The fascination for exotic cattle breeds has been the bane of Indian dairy industry”. We return to these words by CHS co-founder Winin Pereira, first entered on this site after reading Devinder Sharma’s 2010 blog quoted in the CHS-Sachetan archives
In a recent blog, Sharma informs us that India’s Ministry of Agriculture is setting up two research stations to improve the neglected breeds and Rajasthan is the first State to appoint a Minister for Cow Affairs.
Like Pereira, Mr Sharma dispels the myth that all Indian cows are low in productivity. They both remind us that several Indian cow breeds – Gir (above left), Kankrej, Ongole, Sahiwal among others — are doing well in Brazil. Milk yield from Gir in Brazil has now crossed 70 litres. Sharma adds that ‘ironically, semen of pure bred Indian breeds is now being imported from Brazil into India’.
In his widely appreciated passage about India’s Kasaragod Dwarf breed, Sharma added “The milk is nutritious, rich in alpha-2 casein proteins which means it is particularly useful for diabetic and hypertension patients”.
The writer had not heard of this A2 milk from cows whose milk is free from the A1 protein. It is recommended for people who are diagnosed as being ‘lactose intolerant’ – suffering from abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea and/or constipation after consuming milk. Note a sceptical Wiki entry – which might have a commercial bias.
Sharma reports that the sale of A2 milk in Britain and Ireland has reached Rs 10- crore in just one year after its launch and is now available in 1,000 stores there. He continues: “In Australia and New Zealand, A2 milk is now the fastest growing with a share of 8% of the milk market, the sales increasing by 57% in a year . . . Meanwhile, China has emerged as a strong market for A2 milk after the scandal surrounding the sale of spurious baby milk powder some years back . . .
“What makes it more significant and relevant for us is that most desi cows and buffalo breeds contain A2 allele gene. In other words, 100 per cent of milk of desi cattle breeds contains the A2 allele making it richer in nutrients and much healthier than the milk of exotic cattle breeds.
“If you are not drinking A2 milk, the chances are that in the long term you are likely to suffer from allergies, diabetes, obesity and cardio-vascular diseases. While the exotic cattle breeds may be producing higher milk but because of the concentration of A1 allele gene in their bodies, the milk they produce is much inferior in quality.
“Studies by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal, have established the superiority of A2 milk in Indian breeds. In a detailed study scanning 22 desi breeds recently, it found A2 allele to be 100 per cent available in the five high-yielding milk breeds – Red Sindhi, Gir, Rathi, Shahiwal and Tharparkar. In the remaining breeds, the availability of A2 allele gene was 94 per cent. Comparatively, in the exotic breeds Jersey and Holstein Friesian, the availability of A2 allele gene is very low.
“The economic cost of promoting desi breeds is relatively much higher given the health advantages, especially in a population where diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, allergies, digestive disorders are on an upswing. Since A2 milk builds up immunity, it certainly offers a big advantage over the commonly sold milk.
“In India, I am sure consumers would be willing to pay a premium if Mother Dairy and Amul for instance is able to sell A2 milk in pouches. At the same time, promotion for A2 milk will help farmers shift to traditional breeds which very well integrate with natural farming systems. Promotion of A2 milk will also make hundreds of gaushalas spread across the State turn economically viable”.