According to estimates, in 2013-14, cows and buffaloes alone produced about 13,264 million tons of milk. Out of this 53% of the milk, or 7.044 million tons of milk was produced by buffaloes and 6.220 million tons by cows. Out of this, most of the milk or around 3389 million tons was procured from cows that were hybrids of foreign breeds. Just 2831 million tons of milk was from pure Indian bred cows. So the Holy Cow mother in our country merely contributes to one fifth of the total milk production in the country.
Let’s look at more numbers. In 1992 India had roughly 20,458 million heads of cattle. By 2012 it had come down to 19,090 million heads. During the same time the number of buffaloes was increasing. The number of buffalo had gone up from 8,421 million to 10,870 million. These numbers were availed through animal surveys in India. Gau Rakshaks claim that the number of cows in the country has gone down due to cow slaughter. So they demand restrictions on cow slaughter.
But the fact is entirely different. Since the restrictions on cow slaughter, it had become well nigh impossible for farmers to sell off cows that are too old to work or do not give milk anymore. They are unable to get money by selling off such cattle and cannot feed them. So they are getting rid of this problem entirely by refusing to keep cows altogether.
Since they do not face similar restriction on buffaloes, so they are preferring to keep and maintain buffaloes instead of cows. The other reason is financial. Buffalo milk has a higher fat content as compared to cow milk so it fetches higher price per liter than cow milk. So keeping buffaloes has become a more profitable venture than keeping cows.
A hybrid cow becomes an adult in 17-18 months and is ready to carry calves and give milk. She carries a calf for 9 to 10 months. A cow generally gives birth every 13 to 14 months. After carrying five six calves, cows normally are past their maximum milking age. Then they produce less milk. After this stage keeping such cows becomes a monetary burden on farmers or milkmen. By then, cows are of 6 or 7 years and they have about 5 to 6 more years of lifetime left. Farmers cannot keep them for that long. So at this stage agents of slaughter houses or butchers come to their rescue and buy off such animals from them. Thus the slaughter houses do not run off their slaughter stock. Similarly farmers oo milkmen who usually keep around 20-15 cows, can afford to keep another milch cow in its place and hence maintain their own stock of milch cows.
As the cow slaughter is being banned in much of the Hindi heartland, farmers cannot sell off their cows to slaughter houses. Every year 5 to 6 cows with a small dairy owner reach the age when they are not profitable milch animals anymore. But the farmer cannot maintain a fresh set of milch cows because he is already supporting the old cows that he cannot sell off anymore. He has now less milk to sell. His business will be less profitable every year till he will be in debt and unable to feed the many old cows he has that he cannot sell anymore.
So, a farmer need to sell off 5 to 6 cows every year to maintain a constant milk supply to their customers and maintain a profitable stock of cows. Now this balance of supply and demand cannot be maintained if slaughter houses are replaced by gau-shalas in this whole picture. Gau shalas cannot maintain the sudden large influx of cows that would head their way every year instead of the slaughter houses. And the cattle would just starve to death.
Gujarat has already become a live example of this imbalance and painful example of animal starvation deaths. In year 2015-16 the state had 936 gau shalas. Out of these, 371 ran on government aid. The number of cows in these gau shalas were 2,44,220. It can safely be presumed that the gau shalas had roughly 6,00,000 cows though the 2012 survey stated that there were 99,84,000. These pictures clearly show that the number of gau shalas will be unable to maintain the milk supply and demand balance in the state and something has to be done if the regular supply of milk is to be maintained in the state. So, buffaloes it will be!
Another reason why this is not a practical solution to the milch animal problem because the hard earned money that the taxpayers give to the government goes in pleasing one section of the society. It goes in the construction of and maintenance of gau shalas in the state. This is hardly fair. The citizens are lacking in basic amenities like proper medical care through the construction of hospitals or proper education, through investment in government schools in the state. Or even amenities as basic as water and electricity, because tube wells and supplying electricity to far flung villages is a need more dire than anything else.
But one section of the society would rather have the tax money be spent on the maintenance of old cows and buffaloes that cannot produce milk anymore. And the practice of artificial insemination in animals has also brought down the need to keep bulls and stud animals. Keeping in perspective all this, the best solution is slaughtering of old cows and milch animals too advanced in age for milking. This is the only solution to maintaining a good balance in the milch animal stock. But deviating from this system has its adverse effects. And here the milk industry is suffering.
(Translated from Inquilab)