Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Successful Conservation of indigenous cattle breeds in Gaushala

D K Sadana, Principal Scientist
National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, Karnal 132 001 (India)

A Gaushala is a self contained Cow-Shelter having its own land and housing. It generates funds largely through donations and some contributions from state. Even though the main aim of the Gaushala is to house the unproductive/uncared cows (cattle), many of the fore-front Gaushalas maintain good quality indigenous cattle in good numbers. A recent study (on 59 Gaushalas in three states of India) revealed as much as 22.2% indigenous purebred cattle belonging to 5 breeds (Hariana , Kankrej , Sahiwal, Gangatiri and Tharparkar) maintained in Gaushalas. In comparison, the number of purebreds was far below 10% in the field conditions. As the number of the purebred animals have drastically reduced in the field and farmers’ conditions, a number of select Gaushalas are noticeable as in situ conservation units in the country. Of the 4000 Gaushalas spread out in the length and breadth of the country, there are several exemplary Gaushalas engaged in breed improvement (e.g. Radhanpur Gaushala for Kankrej Breed, and JiwanNagar Gaushala for Sahiwal Breed), enhanced utilization of bull power for rural activities and electricity generation (e.g. Kanpur Gaushala), production of young bulls for export to other states (Shaladeri Gaushala), production of Methane, LPG and liquid Carbon Dioxide from bio-gas (Jamnagar Gaushala), and production of panchgavya medicines, vermi-compost and bio-pesticide for use in natural and organic agriculture. Gaushala management have recorded the following features of the indigenous breeds: disease resistance, heat tolerance, work-capacity, ability to withstand natural calamities, tolerance to and conversion of low-quality forages, utilization of bio-mass, suitability and contributions to organic and natural farming, adjustment to local eco-systems; and are aware of the genetic dilution of these breeds through uncontrolled crossbreeding and interbreeding. It was noted in the same study that each visited Gaushala had more than 10% cattle of local pure breed. Further improvement in the herd can be expected by maintaining these best 10% cows in a separate barn (open nucleus) and provided with a good quality bull at least every two years. It was noted that the Gaushalas are gaining self-reliance by using cow-dung as source of fuel, bio-gas, clean energy and organic manure; cow-urine as bio-pesticide and raw-material for Panchgavya medicines; and, indigenous cow milk as a therapeutic and nutritious product with immuno-modulatory strength for the human body.

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