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Balkaran Ramlal picks leaves from the bharahar plant to feed his hungry animals. Ramlal says bharahar has great nutritional value.↔

Faced with recent animal feed shortages, livestock farmers are relying heavily on traditional grasses and leaves to feed their starving animals.

Since November, animal feeds have run in low supply, exacerbated by rising costs of corn, soybean and wheat.

These raw materials are used by National Flour Mills to manufacture animal rations.

Guardian Media caught up with goat herder Balkaran Ramlal of Sou Sou Lands, Penal as he chopped leaves from the bharahar tree to feed his prized animals.

Ramlal said sometimes he goes to the forests to cut the coveted plant whose milky leaves are nutritious for his prized Saanen goats.

Ramlal said the older people from the villages told him to give his animals the bharahar leaves and since he started feeding his animals with it, their health has improved. Judging from their shiny coats and playfulness, Ramlal said he did not mind venturing into the bushes to find the leaves.

“I cut about four or five bags every two days and feed it to them. They love it. Just as we love water-cress, this is like that for them. They love it,” he said.

He explained that the shortage of animal rations had been a source of worry for many farmers. Ramlal said this was why many farmers were preferring to keep their goats in pens.

Farmers in the Moruga, Barrackpore and Penal regions have lost over 1,000 heads of animals for this year. Rustlers have been stealing the animals from the fields so some farmers have opted to rear their animals from home.

Ramlal said even though he suffers from pains to his foot, he did not mind cutting the bharahar plant for his goats.

He added that even when the animal rations go back in supply, he may continue feeding his animals the plant.

In a statement this week, NFM confirmed there was a shortage of animal feeds. The company explained that shortages of corn and soybean meal as well as wheat middling had triggered the feed crisis.

NFM said raw materials have started arriving and more shipments will come in by mid-January so animal rations will be available once again.