Humans are at the top of the food chain; they consume food and water whenever they feel hungry and thirsty. Owing to this, engineering of the farming systems over the last 10,000 years to suit their needs, and domestication of animals became necessary. One such domesticated being is Cow; revered in our culture and Mythology as Kamadhenu.
The process of domestication of animals and the engineering of farming activities has brought in a lot of practices to suit human convenience. The domestication of animals, especially cows, has not been thought through humanely, which has led to ethical and moral issues in the treatment and feeding of cows.
In a typical dairy farm, cows are tethered perpetually; not given a clean drinking water; not fed as per the dietary requirements; they lie down on their defecation, and cow housing is inadequate.
Let us start our journey by an understanding of the Cow’s diet – What do cows eat?
About a hundred years back, there were abundant pastures. The cows grazed freely through the day and gave good quality milk after returning to their shelter in the evening. Growing population and industrialization has put tremendous pressure on pasture lands. Dwindling pastures and reduced forest cover have affected the grazing patterns of the cows adversely.
To overcome the shortage of pastures, farmers started feeding agricultural leftovers such as straw and husk to the cows. To balance the lack of nutrition from these foods, they also started feeding industrial feeds. The industrial feed further complicated the matters; it caused stress to the cows as it is not their natural diet. The stress led to cows being susceptible to diseases and a poor quality of milk.
The industrial feeds cannot replace the natural cellulose, which cows convert into energy and protein. Cows need to be raised in a pasture-like environment, with a balanced diet of Dicots, Monocots, and Tree fodders, which in current dairy practices, has been ignored.
Over the past ten years, Akshayakalpa is working to create close to natural feeding systems (most relative to grazing environments) with a balanced diet of monocots, dicots, and Tree Fodders, and continuous access to clean drinking water. At Akshayakalpa, cows are not tied or tethered and are allowed to express natural behaviour.
The cows at Akshayakalpa farms live in a stress-free environment in a symbiotic relationship with its surroundings and produce probably the best quality milk in the country.
The fodder crops are grown using Organic farming practices. The soil is chemical-free. No use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides is made. And because we practise mixed crop agriculture, the fertility of the earth is naturally maintained.
We understand the diet of Calves, Adult, Milking, and Pregnant Cows. The healthy adult cows, whose age is 15 months and above, eat the Organic fodder that is a balanced mix of Monocots, Dicots, Grass, and Tree-based hay. A healthy adult cow is also given a supplement rich in calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, once in three days.
Calves have a different diet as their nutritional needs are other than the adults. Up to the first ten days from its birth, the calf is fed only the mother’s milk and clean drinking water. After ten days, the farmers start feeding them porridge made from powdered grains such as ragi and maize along with the mother’s milk. After three months, the calves are weaned off the milk and fed a solid grain diet.
Coming up next – What is a Balanced Diet of Cows?