In accordance with a call given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to double the farmers’ income, the Himachal Pradesh government has launched an Rs 8.5 crore community-based structured breeding programme to achieve genetic improvement of indigenous sheep to improve the quality of wool through crossbreeding with Australian Merino sheep.
State Animal Husbandry minister Virender Kanwar informed that Australian Merino sheep are known to have the softest and finest wool used for apparel. The state government has imported 240 Australian Merino Sheep (40 males and 200 females) for indigenous sheep breed improvement and the import has been done under the National Livestock Mission (NLM) so that superior exotic germplasm could be infused to achieve the target of 3,000 tonnes wool production in next five years.
The state has recorded total wool production of around 1,482.244 tonnes during the year 2020-21 which Chamba district becoming the top wool producing district with an annual production of around 425.012 tonnes while Kullu and Shimla recorded 249.661 tonnes and 196.474 tonnes wool production, he added.
Kanwar stated that Woolfed has a modernized plant for wool scouring in Banuri, Palampur where around 11,500.000 kg of wool was processed in the year 2020-2021. The average wool production in Himachal is about 1,599 grams per sheep every year. The state has two popular breeds of sheep namely the Rampur Bushari breed and Gaddi breed which are popular for producing high-quality carpet wool.
The Rampur Bushari sheep breed is reared in the Shimla district while the Gaddi sheep breed is reared in the districts of Chamba, Kangra, Kullu, Kinnaur, and Lahaul Spiti.
The state has 7,91,345 sheep that produce coarse carpet quality wool at present.
The breeding programme will improve the quality of the wool and wool of 21-22 microns suitable for apparel production shall be produced which will be at par with the world’s best premium quality fabrics that are produced in Australia and New Zealand, the minister said.
He further stated that the wool produced shall be devoid of inherent wool defects like kemp and medullated fiber found in the native breeds at present.
Himachal is the sixth-largest producer of wool in the country contributing 4 percent of the total wool production in the country.
This wool produced is used to prepare products like carpets, yarn, fabrics, and garments mainly for the domestic market.
The Merino Sheep, a Spanish breed prized for its soft, fine, and lustrous fiber is being reared at Sheep breeding farms at Nagwain in the Mandi district where infrastructure facilities have been strengthened to meet the requirements of imported livestock with a total cost of around Rs 2 crore. The sheep have well acclimated to the climate of the state and have produced 800 healthy lambs through artificial insemination, he added.