- Dr. HB Joshi
Sabarmati Ashram Gaushalap was handed over for management to National Dairy Development Board on 1 July 1973.It is a place full of history as it was associated with Mahatma Gandhi and managed by a charitable trust set up during Gandhi ji’s early years in Gujarat. It had a vast area of some 815 acres of land at Ahmedabad and Bidaj in Kheda district.
Every story has to have a beginning
I joined NDDB in 1977 as Asstt.Executive. I was assigned the role of trainer in Artificial Insemination and veterinary first Aid. I was posted at Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Project (SAGP), Ahmedabad and after a few months assigned to FO & AH Division at Anand.
SAGP Ahmedabad was quite a hot seat as the Chairman and many VIP dignitaries visiting NDDB would have a transit stay at SAGP ,Ahmedabad. In addition all the liaison work in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar for NDDB was being done from SAGP, Ahmedabad. Thus it was not only training that I was expected to handle but was also often called upon to handle emergency liason tasks as a part of my job.
A frozen semen bank was established at SAGP Ahmedabad for distributing frozen semen to Co-operative dairies of Gujarat.
The semen station was later shifted to SAGP, Bidaj some 34 km from Ahmedabad in a remote place where a full fledged frozen semen lab was started along with a large liquid nitrogen plant for the preservation of semen.
Subsequently in 1981, the Training centre was also shifted to SAGP, Bidaj and I was transferred as Manager Training to Bidaj. I used to conduct training in AI and Veterinary First Aid , Frozen Semen Handling for the technicians and also assist in other programs conducted at Bidaj.
Bidaj a great place of learning for veterinarians
However, I was happy for a reason. Bidaj was a real heaven for veterinarian to learn all aspects of their profession. Bidaj had a large herd of Jersey cows in the Jersey Bull Mother Farm, a cattle breeding complex consisting of ultra modern semen freezing lab, semen bank, liquid nitrogen plants and a large agriculture farm for cultivation of fodder and other crops. I thought God had sent an opportunity knocking at my door and I grabbed it by both of my hands !
It was an obvious set back for my family and children as there was a drastic change in their life style. Children had to commute from Bidaj to Ahmedabad for their schooling and there were hardly any means for of entertainment because the place was quite secluded.
My boss was at SAGP Bidaj, Dr.BM Bhatt, Project Manager, was a veterinary professional and nutritionist wedded to Gandhian values and culture.
Besides train8g I was interested in Animal Management as well. Earlier after after my graduation, I had served for few years as lecturer at Gujarat Veterinary College, Anand in clinical subjects. I was deeply interested in learning more in clinical diagnostic and treatment practices.Therefore, after scheduled hours of training, I used to visit the cattle farm assist in clinical aspects. I also participated in discussion in technical matters with panel of managers who were looking after Jersey bull mother farm.
Basically ,exotic animals are very sensitive to infectious viral diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease, Rinder Pest ,etc. We were very strict about hygiene and sanitation measures because we had precious Jersey and Holstein Fresian bulls in the Semen station.
We used to follow regular vaccination schedule.simultaneously, we had to keep strict vigil over nutrition aspect for building immunity and bring about right age of maturity for breeding without wasting time and resources as per the prescribed scientific farm practices. Due to my special interest, my boss Dr.Bhatt used to allot me to study nutritional aspect of the farm relating to viability. In addition ,I had a self interest in the operation of milking machine. I was very much attached to animals. I would keenly observe the machine milking process and over time developed the ability to guess even from a distance malfunction in the milking machine unit from its pulsation !
No place is safe; Footand mouth disease outbreak
It was in 1982-83 some Jersey cows at the farm showed symptoms of Foot and Mouth disease.This was a warning bell for the impending crisis. We had to rescue other animals from the ghastly disease as it is so dangerous that its virus could travel for miles and survive in air to take other animals in its vicious grip ,causing severe economic loss in production however, mortality rate is low.
On a war footing ,we started implementing the action plan under the guidance of Dr. Mathew from the Jersey farm of Gujarat Agricultural University ,Anand. He made me Incharge for taking care and management of diseased animals with a team of assistants.
Initially, we segregated animals in three groups, healthy, suspected and affected. Entry of people to the segregated area was restricted and foot bath was kept near the entry point as a preventive measure. I prioritised the treatment of severely affected animals, washing their mouths with mild potassium permanganate solution. It was so severe that one cant even see the burning pain, smacking sound of lips, clutching teeth beside excessive salvation due to ulcer in the mouth. The foul odour from the mouth of animals was unbearable creating a vomiting sensation.
I demonstrated the process to be followed on some animals and asked my assistants to repeat the process of mouth washing for other animals. But their faces were dim showing disinterest and reluctance and they continued to stay away from the animals. Without taking any notice of their attitude and not reacting I told them just to observe.
Empathy and love help win battles
I then explained to them the silent suffering and severe pain that the animals were going through.. How selfish and merciless are we now backing out from serving them even though we know fully well that we earn our bread and butter because of those animals. I was some what emotional in my monologue.
I then saw some of my assistants with tears in their eye for the suffering of those poor animals. After a short pause, two team me,bets came forward, held the can of medicine and rubber tube and silently started washing mouths of some animals. A kind of miracle then happened and gradually all the assistants came forward to wash the mouth of suffering animals. One of them said to me “Sir, you are our team leader and did this job of mouth washing on 9 animals in front of us without reacting to us or scolding us then why can’t we do this after all the animals need us most at this moment ‘!
They also observed at times I would skip my lunch and remain engrossed in treatment of suffering animals. Even When I went for my lunch, I was not able to eat as I had image of those poor suffering animals at the back of my mind and rushed back to take care of them. Many nights went sleepless as I would visit the farm to see the status of animals, incase they need any help and support.
Gradually ,the virus that was gripping our farm animals receded due to isolation,quarantine and preventive care on war footing. That made the difference and spread of virus was restricted to certain extent.
To add fuel to raging fire on the fourth day of the Foot and Mouth disease breakout some of the bulls started stamping their feet and that was an indication that bulls were affected with feet symptoms having ulcers in their hooves.
Who will bell the cat ! Our bulls were quite heavy and ferocious. It was difficult for many to go near them! It was my maiden experience to treat bulls in such a situation. However, I was not a stranger to the bulls as being a Jack of all trades at the farm sometimes I used to collect semen when the need arose.
Many of my team mates wore a fearful expression and stood away in a circle. I approached the diseased bull from one side slowly patted on the neck of a dithen gradually taking my hand on his abdomen and hind leg region and held the hoof with help of a rope. Fortunately for me the bull remained still without any resistance. I then washed the hooves and applied medicines. The bull stood like a tamed dog !
Other bulls in the yard were looking to this scene and to my astonishment, I treated the feet lesion of 4 bulls, this event confirmed a belief that I had that though the animals may or may not have thinking ability but they very well recognise a safe and kind touch full of love !
This injected confidence in my team members and we treated all the sixteen affected bulls with daily dressing without getting injury from the bulls to anyone!
It reminds me the story of Androcles and the lion. How the lion recognised Androcles for a favour of pulling out a thorn from his paw !
We were able to control the disease in a short span of time and prevented production loss.
It was a great learning about how dedication fetches contentment in life at the same time, compassion and kindness leave magic impact on animals !
Contributed by Dr.Hemendra Joshi – NDDB/ SAGP 1977-2000, Banas Dairy / 2001-2012