Scientists are combining field research and data to help understand the ‘Shwet Kapila’, Goa’s indigenous cow breed and are making efforts to register it in the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) list of indigenous livestock for its exclusivity. NT BUZZ finds out about the breed
SHERAS FERNANDES| NT BUZZ
Goa’s indigenous cow breed, ‘Shwet Kapila’ will be the next livestock to feature in the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) list of indigenous livestock after the Agonda pig, if approved by the institute. The decision will be taken based on the approval of the Breed Registration Committee. India has 37 breeds of cows and only a few indigenous breeds. The ‘Shwet Kapila’ breed gets its name from its physical features, since it is white in colour, ‘shweta’ is used while ‘kapila’ refers to a cow having a uniform colour from muzzle to tail. The research that began in September 2016 was led by director and principal scientist (Animal Reproduction and Gynaecology), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Old Goa, E B Chakurkar and culminated in January 2018. “The research was undertaken with an agenda to make the local communities responsible for the development of indigenous breeds and hence a detailed study on the characteristics of the breed was conducted,” says Chakurkar.
The cattle population is present across the state, however, ‘Shwet Kapila’ are commonly found in Pernem, Bardez, Tiswadi in North Goa and Salcete, Quepem, Mormugao and Canacona in South Goa. “These cows are mostly found in Valpoi, Sirengol, Khotode in Sattari; Usgao, Tisca, Sidsodi, Khtodi in Ponda; Quittol, Fatorpa, Paadi, Paroda, Avedem, Jamalium in Quepem and Shristal in Canacona,” says Chakurkar.
The interesting characteristic of this breed is that it can survive in extreme weather conditions and for its disease resistance capabilities. “Besides surviving in extreme conditions it is also immune to diseases. These cows show a moderate psychological behavioural pattern, as they are not so aggressive nor are they completely sober,” says Chakurkar. He adds that right from its muzzle to the tip of its tail the cow is short-statured as per coastal conditions. The life span of this breed is about 12 years but this too depends on its habitat.
The milk produced by ‘Shwet Kapila’ is said to be healthy as it contains the A2 protein, a protein that isn’t present in the milk of exotic cows. “Exotics cows like Holstein-Friesian and Jersey are known to produce the A1 type of milk which can give rise to several health issues. The presence of A2 protein in the milk helps in controlling blood pressure, diabetes and many other health issues,” says secretary of Botanical Society of Goa, Miguel Braganza.
Goa is known for having a mix of both exotic (Bos indicus) as well as indigenous cows (Bos taurus) and both are genetically different. Besides, the fat content in the milk of indigenous cows is as much as 6.5 per cent while Holstein-Friesian and Jersey cows have up to 2.5 per cent fat content in their milk. “The indigenous cows on a daily basis produce 2 to 8 litres of milk while exotic breeds produce double the quantity. What is to be noted is that the fat content in the milk of indigenous breeds is higher,” says Chakurkar.
He opines that the white cow is the animal of the future and hence mindsets have to change, “Farmers shouldn’t consider cows as just a means to earn money by selling the milk. Cows can fulfil the dream of a sustainable future,” he says adding that livestock is the wealth of the country.