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  • Writer's pictureDr. P.K. Shrivastava


Updated: Jun 13, 2023


Milk production in India is “by masses”, where millions of farmers are involved having very small to small sized animal farms, barring some farms run by Govt, trusts or private dairy houses. Indian consumer has become more aware due to the easy information availability on food items. Currently consumers look for “pure”, “unprocessed”, “farm grown”, farm-fresh”, “ethically produced”, “branded”, “organic” or “A2” milk, etc. While the Indian consumer looks for above “terms”, countries majority of dairy farmers still keep their farms at elementary stage. They feed their dairy animals with very less greens, using home grown Agri-residues plus little quantity of CF/cakes/mesh feed/chunni, etc. available in the market, which is mostly un-balanced.


(1) Balanced Ration: Based on DMI (Dry matter intake) requirement, dry & green fodder, balanced cattle feed (CF), mineral mixture, plenty of water to drink and feed additives. Twice feeding is the best feeding, more no. of feeding reduces rest time of animals. Less fibre in ration reduces digestion, dung becomes loose.

(2) Vitamin “R’: Animals needs sufficient rest (Vita ‘R’)- to regurgitate and digest its ration. Total 24 hrs may be divided into (1) 5 hrs eating/grazing (2) 3 hrs milking (3) 16 hrs rest & regurgitation (minimum 13 hrs rest is a must).

(3) Loafing area/ Paddock: Minimum 100 Sq. ft. per adult animal loafing area, sand bed (sand bed + straw is good) is required. Research says sand reduces the chance of getting infected with mastitis. Stocking density must be considered @100% or less. Means if the stall is for 40 animals, max 40 animals should be stalled.

(4) Soft bed: Never use rubber mat. Animal should get soft bed to rest for 10-12 hrs, they feel free and remain undisturbed. Research says that per cow losses comes to about 24-25 thousand if they are kept on hard floor or rubber mat, chances of anoestrus and cystic ovary increases.

(5) Plate size: Provide 2.0-2.5 feet plate size for adult animals feeding with animal-to-animal partition.

(6) Human behaviour: Animals should not live in fear, they should not be beaten, they will hold milk due to the fear and bad treatment. Human entry to farm disturbs the animals taking rest. (Source: Dr Vinod Goswami, Godrej Agrovet webinar on 28.01.23)


We frequently receive complaint from dairy entrepreneurs/ farmers, that they procured high yielding cow; giving 22-25 liters milk per day or buffaloes yielding 16-18 liters per milk day milk, which reduced its milk production to less than half in a 1- or 2-week time. This happened due to the fact that animal don’t get their ration based on the DMI. It is a known fact that in India the dairy animals are kept under negative energy balance (underfed). This could be either due to lack of knowledge about the balance feeding or due to the high cost of balanced ration. Farmer fear that feeding balanced ration would be less cost effective, as a result the high yielding animals are kept underfed, which reduce their milk production. If a dairy animal remains underfed for couple of days, it takes twice time to return back to the same milk production, what to talk of its genetic potential peak, where it could have reached; had they were fed with balanced ration continuously.

We observe that while a farmer is starting a dairy farm, (s)he is more prompt in bringing animals to the farm, without thinking about the ration to feed the animals. While the fodder should be cultivated at the farm at least 2 months prior to the arrival of the animals, which does not happen in most of the cases.

It is obvious that a farmer, would calculate revenue against the feeding cost. Very rarely in India the dairy animals are fed with a sympathetic view that they are a living body, a “Gaumata” and need to be fed with balanced ration according to their DMI requirement for milk production. Even Govt provides Rs 18-28 per animal to various “Gaushala’s” of India, for abandoned animal’s maintenance, compared to the requirement of maintenance diet for an dry-empty abandoned cow needs minimum of Rs 60-75/= per day. If the animals is in-milk, it needs at least 140-150/= per day for feeding. How with the meager amount Gaushala can feed an abandoned cow? It is also a fact that the majority of Indian farmers rear their dairy animals on home grown Agri-residues mixed with locally purchased mesh-cattle-feed, which is mostly “unbalanced”. Keeping dairy animals in “underfed” & on “less-fiber” diet is true across the country, mainly either due to the un-availability of green, dry fodders and the concentrate or due to the miss-management (no stocking of fodder & feed at harvest time) or due to very high cost of the ingredients of ration.


Looking to the demographics of the farmers of India, we can categorize dairy operation into following 3 categories;

(1) Zero input low output: Majority of dairy animals in India are reared on “zero input low output” pattern of animal management system. This category includes labour, landless, marginal and small farmers, who own about 75% of livestock of India, however, together these farmers own only 47% of aerated land, the marginal farmers (< 1 hectare) who own maximum number of livestock, own only 34.5 per cent of land. They are either hand-to-mouth in managing livelihood or they do not how with existing resources dairy animals can be fed aa balanced ration (Refer the ration balancing project run by NDDB). However, they feel happy with whatever they get as revenue from the milk by rearing them on zero input system of animal management.

(2) Low input moderate output: This category farmers are mostly small farmers having >1.0-2.0 hectare land holding. They rear animals with low input and try to get moderate output, by feeding home grown Agri-residue plus some dry and green fodders. Though they are aware that animals need balanced feeding, however, due to the difficulty in meeting two ends (income vs expenses) of livelihood, they rear animals on low input. Such farmers would be less than 10-12% of the Indian farmers, holding less than 12-15% of the aerated land. They are the one who understand that allocation of land for fodder cultivation is needed, however, they may not allocate due to the pressure of cultivating cash crop or cereals on their land.

(3) Intensive input high output: These are generally the large farmers, owning above 4 hectares of land, who are about 5-8% of the Indian farmers, holding more than 38-40% of aerated land of India. However, they own a smaller number of livestock, as selling milk is not their priority, they only keep the animals for milk at home consumption and for the sake of keeping livestock. These farmers try to feed their animals a balance diet. Such farmers are currently entering into fodder business of silage manufacturing, etc.


In addition to the above, the animals are kept underfed in Khatal’s. Khatals are makeshift establishments in-and-around the cities to serve fresh milk to urban consumers, who generally prefer fresh milk direct from udder. One way it is a good system to avail udder-fresh milk directly from the source, without any major adulteration other than water & froth; however, the animals are exploited and spoiled at Khatals as described below:

Khatals rear the best quality, high yielding dairy animals, however, most of the animals are exploited, as they are fed just to get the maximum milk even with hormonal interventions (oxytocin injections). Located in the vicinity of cities, the availability of green fodder is obviously less, the animals survive on dry fodder + calculated amount of home grown Agri-residue + some green fodder. In Khatals male calves are invariably starved to die or eliminated from the “Khatal” to save feeding cost. The female calves are also not fed properly, as the Khatal’s objective is to earn more money from in-milk animals and not to raise the female calves into a healthy cow. Mostly these female calves are sold to village farmers, who mostly fall under the “low input-low output” category or they are shifted to the farm of these Khatals. In this way India loses high yielding animal in a lactation as the Khatals shift to their own farm in villages or sell to villages, these villagers can’t feed them a balanced ration. Oxytocin injection is openly used on these high yielding animals for quick milk laid-down, resulting in spoilage of spontaneous milk laid system in such good animals.


According to 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, most small and marginal agricultural households now depend on wage work. The report includes that in the 2002-03 round of the survey, about 69.6 per cent of the agricultural households possessed less than 1 hectare of land, which increased to 76.5 per cent by 2018-19. These marginal farmers now own about 34.5 per cent of the land as opposed to 23 per cent in 2002-03. Source: The print dated 6th Oct 2021.

As the latest data of the above report has shown, farmers with small landholdings have to look for avenues outside farming, and their share has been expanded. This should ring alarm bell for the policy makers, says the expert. According to Samridhi Agarwal, research associate at the Delhi-based think-tank, center for policy research, “the government should priorities policy reforms that help the earning farmers who are largely dependent on farming for income so that their operations remain viable, they do not exit agriculture and become wage laborers”. Source:

It is said that milk production in India is by "masses"; these are marginal & small farmers, who own majority of livestock of India and earn their livelihood from dairy farming. They contribute the most into the milk production of India to maintained it at the place where it is today. The worry is, if this section of farmers exits farming, whether the Indian milk production would grow at the same pace?

Table 1: Categorization of Farmers

Table 1, describes the land ownership-based categorization of India farmers. Table 2, describes that most small and marginal farmers, which are the back-bone of milk production in India, are earning their major portion of livelihood through wage, not though farm?

Table 2: Land Holding vs Income source

The Table-2 shows that as the land-holding goes up, the dependency on farming increases. This is visible from the fact that agricultural households that possessed more than two hectares of land earned more than 61% of their income from farming on average and above 10 hectares earning about 90% of their earning from the farm. The data from report, shows that more and more small and marginal rural households having less than 1 hectare land, earn average 55% of their earning as wage laborers compared to the 32% from farming.


1. Situation Assessment Survey, 2019, released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation

2. Nikhil Rampal, The Print, 6 October, 2021 12:01 pm IST; India’s small and marginal farmers have essentially become wage laborers

3. (05 FEB 2019 4:26PM by PIB Delhi)

The Writer:

Dr PK Shrivastava

Dairy Business Consultant

M/s Dairy Consultancy India, Bangalore


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