An Israeli company is starting a surrogate cow farm near Mumbai to help meet growing demand for milk from India’s surging middle class. The farm will house 40 Holstein cows that serve as egg donors and some 450 surrogates that will carry the embryos — impregnated with bovine sperm from the U.S., Europe and, possibly, Israel — to term. Calves born at the farm will be sold to Indian farmers when they’re six months pregnant, AlefBet Planners Ltd. said in an emailed statement.
India’s milk production continues to fall short of demand, which is rising with growing incomes and urbanization, according to a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report. India’s dairy industry is considered a low-output system, made up primarily of small farmers with fewer than five cows or water buffalos, the report said. Low genetic potential is one of the key factors affecting cows’ productivity.
Maxximilk, an Israeli company that’s collaborating on the Mumbai-area farm with AlefBet and India’s Godrej Group, specializes in in-vitro fertilization of cows. The process can enable dairy farmers to bypass decades-long breeding programs and grow herds of champion milk-producing cows within 32 months, the company says on its website. The project is unique and complicated “because of the need to combine advanced technology with the principles of the Hindu faith,” which regards cows as holy, the statement said.