The 20th cattle count report was released recently and India has shown an increase in cattle population with the cow population being 14.51 crores. However, this report indicates a decline in native breeds of cows calling for a larger scale preservation and breeding of these varieties. Most farmers prefer high-yield milch cows thereby neglecting the desi varieties. However, the native breeds which are deeply connected to this land have utility beyond producing milk. The Rashitriya Kamadhenu Aayog is aimed at making cows more productive for farmers and increasing their income. This in no way suggests that cows should be viewed as commodities. Cows have been revered in India since time immemorial and have been part of every household. Urbanization, globalization and changes in consumption patterns have changed the cow ecosystem of the country.
Much can be written about native breeds of cows. They are resilient, easy to maintain, produce healthier milk and their waste has immense utility. We shall look at this in another article. In this article, we would like to focus on some of the uses of cowdung and urine. This will help farmers look beyond milch cows.
Bio-gas comes through a bio-chemical process where bacteria helps to turn the bio-waste into fuel. Cattle dung is one of the key inputs in a bio-gas plant. With a single cow, you could add a mixture of cow-dung and water amounting to 10kgs and produce cooking fuel which can last for 2–3 hours a day. This has been our practical experience. Scaling up or down is easily possible by custom designing the bio-gas plant. Click here for excellent resource on bio-gas in India. With India being the second-largest importer of lpg especially from the middle east, moving to bio-gas can be a great step towards sustainability. The abundant abandoned cattle can be a great gift (without sending them to slaughter houses).
The per capita bio-degradable waste is about 500–800 gms every day in India. So a family would be producing about 2–3 kgs of bio-waste in a day. Composting is picking up in urban areas quite well. Here is our article on composting at home. When there is large scale of bio-waste, cowdung can be used to turn it into manure. Adding cow-dung to hay, dry leaves and vegetable waste can enhance the process and quality of manure produced. For vermicompost production, cowdung can be used for predigestion. Read this excellent article on vermicomposting by TN Agri Univ.
Jeevamruta which is a mixture cowdung, cow urine, jaggery and flour is an excellent soil quality enhancer and booster for plant growth. More about Jeevamruta preparation here.
Cow urine, according to several ayurvedic texts, has excellent medicinal properties. It has purificatory properties and bio-enhancing properties. Through a careful process of distillation, a liquid called ark is produced which has several known medicinal benefits. It can also be used as floor cleaners due to its disinfectant properties. Cow urine is also mixed with eco-construction material to keep away termites.
Vedic plaster is a mixture of lime and cow dung. It is a great thermal insulator requiring almost no curing time. Unlike chemical plasters, vedic plasters help the wall breathe keeping the air fresh.
There are numerous products that can prepared from cow waste including soaps, diyas(lamps), cowdung cakes for traditional havans, vibhuti (sacred ash).
Each of these have economical, sustainable and spiritual significance. Watch this space for more articles on cow-based sustainability.