The Goat Man of Wai
Rearing is not an easy occupation where any animal is concerned.
And with goats, it´s that much more difficult...
Text & Photographs: Farzana Contractor
It does not happen often that you come across a person such as Prithviraj Chavan. Clear-thinking, simple-speaking, honest-minded, upright and industrious. Following the chosen path with utmost sincerity and dedication.
I love rural India and here I was now, seated in the aangan of a modest village home, discusing all things goats, with Prithviraj, the man who breeds them.
To establish himself better and apart from the more distinguished gentleman by the same name, the ex-Chief Minister of Maharashtra, the goat man adds his father’s name, Dilip, as his middle name. He tells me this with a smile on his sunburnt face, no doubt kicked by the fact that he shares his name with the famous politician who belongs to the same region. It does make a nice story.
Wai, at the foot of Panchgani, the hill station I frequently visit, is a lovely old town with ancient temples on the banks of river Krishna. It’s also the place Bollywood has discovered and uses with a vengeance, for all kinds of shoots. Shah Rukh and Salman, have predominantly put the locale on the film map.
But Prithviraj’s village, Kavathe, famous for having produced Kisanveer, a freedom fighter, is situated much before the main town of Wai. It’s on the beautiful long road, with green fields on either side, after you swing off the main highway (which leads to Satara, Kolhapur, etc) to approach Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar.
When I learnt of Prithviraj and what he does, from some local Panchgani folks, I knew I had to visit his place. And now that I was here I was pretty fascinated.
These were handsome animals. Different breeds, colours, shapes, sizes. They looked healty, tough, smart, even arrogant. They come from three stocks; pure-bred African Boer, which are the white ones with beige heads. They weigh anywhere between 80 and 100 kgs at adult age; the Rajasthan Sirohi which are either all brown or brown with white patches and weigh about 70 kgs and lastly, the local breed, which are nondescript, coming in various colours. They weigh the least at 35 kgs, but are hardy, not very tall and can resist the cold and the rain.
Rearing these special goats is no easy task. It calls for hard work and much discipline. Looking after them is a full-time occupation.
Here then is one day in the life of Prithviraj Dilip Chavan…
He wakes up at dawn to be ready by 6 am to go feed the 200 odd goats that he has at his place at any given time of the year. The first meal of the day is concentrated food, like nuggets, like the ones we give to our dogs. It’s a special, composite food.
Before he serves them their first meal, he shifts the goats from the resting area to the feeding area, clears the feeder trays and in systematic order drops the food in the trays according to the age of the goats, first the adults, then the kids. While the goats are munching away, he moves to the resting pen and sweeps up the area, cleaning it thoroughly from the previous night’s droppings, which takes him roughly two hours.
From 6 am to 6 pm the goats stay in the feeding pens after which they are shifted to the resting pens where they will sleep, with not even water served. There are planks here upon which they climb and sleep, warm and snug, as in their natural habitat. For most parts of the year it is cold in Wai and so the floor remains cold, not good for the animals, so the goat man makes sure there are blankets and rugs covering these planks. These may be old and worn out, but they give warmth to the animals.
Feeding goes on, every hour, in varied quantities, except for one hour in the afternoon when they are allowed to rest completely so that proper digestion takes place. Until 12 noon they are given dry fodder, like sorghum kadaba (husk of jowar grain) and only later in the afternoon, when body heat increases and water levels drop are they given fresh green fodder. There are four kinds of grass that he grows adjacent to the goat pens, in land measuring 20 guntas, which is 20,000 sq. ft. The four are Lucern, DHN 6 (Dharwad Hybrid Napier) and COFS 29 (Coimbatore Fodder Sorghum) and Dhasrat. These are the technical names. Which we can understand by their popular names of methi, alpha alpha and so on, but which basically means these are different greens with very high doses of proteins. “These combined are known as King of Fodder and are delicious, too,” says Prithviraj with a certain pride, that he offers his goats the best feed. He has tasted the grass.
The last meal of the day at 6 pm again comprises a dry food concentrate or husk of maize or lentil.
Once he leads them back into the resting pen, the curtains are drawn and the goats bade shubh ratri. Well, the curtains are not there to keep the light out, as much as to keep the draft out in the winter and moisture and rain sprays in the monsoon. Prithviraj makes sure his goats don’t fall ill.
Which means along with proper food, water and rest he also administers them medication from time to time. Vaccinations, deworming pills. A detail, individual record is maintained of each goat, systematically, carefully. Identification takes place according to the numbering through the ear tags, the purpose of which is record-keeping.
So practically the whole day goes in feeding, cleaning and watching over the goats. But that is not all, for there is also ‘kidding’ happening from time to time. Which is when Prithviraj plays the role of ‘midwife’. Each female goat delivers twice a year. And these are a litter of two, normally. But if a third one comes along, then milk becomes an issue. Though nature takes its course and the milk capacity increases, the poor mother is hassled because only two can feed at a time, while the third stands aside bleating… And it usually happens that the stronger ones bully the weaker one where taking turns are concerned.
But it´s not just kidding that keeps Prithviraj occupied; he also has to watch out for goat fights. And these take place suddenly. When one starts horning another. Can become dangerous, especially if a pregnant goat is around. Helping him keep an eye are his ´goat dogs´, unlike sheep dogs, which herd sheep on walks. These goats never leave the premises.
Prithviraj comes from modest stock, but education and determination gives him immense confidence to live a meaningful life. He graduated in BSc Agriculture from the Baramati College of Agriculture and did his Post Grad in ABPM (Agriculture Business and Planning Management) from Bangalore’s IIPM (Indian Institute of Planning Management).
After his studies, for one year, that is 2010 and 2011, he worked in Sangli with the Murugappa Group and then started his goat-breeding business, in Wai. The main purpose of which is to supply goats for breeding. Also for meat consumption, which he himself does not indulge in.
Prithviraj’s grandfather, who has been a farmer all his life, and grandmother, at ages 85 and 75 respectively, work with him as care-givers, helping him with the kidding process and looking after any animal which may be under the weather, nursing it back with tender love and care. Nice.