Hot beef curry and different other preparations of cow meat are the most favourite culinary delights for the Muslims in Bangladesh. They can think of no big social and family festivals involving large scale feasting without beef items. Sacrifice of cows (and goats, sheep and buffaloes) is also a part of their religious rituals on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. Thus every year, hundreds of thousands of cows are slaughtered to meet the need.
However, people had to depend to a large extent on foreign sources, especially India and Myanmar, for adequate supply of live cows at relatively cheaper rates. This has been possible due to common land border with these two countries. It is to be noted that direct import of beef is not a normal practice in the country.The reason why we had to import cows was, and still is to a great extent, that rearing of cattle for commercial purposes had not hitherto developed to the requisite level in the country. Almost all farmer families had cows but those were mainly for ploughing land. They used to put only the surplus cows and bullocks on the market. Naturally those were hardly enough to meet the increasing demand of a burgeoning population.
This increased demand and therefore the high price of cows, especially during Eid-ul-Azha, prompted many in the rural areas to opt for commercial rearing of cows and goats. Now it has become a lucrative business venture for a large segment of the farming community. This has given rise to a sharp increase in the number of local cows which, in turn, led to a drastic fall in the import of the animals. Another encouraging factor for livestock farming is that people prefer local species of cows for the purpose of sacrifice.
However, this is just the beginning. Livestock farming should set before it the target of making the country self-sufficient, if not surplus, in meat supply. Noticeably, farmers now are rearing cattle with their eyes mainly on the high demand during Eid-ul-Azha. Year long supply of meat and milk should rather be the target of livestock farming. Achievement of this will be a bold step toward developing the agricultural economy as an integrated whole with sufficiency in the production of food grains, egg meat milk and fish, and also vegetables and fruits.