Practical Advice On Breeding Dairy Cows
Posted April 10, 2007
I found myself getting upset when I read recent posts about cows in devotee communities. It's too bad that after all these years the devotees can't learn from their mistakes with cows. Often it seems the devotee community rush in and get cows, or breed the cows without much forethought or realism.
For example, when i visited Mayapur three years ago I noticed they have a large herd of gigantic animals. The majority of the cows seem to have been bred with the huge meat brahmas from the USA. Large animals eat a lot, are harder to handle and can be dangerous. Why get and produce more of such incredibly huge animals? I'd like to know how many bulls and oxen they have in Mayapur that aren't working and are just existing and eating.
At some point people should be practical. For that gallon of milk today you might have to pay for it for many years to come in the form of caring for bullocks for their lifetimes, that aren't ever used for any purpose. Isn't it better to have one cow, and take perfect care of her and her offspring, than to get a huge unmanageable herd with large care demands?
Everyone knows the bull-calf offspring will not be used for ploughing, etc. Most will just eat and get big. Hasn't this happened almost everywhere the devotees have had cows? What do to with all the bull calves? In the past many have ended up "disappearing" or dying mysteriously.
Where are all the cows from Three Rivers, Mt. Kailas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Vrndavan,etc.? As with child abuse, this is another terrible story within ISKCON that no one wants to talk about. I won't go into what happened with all the "useless" Holsteins, the bullocks, the barren or old heifers, thelame ones, the ones with cancer,in New Vrindavan from many years ago. Suffice it to say that devotees incurred a lot of bad karma when they thought the big dairy thing would work out there. I remember going to Vrndavan, India seven years ago and seeing pens full of bull calves. Where are they now?
Training bullocks can only be done by a special class of dedicated people. How many people have a use for trained bullocks? Even in Mayapur I think I saw big tractor rows in the fields. Plans to get cows should always include what to do with all the bull calves and the heifers that can't or won't get pregnant. Who will care for them, who will pay for feed and willingly pay for any veterinary care, etc.?
I have cows that are 20 and 18 years old. I won't begin to tell you how much I've spent on their feed, fencing and care. When I move, the cows have to move with me. I don't mind, because for me they are part of the family. Well cared for, cows can live a long time, so before any community or individual gets a cow they shoud ask themselves: are they willing to pay to care for an animal for the next 20 years, whether it gives milk or not? People should think before they create a baby, and devotees should think seriously and practically before getting cows.
I would like to suggest:
- Devotees should consider getting smaller cows like Jerseys or mini-Jerseys. They eat less, are easier andsafer to handle,but still produce a lot of milk. My Jerseys' mother tested 125 lbs. (55 Kg) of milk per day. (In India they found that only the Jersey was able to be integrated as an outside breed to increase production with the zebu, etc). Holsteins are the worst breed to work with. I don't know why anyone would want Holsteins. Brown Swiss are big but good; if you shopped around some smaller animals can be found within the breed. Why not cross Jerseys with mini-Jerseys or milking shorthorns with mini-Jerseys?
- Given that the vast majority of bull calves aren't wanted or used, try using sexed semen; it comes in almost all breeds and pretty much guarantees a heifer (female) calf. I just bred my Jersey using sexed semen for a heifer calf only.
- To only get as many animals as can be cared for is common sense. I hope any animals purchased or acquired were tested for Johne's disease (paratuberculosis), among many other diseases common to dairy cows. Science is starting to link some bovine disease to human disease.
- Many cows don't need to be bred every year. Most will give a decent supply of milk for several years after calving if they are milked nicely and cared for, so why breed them each year?
- Devotees should be required to keep accurate records on each animal, so its care and whereabouts can be seen, and to ensure it doesn't become another one of those "by-products" of the devotees wanting cows.
I would hope that Balabadra and family would be consulted, as he has
had hands-on experience and dedicated his life to cows. Further, he has
traveled extensively and knows the problems involved with keeping cows.
ISKCON set up a cow board for a reason.