The deshi cow milk jinx

Friday 04 July 2014

Our wealth of indigenous cattle breeds have failed to benefit those who are conserving them – the poor farmers, herders and nomadic pastoralists who produce 70 per cent of the milk that finds its way to the market

“The milk from my cows is thicker and sweeter, and good for children’s growth,” says Vidyabai Awathale, a traditional herder from the Gawli community, who conserves the rare Gaolao breed of cattle from Wardha district in Maharashtra, “It makes very tasty khowa and the ghee has richer fragrance and taste.”

Awathale, however, despairs of being able to sustain her herd of around 50 cows in the future, as getting a sustainable income from them is a challenge. “Our milk is much better than the milk of Jersey and Holstein cows,” says she, “Those animals yield more milk, but it is thinner, and not very tasty. But in the market, no one bothers. We get the same Rs 18-21 that Jersey milk fetches,” she rues, “It is a loss for us, you know, because the milk yield of our cows is about a third of what those cows yield.”

Awathale and the Gaolao breed are no exception – the story of Indian breeds of cattle is the same everywhere, be it Gujarat’s Gir, Karnataka’s Hallikar or Andhra’s Ongole. Even while the demand for milk from zebu (humped) cattle rises phenomenally in the developed world, Indian cattle rearers continue to get a raw deal.

Scientific evidence suggests that milk from zebu (humped) cattle has several advantages over the milk of exotic European varieties of cattle like Holstein, which were introduced in India as a measure to enhance milk production through cross breeding.

The key difference between the two types of milk is the crucial A2 variety of beta casein protein, which is found in the milk of the zebu cows, camel, goat, donkey, buffalo, yak, sheep and even jersey cows. Indian cattle, scientifically known as Bos Indicus, fall in the zebu category.  Milk from the European Bos Taurus breeds like Holstein, which spread across the developed world due to their high milk yield, contain the A1 variant of beta casein protein, which has been related to allergies and serious health conditions.

Traditional knowledge in India agrees with science here. Farmers and cattle rearers across the spectrum vouch for milk from indigenous cows and its higher suitability for children’s growth, both physical and mental, than milk from high-yielding exotic varieties. They, however, exclude the Jersey cow, which science says produces A2 milk, from their list of good milk. In Australia, in the 1970s, when Holstein cows were introduced in a big way, dairy herdsmen noticed a change in their health status, and started retaining a few Jerseys for domestic consumption. In India, a similar process in which farmers retained a few deshi cows for the children while turning to Jersey and Holstein cows for commercial benefit, has largely gone unnoticed, because for decades, fat content was the only standard for milk quality. One is reminded of Shyam Benegal’s classic Manthan, about the beginnings of Operation Flood.

In recent years, however, the quality and structure of milk itself has come under the scanner in a big way. The process started in New Zealand, where the process for identification of A1 and A2 proteins was developed, and in 1994, a patent was registered by the NZ Child Health Research Foundation for ‘A Method of Selecting Non-Diabetogenic Milk or Milk Products’. The patent document first identified A1 protein as a trigger for diabetogenic activity based on a study on mice. Earlier, a similar hypothesis had been given by R B Elliot based on the observation that children in Polynesian islands like Samoa had low incidence of Type 1 diabetes than Polynesian children in Auckland.

In recent years, evidence has started piling up linking A1 protein with higher risks of type-1 diabetes, coronary heart disease, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, arteriosclerosis, sudden infant death syndrome, autism, schizophrenia etc. A 2014 study led by Dr Andrew J Clarke, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, reported that aspects of digestive function like transit time and inflammatory status in mice were impacted by the protein type, with rats fed with A1 milk showing rise in problems like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation, with side effects like bloating and diarrhea.  One of the few Indian studies on the subject, led by Dr Monica Sodhi of National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, and published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology in 2012, says that  incidences of type-1 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is low in populations with high consumption of the A2 variant of Beta Casein. Incidences of autism and schizophrenia, it says, have been shown to reduce with reduction in consumption of A1 Beta Casein.

Popular testimonies show that a switch from A1 to A2 milk leads to significant improvement in a host of health issues. The Food Intolerance Network, a network of more than 10,000 families, mainly from Australia and New Zealand but also from the US, UK and Canada, has collected a number of testimonies that report that a host of ailments ranging from digestive issues to allergies to ear infections to behavior issues in children were cured completely after switching to A2 milk.

With rising awareness, the demand for A2 milk has gone up phenomenally in countries like Australia, UK and NZ. A2, a corporation which sells milk with A2 protein, is the largest growing milk brand in Australia.

And where is India in all this?

Nowhere.

Our wealth of indigenous cattle breeds have failed to benefit those who are conserving them – the poor farmers, herders and nomadic pastoralists who produce 70 per cent of the milk that finds its way to the market – in the absence of scientific information on the benefits of deshi cow milk. With the environmental and social support systems crucial for the survival of these breeds degrading fast, and the resultant poverty, more and more indigenous cattle are finding their way to the slaughter-houses, and once-proud breeders are giving up in despair.

Traditional knowledge around deshi cow milk is complex, and it is not clear how much of it has already been lost.  There is a crying need for research on the properties of milk from indigenous cattle breeds, says Sajal Kulkarni, researcher associated with non-profit BAIF Development Research Foundation (BAIF , “Taking the example of the Gaolao breed, there is a lot of traditional knowledge surrounding the milk quality of and its connection with the various kinds of wild grasses consumed by Gaolao, which has traditionally been an open grazing breed.” One of these grasses, known locally as paonya, says he, is said to impart greater taste and nutrition to milk and ghee. “Ghee from cows fed on paonya grass, known as paonya chya toop, is regarded as the best quality ghee in these areas.”

Kulkarni and a few others like him around the country are working to document this knowledge. A few non-profits are working to set up farmers groups for marketing deshi cow milk. A few scientists are trying to start fledgling conservation programs. A few Swadeshi groups are making an emotional appeal based largely on vague claims of colossal health benefits.

But largely, this healthy and delicious milk, which Indian has in abundance, is being procured at exploitative rates by private dairies. The only answer to this dismal situation is awareness, which could create a willingness among consumers to pay a fair price for this milk and so make the conservation efforts pay for the small farmers and herders. Is the scientific community listening? More important, are policy-makers listening?
 

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  • Beg ur pardon...neither

    Beg ur pardon...neither scientific fraternity is ready to listen..nor will the so called governments we elect... now the theme is to eliminate all the existing Desi Breed..and re-import them from Brazil which is the largest breeder of BOS INDICUS. The article which i read is not deep enough... when the tree is diseased one got to treat its roots... we have been in crux of grass root movement to Preserve Bos Indicus (DESI) Cows - and even today we visited over a dozen of villages with 100% bos-indicus Hallikar Population... we found the re-research done by BIAF or NDDB on Bos-indicus has not reached the keepers !... Unless farmers and keepers are themselves empowered...its all hogwash. Non of the farmer keeper of Bos-Indicus knows that the milk is called A2...and Desi Cows carry A2 allelle gene !... also, jersey is just 60% a2...and does have BCM 7 the opiate...and that means... soon the BOS-TAUREAN breed will be genetically modified and a2 allelle gene introduced in their stream !.. viola we will soon have a2 allelle compliant BOS-TAUREAN breed... in otherwords..our country will remain the country of slaves and loosers !... Govats or Cow Keepers or Gujjars are the source of A2 milk for companies like Nestle !... do we know this... ?... they buy it at cheap rates @ 20 rs..send the vehicles where the herders are and make monies to send it abroad !... so lets be fools..!... its nice to be a fool... lets call ourselves krishnas fool..even better !... lobby of gaushalas are also intense !.. brand promotion of GIR and SAHIWALS have reached places like bangalore rural...! do u know what this means...that we slaves are following our masters to fiddle around with nature...! whole gamut of things stinks..but yes does'nt lotus bloom in the marsh !...lol.. another industry that thrives on the carcasses of human degenerative intelligence...now a days the doyens of PINK REVOLUTION give cows to these very cow-herders and keepers to develop the cows..and later buy back at a cheaper price !...long live the anti-life industry !

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • Instead of all the useless,

    Instead of all the useless, ecocidal, Macaulayan solutions to the upliftment of rural economy, it is infinitely and undoubtedly beneficial to give a desi cow to every rural household and ensure protection of grazing pastures, steady supply of fodder and funds for their maintenance - which will solve all the problems. Health, wealth, satisfaction and punya all these things will follow by themselves. Meddling with self-governance of villages which has gloriously stood the test of time, by bureaucratic handling will only spell misery. Bulls and bullocks for agriculture and transport (and) cows for dairy needs(not for meat) should be the mantra and promoted as such. Short of these things, pushing the rural population in to the "Satanic" industrial employment that manufacture nothing but consumer goods that are both physically and mentally destructive is a policy that is sure recipe for disaster.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • Hahahah! I loved what you

    Hahahah! I loved what you wrote Madhav!
    Its so true. We have been following the west in all the bullshit that they claim when we already everything here. But then again, maybe its just a hidden agenda to wipe out entire populations without actually knowing who did it. Just a thought.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • I heard that it is illegal to

    I heard that it is illegal to breed Desi cows in Kerala due to some stupid policy which was aiming at bringing the white revolution.

    It is high time that initiatives were taken at the Govt.level to look into these issues and usher in a constructive and sound policy in this regard.


    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • It is not clear from the

    It is not clear from the article or the comments whether A2 milk is good or bad. At one place(para 5) it says the following

    "Milk from the European Bos Taurus breeds like Holstein, which spread across the developed world due to their high milk yield, contain the A2 variant of beta casein protein, which has been related to allergies and serious health conditions."

    This obviously means that milk with A2 protein is bad.

    Thereafter at places we see that all cows including the Jersey and holstein also have the A2 variant of the beta casein protein. So then what is the difference between Indian cows and imported ones.

    Could someone pl clarify ?

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • Hi N Kanitkar, Apologies for

    Hi N Kanitkar,

    Apologies for a typograpical error -- Holstein cow milk contains A1 protein which is harmful. Jersey cow milk contains some amount of A2 protein -- hence it was preferred by Australian herders over Holstein. The Deshi cow, however, contains A2 protein in high concentrations, and hence its milk is the best suited for consumption.

    Posted by: Aparna Pallavi | 2 years ago | Reply
    • Good. This clarification was needed.

      Posted by: Arun Bhatia IAS Ret | 5 months ago | Reply
  • Thank you

    Thank you

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • australian dairy farms,

    australian dairy farms, especially the A2 milk corp, does not retain the jersey breed for A2 milk. rather, the dairies choose cows producing A2 milk by DNA testing, from two crossbreeds: the AMZ - australian milking zebu (a cross between the sahiwal and jersey); and the australian friesan sahiwal(cross of sahiwal and friesan)

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
    • I am in favour of A2 milk producing cows, you may call it desk, indigenous, Bos indicus, or Zuba cattle. So help grow more same breed. Personally, I also faced same issue with consumption of A1 protein milk.

      Posted by: Vandana C | 4 months ago | Reply
  • we are happy that new central

    we are happy that new central government is launched indigenous cattle conservation programme i.e ÔÇ£Rashtriya Gokul Mission". Any programme to be sustainable there is a need for community participation (farmers involvement). So in this ÔÇ£Rashtriya Gokul Mission" community participation is much more important because farmers are the main stakeholders in rearing indigenous (Desi)cattle. In fixing the price for milk only FAT and SNF percentage is considered, but this criteria as to be changed for Indigenous cattle milk. There is urgent need to create awareness about presence of A2 protein in indigenous cattle milk among the consumers and it will leads to market demand for A2 milk. Therefore many farmers may engage themselves in rearing indigenous cow for earning higher profit. if we are not taking any serious steps in conservation of our native cattle breeds, soon they will disappear from earth.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 3 years ago | Reply
  • YEs Agreed, and also believed

    YEs Agreed, and also believed to the core, that Deshi Cow milk is best one and we need to use that only.
    Question is , supply..?
    where can we get this milk? In villages in some pockets farmers still have deshi cows, but ther is no supply in th cities.
    If the farmers get enough market for cow milk products,
    they will prosper and we will also be benifited.
    however We need to develop proper supply chain.
    Till then Deshi Cow milk will remain only acadamic study.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 3 years ago | Reply
  • Very well summarised

    Very well summarised regrading the A2 Desi milk .....

    i have been keeping only desi cows last few years on my farm .....one more thing i would like to add is the Quality of urine n cowdung is far greater more potent has all beneficial Microrganisms for chemical free farming .

    I am also happy to say that lot more people are now collecting desi cows ......realising the potential now....

    daya patel


    Posted by: Anonymous | 3 years ago | Reply
  • Completely agree with the

    Completely agree with the author here. From assisting in digestion to relieving of tiredness & fatigue to enhancing the brain power, Cow Milk certainly has multiple benefits. I suppose Milk distribution has to be channelised in a proper manner so that the farmer benefits out of the process as well. With private dairies booming in India, the availability of milk & milk products is phenomenal but you cannot count on the authenticity. If you really are looking to benefit from authentic cow milk which is passed through strict health check-up's, I would suggest you to have a look through Shubhi Cow Milk. Here is the link for more info: shubhi.org

    Posted by: Anonymous | 3 years ago | Reply
  • I agree with you

    I agree with you

    Posted by: Anonymous | 3 years ago | Reply
  • it is very useful and informative article.i am not aware about this things.i am having organic cow milk and its better to other regular milk.i think organic cow milk is better than regular cow milk.

    Posted by: Sabah Khan | 2 years ago | Reply
    • Hi, I would like to know if you are in the business of supplying desi cow milk or working with someone who does. I have been doing some research online and am convinced of the immense health benefits of A2 milk. If you have a contact number, kindly email me on anirudh.kunte@gmail.com

      Posted by: Anirudh Kunte | 10 months ago | Reply
    • which city you are supplying ??

      Posted by: Tushar Das | 7 months ago | Reply
    • Very good and useful article and comments, initially i read it for my MBA study but is interesting to learn potential of our country and misleading past political influences. I am so thankful to you all! I am both Indian and New Zealander, so very much familiar with concepts and what article real means. Wish I can join some activity in future and mis study contributes and may be helpful to our community, which approaches towards "CLEAN, GREEN and NATURAL".Thanking you all.

      Posted by: Vandana C | 4 months ago | Reply
  • Thanks Aparna for writing such a superb article about the milk we get across vs the Indian Variant. We are group of professionals who are well placed in multinationals and decided to explore the potentials and benefits of Indian Gir cow's milk. Brought around 10 cows from Bhavnagar and extract the milk and supply it to people who understands the benefits around it. It is true that 99% of the population doesn't understand or do not want to understand the benefits of A2 protein. We even went ahead prepared a pamphlet with information around it and distributed more than 5000+ to the city population. To our surprise only 40 people from the educated population responded. Even though we are doing it on a no-loss no- profit way, people still compare the same with the one's available in packets. We are positive that things might change in the near future and more and more people will ask for it.... We will continue growing the population even if it means more money and no gain....Thanks once again

    Posted by: Ajay M V | 2 years ago | Reply
    • Good writing of yours. Can I have the Web site of Aparna Pallavi

      Posted by: Alagesh | 9 months ago | Reply
  • Indian traditional knowledge over powers the person day science. Farmers how inteligent they are as they retained local breeds of cow to feed their own children. Are we in a position to supply only A2 variant milk keeping the helth perpectives of the general public. Why our Dairy Scientists are laging behind other advanced countries. Are we ignorant about these facts.Mrs. Aparna Pallavi is doing yomen service through this website creating awareness among the people who know nothing about the Deshi milk versus other milk variatns.

    Posted by: Ananda Alwar | 2 years ago | Reply
  • I strongly contradict on the statement which says “Milk from Holstein cow is not tasty”. I am using Pride of cows milk which delivers milk that is from Holstein cow. They have a different taste which I have never tasted in any of the brands in Mumbai and obviously not from our local dudhwalla. I have tried all type of milk that we get here and for that reason I can say it has a unique taste which is definitely good. It definitely scores high on the taste aspect of the milk.

    Posted by: Ratika Shetty | 2 years ago | Reply
    • Very good point raised by you. I am planning to start a desi milk dairy farm near Pune. Does it mean that every desi cow I buy should be tested for the protein type?
      Rgds,
      Arun Bhatia

      Posted by: Arun Bhatia IAS Ret | 5 months ago | Reply
  • I am yet to find any of the our Animal Sciences institutes, may it be Agricultural University or NDDB or the NGO's research papers, published in last 5 years, indicating breed wise reports of Indian recognised breeds status on the A1 A2 studies.Quoting New Zealand or Australian work is in place for last many years. Our scientists are either ignoring this facet of milk property or we are self contented that our breeds are good so no research is needed. Testing of breeding bulls as carriers of A1 and A2, and culling the unwanted ones at the breeding bull stations is not all that difficult if we accept A1 A2 as an issue of priority.



    Posted by: Baba -Rajendra Mahuli | 2 years ago | Reply
  • Quality of deshi cow's milk is much better. So, obvious rate of deshi cow's milk should be more as compared to other videshi cow's milk.

    Posted by: Narendra Rohade | 2 years ago | Reply
  • I am a proud breeder of indigenous cow. Father of white revolution late Mr. Verghese Kurien did big mistake to introduce holstein and cross breed cow to India. Now it has became hard to find or identify the indigenous breed. Thanks to Mediocre veterinary doctors Who helped to put desi cows in endangered species by cross breeding. Now we can see useless cows on the roads. Cooperative dairies should take initiative along with farmers to preserve and protact the desi cow breeds.

    Posted by: Hanuman | one year ago | Reply
  • Excellent & very informative article

    Posted by: Vijay Vohra | one year ago | Reply
  • hatsoff for this post and research sad but we Indians have started to lose everything including culture traditions food .... and which when recognised by scientific proof done by foreign intruders we feel the importance of so and value... I wish we wakeup before its too late...

    Posted by: Sheeka | 11 months ago | Reply
  • yes all true... I am desperately looking for design cow milk in mumbai past 8 years for my kids very few I find and their milk and byproducts are too high to afford ... still in search of one reasonally priced.. if anyone can help out with details on my email shikhaserene@gmail.com will be g8t help

    Posted by: Shikha | 11 months ago | Reply
  • Hi....I too am looking out for A2 milk in Mumbai. I'm anyways paying a high price for Holstein cow milk that is extracted by an automated process and is untouched by human hands. So I don't mind paying any price that is close to it. Please write to me at sarika.khot@gmail.com, if anybody knows of these A2 brands and where it could be procured from. Thanks.

    Posted by: Sarika | 11 months ago | Reply
  • I am so amazed at the information and knowledge i got from just reading this blog.. I never knew this fact all my life until now.. Thanks to Down To Earth for enlightening me with the Truth on A1 & A2 Protein Milk and Cow Breeds and hence forth, every time i buy milk i will find out whether its from our indigenous breed of Desi cows and whether the milk is of A2 variety.. :-)

    Posted by: Jim Smith | 11 months ago | Reply
  • Awareness is need of the day!

    Posted by: Dr.R.Balamurugan | 10 months ago | Reply
  • I completely agree & support the conservation of deshi cows , we have been fooled by British for so many years & still it's the same, I asked all the local milk vendors & they said since deshi cow eats more & gives less milk it's loss to them hence they prefer to keep jersey cow who is economical over the deshi cows , this is the sad state of Mumbai , poor or middle class people also prefer this milk bcos it's cheaper , really government should do something for it, hopefully they do it.

    Posted by: Nitin Khedekar | 9 months ago | Reply
    • Dear Sir,
      We DhenuGovind welfare Foundation (An NGO) - Our objective to work on subject of Indian cow breed enhancement and A2 milk consumption awareness creation.
      We are committed to help you with the knowledge we have with us.
      visit us @ www.dhenugovind.org

      Thanks & Regards

      Pranoy das

      Posted by: Pranoy Das | one week ago | Reply
  • Thanks for the sharing very well researched article with us, we all need to know the advantages of the cow milk. Our kids need to drink cow milk everyday. your blog provides us more information on the dairy industry.

    Posted by: Amul AMCs | 9 months ago | Reply
    • I am nana dhanwade at karjat I have farm water and all str. ready for dairy farming but I have no capital I am interested in a2 milk production and distribution mob no 9822272578

      Posted by: Nana Kisan Dhanwade | one month ago | Reply
  • It is beyound doubt that Desi Cow milk is far superior to HF and other exotic breeds cows. It is also a bitter truth that Farmers are not getting even cost of this milk. A price differential of 50 to 60% ie minimum Rs.45 to 50 a litre to farmer is needed to encourage them to rear Desi Cows. The answer to this lies in creating a brand of Desi cow A2 milk and marketing directly to end user is needed.

    Will Govt or some foundation take lead in this. Very soon say in a year " KSHEERSAGAR FOUNDATION" will be launching A2 milk. I will ask educated farmers to educate farmers and form group marketing your milk directly to consumers AND not to Dairy units.
    COME LET US SAVE OUR INDEGENIOUS COWS FOR SUPERIOR FOOD & MILK SECURITY TO POSTERITY

    Jai Bharat

    Posted by: Om Prakash Sharma | 6 months ago | Reply
  • I don't know why few people don't want Desi cow milk to be branded as A2 milk. Also I start smelling a dead rat under woodpile when our whole machinery is dedicate to promote a particular thing. Even our PM has promoted this A2 thingy but he refrained to use the term "desi cow milk". Whatever be the reason , politics or conspiracy around it , gist of the topic is that milk of our indigenous cows is best for human consumption, specially for toddlers. It is being sold online in few cities across India these days. In my city an online company called ShopApni is selling it online. http://www.shopapni.in/milk

    Posted by: Vikas Sharma | 6 months ago | Reply
  • I never knew this much about cow milk, you share very nice blog , here is my business details -

    Divine Pixel and Codes Pvt. Ltd. India
    +91-120–4262014
    http://www.divinepnc.com/
    infoindia@divinepnc.com

    Posted by: Harsh Jain | 5 months ago | Reply
  • You're blog is wonderful, this is so true and this has to be spread everywhere due to the exploitation of cows

    Posted by: Rishan | 5 months ago | Reply
  • I would like to start a dairy farm for desi milk near Pune. I don't need financial assistance but would require technical support and a good vet.

    Do you think you could help? Will pay for any help or service given.

    Very grateful.

    Arun Bhatia

    Posted by: Arun Bhatia, IAS Ret | 5 months ago | Reply
  • Regular milk which has A1 protein causes many digestive issues, whereas, A2 milk is gentle on sensitive tummies and less likely to trigger symptoms often associated with milk intolerance. Moreover, A2 milk is high in Omega 3 & 6, Vitamins, Calcium, Minerals, Iodine, Magnesium, antioxidant Beta-Carotene and many more.
    There are many people who feel uncomfortable after they drink ordinary milk or lactose-free milk, yet they can enjoy a2 Milk® without discomfort – so this one small protein difference makes a big difference to many people.
    Amlaan A2 milk orginates from cow's milk and is healthy for all age groups and contributes in a high protein diet providing you cow milk nutrition.
    click here: http://amlaana2milk.com/?utm_source=downtoearth&utm_medium=A2-milk&utm_term=A2-Milk&utm_content=A2-milk

    Posted by: Ankitkumar4479 | 3 months ago | Reply
  • I read that A 2 is present even in buffalo's milk .
    why then we are defending only cow's milk on large scale when it is sold double the amount of buffalo?
    and also let me know about soya milk? is it carry A 2 protein?
    Vinaya

    Posted by: Vinaya Malati Hari | 2 months ago | Reply
  • Hi i am sunil i read this article a2 milk is real source of natural proteins but there is no awareness in society

    Posted by: SUNIL PATIL | 2 months ago | Reply
  • An excellent write up, congratulations. Hope it reaches the policy makers at the earliest.

    Posted by: Sonney Cherian | 4 weeks ago | Reply
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