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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Starting the community | The history of the land | The Cow Department | Changes | The spiritual role of food | The future

The Cow Department

So our theos as far cows are concerned is that we protect the cows, because we have cultural backgrounds in India, which you’ve probably heard most people identify cows, oh cows, India, sacred cows, worship the cow, God-cow, like that. But there is a cultural feeling in the ancient Indian culture that cows are very valuable creatures. In the West we don’t really know their value; probably the most value we see in a cow is how much meat is available, short term, as far as food’s concerned. But actually there is long term value in cows which, you know, extend the entire life of the cow. You can get much more value out of keeping a cow alive than killing a cow.

Originally we brought six cows. I think they had a bull, as well. They brought a bull, and gradually they just developed from there. Now, over the years many cows came off from other people as well, as donations. That was because word got around that “oh, Hare’s look after their animals, they don’t kill their cows” and there were allot of people out there that had a pet cow here and there, and they don’t want to see it go to the slaughter house. So, many times people would wake up in the morning and there’d be something on the door step. I remember I woke up, I came out once and there was 15, maybe more, it looked like. There could have been 20 cows. Someone just brought the whole lot here and just left them in the paddock. And that was a real… I mean it’s very irresponsible for someone to do that. We feel “oh, they’re here, we can’t… what are we gunna do with them?” We ended up looking after those.

But we do have a strict policy now. I’ve made strict policies that we don’t accept donations anymore unless it goes through proper channels, and even then it’s going to be hard because, we just don’t have the room anymore. Our cow population built up to 180… and there wasn’t enough… the property is not big enough to carry that many, that many head, so we had to stop the whole programme and we stopped milking cows… and we just let it kind of ride for about 10 years. Stopped breeding cows; we even had to agist some [in the early 1990s]. We had to agist 40 or 50 animals off the property in order to… because there wasn’t enough feed. for about two years, and then gradually the old ones, the old ones just started to… started to… die. A cow lives for about 22 years on average and they just die of natural causes. Or some died of snake bite here and there, but generally they just die of natural causes when they’re old.

The figure we have now is about 80. From 180 to about 80 and um, we started the programme again, probably five years ago. So probably 2007 or 08; I started the programme up again. We’ve been keeping stable. We’ve been hanging around the 80 mark. And, we can probably carry around 110. And… you work it out as how many we can milk. I’ve worked out mathematically for this size property I can milk perhaps up to 10 cows.

We don’t allow the cows to have babies every year. That’s over the top. We don’t need to. You can milk a cow for four or five years… as humans can keep milk, you know. I know my son was still drinking at 3 years old or something and so the cow will give generously milk up to five years, no problem. So there’s no need to kind of, you know treat them as baby factories just to get this premium amount of milk. That’s what basically happens on the commercial dairies.

We don’t have a commercial programme here. It’s basically just milking after the cows, utilising the good things that cows can give us. You know, cow dung and milk and things like that… and other things which I’ll get to a bit later on. And we are just, you know, just thankful for the cows to allow us to do that and we look after the cows as if they are part of the family. Give them a nice retired life. And they are happy.

Everything is used internally, because we’re not a commercial programme, we’re not allowed to sell the milk. We could go down that track, we could probably get permission to do so, it would be a long expensive endeavour. But at the moment we’re just… Like I’m only milking two cows at the moment. A year ago, oh… almost a year ago, I was milking eight. So a couple have dried off. There’s a few more coming in soon. There’s, I think, two cows about to have calves within the next three weeks. Then there will be four I think, four I will be milking. So it kind of goes up and down. But, even milking two cows I’m still… every day I’m getting about 60 litres. So it’s a lot of milk, which is pretty much, we don’t really need much more than that. Sixty litres a day, which is what? 400/500 litres a week? So all that milk goes for use at the temple, community, and some, community members say, will get milk from us for the household use. They’ll give a donation or something to help out. We don’t try to sell it. They give a donation and it kind of goes back into, into the, onto the infrastructure.

There are other people here that put in a percentage of their time, as they can. There’s probably about eight or nine that are involved in the whole looking after the cows. That’s looking after the old, like [indecipherable name] had that thing on the back of her car. Something like…

Love cows, Love life.

She looks after the… all the old geriatric cows, which take a bit of care to make sure that they’re all ok and given them a bit of extra feed… they haven’t fallen down a ditch something like that you know. She looks after them. We’ve got a couple of young boys that have come in that do the milking for me on a Sunday, and sometimes during the week they’ll come in. They’re pretty enthusiastic. They’re only like 15.

I always tell them I’ve only got about another five years and then I’m too old for it. They say “don’t worry; as soon as we can leave school we’re gunna take over.” So they’re happy. What you find with the cow’s it’s, they become more than just a commodity also, they become like pets. And each individual cow, they have their own name, they know their names and when you start treating them like that they become, like I have dogs and cats at home and the cows are just as intelligent. And just as trainable; and just as ah, what’s the word… conscious. You know. They’re beautiful animals. And um, you get that, when you deal with them on a day to day basis you get to know those, that side. Unfortunately the moment most of us just see a cow in the paddock and we don’t really, can’t really relate hat they are and therefore we are happy just to eat them. But once you start relating to them there’s no way you could eat them. It’s like you have a pet dog, there’s no way you could eat your pet dog. So I just feel people don’t realise the real benefit of the cows can give, you know, human culture.

The cow dung itself, is antiseptic. Like you can put cow dung on a cut and it will heal it. But dung from other animals is full of you know, you wouldn’t do that, But cows… that’s an old Indian kind of thing, you know. All the yes, cow’s are pure you know…. even the cow dung. You grow so much, its wonderful fertiliser. It’s also antiseptic . So then there’s one Professor Bose, who’s an Indian doctor and he actually tested the cow dung and it actually, it , it seems to have all antiseptic qualities. So yes you can use it on your sores and cuts or for cleaning. In India they use it for cleaning. They’ll water it down and clean with it, they’ll clean their house with it.

So we can’t culturally conceive that, oh no way. But actually ah, yeah the cows, you know the cows are very um, they have such good by-products – for the garden, cleaning…., milk, eating, butter, ghee, yoghurt and cheese. So many nice things…, so we would never, we could never conceive of um, killing them. I mean if someone wants to really eat meat, eat something else, don’t eat a cow. You know.

Adopt-a-cow programme is a programme we have for people that may not necessarily have the time or abilities to come and do something hands on practical to help the with the cow protection programme. If they want to feel connected they can offer some kind of financial help. So what they do, they might say, like I’ll give you five bucks a week, or thirty dollars a month or something like that; and that will go I’ll sponsor this cow or adopt a particular cow.

So they just give some financial contribution to the whole programme. And ah, and ah we… this is for your cow, oh this is your cow, this cow’s name is Rutba, for example, you know the history of the cow, they get a monthly update of how their cows are going. They get some milk sweets from the cow, some milk or whatever like that. This keeps them connected and keeps them interested. Keeps the, you know, cow protection in the forefront. So at the moment we may, I don’t know how many we’ve got, but we may have about 30 people sponsoring cows … Which is good, which is good.

There’s a lot of empathy among people that are not necessarily really vegetarians because … (well we don’t have any non-vegetarians sponsoring cows but still) these days with all the kinds of bad publicity with the, with the meat industry, people are starting to wake up a little bit and think, “oh geez what are we doing? This is pretty cruel.” And, there are a lot of vegetarians out there that, that, on principle wont’s drink milk; because of the nature of the milk industry, which incorporated a lot of cow killing. All the calves get slaughtered and the cows when they have finished with after six years they are not giving enough milk, they go to the slaughter house. So on principle vegetarians who are vegans (vegan meaning they don’t eat any animal products as well, animal by-products like milk). So we can offer an alternative to vegans that are practicing veganism because of ethical reasons. Because they don’t like how the cows are mistreated and slaughtered. Our cows are protected, they’re more than protected they’re pampered, like pets.

So they are very happy. And the milk that you get from those cows is really good for you and you don’t have to have any karmic guilt or karmic paranoia because of taking that milk. You know. So our milk is vegan milk. You ahimsa, ahimsa means non-violent. So it’s non-violent milk.

It’s been going for about two to three years, now. Yeah. So it’s pretty good, we’re getting a lot of contributions from the cows. We do have a little shop that we sell kind of samosas and things at the Sunday fest and all that that we sell from that shop goes back into the cow programme as well. We’re hoping to build up a whole new goshala or, whole new facility for the cows… in the next two or three years. At the moment we’re just functioning out of an old shed. Which is pretty rough and ready… But we want to build something nice.

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