Context: Animal husbandry significance and challenges in India
Contribution of live stock to economy:
- Food: The livestock provides food items such as Milk, Meat and Eggs for human consumption. India is number one milk producer in the world. It is producing about 176.34 million tones of milk in a year (2017-18). Similarly it is producing about 95.22 billions of eggs, 8.89 million tonnes of meat in a year. The value of output of livestock sector at current prices was Rs 8, 11,847crores in 2015-16.
- Fiber and skins: The livestock also contributes to the production of wool, hair, hides, and pelts. Leather is the most important product which has a very high export potential. India is producing about 43.5 million Kg of wool per annum.
- Draft: Bullocks are the back bone of Indian agriculture. Despite lot of advancements in the use of mechanical power in Indian agricultural operations, the Indian farmer especially in rural areas still depend upon bullocks for various agricultural operations.
- The bullocks are saving a lot on fuel which is a necessary input for using mechanical power like tractors, combine harvesters etc. Pack animals like camels, horses, donkeys, ponies, mules etc are being extensively used to transport goods in different parts of the country in addition to bullocks.
- In situations like hilly terrains mules and ponies serve as the only alternative to transport goods. Similarly, the army has to depend upon these animals to transport various items in high areas of high altitude.
- Dung and other animal waste materials: Dung and other animal wastes serve as very good farm yard manure and the value of it is worth several crores of rupees. In addition it is also used as fuel (bio gas, dung cakes), and for construction as poor man’s cement (dung).
- Storage: Livestock are considered as “moving banks” because of their potentiality to dispose off during emergencies. They serve as capital and in cases of landless agricultural laborers many time it is the only capital resource they possess.
- Livestock serve as an asset and in case of emergencies they serve as guarantee for availing loans from the local sources such as money lenders in the villages.
- Sports / recreation: People also use the animals like cocks, rams, bulls etc for competition and sports. Despite ban on these animal competitions the cock fights, ram fights and bull fights (jalli kattu) are quite common during festive seasons.
- Companion animals: Dogs are known for their faithfulness and are being used as companions since time immemorial. When the nuclear families are increasing in number and the old parents are forced to lead solitary life the dogs, cats are providing the needed company to the latter thus making them lead a comfortable life
Challenges facing by livestock sector in India:
- Industrial production: The R&D is epitomized by multi-national company support to non-ruminant production, particularly for chicken meat and eggs and, to a smaller degree, pig meat.
- These landless, industrialized systems achieve high livestock productivity and quick supply growth based on improved and more uniform genetics and controlled conversion of high-energy feeds into muscle and fat.
- Industrial systems generate large concentrations of waste nutrients. There may also be a danger in the shrinking of animal genetic diversity as proprietary breeds with desirable characteristics for producing uniform industrial products begin to account for growing shares of total production.
- Increasing densities of animals kept create the need for rising use of antibiotics and may increase the risk of disease transmission due to higher concentrations of animals and people being in one place
- Intensifying crop-livestock system: Intensification in these systems is invariably associated with higher animal-to-land ratios and greater labor input to the farm. This creates employment, but at some point pollution becomes an issue. Rising opportunity costs of labor may also become an issue, as is happening in China.
- Desirable genetics appropriate for smallholder systems as opposed to just average productivity increases also become an issue, as illustrated by the reversion of smallholders in some areas to mixed indigenous-exotic animals as opposed to the pure breeds introduced previously
- Health and food safety constraints to market access for livestock products: A key finding of a recent ILRI/FAO study was that capacity in many developing countries is lacking with respect to compliance with, or even understanding of, SPS requirements, and of broader issues related to exporting livestock products.
- Fodder shortage: India faces a green fodder shortage of 63.5 per cent, says the vision document of the country’s premier research institute Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI).
- The shortage of dry fodder is 23.5 per cent, estimates the national institute that is under the administrative control of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. If the current situation continues then India’s green fodder shortage will reach 66 per cent and dry fodder will reach 25 per cent by 2030 (see ‘Worst is yet to come’,).
- Traditionally during drought, livestock assumes the role of a shield for farmers, mostly small and marginal. But with the acute fodder shortage, sustaining cattle has become extremely difficult in drought-affected areas. If the situation continues, it will completely derail the rural economy.
- Continued dietary changes with improving incomes, particularly due to the improving affordability of output sourced from livestock (milk, meat, eggs), means steady demand growth.
- The higher efficiency of livestock production, as well as the development of a livestock industry in the erstwhile less developed (that is, low-cost) states, suggests an adequate capacity build-up to meet this demand.
- Geographical diversification also provides some resilience to local supply disruptions that can emerge from disease- or weather-related events.
- The combined weight of animal products in the consumer price index is about 11 per cent, and while the inflation rate in these products has risen slightly in recent months after falling to all-time lows late last year, it is unlikely to stay elevated.
- Therefore, productivity needs to rise much more for generating surpluses at a cost that increases domestic demand and is also globally competitive, so that the sector generates more export income.