TERHATHUM: The population of cows exceeds that of people in Phulek VDC in Tehrathum district after the local residents started commercial cow farming.

While the total population in the VDC stands at 1,927, the number of cows of foreign species totals 2,000, according to VDC secretary Bikram Rai.

Rewati Dahal, technician, Veterinary Service Centre Basantapur, said there are 340 families in the village who rear the domestic animal. "Every single family is involved in cattle farming," he added.

The cows of improved breed were brought in by some villagers 15 years ago from Phikkal of Ilam after youths in the village started going to Gulf countries for employment. Sale of milk has now been the major source of income for every household in the village.

The sale of milk per annum from the village amounts to Rs 10 million. The villagers also earn a lot from the sale of calves and other dairy products such as ghee and curd. Kamal Khadka, head teacher, Sarbajanik Secondary School and chairman of Cattle Farming Committee, said, "The villagers here earn more than Rs 15 million annually. The living standard of the villagers has improved due to cattle farming."

Indra Bahadur Poudel, founder of Sarbajanik Namuna Milk Producers' Cooperatives, said the villagers sell between 1200 and 1500 litres of milk daily to Dairy Supply Project Biratnagar. According to Amrit Gautam, a local farmer, most of the villagers have purchased land in the cities of Dharan, Biratnagar and Birtamod with the money earned from the rearing of cows.

Phulek is the smallest VDC in the district in terms of population and area. The villagers have little field for growing crops, one of their motives for cattle farming, instead. Since they do not have pastures, they keep their cows in sheds all the time.

The farmers, who started the profession by taking loans from Agricultural Development Bank, have already paid the loans. In order to collect the milk, they have established four cooperatives, employing some three dozen locals. Krishna Katuwal, a local teacher, has also utilised his spare time by rearing a couple of cows, realising the profit in the business. He said most professionals like him were engaged in cattle farming for additional income.