Vechur Dwarf , The smallest cow in the world – Bouncing back from Extinction

The Vechur cows are known to be the smallest indegenous breeds of cows in the world. A Vechur cow grows to a height of 90 Centimeters. The Vechur was once thought to be near extinction but conservation projects by certain individuals have brought back the breed from near extinction.

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2 notable personalities responsible for the revival of the breed include Sosama Ipe and Bramadhathan Namboodiri.  But before we go into the revival of the breed, it’s important to know why these cows were near extinction , some history of the cows, and why it was important to revive this breed.

History of Vechur Cows

The Vechur Cows are indegenous to the Vechur region in Kottayam, kerala. Documentation of these cows goes up to 1941. No records of these cows were documented prior to 1941 though it is believed that these cows existed a long time prior to it. In 1941, The king of travancore was recommended the milk of a black vechur cow to treat his bowel condition which was critical. 2 cows and a bull were brought to the king from vechur. This is the only indication of the medicinal benefits of the milk from a vechur cow. Unfortunately there is no research being done on the benefits of the milk scientifically today. Apart from the fact that the Milk from a vechur cow is of A2 Type, there is no Scientific evidence of medicinal values to the milk of the vechur cow. This does not mean that they don’t have medicinal values. The values of the milk is limited research.

Research

A study in 2012 by National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI USA) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22230225 published an article on the Milk of Vechur cows which probed the milk and its benefits. It was concluded that the benefits of the milk included healing wounds and preventing cardiovascular diseases. Scope for Further studies were indicated and no research material on the same is available till date even after 8 years.

A range of other researches including inbreeding, Dung microbial content and more have been researched and a full list of all the researchers on the Vechur cows can be seen on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=vechur

While some of the researches do show a clear indication of the benefits of the vechur cows milk , urine and dung there are a few concerns too. Notable concerns today include inbreeding of the vechur cows and cross breeding with other cattle. Its becoming increasingly hard to find a healthy vechur cattle with breeding by unlicensed practitioners and lack of government interest in preserving the breed.

In the Brink of extinction.

Operation Flood Started in 1970 with the vision of becoming the world’s largest milk producer. In over 20 years, India became the largest producer of milk in the world. The cost it had to pay was the extinction of many indegenous breeds of cows. Many dairy farmers were introduced with the lucrative option of rearing hybrid cows which could produce up to 30 Liters of milk per day as opposed to 6 and 8 liters per day from an indegenous variety in india. Very few indegenous cows could give more than 10 Litres of milk per day and with an option to make more money, many farmers fell for hybrid cows.

Farmers started purchasing Jersey and other HF cows or artificially inseminated indian cows with HF semen. The results were diminishing purebred indegenous cows in india. By the end of 1990’s India had less than 32 varieties of indegenous cows left, out of which many were near extinction.

A few Vechur cows survived. During the period of the operation flood, Vechur, a small village in Kottayam , kerala , which is surrounded by all sides with water and the only way to get to the island was a boat then was not easily accessible for veterinarians. With fewer doctors willing to cross to the island, There was no effect from the operation flood. By Late 1990’s Sosamma Ipe, who realized that the Vechur cows were near extinction, started to bring awareness among her students and colleagues in the Kerala Agricultural university.

She started off to find and collect the Vechur cows for breeding. She found 7 vechur cows the first few months and ended up finding near 20 cows in a year. The initial response to her interest in revival of the vechur cows were not taken seriously and often was criticised. The government was not interested in the revival of the breed as much as it was interested in producing more milk and thus profit. Sosamma Ipe did not yield and eventually the university did take interest in revival of the Breed.

Today, though the Mannuthy university in Thrissur kerala does continue the project to increase the population of the Vechur cows, its mostly private individuals that have shown more progress, dedication and results. One of the few people who have documented and bred more vechur cows in kerala is Bhramadatthan Namboodiri. Mr. Namboodiri has been able to document his cows and maintain a good set of vechur cows without inbreeding or cross breeding since the 1990’s. He has been awarded for Genome preservation and maintaining the Vechur cows.

Concerns today of the Vechur cows

2 Problems has risen over the past decade in the preservation project related to vechur cows. Cross breeding is one of the smaller problems. With the Mannuthy , Kerala agricultural university maintaining the preservation project of the Vechur cows, the semen of a vechur cows are purchased to inseminate hybrid cows by private vendors to create dwarf cows with a hybrid. Many of the dwarf cows with features of the vechur breed are hybrid and not a pure breed vechur.

The second problem is inbreeding. With fewer vechur cows, chances of inbreeding has increased among cattle owners. Free grazing and allowing male and female cows to herd together has been one of the major reasons among inbreeding.

Where can I buy Vechur cows.

While the Kerala Agricultural university is one of the best options recommended for vechur cows, we find it hard to trust the breed of the cows. With little documentation and no clear process in acquiring the semen or distributing it, The Kerala agricultural university is not really a reliable source for vechur cows anymore. The process of acquiring a cow from KAU is also a daunting process of bookings and waiting period going up to 1 year sometimes.

Your second best option is a breeder who takes keen interest in the breed and documents everything he does. Mr.Brahmadathan namboothiri is the one source we do recommend for sourcing vechur cows. Unfortunately, Vechur cows don’t come cheap. From Brahmadathan namboothiri , The cost of a vechur cow could go as high as Rs.100,000. Contacts of other breeders are listed below. While some of them may be cheaper, You may not find documentations for many.

The Science behind Vechur cow Milk 

For most people milk is milk. It really does not matter where it comes from. A buffalo, Cow or a goat. At the end of the day what matters is that its milk. But milk has its own benefits and how its sourced plays a major role. For instance a cows milk contains more fat from that of a goat. A buffalo’s milk has a different nutritional value to that of a cow and camels milk is known to have other benefits. Cows milk also differs in nutritional values from breed to breed.

Research shows that Cow milk is of 2 types. A1 and A2. A2 milk is known to have a different DNA completely and is easier to digest for humans. A1 milk has a protein which is harder to digest and often breaks down to become toxic, often creating flatulence, bowel irritation and other problems. Indegenous indian cows are known to have A2 Milk and its farm more suitable for human consumption.

When it comes to Vechur cows, The milk contains Higher levels of arginine, which helps heal wounds faster and is known to help cardiovascular problems. The milk of a Vechur cow has far more anti microbial properties preventing bacterial formation for longer. Research on The milk still continues and baffles scientists till date. More information on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22230225

Cow urine & Dung

The Vechur cow’s milk is not the only produce used for commercial purposes. The Dung and urine is used for agricultural purposes. The urine is used for medicinal purposes in ayurveda and the dung is used for Vibhuti or Bhasma , used for smearing on the forehead in temples. Dungs of the cows are used these days commercially to create Bath powders, Agarbattis and Dhoop.

The dung of a Vechur cow is coated with a slimy layer which makes the dung not stick to the cow. Its mostly semi solid with lesser liquid content than that of a HF cow. The Vechur cow dung has higher beneficial bacteria which helps improve soil conditions and is odorless as compared to that of a hf cow. This makes it a great ingredient to add for Terrace farming and pot mixtures. The Urine is used as pesticide in large scale Organic farms.

The Vechur Cow Dairy Business 

If you are looking for commercial value sp[ecially by producing Milk, then you are looking at the wrong place. A Vechur cow will not yield more than 3 liters of milk. Some cows are known to give up to 3.5 litres of milk but thats rare. At an average price of 100 Rs per liter for the milk of indegenous cow, you would be looking at an average of 300 Rs per day.

If you were to compare it with a HF cow, A normal HF cow would yield anywhere between 25-30 Litres of Milk per day. If you average the figure at 25 litres of milk, You would be looking at Rs.1000 Per day in Income. Thats a huge difference in the amount. But now there is a lot of other factors which come into play

To begin with, the Vechur cow sustains itself with normal feed. The cost of Rearing a Vechur cow is approximately 25-30 rs per day. On the contrary, You would be looking at Rs 100 PEr day for a HF cow. The costs only go higher than 100 PEr cow when rearing a HF cow but with a Vechur cow the highest it can go is up to 30 rs per day. REaring 4 Vechur cows is as good as rearing 1 HF cow.

The HF cows are not really suitable for all indian weathers. The chances of a lot of diseases increase in the HF cows and there is evidence of the same. The Vechur cow is known to be suitable for tropical weather with Little to no health issues whatsoever. With that factor, Chances of increased medical cost increases a lot with Holstein cows. The Vechur cows will see a steady growth without any problems.

The downside of the Vechur Milk produce is a concern for many people. Finding customers to purchase the milk for Rs 100 per litre and Rs 5000 Per kg is not something normal people are willing to do these days. People look for cheaper options and educating people about the value of the product they purchase requires interest from the customer itself. With that said, it may be hard to sell A2 Milk in large scale at a higher cost today, but if you are looking at selling 4-5 litres of milk per day, You will often find buyers from your neighborhood.