A Neglected Source of Wealth

A Preliminary Study And Practical Suggestion

by Narasimha Dasa
(originally published by Back to Godhead Magazine in 1991)

cattle in Africa

Greener pastures: How cows could help in the fight against climate change

Guardian – JUDITH D. SCHWARTZ – Jul 22, 2011

In the 1960s, as a young wildlife biologist in what was then called Southern Rhodesia, he noticed that, when livestock were removed from land set aside for future national parks, “almost immediately, these wonderful areas suffered severe loss of both plant and animal species.” Cattle, he began to realize, could play—if properly managed—the crucial role in grassland ecology that used to be occupied by herds of wild herbivores. They could help prevent and even reverse land degradation and the desertification of grasslands, combating in the process both human poverty and the disappearance of wildlife. Go to story

Cow manure could transform desert soils, such as those in the Middle East and northern India, into fertile, humus-rich soils that would retain moisture and support vegetation even with scarce rainfall.

excerpt from Back to Godhead Magazine, 1991, #25-03:

Towards a self-sufficient, spiritual community

High Desert
Srila Prabhupada has described that devotee farmers in India usually cultivate only 3 months a year to provide all their necessities. There is no need for devotees to farm all year long. However, using modern greenhouses and utilizing the solar energy that is abundant in the desert, one can grow fruits and veggies almost all year. Srila Prabhupada, however, stressed on grain production for our farms. Another point is that in the summer here, due to 15 to 17 hours of daylight, vegetables and some fruits of the vine grow very fast and without being devoured by insects. With simple cloches, the season can be extended by eight weeks, because daytime temperatures are generally mild even into early December. Even in midwinter there are plenty of mild sunny days. Sun is a constant factor here for happy living. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, glorious sunshine gives everyone the facility to become paramahamsa. more

I SOMETIMES ASK the following question to devotees and other spiritually inclined people. One day Kuvera, the lord of wealth, appears before you, offering a choice of two benedictions: as much gold as you want, any time, any place, and as often as you want, or as much cow manure as you want, any time, any place, and as often as you want. Which would you choose?

I add that Lord Kuvera tells you to put aside considerations of purity, convenience, and religion and choose the benediction that will give the most wealth.

Stop here. Think about it for a minute or two. Answer the question yourself. Some devotees have suggested there is no right or wrong choice. The choice, they say, will simply indicate an individual’s own inclination. I believe, however, that one choice is far superior to the other.

Most people I’ve talked to say they would take the gold and use it for good or transcendental purposes. With unlimited gold they could print billions of spiritual books and build many grand temples. After all, everything can be used in Krishna’s service. Right?

Yes, but using so much gold in Krishna’s service could be dangerous and difficult. The Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us that Kali, the personification of this degraded age, resides wherever gold is hoarded. We would need to spend all the gold immediately, yet gold circulating in such great amounts would gradually lose monetary value until at last it became as common and inexpensive as iron.

Gold is limited as a form of wealth—as are all currencies.

With unlimited cow manure, however, the entire planet could be made as opulent as heaven in just a few years. Sound fantastic? The Mahabharata says that the dung and urine of the cow are residences of Sri Lakshmi Devi, the goddess of fortune.

Cow manure could transform desert soils, such as those in the Middle East and northern India, into fertile, humus-rich soils that would retain moisture and support vegetation even with scarce rainfall.

As the ground-cover vegetation became more lush and trees started growing, moisture retention would increase the natural opulence of the land with beneficial microbes and plants and soil-building insects and animals.

Manure, in fact, makes cow protection highly profitable even if the milk production is low and the bulls are not fully engaged.

Cow protection and bull protection are one and the same, of course, but people usually think the monetary profit is found in milk. Manure can be more profitable, however, because it leads to greater milk and grain production.

ISKCON’S experiments with cow protection in the West have not always produced happy results. Part of the problem has been an overemphasis on milk production. Devotees have usually chosen temperamental, troublesome breeds because of their reputedly high milk production.

When bulls were born, everyone moaned and groaned and wondered what to do with another nonmilker because few devotees had come forward to train bulls and put them to work.

Nor have many of the farm leaders emphasized the necessity of working the bulls, although Srila Prabhupada said, “If you don’t make a program to engage them [bulls], you’ll make a program to kill them.”

What to do, then, with all the bulls?

I suggest we use all extra bulls to prove that Goddess Lakshmi does indeed reside in the dung of the cow and bull.

We should first engage bulls and oxen in grazing and in eating silage. Grains should not be fed to mature bulls who are not working hard. It is expensive and unnecessary, and makes them unruly. By Krishna’s arrangement, bulls can live on grass and on the husks and stalks of corn, wheat, and rice, all of which are nutritionally valueless to man.

Grazing bulls should be rotated among various pastures, and the pastures should be raked often with chain-drag harrows to spread the manure around evenly and help it mix quickly with the upper soil. Soon the grass will become thick and green, and the same pasture will support more cows and bulls.

In two weeks, twenty-five medium-sized bulls will leave four thousand manure deposits—some six tons fresh, or nine percent of the surface of a fifteen-acre pasture. After two weeks, the bulls should be moved and the pasture harrowed.

In one year these twenty-five bulls will produce 156 tons of fresh manure, enough to fully blanket thirty-five acres. (Statistics are based on research done by the University of Kentucky.)

After two or three years the rich pastures can be plowed and planted with row crops or grains or left as pasture, to become richer and richer almost without limit.

A bull, of course, may be used to pull the chain harrow, a simple, low-energy operation, but the point is that bulls are valuable even if we can’t fully engage them immediately. The wealth is the manure itself.

With enough cow and bull manure, plowing and cultivation can be greatly minimized or even eliminated. In Vedic farming, the main purpose of plowing is to loosen the top layers of soils that have been compacted by rain and feet. Soils rich in manure are also rich in humus. They need little or no plowing because they resist compacting and retain a soft, pliable texture suitable for planting.

Smaller farms—family farms of only a few acres—can keep two, three, four, five, or even more bulls in a small barn or in the courtyard of the home and feed them hay, fresh grass, and silage. If there is a sufficient year-around supply of fresh grass, such as in Hawaii and South India, milking cows and bulls doing light work can live on grass alone.

The manure should be raked up, pitched out, or washed out daily, along with the straw bedding, if any, and collected in a pile. If the pile is covered with fine hay or leaves and not allowed to remain very wet, it will decompose quickly without producing foul odors.

The composted manure can then be dried, pulverized, and sifted to produce a fine, light powder that’s easy to store and spread.

I have seen gardeners in India restore extremely deficient soils and transform already fertile soils into lush, rich, well-textured supersoils after just two or three years of applying cow manure.

As the world moves away from Krishna’s perfect system of global economics based on cow protection, great industrial centers devour huge amounts of resources, filling the air and water with foul and poisonous by-products.

Brainwashed farmers pour chemicals and poisons on the earth, destroying valuable topsoils and creating contaminated drylands and deserts.

Future historians will surely reflect with astonishment on how effectively governments and big corporations tricked nations of farmers into believing that chemical fertilizers and pesticides were a blessing of progressive science.

Srila Prabhupada wanted devotees to create counterparts of Goloka Vrindavana in this world because only practical examples of Krishna consciousness can change the course of our misdirected civilization.

But first, the devotees themselves must realize the benefits of cow protection and understand the practical formula for engaging bulls. The first step is to understand that even their manure is a most valuable resource.

Narasimha Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, initiated in 1972. He lived in India for several years, and is author of The Way of the Vaishëava Sages, a novel published in 1987. At the time when Back to Godhead Magazine published this article, he was practicing self-sufficiency on the island of Hawaii.

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