Desi cows – can they help in reducing Antibiotic use?

On Friday, 7th August, 2015, we, at The Aashritha Foundation, had the privilege to be part of a book launch, ‘Holy Cancer – How a Cow Saved My Life, a memoir’, written by Amit Vaidya, PhD in Economics, a two-time cancer survivor, and founder of Healing Vaidya Foundation. The event was organized by Desi Cows for Better India Trust, which is working to protect, preserve and promote an endangered breed – Bos Indicus – the Indian cow, or desi cow.

Given six months to live and no immediate family to support him, the book details the journey of Amit, who chose the path of holistic living and alternative treatments in India to cure himself of metastatic stage IV cancer. And that treatment was using Panchgavya, which is a concoction prepared by mixing five products of cow: 3 direct constituents of cow dung, urine, and milk and 2 derived products in the form of curd or buttermilk and ghee.

But these are not just any cows, but desi cows.

One would wonder why the stress on Desi Cows?

Cow’s milk contains either A1 or A2 beta-casein protein. A mutation occurred nearly 10,000 years ago in dairy cows in Europe (like the black and white Holstein Friesian cows) which produced A1 as the dominant breed. Africa and India, by contrast, have A2 protein producing cows. Several universities in India and abroad have conducted experiments and found A1 milk to induce a greater risk of type-1 diabetes, heart disease, autism, and other serious non-communicable diseases. Petition by Desi Cow for Better India Trust 2International Farm Management Association: A2 Milk, Farmer Decisions, And Risk Management 3The deshi cow milk jinx

Great to know that. But why The Aashritha Foundation got associated with the event?

On two levels.

1. Antibiotics must be used judiciously in humans and animals because both uses contribute to the emergence, persistence, and spread of resistant bacteria. Resistant bacteria in food-producing animals are of particular concern. Today, antibiotics are widely used in food-producing animals for treating infections, preventing infections and growth promotion. This use contributes to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in such food-producing animals. These resistant bacteria can contaminate the foods that come from those animals, and persons who consume these foods can develop antibiotic-resistant infections. Thus, food animals serve as a reservoir of resistant pathogens and resistance mechanisms that can directly or indirectly result in antibiotic resistant infections in humans. The infographic from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visually explains how this happens.

In addition to the transmission of resistant bacteria, indiscriminate use of antibiotics also results in the presence of antibiotic residues in various animal products for eg. milk in case of cows. Their presence is definitely undesirable due to their huge public health concerns.One of the major endemic disease of dairy cattle is Mastitis, and antibiotic therapy is the most widespread used method for infected cows. As reported by a group of veterinarians, the extensive problems of mastitis and other diseases started with the crossbreeding policy followed by India in the 1980’s.4New hope for dairy farmers in India & the global threat of multi-resistant micro-organisms: medicinal plants for mastitis treatment

The desi-cow breeds have an inherent capability of resistance to diseases, heat tolerance, ability to thrive under extreme nutritional and environmental stress.5Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Vision 2030 6Opportunities of organized farm practices for increasing Livestock Production
K. Ravikala, T. K. Patbandha, K. S. Murthy, S. Marandi, M. D. Odedra
Dept. of Livestock Production management (CBF, ILFC)
College of Veterinary Science and A.H.
Junagadh Agricultural University, Junagadh
Thus, a more strategic acceptance of local breeds in the breeding policy could lead to an increased natural resistance of the animals to diseases and may play a major role in reducing the use of antibiotics.7New hope for dairy farmers in India & the global threat of multi-resistant micro-organisms: medicinal plants for mastitis treatment

The Department of Animal Husbandry in Karnataka is also now set to bring back the desi breeds. “This has become necessary because unscientific cross-breeding in violation of protocol (which mandates maintaining a 50:50 ratio in gene pool between native and exotic varieties) over the years has resulted in cows that are highly susceptible to diseases and difficult to maintain“, says Harsh Gupta, Secretary to the Department of Animal Husbandry.8Bringing back desi cows

We, at the Aashritha Foundation, are in support of all the efforts that could help minimize the use of antibiotics in humans and animals.

2. To create awareness and promote wise of medicines.
We played our first in-house video production about “I’M Wise” campaign, the details of which we shall share soon.

Postcard of Indian woman drawing milk from a desi-cowPostcard of Indian woman drawing milk from a desi-cow

Antibiotic Resistance from the Farm to the TableAntibiotic Resistance from the Farm to the Table

What were the learnings from the event, other than about desi cows?

We shall share those in our next post. So stay tuned on both these fronts!

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