Meherpur livestock farmers have found a lucrative business in rearing an unusual breed of sheep – a crossbreed of Indian and Bangladeshi varieties.
The business, which commercially began in 2002, now yields more than Tk50 crore annually, according to Meherpur Livestock Department officials.
The farmers primarily rear Garol to produce babies. Each Garol calves, depending on their size and health, sells for Tk4000 to Tk6000. A mother Garol gives birth to two to three babies twice a year.
There is also a rising demand for the animal's meat, leading many to raise adults, and each sheep sells between Tk15,000 and a whopping Tk30,000. An adult Garol provides 30 to 35 kg of meat.
The story goes that a farmer named Dobir Uddin of Taranagar village in Mujibnagar upazila brought two Indian sheep and crossbred them with the local variety, which resulted in the birth of the first crossbreeds.
Dobir soon saw success with his venture. The crossbred sheep were bigger, more meaty and easy to look after, as they like wet grass, unlike regular sheep or goats, which makes feeding them easier in Bangladesh.
Other livestock farmers soon realised the potential of farming the new variety. They started calling it Garol.
At present Meherpur has over 500 Garol farms, producing 80,000 sheep of the variety annually, according to livestock department officials.
Aminur Rahman, switched from being a driver to Garol farming two years ago. The decision proved profitable as his business has boomed since. He even had to hire an assistant to take care of the animals.
Talking to The Business Standard, Aminur said, "Driving cars was not paying enough to support my family. That is why I switched to Garol farming with 30 of them."
At present, he has over a hundred Garol sheep on his farm, earning him over Tk3 lakh annually.
Meherpur Livestock Department officer Saidur Rahman said Mujibnagar's Garol farmers have set a remarkable precedent in crossbreeding. The Livestock Department is trying to expand Garol farming in the district.
He said there is no project or research on crossbreeding sheep in the country. Now, the Department is trying to spread Garol farming across the country, using methods practised by Meherpur's farmers.