Coastal Cavelossim has three families rearing cattle, continuing a traditional occupation against the odds and in the face of modernisation. One of these is the Rodrigues siblings, and for them, says Justin, it has been a ‘long and satisfying’ journey’, and thanks his sister, as they together have been carrying on with rearing cows.
“We have been doing this for 40 years, this would not have been possible without my sister. She has been working very hard to take care of our cows,” says Rodrigues, adding that they are one of the three surviving Cavelossim families who continue cattle-rearing.
“My sister has been a brave woman, fighting all the odds. She was bitten by a viper some 40 years ago and that wound has not healed, but life goes on. And, when she is involved with the cows, she forgets her suffering and pain that persists because of the snake bite.”
For the siblings, the day starts at 5.30 am when they bathe and milk the cows. By 6 am, customers turn up at their door to collect milk. Justin says when a new mother’s milk is not available for children, cow milk is the best option and is much sought after by Goan families.
He has customers not just for milk but for cow urine too. “The Lamanis (gypsy women), turn up at our house to collect urine for their religious activities. The cows are revered and worshiped by Hindus and its urine is sprinkled as a holy liquid during various Hindu rituals,” Justin says.
He says gypsy women, who hawk goods on the beach to foreign tourists, feed the cow when they return home via the beach route, giving the animals fruits and vegetables. “Once a Lamani woman gave an entire bunch of bananas to the cows, they just love the animals,” he adds.
Justin says his cows do not harm anyone as they walk daily past the beach and to their home in Rodrigues Vaddo. “Never have they have harmed or become aggressive and attacked anyone, that I can say with confidence,” he adds, as his cows walked past a number of Indian and foreign tourists on Cavelossim beach.
Explaining their daily walks from the house to the grazing ground, he said they are taken to a place near St Regis Hotel in Mobor (formerly Leela Palace) at around 10.30 am and they return by 5.30 pm. “My sister walks and positions herself at a halfway point so that they do not lose track and enter the hotel property. I also make sure that they do not move in the wrong direction,” he adds.
“There are certain points on their beach journey where they drink fresh water and at a certain point, they spend at least half an hour grazing. We know their pattern of behaviour and their needs.”
Justin says when paddy is not cultivated, they are left free in the fields, but during the paddy season, the cows take the beach route.
Asked if hay from the paddy fields of Cavelossim helps to provide fodder for the cows, Justin has an interesting story of modernization versus traditional farming to share.
“With most of the farmers taking up mechanised farming, the hay which passes through the machine smells of oil and the cows refuse to feed on it. We realised that when the cows refused to feed on the hay. When we examined it closely, we found it smelt of oil. Since then, we have discontinued using the hay from farming machines,” added the senior citizen.
“We bring hay for them from Veroda in Cuncolim, where paddy cultivation is labour-intensive and there is no mechanisation,” he adds.
On his part, Justin has steadfastly refused to move to modern and mechanised cow-rearing as they have taken care of 25-plus cattle heads over the last four decades.
The Rodrigues family has also refused to shift to hybrid jersey cows which would have yielded them more milk, and even milking them would have been easy. “We know that milking the jersey cows is easy and not a tiring job like the traditional cows, and also the quantity of milk produced is more,” he admits.
Justin says the next generation is not too interested in cow rearing, but the Rodrigues siblings will carry on as long they have the passion, drive and strength to take care of the cows, who are like their children and part of the family.