Hosted cows

It is widely accepted that natural farming remains incomplete without integration of animals . When it comes to choice of animals, the cow enjoys the greater heart-share of an Indian farmer. My interest is not so much in its milk or its muscle power; I value its dung the most. A cow is the quickest converter of biomass into manure. In about 8 hours after grazing it drops fibre rich dung.

We buy in well rotted manure from a village nearby. Households with cattle save the daily drop in a heap by their roadside. There the dung pile grows until farmers nearby are readying their fields. Then the piles are sold, so much per tractor tipper load. With each passing year, I find demand for rotted manure increasing. Which is a good sign that means our farmers are reconnecting with traditional farming, after seeing the limits of chemical farming.

I too buy in a couple of loads of manure every year. The distance it travels is not more than 3/4 kM but the loading and transport charges are as much as the manure itself. But what repels me is what I get, unasked with the manure. Out of 240 cubic feet, I had to sift out 10 cFt of consumer trash- plastic sachet covers, bottles, shopping bags, broken plastic household wares, maimed dolls, cycle tyre bits, cardboard boxes, disposable razors, tooth brushes and paste tubes. About the only angerless thought I had staring at this sifted trash, was that a market researcher advising the consumer goods industry might want to buy it to discern buying trends. This heap certainly belonged on his plush table.guestCows1.jpg

How wonderful it would be, if I could keep cows on this land! They would add a gracious presence, chomp on the wild growth and offer up dung and urine. Why don’t I keep them? Because, pointReturn is not manned round the clock- not yet, anyway. And, cows need caring. They must be grazed under supervision, milked regularly, watered, washed and their shelter maintained, . The tiny local breeds are a hardy lot but even they need some attention.

Then recently one day, the obvious occurred to me: one need not own cows to have them on one’s land. My neighbour Saminadhan farms eight acres. He has a herd of five – two bullocks, a cow and two calves. His home is half a kilometer away and he is too busy to nip over there often and mind them. pointReturn is next door, has enough grazing land, is fenced in and therefore keeps them from wandering.

So we worked out a win-win deal. He may graze them in ten acres, rotating the area, ensuring they don’t encroach the growing areas. The milk is his. We get the dung and of course all the urine.

Chellamma, in the mould of a classic Indian country woman, is a compulsive gatherer of cowdung. Off she goes browsing where the cows are tethered and returns with head loads. The land beyond pointReturn’s fences is grazing grounds for the village cattle. Chellamma collects cowdung from there as well.

Our treasure of cowdung grows by more than a cubic foot a day.

4 thoughts on “Hosted cows

  1. I am one of the neighbours of pR and had the same problem. I could not get cow urine for my organic inputs – IN INDIA!!!!!

    A solution that works is to get old and fallow milch animals that villagers don’t need and can’t dispose off and host them for their dung & urine.

    And voila! oodles of the good stuff…..

  2. Now that pointReturn has cows, may be saplings can get the benefit of Dhabolkar’s concoction Amrit Pani (Amirtha Karaisal in Tamil). It is a ferment of 3 items. 1 kg fresh cow-dung, 1 litre cow urine and 50 grams Jaggary in 10 litres of water and fermented for 48 to 72 hours. The mix is kept in shade and can be covered but not in an air tight way. It needs stirring couple of times a day. For spraying, the ratio of this concoction to water is 1:10. We have seen its good effect on leaf growth in vegetables and young tree saplings esp. as they struggle to take root.

  3. I thought Natural farming is possible without animal manure. Anyhow, land has many creatures other than plants. Basically cow dung manure contains grass, so manure’s energy remains the energy from sun..
    The only benefit of animal manure is as a decomposing agent to make the land fertile faster. I think in 3-4 months typically mulched grass decompose and become manure. Once your land is fertile, the dependency on the animal is not big.

  4. to be honest, i never thought pointReturn would come this far.
    i am now sitting and reading all that has been achieved, with sheer amazement.

    i will look forward to a success story and a text book from you, explaining how someone can repeat your steps and make another patch of green elsewhere.

    awesome life, you have.

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