None other than the Opposition Leader, Dr Pema Gyamtsho took to his own Facebook account on 9th June to clarify that Samrang is not a slaughterhouse, based on a recent visit there.
The OL said, “Yesterday, I visited Samrang Farm and was pleasantly surprised to see that all the hype about a mega slaughterhouse is not true.”
Putting up pictures of the farm he said “The MoAF has established the following; a dairy goat farm with milch goats for producing high quality cheese, a dairy cattle farm with Jersey cows, a commercial poultry farm and fishery ponds.”
The OL further said, “There are no plans or structures for meat processing as far as I can see. Perhaps the hype was a bit exaggerated.”
The OL’s statement based on his personal visit to Samrang busts a lot of false rumors in the social media and particularly on BHUTANESE News and FORUMS posted by mostly anonymous accounts, which depicted fake news on Samrang as a mega slaughter house.
The DPT itself in February 2018 in a press conference with the media alluded to Samrang as a slaughter house.
Even other political parties and politicians have been alluding to this fake news as a fact.
This was despite the Department of Livestock under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests explaining itself hoarse that Samrang is not a slaughter house, but focused on aiming at self sufficiency in dairy products and eggs.
A senior official from the MoAF on the condition of anonymity said that Samrang was never meant to be and is not a slaughterhouse.
The official said that first component of Samrang is to boost dairy production and dairy products in the country by breeding and supplying farmers with young heifers or young female milk giving cows.
The official pointed out to how most of the milk giving cows in Bhutan have always been imported from India and as a result some of them die on the long journey, some die during the quarantine time and some die even later after the quarantine period causing tremendous loss for the farmers who have already paid for these cows from Indian suppliers.
Bhutanese dairy farmers normally go with livestock officials to buy these milk giving cows. They choose and pay their Indian counterparts and then the cows are sent to Bhutan.
Here the example of 45-year-old Karma Choning from Serzhong village in Shermuhoong Gewog under Mongar is instructive of what Bhutanese dairy farmers have to go through in the absence of domestic heifer suppliers.
Karma said she took loan from the REDCL and bought nine diary cows from Jalpaiguri in West Bengal costing around Nu 48,000 each with the aim of establishing a dairy cooperative in Trashigang to supply milk.
However, in 2015 all nine of the imported dairy cows, which she had personally selected and bought, died in Mongar.
She said, “It looks like the imported cows were unable to cope with the local climate conditions.”
She said that the imported cows of another two farmers from Mongar also died causing them big losses as well.
She said one of them gave up farming after the financial loss and is now a tipper truck driver.
Karma, a divorcee with seven children who was planning to use the cows to support her children is now at her wits end and is unable to pay REDCL back the loan.
She has only three cows left which she had managed to buy within Bhutan and they currently provide her some income.
Karma said that she would support an initiative like Samrang which would give an option for Bhutanese farmers to buy safe and healthy dairy cows from within Bhutan, without incurring huge risks and losses.
Imported diary cows had died in Trongsa, Pemagatshel and Zhemgang too.
The plan in Samrang is to domestically breed and raise healthy dairy cows that can be sold to Bhutanese farmers at a fair rate.
The farm plans to try and meet the demand of Bhutanese dairy industry within three years.
The Ministry even temporarily banned the import of diary cows last year due to such deaths but was forced to lift the ban in the absence of adequate local suppliers.
The farm, to avoid the production of male bulls, has the technology to artificially inseminate cows with semen that will lead to the production of female heifers for the dairy industry.
Goat dairy farm
Samrang is also building a goat dairy farm where female goats are kept for the purpose of providing goat milk and cheese.
The official said that various nutrition studies have shown that goat milk and cheese have nutrition levels that are higher than even that of cow milk.
He said that goat milk can supplement cow milk and goat cheese is a prized product even outside Bhutan.
The official said that Bhutanese dairy farmers have shown interest to keep female goats to produce goat milk and cheese. The farm will breed and supply the female dairy goats to local dairy farmers in Bhutan.
The official said that another major purpose of Samrang was to bring about real egg sufficiency.
He said that though Bhutan is considered to be self sufficient in eggs, it is only on paper, because currently Bhutan only produces around 250,000 eggs a day and that too not on a consistent basis.
He said that given that the population of Bhutan is around 700,000 and an egg a day is recommended nutrition Bhutan, in reality, is still short of eggs.
The official said that currently Nu 30 to 40 mn is spent every year in importing female egg laying chicks.
He said the plan in Samrang is produce egg laying chicks in Bhutan to be supplied to the poultry industry so that egg production can go up in Bhutan.
Organic farm feed
Bhutan currently imports all its animal feed meant for cows, hens, pigs and even fishes from India.
Samrang not only plans to replace these imported feed but also have organic feed.
The official said that Samrang plans to have a feed factory to supply organic animal feed.
This in turn would mean that dairy products and eggs would also become organic.
Samrang is in the process of construction some ponds.
The official said that the ponds will produce fingerlings to supply them to farmers who are taking up fishery in Bhutan.
He said that currently fingerlings are imported. The plan is to have up to 10 varieties of fingerlings.
Samrang is situated on an 800.95 acres’ land and currently has 137 diary cows, 114 diary goats and 12,970 egg laying hens.
The farm, which is now a corporation, has already created 245 jobs for the youth.
The official said that around 15 km of Samrang around 700 acres of land in Phuntshothang had been developed for agriculture of which 350 acres is paddy land for khamte rice, 120 acres for maize to produce both seeds for farmers and also kharang, 100 acres of beans so that vegetarians in Bhutan can get plan protein and the rest 130 acres go to other vegetables and fruits plantation.