Cows were a source of income. When did they become a headache for farmers?

Cows make newspaper headlines and are a topic of discussion in TV studios. But the actual issues involving cows are never discussed. This has led to cows becoming a menace for farmers, who earlier used to worship them

Arvind Shukla
| Updated: February 22nd, 2020



Cow has been a national issue for the past few years. While the cow has made newspaper headlines, there have been hours of debate on television channels surrounding them. For several days, hashtags have been trending on social media. 

But the actual issues revolving them which should have been discussed, have never surfaced. As a result, the farmer who worshipped the cow, who derived his bread and butter from it, started shooing it off with a stick. The farmers consider cattle to be their biggest headache. Several thousands of farmers from Uttar Pradesh are performing nightly vigils to save their crops from these stray animals. The highest number of these animals is of bull and bull-calves.

In Uttar Pradesh, the problem of stray animals had limited itself to Bundelkhand. But in the past 3-4 years, the number of stray animals has increased manifold since the Uttar Pradesh government plugged the illegal slaughterhouses and the reports of cow protectors’ attacks made headlines one after another. These animals are causing road accidents and giving sleepless nights to farmers in rural areas. 

In Uttar Pradesh, scores of cattle (cows, calves and bulls) will be found camping at two intersections of Bahadurganj Bazar of Rampur Mathura block in Sitapur district, about 80 kms away from Lucknow. To ward these off, the farmers of the locality have barb-wired their fields. Some have made scaffoldings above the fields.  

Despite all the farmers guarding the crops day and night, the bulls recently ravaged five bigha of wheat of Ramtirath, who lives in Durjanpur near Bahadurganj. He said: “I used to go every day, but one day I couldn’t and the crop was damaged.” According to Ramtirath, some of these cows belong to nearby villagers while some have been brought here and released in the dark of the night by other villages.

The highest number of strays is of cows, followed by bulls and calves, which damage farmer’s crops

To understand the growing problem of strays and the pain of farmers, Gaon Connection team spent the entire night of January 1 with the farmers where on one hand, the farmers were seen guarding their fields braving the winter and the hungry cattle were seen to be running to break the barbed wire for fodder. Many farmers themselves admitted that although the strays were a big problem, they did not want them to be injured. 

Ram Bahadur Singh, a teacher residing in Goda Deoria village in Sitapur, said: “There is no longer any faith in the cow because it has become a threat to people’s livelihood. Cows and cattle (calf-bull) have become problematic because they are not useful to the farmers.”

Strays are animals whose owners release them in the open to graze after milking, but in the absence of fodder outside, they create ruckus in the fields of farmers. The highest number among them is of cows, followed by bulls and calves.

According to the 12th cattle census, the number of stray cattle in Uttar Pradesh itself is more than 11 lakh. “The strays causing nuisance on the roads and for the farmers is both the society and the government’s doing. Had the governments focused on the breed improvement of indigenous cows instead of importing foreign cows, this problem wouldn’t have arisen. The foreign cow that came to India did not thrive because it couldn’t adapt well to India’s climate. Had the government worked on improving the productivity of the indigenous cow, which gives half a liter of milk, the problem could have been averted,” said Dr Ram Prakash Sharma, director, Livestock Development and Research Centre said.

While the strays remain a problem for the farmers, 87 km south from Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, the Livestock Development and Research Centre, Chitrakoot, is engaged with the development and conservation of the rarer breeds of indigenous cow of the country. Besides conservation of 14 breeds at the Centre, 13 types of products are being produced from their dung and urine. 

Dr Sharma informed Gaon Connection over the phone: “The indigenous breed of our country is giving 136 litres of milk a day in a country like Brazil, not even half of the 36 litres in our own country. Now, the government is working on their breed improvement and productivity.”

Bulls are a very big problem because they are not of any use. Earlier people used to buy or sell them for ploughing which is done now in five minutes with the help of tractors. At the same time, a cow gives one or two litres of milk and is kept as long as it yields milk after which the farmer abandons it in a distant village. The other problem being the non-availability of pasture land,” said Surendra Bahadur Singh, a resident of Gonda Deoria village of Sitapur district.

According to data from the Revenue Department, the total pasture land in Uttar Pradesh in the year 2013-2014 was 65, 389 hectares declined to 65,198 hectares in the year 2014-2015. This number has been declining continuously. According to the department, 70-80% of pastures are under illegal occupation. The Yogi Adityanath government had launched an anti-land mafia campaign to remove these occupations.

Surendra has been running Shri Radha Goshala for the past several years. Talking about the problem, he said: “The government should work on breed improvement so that its production capacity is increased and the cow gives more milk. Besides, there is a need to educate people in rural areas about the products made from cow urine and dung.

The improvement of cow breed has been going on for the past several decades in the country. Manmohan Singh-led UPA government at the Centre had made big claims on breed improvement under the Bundelkhand package, the artificial insemination centers were to be built, but the schemes could not be materialized. 

Gaon Connection had, in the year 2016, done a special series on Bundelkhand, had reported extensively on these cows. The essence of it was that the strays also fed Bundelkhand tragedy because despite the water being arranged for the parched region’s irrigation, several farmers still did not cultivate for fear of cattle. In the past several decades, the indifferent attitude of governments towards indigenous breed cows has given rise to a major problem for the farmers. 

Not only in Uttar Pradesh, strays and feral animals ruin the farmers’ crops in many other states of the country

In Uttar Pradesh, milk production per cow is 2.5 litres and per buffalo milk production is 4.5 litres. Not providing adequate fodder to the cattle was also a major reason for low yields. Dr Putan Singh, chief scientist, Department of Nutrition, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, cites lack of balanced diet as the reason for the decrease in milk productivity of cows-buffaloes per cow.

He informed: “The biggest reason for the reduction in milk productivity per cow-buffalo is the balanced diet of animal. Whatever is available to the small farmers, they feed to their animals. The farmers who commercially rear the cow-buffaloes, give a balanced diet to the cattle to some extent. An adult animal should be provided 50 per cent green fodder and 50 per cent dry fodder every day.”

Describing the pasture problem, Putan said: “Till the time the animals were grazing, their milk productivity was good, but now the milk productivity has also gone down due to absence of pasture lands. Pastures cannot be developed. If the farmer cultivates in 10 bigha fields, it would have a great impact if he sows three rows of green fodder for the cattle. However, some farmers do it. If the farmer plants Sajan, Pakhar, Rosewood, etc, green fodder would be easily available for the cattle which is lacking, it will also increase the milk productivity of animals. The weeds from the fields can also be used as green fodder.”

Not only in Uttar Pradesh, strays and feral animals ruin the farmers’ crops in many other states of the country. Balwandir Singh, a resident of Moga district of Punjab, said: “We often face a herd of hundreds of cows coming together and god knows how many thousand acres of crops have been ruined. I also wrote to the administration but there is no action. Whether day or night one has to be on the fields.”

Recently, farmers who were harassed by stray animals had even gathered them in schools in Mathura, Aligarh and Agra and five thousand farmers had also staged a dharna at Agra collectorate demanding construction of cow shelters. 

Manish Kumar a resident of Gundhipur village, about 70 kms away from Lucknow, said: “Those people who rear cow-calf are responsible for this problem. They should take the responsibility of their animals. They should at least be indebted to the cow whose milk they drink for years. But now the situation has become grave. The government must also pitch along their efforts.”

The government claim that breed improvement is also being worked upon in order to check the stray animals. Soon, the Uttar Pradesh government would be outsourcing semen from a US company that will only produce heifer. Initially, semen from this company has been used with cows as pilot project in three districts of Uttar Pradesh (Etawah, Lakhimpurkhiri and Barabanki).

So far, 714 offspring have been born, out of which 648 were females and the rest were males. The government has already sanctioned a budget of crores of rupees for it to reach to the farmers at the earliest. 

How the problem became serious and what is the solution? In response to this question, Mukund Tiwari, the gram pradhan of Garhchapa Gram Panchayat in Sitapur district said: “See, these cattle belong neither to Modi nor to Yogi or any other politician. These strays are from the village which were reared previously by the villagers and abandoned later. The government must make some arrangements to stop people from doing so.”

He added: “The government should build goshalas on the land belonging to gram panchayats and the MGNREGA workers should be asked to maintain them. Management committees of people comprising villagers must be formed with the help of government officials. If the farmers’ crops are saved, they will donate to the goshala. I myself am ready to give Rs 20-25,000 to the government in a year for such a goshala in my village.”

Talking about the long-term problem to the solution, Ram Bahadur Singh said: “How much money the government spends on subsidies on chemical fertilizers, these subsidies should also be accorded to organic fertilizer and vermicompost. It must also motivate the farmer and others to manufacture and use the products made from dung and cow urine, or else nothing is going to solve the cow problem.”

This is the second part of our cow series. Read the first part here

Note: The stories were originally published in February 2019.