Mithun (Bos frontalis) ia a unique bioresource of North-Eastern States (viz., Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland) which is directly linked with the agricultural practices, environment, ecology, and overall economy of the mithun inhabited States. Since time immemorial, it has been regarded as an inseparable component during the celebration of socio-cultural and religious ceremonies. Traditionally, mithun is being reared under a free-range forest-based ecosystem with almost zero input. No supplementary feeding, shelter, and health care are provided by mithun owners. Presently, the existence of this animal is at stake both from a social and environmental point of view. The forest area in which these valuable animals inhabit is decreasing day by day due to some faulty agricultural practices like Jhuming with a shorter cyclic period, indiscriminate felling of trees, and urbanization etc. The overall population of mithun has registered an increase of 30.60% during the 19th Livestock Census compared to the 18th Census. However, Nagaland and Manipur showed a marginal decrease in the mithun population.
Mithun plays important role in the socio-economic, religious, and cultural life of the tribal people of the mithun rearing states viz., Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram. The ownership of Mithun is considered as a sign of prosperity and superiority of an individual in the society. Also, mithun rearing as unique micro-enterprise acts as a potentially profitable alternative in the socio-economic upliftment of farmers.
Though mithun is primarily reared for meat purposes, there is scope for improvement of their milk production potentiality. Superior quality of milk with high butterfat percentage opens avenues for the production of value-added milk products for sustainable livelihood. The draught power can be utilized for agricultural work in difficult hilly terrains. Good quality leather can also be processed from mithun hide. However, to exploit the potential of this animal it is important to adopt scientific management to the presently practiced traditional mithun rearing under a free-range forest ecosystem.
Since its inception, ICAR-NRC on Mithun is relentlessly working to bring in excellence in the mandated areas of research such as conservation and propagation of the mithun, genetic improvement for meat and milk, developing low cost complete feed blocks, developing nursery for fodder trees, breeding and health care management. The dissemination of technology to the farmers filed is of utmost priority hence, under the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) scheme, several programs viz. establishment of the semi-intensive unit, mithun mela-cum-technology awareness program, animal health cum vaccination camps, farmers training, and exposure visits, vocational training, OFT and FLD are organized.
The Institute is also striving hard to improve the technical competency of the students, faculties, and other extension personnel by imparting new skills and knowledge. Under the DBT-sponsored Biotech Hub, students and faculties of various educational institutes were given a hands-on training program on “Spreading Biotechnology Awareness among Science Graduates in the NEH Region” and ‘Biotech Awareness and Advanced Biotechniques for Analysis of Molecular Genetics Data”.
Our active collaboration developed over the years with the Central Agriculture University, Imphal and its constituent colleges, particularly the newly established Colleges of Veterinary Sciences & Animal Husbandry, Jalukie, Nagaland; Colleges of Veterinary Sciences & Animal Husbandry, Selesih, Mizoram, and College of Horticulture & Forestry, Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh has been of good help to our efforts in mithun propagation and conservation. Support and collaboration received from, Assam Rifles, Directorates of Veterinary Services & AH of mithun rearing states, ATMA, NGOs, ATARI-Zone VI, and VII, NABARD, College of Veterinary Science, AAU, Khanapara and other ICAR institutes of the region is noteworthy.
It would be unfair no to acknowledge the support and untiring efforts of all the staffs of the Institutes to achieve our target to conserve improve and propagate this magnificent species, Mithun.
Meraj Haider Khan