The Gir breed of cattle is amongst the most well known breeds attributed to India. It is known to have been bred for its milk production. Although there are some suggestions that it was bred out of kankrej, Sindhi and Dangi breeds, it’s exact genetic lineage is still an open mystery.
Gir, having originated from the agricultural plains would have been part of the agrarian economy. Dairy not being an essential produce, it would have rarely been traded. Milk, butter and ghee would have been consumed within the household in majority of the cases.
It is my belief that agrarian economy should not prioritise dairy as an alternative goal for supplementary income. The farmers should enjoy the goodness of Indian cow milk and then share it with people who care for the well being of the cows, farmers and the ecology.
Milk from the Gir cow was marketed effectively and successfully to satiate the urban demand. The various dairy boards, co-operative organisations and self-interest groups worked tirelessly in portraying milk as an essential part of daily life, not just in India, but all over the world.
Ancient humans never bred cattle for it’s milk. They were bred more for their raw power to move earth and goods. Milk was considered an insignificant bonus if at all. Cattle were deified for their invaluable contributions in the fields, mills, roads, etc. With machines replacing cattle in most of the endeavours of an agrarian lifestyle, their role has been relegated to the producer of dairy.
With changing priorities due to altered market demand, the objectives of breeding cattle have been turned upside down. Breeders too have adjusted their practices to produce low-maintenance (tethered and sedate) and high-yield (both meat and dairy) breeds. This trend will surely dilute and eventually dissolve completely the gene plasma of ancestral breeds.
Cattle must be allowed to range freely where they enjoy the wild seasonal harvests of nature, practice and develop their instincts, nurture their herd in order for the milk they yield to be of wholesome quality. I am of the opinion that it is unethical and cruel to tether any animal with production as it’s solitary goal of fulfillment.
An average Gir cow yields 8 to 12 liters of milk daily depending on the conditions. Indian cows milk prices are increasing each day as the urban lifestyle remains insatiable in it’s demand for dairy.
Sahiwal, Tharparkar and Red Sindhi are few of the other breeds native to Sindh region that are also good milk yielders. Any Indian breed, if cared for, will yield average quantities of good quality milk. Draught breeds are excluded.
The real question now is would you prefer to consume milk from a Gir breed that has been bred and fed in tethered lifestyle or from an unknown Indian breed bred free range? Your choice could very well dictate the breed our future generations would have to live with.
Image of the gir cow shared by wikimedia user Pavanaja under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license. Image has been cropped to remove some background.
How to buy a Gir cow.