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Sahiwal owners stay afloat

As you drive along National Highway-1 near Libra village, a hoarding greets you with ‘Pure milk of sahiwal cows.

Sahiwal owners stay afloat

Experts say Punjab’s local breeds must be encouraged.



Vishav Bharti & Amarjit Thind in Ludhiana

As you drive along National Highway-1 near Libra village, a hoarding greets you with ‘Pure milk of sahiwal cows.’ It also promises to sell burfi, desi ghee and other sweets made from sahiwal cow’s milk. Welcome to Yadwinder Singh’s farmhouse. Singh can reel out a number of benefits of desi cow’s milk, and would tell you their history — how the breed was taken to Brazil a century ago to improve the yield.

Yadwinder Singh is fond of his sahiwals, ever since he bought one about a year and a half back. His love for the breed became a passion as he replaced his HF herd of 10 cows with the desi variety. He says he sells a litre of milk for Rs 70 in the nearby industrial town of Mandi Gobindgarh. “I am unable to meet the high demand,” he says, adding he plans to buy more sahiwals. He is the only farmer in the area selling local cow milk. Will he keep the same price if only 10% of villagers start selling the same milk? “Only time will tell.” 

At various places in Punjab, you’d find dairy farmers living near cities claiming to sell sahiwal milk for Rs 100 a kg. And there are buyers ready to shell out more. 

Jagdev Singh of village Pohir near Ahmedgarh got his first sahiwal in 2008. In 2014, when he came to know that the state is offering a 50% subsidy on buying a sahiwal (the benefit stands withdrawn now), he asked himself: ‘why not commercial dairy farming? He bought 10 cows from Rajasthan. Today, he has 25 cows of sahiwal and gir breeds. He and two other villagers together sell 250 litres of milk everyday in Ludhiana’s urban localities. He was recently in Brazil as part of the Animal Husbandry Department’s plan aiming to get more knowledge about the gir breed.

“I have quite a few customers ready to buy milk of sahiwal cows fed on organic diet for Rs 100 a litre,” he says. Like other farmers, he has approached Bhaini Sahib dera to get good quality semen. He says if the state government can import good embryo and ensure their transplant, it will help in improving the milk situation drastically.

Experts at Guru Angad Dev Veterinary & Animal Sciences University, Ludhiana, say rising health awareness has substantially upped the demand for indigenous cow milk. “For that, researchers should be quick to help the dairy farmer,” said a university scientist. Of the 8,811 sahiwals in the area, the breedable female count is only 3,735. 

Agrees Inderjit Singh, Director Dairy Development Board, Punjab. “The idea of desi cow couldn’t go beyond some religious institutes and certain individuals in the state. We can’t even think of desi cow replacing HF in commercial dairy farming,” he says. The solution, he says, lies in increasing the yield of the desi cow milk. 

That, and the very question if the desi milk is indeed more beneficial, are the basic issues that the dairy scientists continue to work on. 

Desi vs Angreji 

  • Desi cow milk’s fat content is 4.5 to 5.5% compared to 3.2 to 3.7% fat of an Holstein Friesians (HF)
  • Fatty acids in desi cow milk are said to be good for heart
  • HF milk has more protein 
  • Sahiwal, hariana, rathi & tharparkar are four breeds of desi cow commonly available in Punjab 
  • Sahiwal is the most popular. On an average, a sahiwal produces 9-10 litres of milk compared to 25-30 litres by HF

Low desi count

  • There are 24 lakh cows in Punjab, but only around 38,500 of sahiwal breed 
  • Of 22 districts, there are only a dozen where the sahiwal count is less than 1,000 
  • The sahiwals are found with individuals dairy farmers in villages of Abohar, Fazilka, Bathinda, who have mainly their roots in Rajasthan
  • Two deras in Bhaini Sahib and Nurmahal have a large number of sahiwals 

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