BENGALURU: Bang in the middle of the madding crowd, Bengalureans are rearing sheep. They keep rams and ewes as pets or livestock. With Bakrid fast approaching, you may catch a sheep or two grazing on the terraces and in front of homes along narrow lanes.
Naveed Pasha’s family, in JP Nagar Stage V, has been rearing sheep for over 16 years on the terrace of a two-storey house. His father, after his retirement, brought home the first sheep that they kept for a few years. They began to keep, at a time, a minimum of 15 sheep. These days, they keep only two.
Every year, they slaughter a few for Bakrid and replace them once every two years. But Naveed has decided to stop this practice. It’s not easy caring for sheep on an urban terrace. “The two we have now will be our last and they will be sacrificed on September 13 for Bakrid,” says Jaskeem Pasha, wife of Naveed.
The city corpoation seems to be unaware of this practice. It does not keep a record of sheep rearing in the city, Dr G Anand, joint director of Animal Husbandry department BBMP. “But we recommend not to raise them in the city limits because of the health risks,” he says. Sreenivasan, Animal Husbandry Inspector with BBMP, too recommends that sheep not be kept in urban areas. “No one has approached us for sheep licensing till now,” he says.
Jaskeen believes that a licence is not “compulsory”. “We’ve been doing this for 16 years,” she says, “and we use it for domestic use and do not run this as a business”. Last year, BBMP had wanted licence made compulsory for all domestic animals and officials had sent this request to the urban development department. This has not yet been implemented. “Right now, you only need a licence for a dog,” says Anand.
A veterinarian with the state’s sheep board says that he tends to five or six sheep a month in the city. “This is a very small number compared to the villages, where I see atleast 20 to 30 a month,” says Dr Mohan Kumar veterinary technical officer of Sheep Board Karnataka Sheep and Wool Development Corporation.
“People in cities keep sheep as a hobby because it is not possible to rear them for commercial purpose. People can, at the most, rear two.”
Naveed Pasha agrees. “They are not meant for the cities so unless you are passionate about them, don’t raise them,” he says.
A sheep owner will need an open space and a proper shelter attached to it. If you’re planning to keep them on your terrace, it must be spacious enough for them to graze. A report by University of Kentucky states that good ventilation and sanitation are as essential as nutrition to keep sheep and goats healthy.
Besides, your neighbours should be fine with your flock. “If they complain, we will seize the sheep,” says Anand. It was easier for Naveed because his home is shared by his extended family, and all tend the sheep.
Sheep can feed on grass and millets, which can be bought in the city cheap -- with Rs 10, you can buy feed that will last for a day or so. You can also give them vegetable peels and cauliflower, says Naveed.
The fecal matter of the sheep is left to dry and then collected to be disposed of at a municipality garbage dump. Also, keep in mind the medical facilities available in and around your area in case of an emergency. N Saveed’s family falls back on ayurvedic medicines.
The state’s sheep board had launched country’s first sheep ambulance last year, with the government spending `1.2 crores on 18 Boleros. Karnataka has a sheep population of 95.7 lakh, the highest in the country. But Bengaluru was not allotted an ambulance because the city accounts for only one per cent of the state’s sheep population.