Friday 26 May 2017 News Updated at 03:05 AM IST
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The appeal of the Kenguris - Deccan Herald
The appeal of the Kenguris
Ramesh B K,
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Favoured by many: Farmers with Kenguri sheep at the Kenguri Santhe in Sindhanur. photos by author
It was seven in the morning when we reached Sindhanur agricultural produce market committee’s (APMC) market. The crowd was huge, and as we struggled our way through the crowd, we could see brown sheep, and only brown sheep, all around. There was none of the other kind. These sheep are called Kenguris and we were in Kenguri santhe, a market dedicated to the sale and purchase of this unique breed of sheep. This breed is also referred to as Sindhanur breed.

Nomadic shepherds of Sindhanur, Koppal, Gangavathi and Raichur rear this sheep for mutton. Kenguris are sturdy animals and are also well adapted to the harsh climatic conditions of the region. They are called Kenguris because of their brown fur. White patches on the forehead and a black belly are their other common features. While males are horned, females are usually polled. At the age of around three to four months, the lambs of this breed weigh approximately 14 to 16 kg. This weight is higher than other breeds of the State such as Bannur or Ballari.

Bustling market

Kenguri santhe or Sindhanur Kuri santhe starts every Monday morning at six. Shepherds from far off places arrive here the previous night and those who are close by come in the morning after an early morning journey. Customers follow the same, and by early morning, they go round the market to select the flock. Once they assess the market and decide on the sheep, the bargaining begins. Business ends by nine in the morning to avoid the scorching heat. Once the sheep have been bought, the transporters start wooing customers. A deal is struck depending on the distance to be travelled and then the sheep are loaded.

On the day we went, Durgappa, a shepherd from Bhogapura village of Sindhanur taluk, was in the market with 10 six to seven months old female Kenguris. The sheep were healthy with shiny coat and sparkling eyes, and hence, attracted many bidders. In most of the cases, middlemen facilitate the deal. However, shepherds don’t appreciate their interference. Durgappa feels that the middlemen steal a major portion of their business dealings. "Why can’t the officials find a way out to grade our animals? That will relieve us from the clutches of middlemen and fetch us good money,” he adds.

While many are happy about the sales they have made, some feel that there should have been some provision for shelter to the animals and to people who make business. "Officials concerned should arrange to sprinkle water on the ground to avoid dust on the market day. There is no proper provision for drinking water for the animals too. They might have had access to water the previous evening and they will get it only when they reach their destination. In some cases, the journey is more than 12 hours,” opines Hanumappa, a farmer who had bought a new flock of sheep at the market.

Though Kenguris are natural grazers, they adapt easily to intensive rearing under stall-fed conditions. As they weigh high compared to many of known sheep breeds in the State, they are preferred for intensive rearing. So, farmers from far off places like Davanagere and Hassan throng this santhe to get Kenguri sheep. "Approximately seven to eight thousand sheep are sold every week except during the month of shravana, when the business remains little bleak,” reveals an APMC official. "On an average, 50-60 small trucks each carrying around 40 to 50 sheep, and 12 to 15 bigger ones that can accommodate 250 to 300 sheep arrive in here every week.”

Providing care

Farmers buy male lambs when the market rates are little low during the time of Sankranthi. Male lambs, around the age of 3.5 months, with their horn buds just emerging are generally preferred. "By the time the horn buds emerge out, male lambs would be capable of digesting any of the forages offered to them. Till then, they depend on their mother for milk, and hence, are not of suitable age to bring home for fattening,” said Gadilinga, a farmer from Ballari who had bought around 50 lambs. Lambs are fattened by being fed various tree loppings and cereals like maize for a few months.

Later, they are taken for grazing with the flock the farmer owns. "Women in the shepherd’s family do 80% of the work - right from looking after the family to feeding and grazing the sheep in the fields,” said Yerappa D, a lecturer at Government College, Siruguppa, who has studied their social and cultural life. As Bakrid approaches, the sheep are again fattened with extra cereals along with the routine grazing. As there is a huge demand for mutton during the season of Bakrid, many farmers are able to sell their sheep at a lucrative price. Each lamb could get them an income of about Rs 4,000.

People engaged in various other associated occupations such as making footwear and ropes find their livelihood in the market as well. Once the farmers finish their purchase, they throng to buy items such as colourful ropes to adorn and restrain their animals. Nagappa from Dhadesugur village never misses to sell the various sizes of nylon nets called kuri bale, which the shepherds buy to keep their flock together. He earns nearly Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 every Monday by selling these nets.

You will leave the market more knowledgeable and have a newer appreciation for the breed and how the market works.