Farmers In Karnataka Turn To Desi Cows!

The rearing of native cattle by farmers in rural Karnataka has created a new and welcome rural-urban link, and is benefiting the farmers economically as well as bringing health benefits to their urban customers!

Bengaluru-based Team Desi Milk (TDM) was launched in 2012, with the aim of contributing to such overall development. It has been promoting native cattle among farmers and sale of desi (indigenous) milk to urban consumers, in a rural-urban cooperative movement.

Re-integrating agriculture and animal husbandry

TDM, a wing of Seva Trust, is an evolving model of sustainable urban participation in rural economy. Their focus is on promoting organic farming practices, by essentially re-integrating animal husbandry and cultivation methods.

Till recently, TDM collected the milk from farmers, boiled and without further processing sold it in the nearby city of Bengaluru. Presently Dabbaguli Basaweshwaraswamy Farmer Producer Company Ltd distributes the milk.

With National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) providing working capital, the farmers became shareholders of the producer company by paying Rs 1,000 each.

The benefits of native breeds and A2 milk

Milk from the native breed (Bos indicus) is of A2 variety, with the best Beta Casein protein. It contains 22 soluble minerals; A1 milk from the introduced breeds (Bos taurus) has just six known minerals.

A2 milk is non-allergic while A1 milk causes allergies and intolerance in many children. A1 milk disintegrates in three hours, while A2 milk stays good for seven hours. A2 milk need not be skimmed, as the fat is digestible, while A1 milk needs to be.

While these are some of the direct health benefits of desi cows’ milk, there are other benefits in rearing them. Native cows are healthier, need less attention, are more disease resistant and are bred naturally. Hybrids are bred through artificial insemination, injected with medicines and hormones and are not suited to the local climatic conditions, requiring a lot of maintenance.

The economics of using native cattle

The farmers admit that the yield from native cows is less than that of hybrids. But the cost of maintenance is much less. They are free-range cattle and hence the cost that the farmers spend on fodder and feed is less. Desi cows feed on simple local fodder, while the others need special formulations.

Native cows yield consistently good milk, for more number of years. The dung and urine of native cows are more suitable as manure for organic farming, as they contain more beneficial microorganisms and earthworms thrive on them. Thus the farmers save on buying pesticides and manure.

“I don’t spend much on their maintenance, fodder, and also on fertilizer for my farms,” says Shivaraju. “My family of five leads a comfortable life and I am able to educate my children well.”

Girish of Kadushivanahalli rears five cows and a bull, while pursuing his college education. “Many farmers use my bull as a stud and I earn a surplus of Rs 10,000 from the bull,” says Girish.

Farmers earn more for the A2 milk from native cows, as TDM pays them Rs 45 per liter. Government dairies pay Rs 24 per liter. Farmer Shivaraju said that he could buy many household items, after he started selling A2 milk.

“With the income from the three Hallikar cows, I could buy two more cows,” says Baby of Kadushivanahalli. “The financial status of our family has certainly improved.”

Divya Muniraj of Bandedoddi rears three Hallikar cows. The surplus net income of Rs 12,000 / month helps her maintain her mainstay of sericulture plantation and educate her three daughters in good mainstream schools.

The milk is retailed at Rs 80 per liter. According to Siddaraju of TDM, consumers do not mind paying double the usual retail price, because of the health benefits. “I buy A2 milk as it helps keep the native breed alive and the cows are not factory farmed,” says Lorraine Sequeira. “Ethically reared native cows give healthy milk.”

The farmers’ families also consume A2 milk and reap the health benefits. “The number of children falling ill due to allergy and stomach ailments has come down after they started drinking the native cows’ milk,” says Siddaraju.


This feature is based on an article written for by Sudha Narasimhachar,  a journalist based in Bangalore. To read the entire feature, click here.

The views expressed here are the author’s own. Photos are by the author.

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