8-12years. Female goat can reproduce every year twice. “However on my farm we would control the cycle of reproduction to ensure good health. Instead of getting 4 deliveries in 2 years we will keep it 3 in 2years to give time to goats to recover. Also in this way we avoid extreme weathers conditions to keep new-born kids safe and healthy. During peak winters in January and December as well as June- August at the time of peak monsoon we do not want goat delivery as the new born is prone to infection, diseases and requires immense care and look after,” states Dr. Bharad.
This imperative knowledge transfer is given to other goat farmers during monthly workshops. Usually 100 farmers participate in one day workshop. So far Dr. Bharad has interacted with more than 1000 farmers. To bring the desired change in lives of the farmers it is significant to come in direct contact with them therefore I started conducting monthly workshops on goat farming, organic agriculture, mushroom production etc.” he says. Speaking of free-of-cost workshop sessions he clarifies, “Goat farming is booming business in Maharashtra thus many people refer themselves as experts and conduct program collecting the fees of Rs. 2000-5000/day. It is not correct! I find it unfair to charge the fees from the farmers as goat farming is not a business where we can learn or teach the entire process in one single day. In my workshops it is more of healthy discussion on goat farming and other sectors of agriculture. Sometimes I also call professors or goat breeders to share their experience so that farmers can be benefitted.”
In time to come Dr. Bharad wants to assist farmers in selling their farm produce by setting up a formal company. “Last year I focused on goat farming while this year I am concentrating on organic grain cultivation in open field and vegetable farming in poly house. I am installing 4units of shade nets in1.5acres to grow Indian native vegetables in soil. The aim is to demonstrate that local produce can be cultivated at lesser price yet high production can be attained. Farming is profitable and sustainable if done correctly,” he concludes.
Samrudhi Goat Farm
Farm : Sakharkherda Village, Sindkhed Raja Tahsil, Buldana District, Maharashtra
Correspondence: Ward No. 8, Khandala Road, Near Shriram Nagari Bank, Chikhil District, Buldana, Maharashtra 443201
Phone: 7038392636, 8888144546, 8381091681