Locally grown bull captures strength of domestic supply – and sets asking price.

Last Qurbani, aged 2 years and 10 months, he weighed in at 39 maunds (1 maund = 40 kg in Bangladesh) and though he made an appearance at Gabtoli, his owner Khannu Mia balked at the Tk 1.4 million (14 lakh) price punters bid for Raja Babu - meaning though he managed to wow the crowds, he failed to be crowned the King of the Hut, or the one that fetches the highest selling price.

Instead, Khannu Mia decided to take his Prize Bull - of the famed Holstein Friesian, more commonly referred to here as "Australian", breed - back home to Manikganj, and try his luck again in a year.

In that year, through the undying attention of Khannu Mia and his family consisting of wife Parishkar Begum and daughter Eiti Akhter, Raja Babu has added on a third in weight. He now tips the scales at an eye-watering 2094kg (52 maunds, over 2 tonnes!), stands 6 feet 6 inches tall, stretches 8 feet long front-to-back, with a tail length 4 feet 3 inches and - importantly for Qurbani buyers - 6 teeth.

Speculation is rife that this year, there is no standing between Raja Babu ('He just looked like a King from', explains Eiti, who passed her SSC in 2017 and has undergone training at Savar's Sheikh Hasina Youth Development Centre on rearing cattle and fowl) and the nationwide crown.

His asking price, as set by Khannu Mia: a cool Tk 2.2 million (22 lakh).

"I bought the then 18-maund Holstein Friesian bull from Keraniganj in Dhaka two years ago for Tk 4.80 lakh," says Khannu Mia, a resident of Delua village of Saturia Upazila in Manikganj. Rearing such a big bull poses all kinds of challenges. Saturia Animal Resources Officer Dr. Khorshed Alam, who confirmed all of Raja Babu's measurements, also affirmed the difficulties. His office is regularly keeping tabs on Raja's health and providing needful medicines to prevent worms, for example

"It is the biggest bull in the country," Dr. Alam proclaimed to our sister agency UNB.

No shortage likely

The country is unlikely to face a shortage of cattle during the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha as the supply of locally-reared cattle is quite enough to meet the demand for sacrificial animals, say officials. According to the fisheries and livestock ministry, 1.16 crore sacrificial animals are available this time compared to 1.04 crore last year.

It also said there are 4.5 million (44.57 lakh) sacrificial cattle and 7.1 million (71 lakh) goats and sheep in the country. The ministry's statistics show that Muslims across the country sacrificed some 1.15 crore cattle during last year's Eid-ul-Azha.

A number of cattle traders said the supply of locally-reared cattle has been increasing for the last several years, which has helped reduce dependence on cattle from neighbouring countries. Bangladesh Meat Merchants' Association (BMMA) has taken up different programmes to help restrict the entry of Indian cows into the local market.

The association leaders claimed that their campaign has helped boost the local production. Cattle from India used to meet around 40 percent of the need for sacrificial animals during the Eid before the neighbouring country imposed restriction on cattle supply to Bangladesh, said BMMA. Dependence on cattle from India and Myanmar has been on the decline for the last few years, mentioned leaders of the association.

AK Fazlul Haque Bhuiyan, professor at the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics of Bangladesh Agricultural University, told UNB that there is no doubt that local production would meet the demand for sacrificial animals. Hiresh Ranjan Bhowmik, director general of the Department of Livestock Services (DLS), said they already asked the authorities concerned to strengthen vigilance along the border to prevent the entry of cows from India.

UNB correspondents from border districts reported that the inflow of cattle from across the border had come down ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, thanks to enforced vigilance by BGB and BSF. Anjuman Ara Begum, customs revenue in-charge at Navaron Customs Corridor, said 5-7,000 cattle used to be brought from India via the Khatals (cowshed) of Putkhali corridor previously, but now the number has come down to 20-25 a day.

Making Raja even more of a favourite to finally live up to his name.

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