The popular “Lal Birish” or “Red Chittagong” cow breed is facing extinction due to hybridization.
This breed differs from other indigenous ones mainly because of the colour of its coat, which ranges from dark reddish brown, light brick red, yellowish red to whitish red.
Demand for this local breed of cow, which weighs around 400 kilograms, usually goes up during Eid-ul-Adha.
In the past, Red Chittagong cows were abundant in the district, especially in the Satkania, Anawara, Raozan, Hathazari, Chandanaish and Patiya upazilas.
Experts and cattle traders said the native breed has a strong immune system and can survive in difficult environments.
Speaking to The Business Standard, a Chittagong dairy entrepreneur Omor Mohammad Sharif said cattle raisers opt to rear cows that produce more milk. “This is why cattle hybridization is so popular,” he added.
Sharif, owner of Hathazari Homeland Dairy, claimed that modern hybridization has put the Red Chittagong species in a risk of gradual extinction.
“While only two to three liters of milk can be collected from local breeds, hybrid cattle can produce up to 10 to 12 liters of milk a day,” he said.
Sharif added that the hybrid calves are more expensive and farmers are more interested in rearing them as the government is facilitating the sector.
Animal Breeding and Genetics Professor of Bangladesh Agricultural University Dr AK Fazlul Haque Bhuiyan, however, dismissed the claim, saying: “As hybrid cattle are more susceptible to diseases, the ‘higher profit’ theory is questionable. We need special government schemes to save the local species from extinction.”
Previously in 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had initiated a project to save the special native species of Chattogram.
The project titled “Characterization, conservation and improvement of Red Chittagong Cattle of Bangladesh” tried to popularize the breed by spreading it to other districts.
However, the project was never repeated an no new initiative was taken after completion of the USDA venture.
Department of Livestock Services, Chattogram official Reyazul Haque Jasim said they currently have no special project to protect the Red Chittagong cows.
However, the office is collaborating with the Savar Central Cattle Breeding and Dairy Farm to save the breed.