New born Gir calf with mother @ Aadi Kailaasa, May 21, 2017

In the last few years there has been an urgent call by many Sanatanis and Vedic practitioners to preserve the native breeds of Indian cattle. Today, due to various factors, the holy sacred Indian cows are becoming extinct and they are in severe threat and need to be saved on a priority basis.

Cows are the only species in this world whose products and by-products are created for the economic, social and spiritual betterment of human beings. Our ancient scriptures have extolled their inherent virtues and bestowed the status of a Universal Mother (Gomata/Gaumata) upon them.

Kamadhenu

Hindu scriptures describe the Kamadhenu or Surabhi as the mother of all cows and Indian cows are venerated as the earthly embodiment of Kamadhenu. Also, it is believed that out of the countless vibrations present in the Universe, there are thirty-three crores of different vibrations, necessary for sustenance of different types of life-forms upon earth and the native Indian breed of cows are acclaimed the world over for their specific characteristics.

Kamadhenu or Surabhi, in ancient Hindu texts, is a bovine Goddess, considered the divine mother to all cows. Known also as the mother of the 11 Rudras, she has miraculous characteristics that enable her to satisfy her owner’s every wish, and holds a high position in our texts.

In iconography, Kamadhenu is generally depicted as a white cow with a female head and breasts, the wings of a bird, and the tail of a peafowl or as a white cow containing various deities within her body. All cows are venerated in Hinduism as the earthly embodiment of the Kamadhenu.

There are many many legends on her creation and birth. However, everyone of them without fail, depict how exalted a position Gaumata holds in Vedic worship and Vedic life.

Since the 1960s however, thanks to the policies of different governments since then, focus has been on increasing the milk production. For which, Indian cows have been cross bred to create hybrids or, dairy farmers are encouraged to buy and maintain foreign breeds such as the Swiss Brown, Jersey and Belgian Holstein-Friesian cows. This has been damaging to the indegenous breeds which are actually low-maintenance and superior to the imported breeds. India is now confronted with the progressive creation of expensive hybrids that require air-conditioned stalls, costly feed and medical care which the small time dairy farmers can ill-afford.

“The time has come to revive the ancient reverence for cattle as being nature’s gift to humanity and to promote the ancient system of living and working along-side the cows by educating the common man about the importance of native Indian cattle, their special characteristics, the superior quality of milk of the native breeds, the medicinal properties of their products and by-products and their immense role in the welfare of humans due to their potential to enhance man’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.”

Features of Desi Cow

Indian breeds of cows, now popularly called Desi Cow, have special and unique features, developed during the course of evolution and celestial origin for ages, which is the reason why they are very popular across the planet. They fall under the zebu (humped) category of cows and the biological term for the desi cow is Bos Indicus. The desi cow produces a superior quality of milk that has the potential to increase a person’s emotional, physical, spiritual and mental well-being. 

  • The Indian native cow has a hump on the shoulder, long ears and skin hanging on the neck. Its most prominent feature is the Suryaketu Nadi.
    • The hump on their back has the “solar pulse” situated on their humps running through the spine, a unique color and a curved backline. This nerve, called Suryaketu nadi absorbs all the positive and medicinal energy from the sunlight, moonlight as also from the etheric realm (in which reside 33 crore gods).  
    • The solar rays produce golden salts in her blood and are present in the products produced (i.e. milk, ghee, curd, butter), thus giving desi cow milk and its products the golden colour. The milk is therefore more nourishing, and so is the cow dung, and urine. Desi cow products have medicinal benefits as well as act as naturally producing manure, pesticide and insecticide.
  • Desi cows have the ability to shake only a particular part of the body – e.g. it can shake only the skin and the stomach area without shaking the other parts of the body. 
  • They can withstand the tough climatic conditions of this country, whether hot, rain or cold and make do with whatever fodder is particular to that area, for food.
  • Desi cow delivers around 15 to 20 calves in her life span. 
  • They can walk for more kilometers and work hard accepting the climatic conditions of this part of the world. 
  • The Indian cow, in its lifespan, feeds thousands of people and one cow is sufficient to do natural farming in about 30 acres of land.
  • The Desi cows give pure and nutritious A2 milk while the hump-less western hybrid cows give the toxic A1 milk. 
The most majestic desi cow – The Kankrej – also found on the famous Indus Valley seal. 

Explains why The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has the seal as their logo!

Native Cattle Breeds

The best breeds of cows in India are found in the drier areas such as Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Pastures in these areas may qualitatively be enough, but they are often scarce. The uncertainty of rainfall makes it obligatory on the part of the owners to grow crops, the residue of which provides a good supply of fodder for cattle. 

The Indian breeds of cattle are categorized into: 

  • Milch Breeds such as Gir, Red Sindhi, Sahiwal & Deoni
  • Dual Purpose Breeds Like Hariana, Ongole, Gaolo, Rathi, Krishna Valley, Tharparkar & Kankraj, and 
  • Draft Breeds like Nagauri, Bachaur, Kherigarh, Malvi, Hallikar, Khillari, Kangayam & Amritmahal

In fact, Surabhivana Gaushala in Kinnigoli, near Mangaluru city, has identified as many as 48 indegenous cow breeds in India. Many of them are found in this goshala which, because of the efforts of its founder, Sri Devdas Rao, now has 150 indegenous cows. It is heartening to note that there is growing interest amongst the youth in going back to vedic living and desi cow dairy farming giving a boost to reviving the native breeds of cows in different parts of the country. 

Foreign Breeds of Cow in India

The Karan Freisean hybrid Cow
Swiss Cow

A fall out of British rule has been the preference for foreign cattle breeds for dairy farming, such as the Holstein Friesian (Netherlands) and Jersey (Switzerland) and their hybrids, cleverly marketed in India purportedly for their high milk production and fat content (A1 milk). 

This is enforced by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), which manages the co-operative dairy production in India. The NDDB encourages the use of these foreign breeds even on small farmers, who can ill afford it.

The recognised exotic breeds of cows in India that go by the biological name Bos Taurus, are the Jersey, Holstein-Friesian, Swiss-Brown, Guernsey, German Fleckvich & Ayrshire and cross-breeds of Karan Swiss and Karan Freis. An exotic breed can be distinguished from a desi cow by the fact that they are humpless! 

During the 1970’s there was a flood of these foreign breeds, the promotion of which have been at the cost of the more valuable desi cows, many of which became extinct. 

The result of this higher milk yield has been the White Revolution, by which India earned the place of the highest producer of milk in the world, a place it continues to hold to this day. 

However, in the race to the White Revolution, the quality of milk has been compromised. Besides, there have been other problems as well: 

  • The Holstein and Jersey cows are prone to ailments and diseases as they are not meant for hot tropical climates like India, adding to the high cost of their maintenance. 
  • These foreign breeds need special air-conditioned rooming, which makes it difficult for small farmers to maintain, making it difficult for them to make a profitable living with exotic cows dairy farming.
  • Coming from cool climates such as Switzerland and Netherlands, the Indian fodder is incompatible to the Jersey, Holstein-Friesian. These cattle therefore suffer from gas and diarrhea. 
  • These cattle consume great amounts of fodder. As a result they are more expensive to maintain, particularly for the small time farmer.
  • They have a short lactation period, after which they are killed for meat. Apart from milk and meat, they make no other contribution.

We Can Do It With Indian Breeds Too!

The reality however is that with some clever changes, like choosing the right pedigree, desi cows can attain equally high levels of milk production, as demonstrated by countries like Brazil, New Zealand and Argentina, which have been importing and breeding Indian cows. In New Zealand, the Gir cow is highly cherished and is a protected breed. In fact, the Indian breed, which goes by the scientific name Bos Indicus, is the most sought after cattle breed in the world. We need to bring back the same status for them in their home country, i.e. Bharat.

A1 & A2 Cow Milk:

There are two varieties of cows based on their genes and they are high yielding one that produces A1 milk protein and the other that produces A2 milk protein. 

The key difference between the two types of milk is the crucial A2 variety of beta casein protein, which is found in the milk of the zebu cows, camel, goat, donkey, buffalo, yak, sheep and even jersey cows. The European Bos Taurus breeds, which are spread across the developed world due to their high milk yield, contain the A1 variant of beta casein protein, which has been related to allergies and serious health conditions.

Recently, a relationship between disease risk and consumption of A1 or A2 genetic variants has been identified. Studies suggest that milk from cows with A2 genes are far healthier than their A1 counterparts.

A1 and A2 are the two types of known cow milk available for consumption which are genetic variants of the beta-casein milk protein that differ by one amino acid. All milk was once of the A2 type, until a genetic mutation occurred thousands of years ago in some European cattle. The A1 beta-casein type is the most common type found in cow’s milk in Europe (excluding France), the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Cows that have the mutated beta casein are called A1 cows.

The prevalence of A1 and A2 protein varies from one herd of cows to another and also between countries. A1 gene is found mainly among cattle in the western world, predominantly in the North European region (Friesian, Ayrshire, British Shorthorn and Holstein) while the Asian, traditional Indian and African cattle do not produce the A1 gene. Cross breeding of Asian and African cattle with European cattle in the last few thousands of years, may have led to the presence of A1 genes in the cross bred species.

Problems of A1 Milk

“In recent years, evidence has started piling up linking A1 protein with higher risks of type-1 diabetes, coronary heart disease, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, arteriosclerosis, sudden infant death syndrome, autism, schizophrenia etc. A 2014 study led by Dr Andrew J Clarke, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, reported that aspects of digestive function like transit time and inflammatory status in mice were impacted by the protein type, with rats fed with A1 milk showing rise in problems like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation, with side effects like bloating and diarrhea.  One of the few Indian studies on the subject, led by Dr Monica Sodhi of National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, and published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology in 2012, says that  incidences of type-1 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is low in populations with high consumption of the A2 variant of Beta Casein. Incidences of autism and schizophrenia, it says, have been shown to reduce with reduction in consumption of A1 Beta Casein.”

Devil in the A1 Milk

The Jersey Cow

Evidence linking A1 milk to ill-health is building up. This may also explain the growing sentiment against dairy and the increased number of people opting for vegan diets.

It has been conclusively proved that consumption of the A1 beta-casein milk leads to milk intolerance together with an additional range of auto-immune diseases and hence, it has been called ‘the devil in the milk’. 

“Since a few decades, with the advent of technology, commercialization and adaptation to western methods, the modern Indians and our governments have resorted to artificial insemination and cross-breeding with exotic (foreign) breeds.

The resultant ill-effects are quite evident. The populaces that depend upon commercial milk-production for their daily consumption of milk are prone to develop milk intolerance and succumb to various illnesses, hitherto unknown.”

All said, current research clearly reveals that the Indian native cow breed A2 type milk will play a vital role in human health care with multiple health benefits. The time has come to protect the native cow breeds which give the safe and healthy A2 type milk for the good health of people.

Testimonies show that a switch from A1 to A2 milk leads to significant improvement in a host of health issues. The Food Intolerance Network, a network of 1000s of families spread across Australia, New Zealand, US, UK and Canada, has collected a number of testimonies that report that a host of ailments ranging from digestive issues to allergies to ear infections to behavior issues in children were cured completely after switching to A2 milk.

With rising awareness, the demand for A2 milk has gone up phenomenally in countries like Australia, UK and NZ. A2, a corporation which sells milk with A2 protein, is the largest growing milk brand in Australia.

The Golden A2 Milk

According to the latest reports, science says that A2 milk consists of the best combination of Omega fats is good for human health and the Indian cows give the best quality A2 milk for human consumption. The Gir cow is highly reputed for A2 milk and is the most expensive milk in the country.

The National Bureau of Animal Genetic Research has recently demonstrated the superior milk quality of Indian cattle breeds. After scanning 22 cattle breeds, scientists concluded that in five high milk-yielding native breeds – Red Sindhi, Sahiwal, Tharparkar, Rathi and Gir – the status of A2 allele of the beta casein gene was 100%. In other Indian breeds it was around 94%, compared to only 60% in the foreign exotic breeds. The A2 allele is responsible for making available more Omega-6 fatty acids in milk. The pure Indian breed desi cow produces A2 milk, which contains less Betacosmophorine-7 (BCM-7), as opposed to the hybrid cows which generally produce A1 milk.

Milk with A2 protein, on the contrary, is known to have several health benefits. In fact, the health benefits and virtues associated with dairy and milk in our traditional texts are accrued from the A2 milk. The milk variety has been shown to prevent obesity among children and adults, improve brain function, promote digestion and increase breast milk production in feeding mothers.

To explain further, in the case of the A2 beta-casein milk, the milk proteins are broken down into peptides, which in turn are broken down into amino acids. This type of milk is easily digestible. However, in the case of the A1 beta-casein milk, the peptides cannot be broken down into amino acids and so they are indigestible.

The A2 gene is found only in a few old species of cows, which haven’t been genetically altered, such as the Gir cow of India, Channel Island cows, Guernsey and Jersey, Southern French breeds, Charolais and Limousin, and the Zebu original cattle of Africa. Most dominant cows of today possess A1 genes, while the Indian Gir cow possesses the A2 genes. 

What is it with Desi Cow Milk?

The push for desi cow, as native Indian cattle are called, is because they are best known for their quality of milk which is A2. This subject matter was conclusively researched by various scientists and researchers, through a series of research activities in the West, during the late eighties. In our scriptures the milk from cows is described as “Amrit”, The Nectar. 

  • The native Indian cow milk is sweet in taste and has a coolant effect on the body and mind. 
  • It improves Ojas which is considered as the factor responsible for the immunity of the body. 
  • A2 cow milk nourishes the body tissues and acts as a natural aphrodisiac. 
  • The A2 cow milk rejuvenates and increases life expectancy while improving intelligence and body strength. 
  • In the case of nursing mothers, it increases breast milk. 
  • By assisting in easy movements of intestines, cow milk relieves tiredness, dizziness, excessive thirst and hunger.
The Swarna Kapila, descended from the breed reared by Kapila Muni Himself
Is the rarest and most prized native breed of cattle in India

Originally cows all over the world produced milk containing the A2 type of beta-casein protein. All proteins are long chains of amino acids and beta casein is a chain of 229 amino acids in length. Cows that produce this protein in their milk with a proline (a specific amino acid) at number 67 are called A2 cows, i.e. the original breeds of cows.

According to Ayurveda, cow milk is useful in diseases like severe debility, relieving stage of fever, diseases related to urinary system, bleeding disorders such as nasal bleeding etc. Not only that, the cow milk is the next best thing to breast milk for the newborn. Cow milk is nutritious and good for the vital organs such as the eyes, brain and the heart. For vegans the cow milk is a good source of Vitamin D which plays a huge role in the absorption of Calcium from the gut. Good absorption of calcium will lead to good bone strength. So cow milk is very important for women who are nearing menopause because menopause increases the susceptibility to Osteoporosis.

The most prized A2 cow in the world – Gir/Gyr from Gir region of Gujarat. Also bred in Rajasthan

Cow-milk has always been a part of the Indian diet. Its spiritual and nutritional values have been known to our ancestors since time immemorial. Our ancient Vedas describe the Indian cow-milk as possessing a sweet taste, cooling in nature, highly nutritive, tonic for human vital organs, easily digestible and whose consumption promotes immunity and longevity.

Indian Cow Milk has amino acids which makes its proteins easier to digest. Is a rich source of B2, B3, A vitamins which helps immunity. It helps in reducing serum cholesterol. It is one of the best natural antioxidants. The highly rich calcium helps protect cells. contains Riboflavin (vitamin B12) and Vitamin B2 which are functional in the production of energy and cardiovascular protection. Also contains iodine in rich quantities which is an integral component of thyroid hormones.

Indian Cow milk naturally produces the A2 Protein only, whereas the Jersey cow produces a1 protein which gets broken down into peptides but also creates a new peptide called BCM7 (Beta Caso — Morphine 7).

By-Products of Desi Cow – Gomutra & Gomaya

Desi Cow Urine or Gomutra contains moderate levels of nitrogen (N2) — effect on chemical diseases, calcium (Ca) — blood purifier and germicidal, potassium (K) — cures hereditary rheumatism and removes muscular weakness, magnesium, phosphate (P) — helps in removing stones urinary tract, fluoride (F), urea (H2NCONH2) — removes blood abnormalities and toxins, natural stimulant of urinary tract and is diuretic, ammonia (NH3), Copper (Cu) — controls build up of unwanted fats, Hydroxide (AuOH) — germicidal and increases immunity power, it highly antibiotic and anti-toxic, etc.

Desi Cow Dung or Gomaya has a natural disinfecting effect and reduces pathogenic bacteria. It is a natural antiseptic, anti-radioactive and has anti-thermal properties. In Bhopal, India, 20,000 people were killed in the world’s worst industrial disaster from a lethal gas leak, except those villagers whose houses were coated in cow dung.

Gir Gopal Gaushala, Gujarat

Co-operative Dairy Farms Go Desi Too

With increasing demand for A2 milk across India, State Cooperative Milk Producers Federations are joining in to sell indegenous cow milk, along with the A1 milk from hybrid cows. Odisha State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation (OMFED) operating in the eastern state of Odisha set up a plant in 2016 to process Binjharpuri cow milk and sell it.

Similarly Punjab State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited (MILKFED), sells indigenous cow milk under its popular Verka brand. In the decade or so, the availability of desi cow A2 milk and ghee has become widespread across India.

Goshalas Across India – First Effort to Preserve Native Cattle

In the year 2004, Shri Devadas Rao (Guruji), yogacharya and spiritual teacher, embarked upon a mission to promote the dwindling native Indian breeds of Cows. With others joining in the effort,  Surabhivana Gaushala was born in 2004.

Surabhivana is spread over twenty acres’ rocky terrain which lies atop a hillock, approximately 25 kilometres from Mangaluru City. It is managed by a registered charitable institution, Om Prakruthi Dhama Trust, created exclusively for preserving the pure native Indian breeds of Cattle. Its upkeep and day-to-day functioning is solely dependent upon donations from patrons and well-wishers.

“The sole objective of Surabhivana is to preserve, propagate and promote extensive breeding of native Indian cows by bringing about awareness amongst the masses. The Trust seeks to revive the ancient reverence for cattle as being nature’s gift to humanity and to promote the ancient system of living and working along-side these bovine creatures.” 

It also undertakes to educate the general public about the importance of native Indian cattle, their special characteristics, the superior quality of milk of the native breeds, the medicinal properties of their products and by-products and their immense role in the welfare of humans, due to their potential to enhance man’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

Traditional cattle herders from Telangana of the Poda Thurupu cattle breed

Exploitation of Traditional Herders – Action Required

Despite the huge benefits of A2 milk, traditional herders of desi cows, are forced to sell their meagre output to exploitative private collection agents who pay the same price for desi cow milk as the A1 milk. These middlemen then sell the A2 milk at huge margins, which should rightfully go to the traditional herder.

But, slowly there is a change. Says Sajal Kulkarni, researcher associated with non-profit BAIF Development Research Foundation, “Taking the example of the Gaolao breed, there is a lot of traditional knowledge surrounding the milk quality of and its connection with the various kinds of wild grasses consumed by Gaolao, which has traditionally been an open grazing breed.” One of these grasses, known locally as paonya, is said to impart greater taste and nutrition to milk and ghee. “Ghee from cows fed on paonya grass, known as paonya chya toop, is regarded as the best quality ghee in these areas.” 

An Indian Cow Fair, where priced bulls are sold, exchanged

Kulkarni and like minded people travel around the country to document this knowledge. A few non-profits are working to set up farmers groups for marketing desi cow milk. A few scientists are trying to start fledgling conservation programs. 

As a result of the widespread demand for desi cow milk and products, traditional herders such as the Gawli (who conserves the rare Gaolao breed from the Wardha district in Maharashtra), Dhangar, Gavli, Nandiwala, Jath, Mer, Toda, etc. communities can now hope to sell their milk to desi cow dairies that are mushrooming all over the country to get better prices.

Other Ways to Promote Desi Cow Growth

  • By promoting community based cow hostels linked with community based fodder banks.
  • Involving the local communities and educating the youth attached with value chain industries to manufacture various cow based products which are used in agriculture, horticulture, health care, beauty care and food industry. 
  • Recently the government of India has passed an ordinance against slaughtering of cows, especially of naive breeds, which is a good move.
  • Annually thousands of veterinary doctors and agricultural studies graduate each year, and are in search of appropriate jobs, which, given the specificity of the expertise, does not provide many opportunities. 
    • Such graduates can be provided short term training in the development of community based cow hostels and fodder banks including value addition technologies. This will help to build strong rural economies in a sustainable way with huge economic value and employment potential. 
    • This could be done at the district / tehsil level, where centers of excellence can be developed, to educate and create awareness on the commercial aspects and socio-economic role of desi cows in building sustainable rural economies. 
    • For this purpose, agricultural scientists, animal husbandry experts, researchers and corporate houses should be together involved in the effort, along with support at governmental level, in the country’s endeavor towards Atmanirbhar Bharat!