Sep 6, 2010

Holy Cows -- Acclaimed abroad, despised at home

A couple of days back, newspaper in Punjab reported that an American company -- World Wide Sires Ltd -- is planning to provide high-quality semen to dairy farmers. Some days back, I had heard that the Kerala Minister for Animal Husbandry was thinking of importing some improved cattle breeds from Denmark for cross-breeding with the local cows.

I find this shocking. 

The fascination for exotic cattle breeds has been the bane of Indian dairy industry. Our planners and policy makers have introduced these breeds without even ascertaining the potential of native breeds. The Indian breeds are suited to the local conditions, are able to resist the heat of summers, need less water, can walk long distances, live on local grasses and resist tropical diseases. They can be also turned into high milk producers given the right kind of feed and environment.

While the native cattle breeds (they number 30) are despised at home, and roam the streets because of their low productivity and therefore low economic value, the same breeds are doing exceptionally well in Brazil. In fact, over the years Brazil has become the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows. Three importants breeds -- Gir, Kankrej and Ongole -- give more milk than Jersey and Holstein Friesian.



At a competiton held recently in Brazil, pure bred Gir cow clocked 48 litres of milk/day.

If India had given the same importance to our local cattle instead of depending upon cross-breeding with exotic breeds, the land of holy cows would have made not only the domestic cattle economically viable but also ensured a significant shift towards the viability of farms and crop sustainability. Still I feel India can launch bilateral cooperation with Brazil to strengthen our own dairy industry and farming. I think there is an urgent need to draw the nation's attention to the way we have neglected our own cattle breeds thereby doing more damage to agriculture and animal husbandry.

Here is an article that I wrote sometimes back, and is so relevant today.

Holy cow
Acclaimed abroad, despised at home

By Devinder Sharma

For years we were made to believe that Indian cows are unproductive. They give less milk and therefore are a drain on farming. The entire focus has therefore been to crossbreed with the exotic high-yielding milch cattle from abroad.

For a nation, which has rarely been proud of its natural assets, expecting the holy cows to be scientifically and technically revered was certainly out of question. While India refused to acknowledge the distinct and superior traits of its indigenous cattle breeds, and in fact derided all efforts to develop the production potential of its own local cattle breeds, another developing country saw the virtues of the Indian cattle breeds and has over the years emerged as the major supplier of semen and embryos of high-yielding milk cattle breeds. These improved cattle breeds actually originated from India.

It was in the 1960s that Brazil imported three cattle breeds from India -- Gir and Kankrej from Gujarat, and Ongole from Andhra Pradesh. These were essentially imported for beefing up its meat exports. It was only when these breeds landed in Brazil that they found them to be also a good source for milk production. In a recent FAO publication on traditional knowledge, it has been observed that what was (and is still) considered a ‘waste’ in India, has turned out to be a great economic wealth for Brazil.

Brazil has in recent years emerged as the world’s biggest supplier of improved cattle embryos and semen of Indian origin – now rated amongst the best dairy breeds in the world. The demand for Indian breeds is particularly high from the African and Southeast Asian countries. Suitable for the tropical conditions, these countries find the improved cattle germplasm to be ideal for their cattle breeding programmes. If only Indian dairy and animal scientists had not ignored the domestic cattle breeds, the fate of the Indian cows would have been much different – these holy cows would have then been truly revered.

Believe it or not, the world’s best Gir cows today give 5500 litres of milk on an average per lactation. Compare these with the neglected cousin back home, which do not yield more than 980 litres, the Brazilian Gir yield roughly six times more. And that’s not the maximum limit, milk yields as high as 9000 litres per lactation have been recorded in Brazil. Imagine the Indian Gir breed giving that much of milk. The fate of the Indian cattle would have undergone a dramatic change for the better.

In India, where agriculture research and education has been more or less westernised after the advent of the land grant system of education, agriculture scientists considered it worthless to work on the native breeds. Cattle improvement realised on the sole methodology of bringing in alien breeds of Jersey and Holstein-Friesen and using them in a nation-wide crossbreeding programme to improve the domestic milk production capacity.

The imported Jersey purebreds, which were used extensively for improving milk production in Indian breeds, on an average produce 3,000 to 5,000 litres in a lactation year. On the other hand, the resulting Jersey crossbreds that were born do not give more than 2500 to 3000 litres. Imagine if the country has instead gone in for developing its own indigenous breeds yielding almost double than the crossbreds, India’s milk production would have surpassed all global records.

Indiscriminate crossbreeding of Indian cattle with the exotic breeds under the Intensive Cattle Breeding Programme (ICDP) has already rendered more than 80 per cent of the Indian cattle in the non-descript category. In a country, which has the largest population of cattle in the world, and some 30 recognised breeds of cattle, genetic contamination had taken its toll. More than a dozen of the Indian cattle breeds have almost disappeared.

So much so that some years back, Oman made an unusual request to India. The oil-rich Middle East country was looking for four purebred animals of the cattle breed – Tharparkar -- found only in the dry and arid regions of Rajasthan. Tharparkar derives its name from its unique genetic ability that enables the animal to walk across the massive desert of Thar in Rajasthan. It took us several years to procure four genetically pure Tharparkar bulls. 

While India ignored the strength and capabilities of its domestic cattle, Brazil realised the unique genetic potential of Indian breeds. It has meanwhile developed a number of commercially important crossbreds: Girolando, a dual purpose cattle for beef and milk and Zeboain, developed from crossing Kankrej and Ongol. A breed evolved for meat, and currently being developed for milk is Nellore. Another breed Indo-Gujarat is a genetic mixture.

In Minas province, a research company, EPAMIG, has produced 50 dairy cows recording 10,000 litres per 307 days of milk period. These high-yielding cows are being used for embryo collection, fetching US $ 220 per embryo. Semen from the progeny bulls of this breed fetches US $ 11 a dose.

Not only in Brazil, animal genetic wealth from India has been the building block of numerous improved breeds all over the world. Take poultry, a rare Indian breed - Brahma -- is among the parents of modern broilers. The development of Anglo-Nubian breeds of goat in Europe is traced back to Jamnapari breed from India. In the case of buffaloes, some of the best breeds available world over are from India.

And yet, India has been regularly sending official missions to scout for improved breeds of sheep, horses, rabbits, poultry and you name it. The accepted logic being that India’s own domestic breeds are unproductive and importing exotic breeds is the only practical way to improve productivity. The same reasoning also extends to plant varieties and the traditional medicinal systems. While the production potential of high-yielding crop varieties is often exaggerated, there is not even a single official research programme to identify and improve the traditional and locally adaptable crop varieties.

It is primarily because of our inability to appreciate the genetic wealth existing in our backyard that much of it has already been taken and deposited in the plant and animal repositories in Europe, United States, Japan and Australia.

7 comments:

Gauri Sharma said...

it just boils down to one thing (the indian mindset) - "ghar ki gaaye (instead of murgi) daal baraber".

Ramesh Dubey said...

आदरणीय देवेंद्र जी आपने देसी पशुधन के महत्‍व को उजागर का प्रशंसनीय कार्य किया । दरअसल कृषि की तरह पशुपालन क्षेत्र में भी कई भीमकाय कंपनियों का उदय हो चुका है । इनका लक्ष्‍य पशुधन विविधता को खत्‍म कर चुनिंदा प्रजाति के पशुओं को पूरी दुनिया पर थोपना है । लेकिन वे यह भूल जाते हैं कि प्रकृति के उतार-चढ़ाव के अनुसार ढली देसी पशुओं की प्रजातियां पिछले 10,000 वर्षों से कृषि उत्‍पादन तंत्र का अभिन्‍न अंग बनी हुई हैं । ये प्रजातियां ऐसी विषम परिस्‍थितियों में भी आजीविका सुरक्षा देती हैं जहां कृषि कार्य या तो कठिन है या असंभव । पशुधन की इस विशाल व बहुमूल्‍य संपदा में सेंध लगने की शुरूआत बीसवीं शताब्‍दी के मध्‍य में हुई । इस समय पशुओं की कुछेक ऊंची उत्‍पादकता वाली प्रयोगशाला निर्मित किस्‍में दुनिया भर में छाने लगीं । इनमें यूरोपीय मूल के पशु मुख्‍य है जैसे होलस्‍टीन फ्रेशिया व जर्सी गाय। संकीर्ण उत्‍पत्‍ति आधार वाली ये प्रजातियां उत्‍तरी अमेरिका और यूरोप में पूरी तरह फैल चुकी हैं । कहा जा रहा है कि विकासशील देशों की स्‍थानीय प्रजातियां कम लाभकारी हैं इसलिए इनके स्‍थान पर उच्‍च उत्‍पादकता वाली यूरोपीय प्रजातियों को अपनाया जाए । 21वीं सदी में विकासशील देश पशुओं की विविधता नष्‍ट होने के मुख्‍य केंद्र बनकर उभरे हैं । उदाहरण के लिए वियतनाम में 1994 में कुल सुअरों में 72 प्रतिशत स्‍थानीय प्रजाति की थी जो कि 2002 में 26 प्रतिशत ही रह गईं । यहां की 14 स्‍थानीय प्रजातियों में 10 प्रजातियां अपने अस्‍तित्‍व के लिए संघर्ष कर रही हैं । कीनिया में विदेशी मूल की डारपर भेड़ों के आगमन से भेड़ों की लाल मसाई प्रजातियां सदा के लिए विलुप्‍त हो गईं । भारतीय संदर्भ में देखा जाए तो दुधारू पशुओं की असंख्‍य प्रजातियों में से अब गिनी-चुनी प्रजातियां ही बची हैं । गाय-भैंसों का ब्‍यान अब 8-9 की जगह 4-5 तक सीमित हो गया है अर्थात वे समय से पहले बूढ़ी होती जा रही हैं । यही प्रवृत्‍ति सभी विकासशील देशों में जारी है ।

रमेश दुबे

Ramesh Dubey said...

पशुपालन क्षेत्र में भीमकाय कंपनियों के आ जाने से छोटे व सीमांत किसान पशुपालन क्षेत्र से हटने को बाध्‍य हुए । फैक्‍टरीनुमा पशुपालन केंद्रों में पशु एक ही परिस्‍थिति में पाले जाते हैं इसलिए इनमें तेजी से संक्रमण फैलता है और इससे मांसाहारियों में संक्रमण का खतरा बढ़ जाता है । इसे अमेरिका में सुअर पालन के उदाहरण से समझा जा सकता है । 1965 में अमेरिका में 5.3 करोड़ सूअर थी जो कि 10 लाख सुअर पालन केंद्रों पर पाली जाती थी । इनमें से अधिकांश केंद्र छोटे परिवारों द्वारा संचालित होते थे । आज अमेरिका में 6.5 करोड़ सूअर मात्र 65,000 सुअर पालन केंद्रों पर पाली जाती हैं । मांस उत्‍पादन की सघन विधियों ने हजारों वर्षों से प्रचलित पशुपालन के सिद्धांतों को नकार दिया । गतिशीलता, धूप व ताजी हवा के अभाव में पशुओं की प्रतिरोधकता क्षमता घटी और वे संक्रमण के शिकार बनने लगे । आधुनिक पशुपालन ने कई अन्‍य समस्‍याएं भी पैदा की हैं । छोटी सी जगह में लोहे तारों वाले दबड़ों में हजारों पशुओं को रखना, उन्‍हें खुला घूमने-फिरने का अवसर न देना तथा वजन बढ़ते ही बूचड़खानों में भेज देना पर्यावरण एवं मानव स्‍वास्‍थ्‍य की दृष्‍टि से घातक है । पशुपालन के इन कृत्रिम तरीकों के कारण कई नई बीमारियां पैदा हो रही हैं जैसे मैड काऊ, बर्ड फ्लू, स्‍वाइन फ्लू ।

रमेश दुबे

Gauri Sharma said...

HI...I would like to add something more to my previous comment. Whatever is indian -whether it is a gaaye (according to your article), murgi (yet again according to your article), people (adivasis fighting for their right to live and earn in Orissa), natural resources etc. everything according to our "dear", "most loved" politicians is "daal baraber". I have personally always believed that there is no dearth of money in our country (only if these greedy politicians could just stop being corrupt) we dont need money from outside our country. Money is there but the will to apply it correctly is lacking. Talent is there but lack of infrastructure again because of corruption is not visible. Within months new metro lines, new staduims, world class airport can be constructed but I wonder what happened with years of planning to eleminate child labour, what happened to right to basic education, what happened to providing basic health care system, electricity, schools etc. I simply wonder.

vedvoice said...

In India, organic livesock sector is yet to make a mark but organic agriculture has made its presence felt at the world level.Organic agriculture products, like Tea,spices, milk products r demanded in world, Lack of awareness farmers wre not improving productivities in indigenous zZabu cattle.India has enormous livestock population, a sizable proportion of which is of native breeds possessing natural resistance against many livestock diseases.These native breeds are well adapted to Indian climate and feed availability situations, wherease , the exotic and cross breeds are very susptible to disease and adverse climate factors.So we should not import any semen/bull from genetically modified breed of abroad.
India is yet make any step forward regarding organic livestock production though in case of organic Agriculture., it has made signifcant strides in international export arena.
Dr.Balkrishna.N.Dave
Voice Awareness centre,
Ahmedabad-India
09426406605>

Anonymous said...

Excellent!

Greetings from Brazil

Eduardo Almeida
Kankrej breeder

Ravindra Vadke said...

Believe U r connected with Baba Ramdevji. Herd of Desi Cows from his aashram (seen on Aastha Channel)don't seem to be in the Milk Productivity range of +1,000 Lit./Lactation cycle.
Any idea how those stocks r being improved ?
Ravindr S. Vadke
Ambarnath (Mah.)