Monday, March 8, 2010


The dairy industry in India is unique in that there are no super large cow herds with modern gadgetry like those giant farms in some of the western countries. The milk yielding animals Cows and Buffaloes are mostly bred in rural areas by small farmers with minimum resources and milking is mostly done manually. The so called white revolution that made India the top most nation in milk production was achieved by the coordinated efforts of NDDB which was able to string together millions of small farmers into viable cooperative networks providing critical inputs and infrastructure to procure and process the milk for country wide distribution. In contrast western dairy farms are huge in size with minimum human intervention and use mechanical milking, processing and distribution facilities. There is wide spread criticism regarding the way animals are treated, reduced nutrition of the milk from these farms and over control of the system by the retailers. That a country like the UK switching over from the traditional rural centric farming system to "dairy factory" mode is appalling in spite of the well known draw backs associated with the latter.

"And to see how cows live in such facilities, try the movie Food Inc. It's not all Daisy in her little straw hat chewing on a hay wisp. The "supercow" Holsteins may never leave the feed-lot at all. They will be milked three times a day and produce perhaps five times the quantities of a traditional breed. But they may have only three milk-producing years, rather than 10 or more - then they will be dog meat (as will their male calves). Disease is an enormous problem on the feed lots - so you can expect the usual laundry list of antibiotics and other chemicals in their upkeep. The milk that comes out is far lower on vitamins and beneficial trace elements than that of traditionally farmed cows".

Americans probably may not have much of a choice in choosing between decentralized and centralized farming systems because of lack of human resources and high cost of labor in that country. Whether the UK also is opting for centralized dairy farms because of labor shortage is not clear. Till 1980 milk grid in the UK was fed by small scale dairy farms thriving in the rural backyard of the country but senseless tinkering with the system through thoughtless policies of the government is being blamed for this change.


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