Sanjay Bhalla – passion driven dairy farmer rears gir cows exclusively
Insists on feeding dairy cattle with farm-grown organic fodder and rearing in most natural way
“Horticulture and dairy farming are inter-related. It is mandatory to grow fodder using natural farming inputs and feed it to the dairy cattle. It is not only about reducing the cost but more significant for quality. When the cows and bulls are fed with good food, the nutritive value of milk, dung and urine is excellent. Consequently health of human, animals and soil improve considerably,” says Mr. Sanjay Bhalla, a passion driven dairy farmer. He started an exclusive gir cow dairy farm ‘The Way We Were’ in 2013 with just two cows sourced from Rajasthan. Today the herd size is 150 cattle including adult cows, bulls and the rest are calves. “Feed and health management of our cattle is maintained 100% natural where we do not depend on outside purchase. Our farming practices in dairy and horticulture are consciously ‘The Way We Were’ a century ago!” The farm is located on the outskirts of Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
“Gir cow milk is rich in A2 protein. “By consuming milk and ghee of this Indian indigenous breed my health improved remarkably. There was a positive change in my health and I was convinced that gir cow has some solution within it for every disease man faces. So I got connected with this breed and started rearing it in the farm,” Mr. Bhalla describes the drive to establish farm rearing only gir cattle. In the farm there are 45 adults (cow+bull) and rest are the calves. Almost 50% of the herd is in-born in the farm.
‘The Way We Were’ farm spreads in 30 acre. Seasonal vegetables, milk and milk based value added products are sold at the farm to the end-consumer directly residing at the distance of 3-45 km. Also calves are sold to other dairy farmers. On an average there are 7-8 calves born every month. There had been no mortality in the farm because feeding, rearing and breeding are 100% natural.
Fodder grown easily and locally must be given to the cattle with only condition that no chemical based farming inputs should be used in the entire cultivation period. “Balanced and nutrition rich fodder can make wonders. It has been proved in our farm. We bought one barren cow from Rajasthan and it has delivered thrice in our farm. Similarly we got two barren cows from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh and they are high-yielding cows. These wonders have happened without any medical intervention. It is all because of our feed management,” shares Mr. Bhalla with pride yet humbly.
Speaking about the fodder given to gir cows and bulls he says, “We give 8-10 kg jowar/bajra green fodder, 2.5-3 kg de-oiled cakes of mustard or sesame and 2.5 kg hay per meal to each animal. We give two meals per day to each cow. We do not give corn as we feel it doesn’t help the cattle much. We also give lot of herbs like ashwagandha, jivanti, shitawari, lemon grass, basil and all seasonal vegetables.” Oil from seeds is extracted at the farm it-self and the cakes are given to the cattle. “We try to replace hay (dry fodder) with greens. 1 kg hay is replaced with 4-5 kg greens.”
The way herbs are important for human body growth and well being, similarly herbs in the fodder ensure good health of the cows and bulls too. Different concoctions can be made from the herbs and given to the cattle on daily basis. “We grind the herbs and mix it with unrefined raw sugar to make it appetizing for the cows. Approximately 20-40 grams is fed to the cow. We give the herbs daily in some or the other form to boost their digestive system and immunity,” he adds.
Occasionally cattle at the farm are also fed with feast such as sweet balls (ladoo) made up of barley. In addition mustard oil and turmeric is also given to the entire herd. “Cattle will not take the mustard oil alone as it has the pungent aroma so we mix it with lot of jaggery and turmeric powder. It is given to all the animals except for those cows that are pregnant. Mustard oil improves energy and turmeric powder being natural antioxidant safeguards from common flue, cold, cough and fever etc. These additions in the feed are the preventive measures we practice in our farm. We keep the feed interesting just as we human likes more food varieties in our plate,” highlights Mr. Bhalla. In addition, after preparing butter the residue ‘buttermilk’ is given back to the cattle. It drinks buttermilk instead of water. “Buttermilk is also good source of protein for them. It is given twice/thrice in a week.” Apart from these regular feed common for all the cattle, the cows about to deliver calf are kept on special diet for 10 days before the delivery and 20 days post delivery period. It contains jaggery, ajwain (bishop’s weed or carom), porridge etc.
Cattles are reared in most natural way at Mr. Bhalla’s farm. The animals are never immunized with modern medications yet the herd is healthy because, “In my opinion repeated immunization weakens the animal. Pre-independence in India there was no vet involvement in the dairy farms nevertheless the cow population was more than human population. We must trust our traditional knowledge and follow it meticulously. Following the same we are extremely particular about the prevention management,” he states. Cattles are given massage with mustard oil, sesame oil and aloe vera gel. Every evening diluted essential oil such as tea tree, lavender or neem is sprayed on them. It keeps the harmful bacteria and virus away and the herd has natural protective cover.
Gir cattle are shy of water. They are not fond of water at all so no bathing. During winters it is only dry brushing while in summers the cattle are made wet with the water spray gun. Permitting the cattle to be stress free is another important aspect of health management. To do so at the farm entire herd is allowed to roam around freely from 8 AM to 4.30 pm. They are not tied-up and free to eat, drink and relax as it wants. Milking is done manually twice a day. “We feel milking machine causes too much stress while manual milking is more personalized,” he adds.
At the farm, ‘The Way We Were’ natural mating is preferred over artificial insemination. “All our activities in the farm are in alliance with the nature. Artificial insemination is not at all in the favour of health of the cows. Also the technology of embryo transfer should be discouraged. Cow is a living being so why stress it to produce more calves and milk? Allow it to live naturally and take care of it selflessly, certainly it would return back in some way or the other,” avers Mr. Bhalla. Behaviour of cows and bulls is observed for 2-3 days and then they are allowed to mate naturally. Detailed history of all the animals is maintained. It is ensured that no intra-breeding takes place. “We have two farms now so we keep shifting the bulls as needed.” One cow conceives 10-12 times in a year. “We get one calf from each cow almost every year.”
Post delivery the calf is allowed to be near its’ mother as long as it wants and there is no human interference. “We let the calf feed well on its’ mother milk too because that is most important for developing the natural immunity in the growing baby of the cow. It is long term sustenance for the calf,” he affirms. Later once the calf is 12-18 months old it is sold to other dairy farmers if there are any buyers. “We recommend our buyers to buy the calves instead of adult cow because gir cattle require lot of personal touch. So when the calves are purchased it gives lot of time to develop the bond and it adjusts to new environment. We usually advise the buyers to take four female calves and one male calf. All grow together and bond well. Subsequently the herd size grows slowly and gradually,” he shares.
Bulls in the farm
Dairy farm cannot be sustainable without a bull! Mostly dairy farmers and experts are focused on cows but, “I feel bull is equally important for any farm. As mentioned horticulture and dairy are inter-dependent so bull is needed for breeding in dairy while for ploughing in horticulture farm. Soil health improves amazing with bull ploughing. When the bull walks gently in the field it ploughs the farm till six inches deep. Furthermore, it’s dung and urine dropping while ploughing becomes natural food for the microbes present in the soil. This process boosts the population of microbes and consequently the soil fertility is enhanced,” he maintains.
Mr. Bhalla is the first generation dairy farmer. He travels once in 15 days to interiors of the villages in and around Delhi and interacts with the most senior person in the village. “These are the people who are having maximum ground knowledge. It is all realistic solutions and practices that can never be compared with theoretical text or reports generated in the air-conditioned research centers and laboratories. Also my team of 32 farmers who are assisting in managing the farm is quite resourceful. We need to respect and trust our heritage more than getting allured with practices of foreign countries. Even the government needs to understand it and there should be more dissemination of information from them on Indian traditional agricultural practices. Our Indian indigenous cattle breeds are magical and its’ products are miraculous. Adopt what is yours with 100% belief and get amazed with the results!!” he signs off.
The Way We Were Farm
Mr. Sanjya Bhalla
Farm address: C- 143, Hosiery Complex, Phase 2 Extension, Noida-201305
Phone: 0120 – 4570580