In one respect, possibly the best person to do a preliminary assessment of a cow protection program is an accountant, because of his or her training to evaluate performance in terms of names, dates and numbers. These factors reveal a lot about the quality of cow protection, even before the project is visited.
Let's evaluate the Mother Cow program by a set of standards (abbreviated here) that I posted a year ago. The point here is not to attack Mother Cow, but rather by revealing positive standards of cow protection to promote the defense of Dharma in all cow protection programs.
MONITORING AND RECORDS
1. The entire herd should be counted daily.
2. Every cow should have a name.
3. Records should be kept with the name, sex, date of birth of each cow. When a cow or calf dies, the cause of death and date of death should be recorded. Annual records should be provided to members each year.
4. Calf mortality should be less than 10%. In the absence of proper records, this can be determined retroactively by seeing how many cows have been milking in the last 2-3 years and determining how many of their calves are still alive.
5. Analyzed by sex, the herd should be approximately 50% cows, 50% bulls or oxen. If there are far more females than males, it's a sign of a discrepancy – either in the organization's incomplete understanding of cow protection, or in substandard protection for bull calves.
6. Any cow who has taken shelter on Krsna's land or in Krsna's temple should never be subsequently sold, traded, given away or killed.
BREEDING AND AQUIRING COWS
7. No cow should be bred for milk production alone, without plans for the resulting calf. No cow should be bred unless there is a clear and concrete plan for the care of the calf for its entire life, which may be 10-20 years. This means there must be adequate land, adequate funding and adequate trained personnel to care for the resulting calf.
8. Cows should not be acquired based on sentiment alone. A goshalla should not allow itself to be exploited by those who "donate" animals with mixed motives.
9. Milking should be a pleasurable experience for the cow.
10. Milk production should not be developed primarily as a profit-making venture. "You say we must have a gosala trust, that is our real purpose. krsi-goraksya-vanijyam vaisya karma svabhava-jam, [Bg 18.44]. Where there is agriculture there must be cows. That is our mission: Cow protection and agriculture and if there is excess, trade. This is a no-profit scheme…
TRAINING OF OXEN OR BULLOCKS
11. In general, all bull calves should be trained to work. As Srila Prabhupada stated, "If you do not use the bulls for plowing, one day you will say, let us cut their throats."
12. No ox should be overworked or worked by force only.
13. In general, bull calves should be castrated by the time they are 1 year old, or whatever age is appropriate for that breed. This can be done with minimum discomfort by using a bloodless emasculator or burdizzo, which only pinches the semen tubes to achieve sterilization.
SHELTER, GRAZING AND FEED
14. The cows' living conditions should be clean and comfortable.
15. All cows should have adequate shelter.
16. Adequate fencing should be maintained.
17. Cows must be provided sufficient grazing opportunity. And, as stated by Bhismadeva in the Mahabharata, no cow should be kept always tethered.
18. The program should maintain adequate pasture for animals. Generally the minimum would be at least 1/2 acre (1/4 hectare) per animal, preferably 1 acre per animal.
19. Cows should be sufficiently well fed.
20. Ideally, feed for the cows should be grown on site, not purchased from outside.
FUNDING AND ACCOUNTING
21. The goshalla should have an accurate and clear method of keeping accounts, and members should be presented with an annual statement of accounts.
22. Ideally, funds collected for a goshalla or cow protection program should be kept separate from other accounts, such as that of a temple or community facility. Funds should not be invested in any speculative business enterprise.
COWHERD TRAINING AND SUPPORT
23. Cowherds should be recognized as important members in the spiritual community.
24. Ideally, the goshalla should maintain a well designed program for training cowherds and ox-power farmers.
25. Cowherds should be facilitated and supported so they can have a decent, if simple, standard of living… Without proper training, facility and care of its cowherds, a cow protection program is threatened by constant turnover of staff and may eventually collapse.
MEMBERSHIP AND OUTREACH
26. A goshalla should use its cow protection program as a means of attracting the public to Krsna consciousness.
*Difficult to assess at this point.
27. Activities of the cow protection program should be highlighted on community websites and during religious holidays and festivals such as Gaura Purnima, Janmastami, Govardhana Puja and Ratha Yatra. The Deities can be read accounts of the activities of the year, not only how much milk or burfi was produced, but also how many oxen were trained, how much area they plowed, how much wood they hauled, how many bushels of vegetables they produced, etc showcasing the offerings of the animals to the Lord.
28. A cow protection program should provide opportunity for members' input and participation. This can be achieved through questionnaires, newsletters, workshops, and pre-festival meetings.
Though established primarily as a profit-making dairy, Mother Cow displays interest in some aspects cow protection. An informed membership can guide this interest to greater incorporation of the principles of Dharma, especially through proper protection, training and utilization of Father Bull, which will be more in keeping with the practice of Krsna consciousness.