Jay Mazoomdar wrote an impassioned cover story in Tehelka on the Indian cow recently – http://www.tehelka.com/the-desi-cow-almost-extinct/ – this has valueable knowledge for the lay reader interested in learning how India is throwing away its cattle heritage developed over many millenia. We have only 37 odd desi cow breeds left in India (see http://eng.gougram.org/breeds/ for a list), and all are under threat of being overwhelmed by hybridization and thus losing their unique adaptation to our sub continents many micro climates. Not simply because of the tyranny of the market economy and the never ending search for increased production, but a lot due to short sightedness of our agriculture and dairy policy makers who have mindlessly given up on desi cow and low total system cost that she brings versus the imported hybrids.
I recently connected on mail with Anthra – a collective of women veterinary scientists in Andhra Pradesh working on issues related to livestock and livelihoods. See this video to get an idea of what they do : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTAya1M-so. Anthra has published what looks like an interesting book on holistic animal health, and I hope to learn from their traditional, natural methods to add to our fledgling practice of homeopathy for our cows. (On a side note, why do all the progressive things to be tried in agriculture seem to take place in Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra? Haryana, Punjab and West UP are deep in the race to increased production and selling their land to the highest bidder.)
Aman Bagh has 5 desi cows : 2 Sahiwal, 1 Nagori and 2 Hariana. Our land cannot support more cows in terms of their food requirements, and their dung is sufficient manure for our acreage. One of the fundamental practical requirements of a traditional farm is the presence of cows or other cattle so that the traditional farmer has fertilizer to replace the chemical ones they don’t use.
More importantly, we know each one and provide individual care – they are part of the community at the farm. Any more than 5 cows takes us into commerce of a different kind, and that is not our purpose. Aman Bagh is here to be a self-sufficient farm in terms of organic inputs, not in revenue. If we wanted to make money, farming would not be the chosen profession ! Aman Bagh is proving a point – traditional farming is holistic and respects the environment and all the living beings dependant on it, has output equivalent to chemical farming and can be a model for small farmers, the food produced tastes so much superior than chemical farming and is good for those consuming it, and (while it is a lot of work) anyone can practice this kind of farming if they want to. Come visit, see and share.
We are evaluating replacing one of the Hariana with a Sahiwal, and my man friday Sattar and I visited a Goshala 6 km ahead of Sultanpur where we were happy to see 30 desi cows in clean surroundings – mostly Rathi and a few Sahiwal. These are good looking cows, and each time I see a pure Sahiwal, my mind goes to the majestic Mohenjo Daro bull circa 3000 BC. How can we ever let this heritage slip from our fingers.
Now you know why we have pledged to keep only desi cows and bulls at Aman Bagh.