From the Archives: ‘Cow is cheaper to keep than buffalo', writes Mahatma Gandhi
“As a layman, I have always hazarded the opinion that the cow is cheaper to keep at any rate in the long run”, Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Harijan.
Those who are engaged in saving the cow from the swift destruction that awaits her if measures are not taken betimes to save her, are often confronted with the question whether even apart from the religious sentiment the buffalo is, not the cheaper animal to keep. As a layman, I have always hazarded the opinion that the cow is cheaper to keep at any rate in the long run that it is impossible to save the two animals, and that if we would but concentrate attention on saving the cow the buffalo will take care of herself.
But if the cow goes, the buffalo will never be able to take the cow's place and the struggling starving farmer will have in the deprivation of the cow and her male progeny a handicap that will leave him prostrate. Those who are interested in this important problem will get some help from the following opinion of Sardar Datar Singh MDD (Eng) of the Montgomery Dairy Farm sent to me by a friend.
"The buffalo is not an economical animal for the following reasons:
1) A buffalo matures on the average one year later than a good Indian milch bred cow.
2) The dry period, i.e the time when she goes dry and up to the time she calves, is more than thrice that of a cow.
3) A good cow will give more milk than a buffalo.
4) The male calves of the buffaloes are practically quite useless for agricultural purposes, and if sold fetch very little price and therefore they are generally slaughtered while the male calves of a cow are used all over India for agricultural purposes and are equally useful as female calves and fetch good price.
5) A buffalo is more susceptible to diseases than a cow.
6) A buffalo requires more looking after and is only happy when there is a large grazing area with plenty of water which is not in the reach of a small zamindar.
7) A buffalo feels the heat and cold much more which results in the deterioration of the milk yield, but it is not the case with a cow.
8) The only point of favour of keeping a buffalo is that she gives a much higher percentage of fat than a cow, but if all the details of the production are taken into account a good cow beats a buffalo even in that".