Roaming carelessly through crowded roads and eating whatever comes its way, with little or no restriction -- the life of the ‘holy cow’ in the national capital is more difficult than it looks.
The average lifespan of a cow is 15 years and by the time it is three, it reaches its milking age.
“When the cows reach their milking age, the quality of fodder she is given should be of high quality. Ideally, in villages cows are set free in lush green farms,” said Dr AK Singh, head of veterinary wing at Shree Krishna Goshala in Sultanpur Dabas — the largest government-aided cow shelter in Delhi.
In the city, these abandoned cows eat whatever comes their way because of the lack of grazing space.
Plastic bags, though, are the most harmful. They accumulate in the bovine’s stomach and cause diseases — sometimes even death.
On the streets, cows eat garbage wrapped in polythene bags, used sanitary napkins, medical waste and nails.
He said after giving birth, the cow continues to lactate till six to eight months.
Many dairy owners inject a banned drug called oxytocin in cows for early onset of puberty and to prolong the milking age.
“The quality of milk produced by injected cows is harmful. For maximum produce, the calves are also not allowed to suckle on their mothers, which makes them weak and increases chances of contracting diseases and premature deaths,” he said.
In a general scenario — where cows follow their usual milking cycle — by the age of 10 years, for most the productive life ends and cows’ udders begin to dry.
“A cow’s age is mainly determined by its frame and teeth. As they begin to age, their body frame begins to shrink and their skin begins hang, especially from their neck. Their teeth begin to fall off. For example, a 13-year-old cow will barely have any teeth, while a two or three year old will have a mouth full of crowded teeth, almost protruding out of their mouths,” said Ruchi Kale, a volunteer with the Dhyan Foundation, an NGO working for cow protection.
In 2014, animal rights NGO, PETA, found over 1,000 illegal dairies operating in the city, most of which abandon milch cows after they are of no use to them. Most dairies abandon cows when they reach eight to 10 years of age.