Karnataka: Dairy farmers may prefer to rear buffaloes, say experts | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: The share of cow milk in the state’s overall milk production has increased 20-30 per cent in the past two decades, largely driven by consumer demand in urban centres. But this could soon change with passage of the anti-cow slaughter bill, which awaits the governor’s assent.
Dairy industry insiders feel since slaughter curbs apply only to cattle and not buffaloes above 13 years— whose meat can be sold and exported freely — farmers may prefer rearing the latter. “The slaughter ban will henceforth make it difficult for farmers to dispose of unproductive cattle that are giving less milk or happen to be male. The next decade is likely to see milk production tilt in favour of buffaloes,” said B Viswanath, a dairy expert.
Data from the 20th livestock census shows the cow population in Karnataka is around 60 lakh, while that of buffaloes is nearly 30 lakh.
V Channe Gowda, an industry expert who heads a cooperative dairy in Hassan, said farmers in future may increasingly prefer to breed buffaloes as they have the option to sell them off to slaughterhouses later. “Farmers usually don’t keep a dry cow (cycle) beyond 5-6 calvings, as the returns do not justify the cost of feeding and maintenance. By this time, the animal would be 7-8 years old and still have another 5-6 years to live. The farmer will obviously want to sell and replace them with new ones. And the only interested buyer would be the butcher or trader supplying them to slaughterhouses,” Gowda explained.
Shashidhar, head of a dairy cooperative in Bagalkot, said a farmer who own more than 10 cows would seek to replace 2-3 old animals with new stock every year as it would enable him to maintain an optimal herd balance, with the right mix of male, females and calves. He said the cost of maintaining dry cattle is around Rs 100 per day, while the farmer may fetch Rs 15,000 to 20,000 when he sells an animal to an agent for slaughter.
Farmers, who were hitherto opting for cows for better productivity, might feel encouraged to breed buffaloes that also survive on more coarse fodder. “Average milk yield for indigenous cows is around 2.5 litres per day compared to around 5.2 litres for buffaloes. The latter also yield milk richer in fat and as a result, they get better prices,” said animal husbandry department officials.
On the flip side, officials said not many people in cities prefer buffalo milk due to its higher fat content (about 7.5%) — as against 3.5% in cow milk — though it comprises the A2 protein which is good for health. Moreover, they said buffalo milk is relatively more expensive than cow milk.
Some BJP functionaries, including the animal husbandry minister, however, said the new law will go a long way in not only protecting cows, but also boosting their population.

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Sagar Biswas

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