The return of the native! - in this case a cow

A study in Melborne with cattle of different genetic origins revealed a substantial variation in the mix of amino acid content in milk protein called Casein. The findings are considered to be important from food safety angle. According to Boyd Swinton, Professor of public health nutrition “There are several genetically-determined variants of B-casein, the protein which constitutes about 25-30% of cows’ milk proteins. One variant, A1 B-casein, has been implicated as a potential etiological factor in type 1 diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, schizophrenia and autism. Another variant (A2 B-casein) has not been implicated in these diseases….” According to some A2 B-casein protein is the original milk protein and supports the formation of healthy Omega-6 fatty acids.

Encouraged by the success stories from Brazil in 2011 with cattle breeds belonging to Indian cattle varieties such as the Gir and the Ongole cattle, NDDB (National Dairy Development board) of India decided to invest in developing over 900 breeds based on native cattle genes. Report published around the same time by NBAGR (National Bureau of Animal Genetic Research) reports that B-casein in five native Indian breeds is 100% A2-B and 94% in most other native Indian breeds. This is as compared to 60% A2-B in the imported Jersey breed. On top of the higher A2-B content, an Indian breed consumes less water, can walk long distances, withstand local weather conditions and with some innovative care yield lot more milk as proved by the Brazil success story.

Under its Zero budget farming program the Back to the Roots Project aims to return native breeds of Indian cattle to villages in Andra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The return of native cows means higher quality milk supply in Indian villages, It also means reduction in the use of toxic chemical fertilizers, cow dung from native cow creates superior quality organic manure. BTTR also encourages farmers to innovate on methods of maintaining cattle for better economics with local breeds. A sponsorship of $400-$500 covers the cost of donating a native breed of cow to a village. One of the state governments of India has been reported to be considering importing Gir cattle back to Gujrath from Brazil!