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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Explained: The American vs Indian cow debate

In Punjab, Mansa residents have been on an indefinite dharna since September 13, amid an ongoing debate that only Indian breeds can be taken care of in gaushalas and the government should manage American breeds on its own.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | Published: September 26, 2019 8:40:59 am
american cows, indian cows, desi cows, Punjab cows, punjab stray cattle, punjab news According to the 2012 census of the Punjab government, there were around 24 lakh cattle in the state.

Stray cattle on roads has become a major cause for concern in Punjab. The Congress had in its election manifesto assured it would help solve the problem, which has led to several fatal road accidents, triggering protests. Mansa residents have been on an indefinite dharna since September 13, amid an ongoing debate that only Indian breeds can be taken care of in gaushalas and the government should manage American breeds on its own.

AAP MLA Aman Arora had recently urged Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to draw a clear distinction between ‘desi’ and foreign breeds of cows and emphasised on the need to protect the former and to slaughter the American variety.

How did American breed cows come to India?

American breeds like Jersey and Holstein Friesian (HF) are available in India. Experts from the animal husbandry and Punjab livestock department said that in the early 70s, the semen of American bulls of the above varieties was imported. A few bulls and cows were also imported to meet the shortage of milk in India. While an average Indian cow (after giving birth) gives an average of 10-15 litres of milk a day, HF and Jersey give nearly 20-25 litres of milk per day. In the US, they give upto 70 litres per day as well. However, over the years, many farms in India also have superior breeds of HF and Jersey which have started giving milk up to 60 litres a day, almost doubling the average milk production. This was part of the White Revolution in India, said Dr Anil Pathak, project coordinator for Sahiwal cows in the Punjab Livestock Development Board (PLDB). Moreover, Indian cows were subjected to artificial insemination using the semen of foreign bulls.

What is the milking time period of these cows?

Foreign breeds give milk for 10-15 years and as their milk production is more than their Indian counterparts, hence they yield more income to dairy farmers. The American varieties in Punjab are HF and Jersey, while Indian breeds promoted here are Sahiwal, Rathi, Gir etc.

Why are cattle abandoned?

Once they stop giving milk, dairy farmers discard cows as they consider the animal a financial burden as their fodder and other needs costs them around Rs 40-50 a day. Buffaloes are usually sold to ‘pashu mandis’ where they are slaughter, but cows are usually abandoned on the roads, and the farmer buys a new cow that can give milk.

How many stray cattle does Punjab have? How are they being managed?

According to the 2012 census of the Punjab government, there were around 24 lakh cattle in the state. The latest census report is awaited. As of now, there are around 1.25 stray cattle — cows that have stopped producing milk and bulls — on Punjab’s roads. Nearly 1.75 lakh are in various gaushalas of the state. Punjab Animal Husbandry Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa had recently said that the state has 20 functional gaushalas which have 11,000 cattle against the capacity of 20,000. There are also 401 private gaushalas in the state. However, there have been reports of gaushalas being full to capacity.

Why is there talk of keeping only Indian breeds?

Because of religious beliefs involved, people are keen to take care of only Indian cows, who they consider holy. RSS’s Gau Sanwardhan unit has also asked the Punjab government to stop importing semen for American breeds to end this problem. There have been rumours that American breeds are more violent and hence people are not keen to keep them in gaushalas. Many organisations have also sought the definition of ‘cow’ from the government. However, experts from the animal husbandary department say that a cow is a cow irrespective of breed.

Are American breeds more violent?

No research has proved this. Dr H K Verma, director extension, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Science University (GADVASU), in fact says that they are docile animals. He however added, “HF and Jersey are breeds that belong in cold climates but in India, the temperatures are on the higher side. Hence, farmers who keep them should have proper facilities in their farms like fans, sprinklers etc. Otherwise, these breeds suffer stress and sometimes don’t ovulate which results in infertility. This is also one reason why many farmers abandon infertile animals apart from those that stop giving milk.”

Who is promoting Indian cows?

RSS’s Gau Sewa Mission has been active since 2009, said Chander Kant President of the Gau Sanwardhan unit of RSS in Punjab. “We are making farmers aware and asking them to go for only desi varieties. Our research centres across India have cow farms where we make products of cow milk, dung and urine. Hence, we are telling farmers to rear only desi varieties and even asking the government to stop importing semen of American varieties. This causes many diseases and these animals even get violent and hit commuters on roads,” he claimed.

He further said that they are now artificially inseminating HF and Jersey cows with the semen of Sahiwal or other Indian bulls. “Even if cows stop giving milk, their urine and dung is useful. Moreover, people will never abandon desi cows or gaushalas will readily take care of them,” added Chander Kant.

What are Punjab government’s plans?

Apart from construction of gaushalas, the animal husbandary department has plans to give per day expenses to farmers to take care of their non-milking cattle rather than leaving them on roads. With this, the need to build gaushalas will also reduce. However, officials said this is still in planning stage.

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