Vechur cow farmers milk rare cattle breed for all its worth

KOCHI: Even as the various cow vigilante groups that recently sprung up in North India have been in the news for all the wrong reasons, Vechur cow farmers in Kerala– which leads the country in beef consumption– are bracing for a silent revolution in cattle rearing by manufacturing and marketing various value added products of this rare breed of cattle that takes it nomenclature from a village of the same name in Kottayam.

It is widely believed that having virgin cows’ urine at dawn  will provide relief from a host of ailments. Cashing in on the belief, Vechur Conservation Trust, set up to save the smallest cow in the world from the brink of extinction, has been imparting training to Vechur farmers to distill cows’ urine and enable them to market the product in the state.

Speaking to Express, Dr Sosamma Iype, a pioneer in reviving the internationally famed Vechur cow breed and who recently won the India Biodiversity Award 2016, said the Trust had been empowering the farmers to produce distilled cows’ urine as there was a huge demand for it from  Ayurveda pharma companies for producing eye drops, medicines for stomach ailments, toothpaste, toilet soap and herbal powder among other things.

“We had begun to impart training for producing distilled cows’ urine– ‘Gomu’— on an experimental basis a couple of years ago. Now, there is  great demand for the cows’ distilled urine and the Trust has been helping the breeders to sell the products. As the breeders are few in number in Kerala, more often than not the Trust and breeders can’t bridge the supply-demand gap,” she said.

According to Dr Sosamma Iype, the Trust is not marketing them under its label since there hasn’t been any major scientific research in this regard even though they are effective in the treatment of blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, asthma and certain other ailments. Hence, it is up to the state government and the agencies concerned to undertake serious research on this aspect and conserve the threatened breed native to the state, she added.

Dr P K Santhosh, a government veterinary doctor from Kozhikode, said the niche market for the distilled cows’ urine is yet to evolve as a fully fledged market in the state since it is demand-driven. Besides, most of the Keralities are not aware of such a product being manufactured here, he said. However, the farmers collective here have been producing distilled cows’ urine and selling the Vechur cow dung among the organic farmers in the state, he said.

Farmers say a 200 ml bottle of distilled cows’ urine will cost only `50, while the Vechur cow dung  has been distributed among the farmers mainly for terrace farming, growbag cultivation and kitchen gardening. And a packet of one kg dung will cost  a farmer just `20  and a five kg packet, `100, said Sumesh of Kozhikode.

There is a huge demand for both the items from the Ayurvedic pharma firms and organic farmers owing to the medicinal properties of the Vechur cow.  However, Dr Raghavan Nair, former director of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Animal Breeding and Genetics, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU), said, though, there has been an increase in the number of dairy farmers turning to Vechur cow rearing and the rare breed’s increased ‘brand recall’,  more scientific studies have to be conducted to ascertain the medicinal properties of the distilled cows’ urine.  But the milk of the Vechur cow was good for health since it had small fat globule, A2 beta-lactalbumin protein and high arginine content, he added.

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