Holy cows or cash cows?

In a recent paper, Anagol, Etang and Karlan (2013) consider the income generated by these owning a cow or a buffalo in two districts of Uttar Pradesh, India. The net profit generated ignoring labour costs, gives rise to a small positive rate of return. Once any reasonable estimate of labour costs is added to costs, the rate of return is a large negative number. The authors conclude that households holding this type of assets do not behave according to the tenets of capitalism. A variety of explanations, typically appealing to religious or cultural factors have been invoked for such a puzzling fact.