WHY ANIMAL PRODUCTIVITY IN INDIA IS LOW? REASONS AND SOLUTIONS
Updated: Jun 17
Livestock census of Govt of India is the only source of data to know how our national livestock is progressing.It is more than 2½ decade, when India surpassed USA in milk production to become the largest milk producing country in the world. India is now sharing 23% of world’s milk production. Though India is second to USA in cow milk production in the world. Means, the top position of India in milk production in the world is due to adding the buffalo milk with cow milk production. Most of the developed countries do not have buffaloes, as such they maintain only the data of cow & cow milk. However, compared to the developed countries, the lactation yield in CB or indigenous cows, inter-calving period, calf weight at birth, age at 1st calving, etc., are the parameters which is hardly ever looked by the Indian dairy farm and also probably by the policy makers. As these parameters are never highlighted either by planners or by policy makers, I can easily say that the Indian dairy farming system is at a “primitive stage”. We are yet to develop the commercial outlook towards dairy farming.
Today we are living into “Global-village”, where most of the developments in the world are being shared. Based on the frequent global exposures the Indian consumer is looking for “pure”, “unprocessed”, “farm grown”, farm-fresh”, “ethically produced”, “branded”, “organic”, “A2” milk, traceability, etc. Focus of policies on these terms are missing in Indian farming system, though FSSAI has made some progress in encompassing the milk quality issues. The companies which could realize the importance of these consumer hunt points, are doing good business in India, selling their products using these terms and consumers are happily paying high prizes for packets showing these “terms”.
India made efforts to manufacture dairy machinery & tools, which were being imported in seventies, however, still lot to be done on “farm equipment” sector. We all know that food consumer drives the market, if the industry does not match its pace with food consumers demands, it will lag behind. Gone are the days when huge milk processing plants were being installed under the support of Operation Flood. Now small to very small milk processing plants are in market. It indicates that small start-ups are trying to full-fill the consumer demands, may be the dairy-giants are yet to view these changes.
Eve after 75 years of organized dairy development, India reached at following level of per animal (per lactation/ per day) milk production, Figure 1.
Figure 1: Per animal, per lactation/ per day milk production (‘000 liters/liters)
Source: Statista By www.dairyconsultancy.in
Note: Figure-1 indicates per animal productivity in different categories of milk-animals (per lactation and per day).
The blue bar represents per day average milk production (in liters) and green bar represents the per animal per lactation milk yield (in ‘000 liters).
Seventy-five year is too long period for any pattern to persist, changes are obvious. If the economics of rearing milk-animals at “zero input - low output system” by landless, laborers and marginal farmers becomes un-viable, they may exit dairy as income trade. Indian dairy farmer’s demography is changing, says the industry experts (refer The print dated 6th Oct 2021). It may be due to the easy earning through rozgar schemes from Govt or a self-driven phenomenon of surging costs of fodder and feed ingredients making the operation un-viable.
A report titled "Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land and Livestock Holdings of Households in Rural India, 2019", released by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation during 2021 says that < 1 hectare land holding marginal farmers are already making 55% of their livelihood by wages, not through farms. The high cost of fodder & feed ingredients makes the operation un-viable for a hand to mouth farmer. It is time for Indian policy makers to focus on intensive and semi-intensive dairy farming in India, to address "Food-safety" issues and also to address "traceability". Without this, Indian consumer would not get what they are looking as products from dairy industry. In my opinion the most losers would be dairy-coops, which has a legacy of carrying the same pattern for several years, with minor variations in operation.
When milk as single largest agricultural commodity, contributes more than double on value terms of what all other agricultural commodities (grains, pulses, oil seeds, sugarcane, etc.) put together contribute, why India hesitates to allocate matching budget for investing into dairy sector? Time has come for the policy makers to read between the lines.
Majority of Indian dairy houses do not take responsibility of rearing animals, it is left to poor farmers, then it is obvious that they would rear the animals within their own available resources, till it is a viable operation. Almost all Indian dairy houses (leaving exceptions), work on mixed milk processing system. They do not maintain separate line for cow and buffalo milk, as a result whatever dairy product comes to the plate of the consumer, is mostly from a mixed milk or mixed plus reconstituted milk (especially in milk deficit season/areas).
REASONS FOR LOW MILK PRODUCTIVITY PER ANIMAL IN INDIA
REASON 1: large number of animals are nondescript and less productive:
India is also No.1 country by number of cattle and buffaloes in the world. As of 2020, number of cattle and buffaloes in India was 305 million heads that accounts for 33.38% of the world's cattle and buffalo population of 915 million heads in 2020. The top 5 countries (India, Brazil, China, USA and Argentina) account for 87.55% of world’s cattle population. (https://knoema.com/atlas/topics/Agriculture/Live-Stock-Production-Stocks/Number-of-cattle-and-buffaloes)
India has 303.76 million bovine population (Cattle 193.45 million and buffalo 110 million), of which about 142.11 are indigenous and nondescript, which has low lactation yield. The indigenous and nondescript cattle is reducing at a lower rate of 60% during 2012-2019, compared to 9% during 2007-12. India has large number of abandoned cattle which are mostly sheltered at Gaushala. The population of abandoned cattle is increasing year by year. How it is wise to feed the abandoned cattle, when there is shortage fodder and feed for productive cattle. Refer: 20th livestock survey https://vikaspedia.in/agriculture/agri-directory/reports-and-policy-briefs/20th-livestock-census
A stray sick cow presents another challenge; “there is no compensation for culling diseased cows, so farmers will either sell them off to another farmer, which leads to spreading infections, or they will abandon them on the streets,” says Navneet Dhand, associate professor in veterinary biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Sydney. This phenomenon is known fact, it severely affect the productivity in cattle, as due to this the denominator increases. (Source:https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/india-five-million-stray-cattle-sacred-hindu#:~:text=They're%20destructive%2C%20there%20are,disease%2C%20and%20causing%20car%20accidents).
REASON 2: India’s major milk producers can’t allocate land for fodder
India’s milk production heavily depends on marginal (holding <1 ha. Land) and small farmers (holding 1-2 ha. Land), who own about 44.58% of the total area operated land (Table 1) (Source: 10th agricultural census data released updated: 01 Oct 2018, 11:41 PM IST). These size-class farmers own above 70% of dairy animals, however, individual-family-wise they find hard to allocate land for fodder cultivation.
As such, they keep the dairy animals under-fed, underfeeding reduces milk production, did not allow the animals to reach its actual genetic potential. They fall under the category of zero input-low output category of animal management system, they easily become sick.
Figure 2: country-wise per lactation per animal milk yield in the world
India stands at 15th position (Figure 2), in per animal / per lactation milk yield ranking in the world. It is evident from the data that USA tops the list (10189 liters/ per lactation yield), Japan (8465 liters), UK (8140 liters) compared to India, which has an average of just 1318 liters milk yield per lactation per animal. Once the denominator would be high, end result will obviously be a low figure.
The average land holding in India is 1.08 hectares (2.7 acres per farmers). There are about 150 million farmers, where small and marginal farmers account for 86.2%, who owns 47.3% of aerated land area. These are low resources farmers, obvious that they can’t feed balanced ration to their animal? Means they can’t (barring exceptions) own even a medium sized (10-20 animal) organised farm, without capital subsidy support? Means they would never become stand-alone dairy entrepreneurs, except remaining a pourer-attached with big dairy houses to earn their livelihood? Means with such low size of herds, addressing “food-safety” and “traceability” would remain an unresolved issue?
Innovations, automation and latest technologies are far reaching subjects for these large chunks of farmers of India. If India wants to start intensive and semi-intensive system of dairy farming, it should either focus on medium & large farmers or arrange capital subsidies for marginal & small farmers. Just announcing schemes may not be of more help, as the current schemes are generally not understood by the farmers and there is no agency to support farmers to explain which schemes includes what? The policy makers may focus on Figure 1 & Figure 2, which shows a real picture of dairy development, after 25 years of India leading the world in milk production?
REASON 3: Shortage of semen doses & poor AI services
Without timely breeding, productivity can’t be improved. If 99 million female animals remain unbred, obviously it will affect productivity per animal. Further, average 2 doses are used for single cow, therefore to do AI of 125.34 million female cattle population, India needs 258.20 million doses, which would be a difficult task in our opinion.
Due to the less availability of frozen semen doses and dwindling AI service support by AH department, India is not able to breed about 99 million cows & buff (Figure-2). The other reasons could be (1) sub-standard quality of semen, (2) missed-heat for right time insemination, (3) anoestrus due to under-feeding, (4) shortage of bulls to produce required doses of good semen and (5) un-healthy genitals of female animals, (6) un-managed cold-chain to preserve or transport semen doses, etc.
Figure 3: Distribution of females, in-milk, dry and un-bred categories
Figure 3 clearly indicates that 19.08 million Exotic/CB cow, 30.47 million IND/ND cows and 49.4 million buffalo (total 99 million female cows + buff) remain un-bred. It is a huge number. When out of 46.95 million Exotic/CB female cows only 25.67 million (55%) are in-milk, of 98.17 million of IND/ND female cows only 51.17 million (52%) are in-milk, of 101 million buffaloes only 38.1 million (38%) are in-milk and when the overall artificial insemination of India stands at 30%, how one can expect a better per animal productivity in India? Source: https://vikaspedia.in/agriculture/agri-directory/reports-and-policy-briefs/20th-livestock-census
REASON 4: Poor genital status of animals
The genital status matters the most for successful and timely breeding & conception of animals. Due to the lack of care and treatment of post-parturient gynaecological issues, the sick genitalia do not allow animals to conceive, it hampers the animal productivity. Such animals become repeat breeder (RB), which is a “total-loss” in economic terms. The RB is mainly due to (1) negative energy balance feeding (under feeding), (2) mineral deficiencies, (3) less post-parturient care & timely treatment of gynecological diseases, etc.
If the (a) Govt policies focus on "earning by farmers", rather than land, as suggested by experts, (b) subsidy to the medium and large farmers for doing silage & CF business (c) developed common property resource (CPR-Gochar lands), (d) easily available good quality fodder seeds, (e) sufficient good quality frozen semen doses, (f) timely AH & AI services at farm door, (g) available sufficient number of trained inseminators, (h) available “affordable” post-parturient care & treatment of delivering females and finally (i) effective solution for handling abandoned animals, can improve per animal / per lactation milk yield.
This will improve; (a) good pasture land at CPR (Gochar land) (b) the milk-quality (to a large extent), (c) traceability (to some extent), (d) food-safety (to some extent), (e) sustainable automated medium and large herd organized dairy farms, (f) per animal per lactation productivity, (g) “economic traits” of dairy animals, (h) habitation & health of abandoned animals (i) control the spread of diseases, (j) availability of good bulls for semen production, (k) availability of good germplasms & farm grown heifers with good genitalia for India.
The Writer of this article is:
Dr PK Shrivastava, Dairy Business Consultant
M/s Dairy Consultancy India, Bangalore