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Two friends quit jobs to breed endangered Sahiwal cow

NASHIK: The passion for dairy farming has prompted two city youths to quit their cushy jobs and start indigenous breeding of the endangered Sahiwal cows.

The first-ever cow farming project of Nashik, a brainchild of Sandip Sonawane and Bhushan Pagar, aims at fighting the problem of extinction of Indian cows.

The duo’s research for the Sahiwal breed was not limited to their home state only as they had to travel all the way to the Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan. Sahiwal is a breed of zebu cattle, primarily used in dairy production. The breed originated from the Sahiwal district of Punjab province in Pakistan and is now under the Rashtriya Gokul Mission.

“Currently, we have 28 cows, bulls and calves of pure Sahiwal breed. We are focusing on to breed more and better-quality cows in the next two or three years,” said Sandip, who was part of the non-teaching staff at a private school.

The project is a partnership with his childhood friend and Bhushan, who used to work in a private cooperative society.

“Six years ago, we came to know that our Indian cow breeds are on the verge of extinction as farmers are reluctant to keep them. The common complaint among the farmers was that our cows don’t produce enough milk. We did some research, brain storming and travelling before we decided to go for the Sahiwal breed,” Sandip said.

“Sahiwal is the best suitable breed for milking. Even our ancestors used to conserve the breed. If provided with enough food and supplements, a Sahiwal cow can yield up to 20 litre milk per day. Unfortunately, cross-breeding and low-quality fodder has affected the milk produce of this breed in India. Our main focus is on improving the breed quality and milk produce,” said Bhushan.

As part of their initiative, the duo have launched their own brand ‘Go-Amrut’ and are also selling milk and ghee in the Nashik markets. Apart from the customer base of over 100 takers daily, they have a long list of 150 Nashikites who are waiting for this milk.

The milk costs worth Rs 70 per litre, while the ghee is sold for Rs 2,500 per kg. Cow urine is sold at Rs 40 per litre.

“Conserving the native breeds of cows is important to improve the health of the public health in comparison to A2 milk, for countering climate change and to grow organic food. This is a first of its kind attempt here. These cows have a sense of belongingness, understand emotions and bonding with the people around them,” said Sandip.

Unlike exotic breeds from foreign countries, the Sahiwal cattle is understands their food and mineral needs. Only the cows facing mineral deficiency come and lick the mineral brick placed in the farm.

“Unlike the dairy cattle, these cows are comfortable in our atmosphere. We have not used coolers or heaters. Even veterinary doctors visit our farm,” Sandip said.

The state government is also encouraging young farmers to conserve desi cows. “There are farmers in Nashik who have started conserving Indian cow breeds like Gir and Dangi along with buffaloes and foreign bred dairy cows. But, Go Amrut is the first farm dedicated only to Sahiwal breed. It’s a good thing that the youths are focusing on breeding pure Sahiwal,” said Prashant Phalak, Nashik district animal husbandry officer.