Gir cattle grazing in their pasture

Whether desi cattle we want to save cause or instead alleviate Global Warming in the net balance depends on correct management by humans, in our case Hindus.

We all release carbon dioxide as living beings, so do our cattle. We cannot love the cow and hate everyone and everything  else, we shouldn’t disregard science. Let GauKaaryakartaas stop sloganeering & understand science to save both GauMata & SrushtiMata.


A. Cows can help us fight climate change, but only if we follow sustainable grazing:

The world is warming due to human practices: Global Warming we see today is therefore anthropogenic, or, ‘human-caused’.  A change in the atmosphere of the earth prevents the escape of sun radiation entering the atmosphere from going back out of the atmosphere, thus trapping heat. The gases in the atmosphere which trap heat are called greenhouse gases, as their effect is similar to how there is more heat inside a greenhouse. Most of such atmospherically found greenhouse gasses contain carbon in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), the latter 100 times more troublesome than the former. To combat global warming, the gaseous carbon (in the form of carbon compounds) in the air needs to be sequestered or trapped back into soil; the atmosphere will be cooled and nutrients will be available back again to plants and crops. If this is done properly in an area, it becomes a veritable sink for carbon.
The current ‘anthropogenic’ Global Warming is causing melting of ice and snow caps particularly at the poles, submergence of coasts and eventually climate change with mass extinction of species; we humans have to stop this. Hindus who have the cultural task of saving their cow  from extinction must be well aware of the science behind climate change and manage their task well.

B. Cattle and cattle rearer GoKaaryakartaas have a role to play here.

Cattle can be both a cause and a solution to global warming: a cause because they release greenhouse gases; and a solution, because they can trap carbon back into soil too! It is important for GoKaaryakartaas to go beyond sloganeering and understand this well, else we may try to save GauMata and destroy SrushtiMata.

Like all living beings, cows exhale and release CO2. But like all ruminants, even Desi cows release the other, more dangerous greenhouse gas throughout their lives – CH4 (methane) – by belching. Thus ruminants in general and cattle in particular, do cause global warming.

The ‘carbon footprint’ that is left behind by commercial dairy and beef only aggravates the damage beyond the level of an individual cow’s or bull’s life; of course, here the one to  blame is not  the poor farmed animals but the system that encourages such farming…




But cattle can compensate much more than the methane they release warms the globe, if they are deployed for carbon sequestration. And this requires rotational grazing practices.

A. Grasslands: Effect of cattle grazing on plant and grass roots:

Image courtesy:

When ruminants browse or graze, they eat the stem of the plants they eat but leave the plant’s roots underground, which remain in soil as sequestered soil carbon if the grass plant is killed.

But if there is recovery time granted by rotational grazing, the ‘traumatised’ grass plant regenerates more aerial growth: new leaves and stems, which is new biomass, and newly sequestered carbon.

Root biomass of monocots and dicots underground: sequestered soil carbon of grasslands.

Image courtesy:

Since both true monocot grasses and dicot fodder of grasslands have really long adventitious roots (so much carbon!), and grow packed into high densities, there is so much carbon dioxide turned into underground carbon biomass as roots, that grasslands work as carbon ‘sinks’ if properly grazed.

B. Mulching by trampled grass: preservation of soil water:

Herd grazing is called ‘mob’ grazing, and the trampling of grass works as a ‘mulch’ preventing further water loss by evaporation.

C. Dung beetles specific to cattle:

Anyone who has ever examined a cowpat will probably have noticed a patchwork of holes beneath it. These holes are made by the adult beetles burrowing down into the soil. The huge deposits of dung, cause earth mover species in soil, like earthworms and dung beetles, to come up onto the surface, aerating the soil and loosening the compaction through tunnel networks, allowing rain water to percolate deeper inside.

Quotes a study about dung beetles in New Zealand: “Beetle tunnelling leads to increased aeration of the soil allowing water to penetrate better. Tunnelling and dung burial also result in increased grass root growth and biological activity in soils under and adjacent to dung pats. Dung beetle activity therefore leads to reduced run-off of rainfall and better retention of dung and urine in the soil.”

What holds true for exotic cattle holds true for Indian cattle. The Indian dung beetle Geotrupes stercorarius feeds almost exclusively on desi cow dung (likewise, there are many species-specific dung beetles in the world: dung beetles specific to wild elephants in the Western Ghats, kangaroo dung in Australia, etc.). As long as we have lots of patties of desi cow dung, there will be scarabs (dung beetles) which will thrive on that, by aerating soil, by reversing compaction by the hooves, by saving precious dung nitrogen and urine phosphorus inside soil, by countering the production of eco-warming methane by controlling anaerobic conditions and providing pathways for water to percolate beneath into soil.

Geotrupes stercorarius the Indian Dung beetle specific to Indian cattle cowdung

Image captions: Top, bottom: Dung beetle burrows inside the soil; the dung beetle

Image courtesies: L,R: and

Watch how methane is not produced in there is a good population of dung beetles. Thus, dung beetles also help fight global warming.

Dung beetles are fighting their own destruction due to fragmentation of habitat.

For them to thrive, we need food for the dung beetles, in the form of desi cow dung, for which we need desi cows for the circle of life. <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

D. Humus

By now, already sequestered carbon has become organic matter (humus), which holds onto the water, allowing plant growth. Humus will reduce the need for fertilizer and also adsorb away any pollutant and poisonous chemicals, cleaning the soils; humus will also keep essential nutrients bioavailable to plants, attached to its molecules by electrical charge. It is notable that cattle dung has a lot of fibre left, so the dung is not just a source of nitrogen but also a source of dung biomass, which also is food for soil organisms and can be considered biomass.

Further, the urine and dung give much-needed nutrients to the soil, restoring health. Dung microorganisms can also replenish the loss of soil microorganisms, fully restoring soil life. And such managed grasslands not only get restored from previously desertified states, but they cross the stages of restoration and sustainability, to become become regenerative, causing reforestation.

Desi cattle walking on a forest path

E. Recycling mantra in practice in India, ancient Hindu wisdom, since antiquity:

Dung turned into Cowdung cakes is fuel, and spares trees; the ash from Cowdung patties, from Agnihotra and from wood burning together are a great source of minerals for crops and forest plants, and are used in making Amrit Mitti ans well as for washing utensils as an organic washing powder. Even yadnyas are conducted with Cowdung patties.

Besides, biogas from cars has also been used.  <iframe width=”854″ height=”480″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

‘Gobar gas’ along with solar energy will help curb the need for ‘grid’ power, or purchased electricity.

A lot of panchagavya medicine modalities are being rediscovered; they require milk, ghee, curds, dung and urine of cows, and have wide acceptance today.

Forest fires are however a big reversal of the gains of humus formation, carbon sequestration into soil, mulching created by trampling, growth stimulation by grazing and beetle populations. Forest fires will have to be curtailed.

In any typical Indian village it not uncommon to find the entire floor of the house coated with some fresh cow dung paste. Cow dung mixed with lime is also used to coat the walls of cob houses.

Recent research findings from independent groups in University of Bristol and Sage college in Troy, NY, show cow dung to be an excellent mood enhancing agent. Cow dung contains a bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae, which activates a group of neurons in the brain that produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well being and happiness.

F. More on methane and desi cows:

Quotes Padmashree Subhash palekar, the advocate of zero-budget natural farming, about methane: “One videshi cow emits 95 kg of methane into the atmosphere in a year while chewing the cud; a desi buffalo emits 77 kg and a desi milking cow emits much less. The figures have been released by western scientists. The reason – the desi cow has a longer intestine and the digestive process results in the release of less methane.”

G. Desi earthworms and desi cowdung:

Observed Shri Durban Singh Negi of the Navdanya Institute, Dehradun: Compared to buffalo dung, desi cattledung stimulates movement of earthworms faster. There will be holes seen suggesting entry of earthworms. Durban Negi works at a senior post under Dr. Vandana Shiva. (From personal communication)

Regarding earthworms, quotes Padmashree Subhash Palekar: “Western methods of vermi-composting make use of a surface feeder worm (epigeic), totally different from the ordinary earthworm. There are 16 characters for the earthworm, but none of them are present in the former. The indigenous earthworm digs two to 15 feet; the soil becomes porous and the rain water gets deposited in the soil. Organic farming (using vermin-compost) is more exploitative than chemical farming.”  Cautions Palekar ji further: Foreign species of earthworms like ‘Eisenia foetida’ accumulate toxic levels of heavy metals and are used as a biomarker for that purpose.

It is obvious that desi cattle can help desi earthworms survive in Indian soils. Thus, cattle of India fulfl a very important role in maintaining our biodiversity.

H. Grazing cattle versus other grazers and browsers:

Enthusiasts and observers of desi cattle grazing (the GoVinds) have long claimed, desi cattle browse more selectively and less ruthlessly than sheep or buffalo do; that desi cattle do not pull out the roots of the grasses they munch, or do not pull out the branch of the leaves they browse; and hence, desi cattle are not destructive grazers, and they stimulate faster regrowth of plants and grasses better than other ruminants and herbivores do. While every claim needs to be verified by Science, what has stopped Indian scientists from doing this is just a bias against claims of native cultural wisdom. There is plenty of proof available even in the scientific world on this.

Here is a quote from a scientific veterinary journal from Illinois, USA: “As we investigate species behaviors, horses have a preferred grazing height of 2-4 inches… Efficient grazing heights for sheep are 2-6 inches. This demonstrates the need for managing forage stubble residues to prevent overgrazing. Cattle on the other hand prefer a taller sward of 4-10 inches tall to increase their bite efficiency… Goats have a narrower muzzle than sheep with a split upper lip which adapts them for selecting plant parts… Managed grazing needs the watchful eye of the pasture manager and 3-4 inch minimum of pasture residue remaining when animals leave a paddock.

Thus, cattle are proven to be those which spare more of the plant, allowing regeneration.

I. GoDhuliBela গোধূলিবেলা OR GoDhuliKaal গোধূলিকাল

As leaf litter and Cowdung work together, the soil will be healthy enough to grant good health to all.

In Bengali, the evening is also called GoDhuliBela গোধূলিবেলা or GoDhuliKaal গোধূলিকাল – the time when cows from daylong grazing in the forest return back home to their village in a herd raising dust – denotes the time of the day as prior to twilight, the dust of which is supposed to be extremely beneficial to human health and the site of which is supposed to be extremely auspicious.

GoDhuliVela or the evening

The only reason claims by Hindus are not being taken up for being verified scientifically, is a cultural indifference of educated Indians towards their own culture, percolating down to the community of Indian scientists in a position of decision making.  Let science prevail; but while Hindu nationalists are accused of furthering pseudo-science, true scientists are as fallible of a distinctive bias against Hindu beliefs as innately unscientific. This bias on one side is greater than cultural claims.

J. Why we must be aware of watermelon environmentalism:

Watermelon environmentalism (a green façade for environmentalism outside, red interior heart of anti-Hindu Marxism inside) can take many forms. Opposing cattle and promoting beef is one such case.

Watermelon environmentalism to oppose Hindu interests

More on such politics in another blog…





A. Desertification by overgrazing in already arid areas:

If the grazing isn’t rotational, or if there is overgrazing, there is soil compaction as herds overgraze and stay too long onto the area; the livestock may eat away plants and the area instead gets desertified. This is about grasslands. Since grasslands are being turned into fields, forests are being reclaimed into agriculture. This reduces land available for grazing, and therefore livestock are moved to forests with wild predators, from grasslands.

Image caption: Zebu (humped) cattle also exist in Eastern Africa; this place has still got desertified.

Desertification in Africa caused by overgrazing
African Zebu cattle seen here

Image courtesy:

A similar picture is found in India.

Desertification in India
Zebu bull seen here

Desertification across India

Image courtesy:

B. Impact of domestic livestock onto forest (wild) herbivore populations and onto prey of the tiger (any large predator)

But when cattle enter forests, protecting forests is as important as protecting cattle: forests are the source of our aquifers and streams / rivers. For that, the forest has to have an intact biodiversity with its apex predator, the tiger being the most prevalent apex predator in India.

Cattle entering jungles with wild herbivores (deer, antelope, etc.) can compete with wild herbivores for fodder and grazing, as well as space. Diseases can be transferred between domestic livestock and wild herbivores.

Desi cattle foraging inside forests can cause a disturbance to wildlife

As the wild herbivores which were the prey base of wild predators (tigers, lions, hyenas, wolves, dholes, leopards, etc.) get depleted, these predators prey onto domestic livestock triggering human-animal conflict. Once there is conflict, the tiger is ‘removed’ and the forest loses its own resilience, becoming less and less capable of generating rivers and recharging aquifers. Thus taking cattle to graze into actual existing jungles must either be curtailed or minimized.

Karnataka has a few large areas set aside as cattle grazing grounds (called Kaval) and other grassland fauna exist there – wolves, foxes, etc.  Maharashtra has Rehekuri with wolves and blackbuck  antelope, in Ahmednaagar district. Telangana also has similar areas.

Noted tiger conservationist Kishor Rithe of the Satpuda Foundation has cautioned against uncontrolled grazing, that too inside tiger habitats, in his chapter on cattle in his Marathi book on ecological struggles (हिरवा संघर्ष; pages 27-36; Padmagandha Prakashan; 2017); he describes what a heavy heart farmers have when they have to ‘remove’ their cattle; and how, Indian law allows a certain amount of grazing per year. I can quote Kishor ji from personal acquaintance and with his prior telephonic permission.

Kishor Rithe’s Marathi book on ecological activism: हिरवा संघर्ष

Kishor Rithe is one of the community-based conservationists who emphasizes that villages should be shifted out of core areas of both tiger forests and tiger movement corridors, and that their cattle can be taken back by the relocating villagers to their new homes.

Fields to wilderness: Empty, relocated villages of Melghat become habitat for wild animals- Kishor Rithe, Sanctuary Asia

Captions by Rithe: ‘Amona village in Melghat was relocated as recently as May 2011. Today, the landscape is already lush green with grassland colonising what once were fields.’

Image courtesy:

Writes Kishor Rithe about the difference in tiger populations between villages in Melghat Tiger Sanctuary, Amravati, Maharashtra, about how moving both villagers and their cattle out of the tiger areas allowed tigers to increase and prevented tiger-human conflict: “…all transects surveyed in 2006 and 2010 within a 10 km. periphery of the three resettled villages were categorised  as “shifted”. The transects in the Gugamal National Park were categorised as “undisturbed”. Considering the demographic and topographic status of the three resettled villages, a similar area of Melghat Sanctuary where 15 villages from the remaining 19, are situated was categorised as “disturbed-wildlife sanctuaries”. The results clearly showed that in the interval between 2006 and 2010, tiger signs increased rapidly in the areas from which villages had been removed than in the adjacent sanctuary areas, while more modest increases were seen in the undisturbed Gugamal National Park. Sambar, gaur and chital appeared more frequently in the shifted area when compared to other herbivores. Gaur and sambar have the best habitats in the undisturbed area of the national park. After the resettlement of the villages, gaur showed a preference for the flat areas close to water sources. Overall, most of the herbivore species showed highest preference to shifted area than other two scenarios. This showed that after eight years from the resettlement of villages, the sites had dramatically improved.

C. The curious case of feral domestic cattle: Kuno-Palpur National Park, Western Madhya Pradesh:

How cattle can survive inside a forest without human intervention has one place in India for study: the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh, near the border with Rajasthan. An alternate sanctuary for the Asiatic Cheetah (now only found in Iran) and the Asiatic Lions (now only found in Gir, Gujarat) was to be created here: Gujarat opposed the translocation, Madhya Pradesh welcomed it, and the matter is pending in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the MP government vacated all the villages of Kuno-Palpur park as a relocation plan 18 years ago, on recommendation of the Wildlife Institute of India, to receive the lions; but Gujarat has stalled the transfer. Birding areas around Sheopur (like Keoladev and Ranthambore in Rajasthan and Sailana in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh) also have been receiving migratory cattle who could turn feral. It seems, desi cattle can settle in any habitat and thrive there.

Kuno Palpur feral cattle

But the Saharia tribal villagers (one of few existing primitive tribes of India) in Kuno who relocated, left behind their cattle, and these cattle are now feral; they are all Desi cattle and may be non-descript crosses of the Malwi, Kenkatha or Nimari breeds of Indian cattle; the Saharia tribals had a tradition of releasing their cattle into the forest, decorated, after Diwali Padwa (Hindu New year). Not only have the cattle survived, but they have developed wild instincts and increased in numbers. The idea of Kuno was that, during the first 5 years or so, livestock will used as the buffer prey for lions and will make up to 50% of the lions diet until wild species like Cheetal, Neelgai and Sambar populations increase.

The personal opinion of the author of this blog is that these feral cattle would offer fascinating opportunities to study their zoology, reproduction and behavior and to compare that with the counterpart studies on domestic livestock. Yet, in all future relocation programs, no cattle of desi varieties may be left behind, as their germ plasm is very important, and their value to Hindu culture incomparable.

D. Miscellaneous concerns:

Miscellaneous concerns – but not political opposition – to enthusiastic rearing of cattle are about any negative effect(s) of having more cattle on the sharing of resources and the effect on human water requirements, industrial water requirements, due to water for watering and washing cattle and other livestock, for there can be no milk without adequate water and no cleanliness in a dung-filled area without the big quantities of water; diversion of human food cropland for fodder cultivation; human resources diversion; efficiency of conversion of fodder into milk, etc.

Again these issues would require a holistic approach.




If we create fresh grasslands and reforest them, some distance away from actual forests, the wildlife and biodiversity in the forests will continue to thrive while cattle and cattle rearers can have their go-char / charai bhoomi.

A. Holistic management:

On these lines, that controlled rotational grazing reforests areas which were first desertified, agroecological research has been done: by Zimbabwe’s Allan Savory whose institute, The Savory Institute, is now headquartered in Boulder.

Their website is and Allan  Savory’s Ted talk video is available on  <iframe width=”854″ height=”480″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

B. Creating ‘Silvopastures’:

A ‘Silvopasture’ is a method of doing both tree forestry and cattle ranching at once. A ranch is essentially an enclosed space, no matter how big, and this enclosure will prevent straying of cattle where they are not allowed, as well  as prevent interaction up close with wild animals, both herbivore and carnivore.

Silvopasture has not been implemented in India. The short hill breeds of desi cattle like the Poonganur, Vechur, Malnad Gidda, etc. are better suited for this than are the taller breeds like the Khillar and Gir, who tolerate arid conditions better.

At the same time, the manure from the grazing will benefit the soil and forest, and the crop of trees which are meant for timber or fruit.

Eg. Jackfruit / Teakwood / Rosewood plantation with Malnad Gidda cattle alog with a monocot and dicot pasture on the hills of Dakshina Kannada.

C. Controlling misuse of the Forest Rights Act:

The Forest Rights Act which was meant to protect the interest of tribals has now become a legal means of grabbing land in the name of being contiguous to Protected Areas (PAs). This section will be covered in a future blog on Maosim-Naxalism and on watermelon environmentalism.



Desi cattle and wilderness tigers both need to have their own separate sanctuaries which aren’t encroached upon by development, poachers, tresspassers and industries. New district-wise cattle sanctuaries can be created per district as a part of social reforestation or samajik vaneekaran. A map may be prepared per district, per state. But the actual wildernesses, tiger-containing sanctuaries and wildlife corridors must be not just left alone but relocated outside Protected Areas (PAs) with their cattle.

Example: The ‘Gaulau’ is a desi breed of cattle completely native to Vidarbha and suited to Vidarbha’s agroecology. Vidarbha is also the Southern half of the Satpuda-Vindhya-Narmada region. So while Vidarbha has several tiger sanctuaries, there are also many grasslands, which may be taken up for reforestation and cattle sanctuary creation as buffers of the buffers zones, carefully avoiding documented paths of major wildlife corridors. Such a sanctuary may then be made district by district, creating a mosaic.

Such cattle sanctuaries are not just opportunities to conserve cattle breeds but also opportunities to form more green cover, an additional welcome quasi-jungle other than the existing forests. A plan to look after cattle must necessarily involve reforestation and holistic management based on rotational grazing and biodiversity conservation. All care must be employed to keep the new grassland viable, fertile and full of fodder.

Setting up small hubs of cottage industry based on desi cow products may provide extra impetus.

Desi cow enthusiasts, agroecologists, planners, Hindu activists may use this paper as a framework to save both cattle and tigers.

Jai Gau Mata, Jai Srushti mata, Jai Hind!

Further reference:
Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur




  • Bryan Westra  says:

    Interesting article. I learned much that I didn’t know before. I knew what global warming was, but knew not the relationship between cows and global climate change. Thanks for enlightening me.

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