Managing India's livestock for better returns to farmers

Dr VK Bahuguna

(The author is retired civil servant)
The country celebrates the birth day of Lord Krishna with great fanfare. Along with his discourse in Bhgawat Gita Krishna the cowherd is needed more today than ever before because today our food God the Indian farmer needs his blessings to sustain his income from farming. The Central government had announced doubling the income of farmers by 2022 and several steps have been taken to achieve the goals. However, this writer’s field visits in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand and interactions with farmers and cattle owners is such that there are several missing links in achieving these goals apart from a skewed vision, poor planning of schemes and their lop-sided implementation. The animal resources planning has not be accorded the desired level of support both technical as well as financial in the scheme of things for boosting the income of farmers. The government is going to undertake 20th Animal Census soon from this month onwards and the issue assumes added importance for the planners.

According to the 19th Animal census conducted in the year 2013 by the government of India with a base year of 2012, the livestock population was 512.05 million and consisted of Cattle, Buffalo, Sheep, Goat, Horses, Ponies, Mules, Donkeys, camel, Mithun and Yak. The cattle population is around 283 million. The contribution of the Animal Resources in the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated in the report to be of 4.11% but the contribution of livestock in agriculture GDP is 25.6%. The net population of Animals had witnessed a decrease of 3.33% compared to the 2007 census figures, though it increased in some states like Gujrat(15.3%), UP (14%) Assam (10%) and Punjab (9.5%), Bihar (8.5%). The Milch cattle population in the country had gone up from 111 million to 118 million. The foreign breed cattle also witnessed a whopping increase of 32.7% to 19.42 million up from 14.4 million. The population of indigenous cows had decreased by 8.9 % between 2007 and 2012.

Now let us discuss how this livestock population could be used to increase the income of farmers. First, we should discuss this in the light of role played by animal wealth in Indian culture and nutritional sustainability specially for the 85% of the farmers who have small landholdings. Holy cow is worshipped but a lot is desired to be done to enhance the value of our cow wealth. These days a lot of material is flooding the market about A2 milk which is fast assuming the status of an industry in New-Zealand, Australia, Uruguay, USA and some other countries. Brazil had taken the Indian cows long back in ships and is world leader in production of A2 milk from Indian breed cows. The foreign breed Holstein Friesian and Jersey produce A1 milk which according to scientists contain Beta casein protein which is one of the causes of diabetes, blood pressure and heart problems. This has been scientifically proved without ambiguity. The A2 milk does not contain Beta casein protein and all hump bearing Indian cows produce A2 milk. India has 37 pure cattle breeds and all have a hump. The cow varieties like Gir, Red Sindhi, Sahiwal, Tharparkar and Rathi are high milk yielding while others like Nagauri, Kankrej and Ongole are for both milk as well as draught qualities. After four years of extensive research, scientists at Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU) have actually found gold in the urine of Gir cows. The analysis of urine samples of 400 Gir cows done at the Food Testing Laboratory of JAU showed traces of gold ranging from three mg to 10 mg from one liter urine. This lend credence to our ancient literature about the holiness of cows

In fact single minded devotion to focus on Indian cows can increase their contribution to agriculture GDP to almost 50% if a well thought out plan is put into action. The farmers due to economic reason take the government promoted Holstein and Jersey cows as they yield more milk but the quality is very poor though quantity may be more but in long term foreign cows require heavy maintenance also. Brazil example has shown that Indian breed can yield much higher milk. The biggest problem is the mindset of veterinary experts who have been concentrating on more quantity under the influence of western scientists. We must have a holistic programme on Indian cow breed improvement with full involvement of the public and other cow experts to use cow not only for the milk production but for using all its products as per the ancient literature. Mr Uttam Maheswari is a well known cow therapy expert in Mumbai and treating serious diseases with cow products. This writer collaborates with one dedicated person in Mr Vaishnav Charan Das who is spreading selflessly cow protection through production of high quality cow products for treatments of diseases under the brand name 'Doctor Cow', and through the 'Kalpavriksh Foundation' to spread the cow consciousness based on scientifically measurable facts. This foundation is trying to prove true what the old sages of India have said about the cow. The cow vigilantes instead of taking law on their own hands must convince people to use the cow wealth productively after cows retire from milk production. The foundation had proved that all such non milch cows are excellent business venture as the cow products are being globally supplied.

Indian people therefore, need fundamental change in the attitude and make cow wealth self-sustainable by implementing the Vedic agriculture production system as well as by usage and distribution of the cow products as a source of income to the farmers. This 'Kalpavriksh Foundation' had found out a solution for cow slaughter and is supporting 5000 Gaushalas after getting inspiration from the Sri Gopal Govardhan Gaushala, Pathmeda, Rajsathan which is the first model of its kind to make Gaushalas self-sufficient. The Doctor Cow supports the Gaushalas by purchasing the Panchagavya (five products viz dung, urine, milk, ghee and curd) and this has transformed the loss making Gaushalas as profitable and self-sufficient. Another small venture has been started in Delhi for feeding the street and abandoned cows by the 'Survi kamdhenu Trust' of Mr BD Tripathi who collect waste food from houses in Delhi and feed the cows by spending his own money. This trust is also teaching the school children the importance of the cow.

These are some of the few examples of individuals but unless the society at large, social leaders and government takes it up seriously and consider it as a scientific venture farmers will continue to suffer and holy cows will continue to languish in roads and slaughtered. 'Kalpavriksh Foundation' had written to Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Chief Ministers on behalf of Kalpavriksh Trust to assist them to replicate the Doctor Cow success story. A proposal under corporate social responsibility was sent to 20 major industries but none responded. This shows that the priorities of accepting innovations beyond official programs have little meaning for the society. In nutshell, this author would request the PM Modi and his agriculture Minister to prioritize cow wealth for the benefit of farmers and Indian cow should be the 'very focus' because as the old saying goes "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." The first thing needs to be done is to create Indian Council of Veterinary Science and delink animal resources from ICAR and also bring dedicated people in the National dairy development Board rather than treating this organization as a post retirement sinecure for the bureaucrats.

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