You've probably heard a lot about gau rakshaks or cow protectors in the past few months. The debates around gau raksha usually centre on matters such as the need to protect cows or the disregard for human lives and dignity that the protectors of cows display. We took a different approach to gau raksha and decided to explore the economic costs of providing for India's retired cows. The numbers are sure to surprise you!
According to the 19th Livestock Census that was concluded in 2012 the total population of cows and bulls in the country is 18.3 crores. The total number of cows in the country stood at 12 crores.
If the mission of the gau rakshaks succeeds, then there would be five crore cows on the streets that give little to no milk... together they'll cost at least ₹54,750 crore per year.
A cow lives for an average of 12 to 15 years under normal circumstances, and it gives milk from the ages of 18 months to about seven years if inseminated on time. This means that it gives proper quantities of milk for approximately five pregnancies, after which the quantity of milk produced falls substantially.
A cow consumes ₹150-200 worth of dry fodder, green fodder and concentrate each day during the milking period. When a cow has stopped giving milk entirely or is giving economically unviable amounts of milk after its 5th birthing cycle, at the very least, she still needs 20kg of fodder each day. Fodder costs upwards of ₹3-4 per kg, but we've taken a minimum estimate of ₹2 per kg. This means that a cow will eat at least worth ₹40 each day. Reducing this even further, let's take the cost to be ₹30 every day.
Let's take the best case scenarios for everything—lowest costs, shortest natural life and high milking age. Let's assume a cow lives for 12 years and gives milk for seven years. This would mean that out of the 12 crore cows in the country, under normal circumstances five crore would be too old to give milk, assuming that all of them are living for a normal lifespan.
These estimates do not factor in the 6.1 crore bulls in India, who don't have much utility nowadays as farming primarily utilizes tractors and machines. The costs would rise substantially if we consider bulls as holy too.
If the mission of the gau rakshaks succeeds, then there would be five crore cows out on the streets of India that give little to no milk. Assuming that they are fed and not left to starve and die, which is a horrible thing to do.
For the five crore well-fed and happy cows, the lowest cost at ₹30 per day takes us to ₹54,750 crore per year. Or US$ 8 billion!
It's 2.7% of the national budget. It's more than 35% of the government's health budget. It's over 2/3rd of our Education Budget.
Mind you, these are the lowest estimates and dairy farmers and scientists have given us figures of upwards of ₹100 per day to feed and take care of non-milking cattle.
So how much is ₹54,750 crore?
It's 2.7% of the national budget. It's more than 35% of the government's health budget, which stands at ₹37,000 crores. It's over 2/3rd of our Education Budget. Over 35% higher than the budget for NREGA. It's more than the budget for roads, agriculture and almost any other ministry. It's five times more than the budget for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Original analysis by DRI Networks.