Animals : For Wealth And Health




We are annoyed at the stray cattle in the streets; some of us love our pet dogs and cats; we, of course, consume more and more milk and milk products; many love to eat chicken / mutton biriyani. But we practically forget about animals being an integral part of the (current and the past) human civilisation. Most of the discussions about agriculture would be around grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits or cash crops like sugarcane, cotton, oil seeds etc., even about spices. The concern and therefore coverage about animals is very low; slightly better about birds like chicken and eggs.

Even when we discuss about the woes of Kisans, it is mostly about the plant based agriculture. This is mostly because bulk (volume and weight) of our food is around rice, wheat, pulses, vegetable etc... (even for an Indian non-vegetarian).

Extracts from the National Sample Survey 66th Round (July 2009-2010), all India average value of consumption of broad groups of items per person for a period of 30 days is as under (in Rupees); is given in the following: shown in brackets is percentage of value of consumption. We have obtained theses figures and other figures from the websites of Animal Husbandry department of the Government of India.

Polutry Consumption

A good look at the numbers will show strikingly the relative rural poverty. It will also show that in general Indian consumption of milk, milk products, meat etc... are still a small part of the total food. Indian consumption of protein is till low, mainly because most Indians cannot afford to manage protein within their family incomes. No wonder animals do not enter into the calculus of mental pictures.

However, if we look livestock sector (animals and birds) some interesting features emerge:

* For 2010-2011 (in Rs. Billion i.e. Rs. 100 Crores in current prices)
Total Indian GDP 71574
GDP Agriculture Sector 10938
GDP Livestock Sector 2603
As % 2010-2011 1980-1981
Agriculture As % of Total GDP 15.28% 34.72%
Livestock As % of Total GDP 3.64% 4.82%
Livestock As % of Agriculture 23.80% 13.88%

Over the decades from 1980 the share of agriculture to India’s GDP has fallen very sharply to less than half. Note it is not production; it is in money terms (value in economics). Other sectors are earning much more than agriculture. No wonder agriculture is not the preferred option for the farmer or labourer.

On the other hand, the share of live stock sector in GDP though a low percentage has not fallen that sharply. Also the relative share of live stock sector i.e. GDP livestock as a percentage of GDP Agriculture has gone up, almost doubled. In other words, live stock sector is saving the farmer / primary producer and the agricultural labourer by providing a supplementary income. At the working level in villages, it is a well known fact. Almost each rural household resorts to some form of animal husbandry and poultry.


After more than six and half decades of independence most of the rural Indians face the brunt of Indian poverty. Majority of the poor slum dwellers in towns and cities, are the recent migrants from rural areas.

The basic approach to remove inequities is not just to tax the middle class, who are still not so well off like their counterparts in the developed world (that is the reason why middle class aspiration is to go abroad); nor to tax rich excessively as their wealth is needed to increase investment and pace of economic activity; both these are vital to create jobs and provide the poor with better incomes (than they have now).

The sure way to do it, as we have argued and described all though these articles, is to create enabling conditions to make agriculture to add much more value than at present and also to reduce those dependent on agriculture by creating systems and policies to help establish industries and services near rural areas.

When we talk of increased value addition to agriculture, we should also concentrate on animals and birds, which add better incomes to rural Indians. But unfortunately, animal husbandry and poultry are the most neglected sectors in India. Poorest of the poor, survive partly on this sector. That is the reason, it is also “out of mind” for most of our elite policy makers, administrators and political system.

An excellent treatment on the subject about Indian situation and what can be done for a better future is given in the 12th volume of the series State of the Indian Farmer, titled Animal Husbandry by N.K. Chawla, M.P.G. Kurup and Vijay Paul Sharma, brought out by Ministry of Agriculture and Academic Foundation, New Delhi (2004). We quote extensively from this book and refer it as AH Vol.12. It is a must read for all those who are interested in the subject. Update of statistics to cover the recent years can be had from the website of Department of Animal Husbandry (as we have quoted a few earlier figures). It is unfortunate that many of the policy prescriptions given by them and programmes suggested by them have not been taken up in any major way. Therefore what we will extract from that book AH Vol.12 are still relevant for immediate implementation.

To get an idea about the creation of wealth (and therefore distribution of incomes) in the rural sector we give the following information derived from AH Vol.12 along with our own comments.

  • Less than 10% of all the total land holdings are medium and large.
  • Rest of them are highly fragmented; marginal and small holdings account for over 78% of the total holdings, but they operate less than 33% of the total farming land. Average size of land holding had been declining sharply too with division within families.
  • Livestock holding shows a different picture: 70% of all species are owned by the small holder group (marginal and small along with the landless).  This is a safety valve against absolute rural poverty.
  • It is also to be noted as given in the report, livestock in India is ravaged by recurring epidemics, causing production losses and lingering morbidity, almost about 10% of the annual output, running to about Rs. 10,000 Crores.  Brunt of these losses are borne by the poor. We will discuss it in detail in the later part of this article.


From the Ministry’s website we see a table whose source is cited as FAOSTAT production data ( India is top in terms of Livestock numbers by Major Top countries of the world 2010.  We give a few extracts here (the numbers are in million) (percentage in terms of world stock given in brackets).

World stock 1428.7
India is top 210.2 (14.7%)
Brazil second 209.5 (14.7%)
World stock 194.2
India is top 111.3 (57.3%)
Pakistan second 30.8 (15.9%)
World stock 1094.6
China is top 134.0 (12.4%)
India second 74.0 (6.8%)
World stock 920.6
India is top 154.0 (16.7%)
China is second  150.7 (16.4%)
World stock 23.9
Somalia is top 7.0 (29.3%)
India is tenth 0.4 (1.9%)
World stock 1187.7
China is top  789.6 (66.5%)
India is sixth   26.0 (2.2%)
World stock 19457.7
China is top   4802.7 (24.7%)
India is fifth 866.0 (4.5%)

Note.: In horses heading, India is not even in top 10.

While in numbers, India comes in top on many items, it does not correspondingly add to the wealth of the people. To quote AH vol.12, “Livestock in India in India is characterised by very large numbers and very low productivity across all species.  Livestock production in India is the endeavour of the small holders and contributes to the livelihood of over 70 million rural householders”.

Lot can be done to improve the productivity of the livestock in terms of technology, delivery services for their health (preventive and curative) and in terms of supply chain management for inputs and outputs to the market. We will discuss some of it here mostly as given in AH vol.12. However, those issues should not be addressed merely in terms of macro numbers or in technocratic terms, as is done normally in our policy and elite public discourse.

A quote from the AH vol.12 is worth remembering: “While livestock does yield economic outputs, many aspects of household behaviour with respect to livestock transcend pure economic rationality and maximisation: as a result treating the livestock production system as a pure input-output type economic system often misrepresents the Indian reality”.


India stands first in milk production in the world with 112.5 million tonnes of milk produced in 2009.2010 (Wikipedia). India is also the third largest egg producer in the world at over 180 million eggs being produced every day or 65.7 billion eggs every year (2011-12). India is also the sixth largest producer of poultry meat (Wikipedia).

The share of milk production in 2010-11 by different sources are (as per Ministry Website).

Exotic/Cross bred 24.3%
Indigenous/nondescript cows   20.8%
Buffaloes 51.2%
Goat 3.8%

The value of output from Livestock sector was around Rs.3,88,370 crores in current prices for 2010-11. Of this

Milk and Milk Products Rs. 2,62,215 crores
Meat Rs. 64,310 crores
Eggs Rs. 15,123 Crores.

There are detailed tables in the ministry website about the value of import/export of livestock and livestock products (i.e. livestock, meat and edible meat offal’s diary and poultry products and honey, animal fodder and feed raw hide, skins and leather, raw wool and animal hair) for 2010-11.

Total imports Rs. 5651.74 crores
Total exports Rs. 25408.86 crores.

Please note that in the balance of payment front, they do very well though it is a small 2.2% of export. There is plenty of scope to increase export, as well, in addition to increasing domestic consumption.

Live stock sector gives direct employment to about 18 million people (about 5% of the total Indian workforce); importantly about 60% of the rural workforce get supplementary incomes as they themselves own livestock or work for it (AH Vol.12).

AH Vol.12 also notes that “government policies based on religious compulsions inhibit alternate uses of large ruminants, thus limiting the scope and viability of small holder diary enterprise.  They therefore lose about 40% of their potential income”.

As succession laws of the country preclude women from inheriting land, they are also denied access to credit for owning livestock (AH 12).

We feel that even without perhaps changing the land inheritance laws, ways need to be found to allow rural women to have live stocks of their own, through bank loans or otherwise.

In actual practice, bulk of the chores related to care and management of livestock in households fall on women (AH Vol.12).


  • Inputs and services to the livestock sector are still in primitive conditions. We will quote some extracts from NAH Vol.12 with some of our comments.
  • Feed milling infrastructure is very poor, with the quality of the feed being highly variable.  Only very few sources conform to the balance food standards laid by bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
  • Thus is so partly because there are only some 200 large feed milling plants of 100 to 500 million tonnes per day (mtpd) plants along with thousands of small and tiny ones with capacities ranging from 8 to 50 mtpd, scattered all over the country clustering around major grain markets in the country.
  • Only about 25% of the total raw feed ingredients are available.
  • Dry fodder has other competing users in industries (paper/packaging industry)
  • Also millions of tons of wheat straw in Gujarat and rice straw in Punjab and Haryana are burnt every year by farmers (can not Govts, if necessary with subsidies, to step in to usefully utilise these for our livestock instead of burning?)                                                                      
  • Application of industrial scale technologies (mechanical/biotechnological) for enriching and pelletising/briquetting straw, has not been attempted in the country.  (These have been identified and recommended in Vision 2020 reports of TIFAC also).
  • Also periodic droughts cause severe shortages of fodder.

Though most of the above are given in the words as in AH Vol.12, we would like the readers to note the following quote verbatim from AH Vol.12.

“India as a country had never seriously attempted to control and eradicate animal diseases with the single exception of NPRE, in recent times; but always spent the lion’s share of the public funds available to the live stock sector on curative veterinary care, a private good, generating entirely private benefit to the live stock owners.   Curative veterinary care does not influence the endemicity of diseases...”

This part of AH Vol.12 may be read by those who want to know more.

Also it explains with examples as to how there is no systematic control and vaccination against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) though a massive programme gives sporadic vaccinations (25 million) every year. The report points out that FMD protection is based on herd immunity; it requires a coverage of 85% of the animals at risk in an area to establish herd immunity.

These are but examples to show that whatever is being done by govt (central and state) are done without care for scientific facts and also sporadically, chasing, some macro numbers.


As regards the institutional services to live stock care and their state of functioning let us see the report AH Vol.12.

When planning started in 1951 India had only 2000 veterinary institutions. By the turn of the century 2001, after 9 five year plans the numbers have grown to 51,000; there are 36,000 professional veterinarians and 70,000 para vets. These institutions are for the delivery of free veterinary services and 30,000 of them also provide free artificial Insemination (AI) services!

So far so good! We can all be happy with the huge numbers. There is a full chapter 7 of AH vol.12 (pp.175 to 188) devoted to their description, state wise distributions etc.,

The report says that “the system worked extremely well for the first two plans and then petered out as it lost its momentum under the onslaught of programmes like “Grow More Food Campaign”, shifting the focus entirely on crop production.”

The report describes about AI centres in India as being single largest one in the world. The report says “Nevertheless the service covers only some 20% of the breeding female among cattle and not even 5% of buffalo; the conception rate to AI is less then 20%...”

We are aware of fairly good programme by Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF) who do lot better AI. But because of the existence of “free” Govt services, no one is able to expand their services.

The report also lists the troubles of persons using AI or other vet services; as to how often they have to go long distances to get services. Then it goes on to sum up about vet services: “The livestock owners therefore, receive in these centres only a prescription and has to procure medicines and consumables for treatment…”

“The government believes that the services are free, but there is now empirical evidence to show that the livestock owners incur substantial expenses for availing services and that the subsidies built into them seldom reach the poor”. Only 10% of those receiving free treatment belonged to the bottom. It is used by the more powerful ones! 

Similarly vaccines and pharma industry even for chicken are very poor because a lack of support policies of the government.


In the overall, a promising part of primary agriculture sector and a great potential source of incomes for Kisans is suffering from gross negligence by governments, political systems and so called active public discourse. One wonders whether it is so because it is a source of livelihood for the bulk base of (impoverished) Indians!

But we should recognise that there is a great source of WEALTH for Indians from the livestock sector not just for the poor rural Indian but also other entrepreneurs and middle class India once the great supply chain of inputs (folder etc.,) services (Like vet, AI etc.,), retail chains, and many such lucrative businesses grow around livestock; also these have great potential for exports. It can easily grow to 7 to 8% of Indian GDP, if the acts are put together.

As for HEALTH, let us not forget animal protein (milk and milk products even goat’s milk/cheese for the vegetarians and other meat protein and eggs for others) is important for better health.  Indian per capita consumption of animal protein is very low, because Indians are poor and they are poor because agriculture and livestock sector are not allowed flourish!!

Let us also not forget another part of HEALTH when we have emphasised so much about preventive veterinary care. If animals and birds get sick, rest of Indians cannot be safe.  After all it is biology at work in Nature. I need not repeat here about swine flu, bird flu etc., Live stocks are beautiful gifts of nature to the human beings who had used his/her brain over the past 10,000 years to breed them from the wild existence of nature. What we see now as cow, buffalo pigs, chicken etc., are products of human innovation.

About 3000 new species of plans and animals (including the rice and what we at now) have been engineered by human beings, through many cross breeding experiments in the past.

So we are all one – plants, animals and humans, the whole of biosphere. Health of animals is crucial for our own health. WHAT TO DO NOW FOR A BETTER FUTURE OF LIVE STOCK SECTOR? AH Vol.12 has addressed many facets of it. Live stock impact on environment; many new trade regulations due to WTO (World Trade Organisation); technologies; business realities; policy changes etc. It will be difficult to list all of them, though they are all required as an integrated whole. However, we will highlight a few of them to have a better grasp of what we can all do and ask the political / administrative systems to do.

We quote some of them with our own comments. As regards the environment there are several issues like wastes, gaseous emissions, feed/ fodder/land availability and deforestration, animal diversity etc...

The report sums up “It is clear that a growing imbalance between livestock and the environment has little to do with livestock per se, but with changing expectations of the people from it.”

What is to be done, has about six items (we give only a few):

  • Use of technologies that increase efficiency of resources use. (All are simple and available)
  • Increase feed and fodder availability through conservation and improved moisture and nutrient supply.
  • Reduce grazing pressures through levy of grazing fees (complex issue involving local politics too!)
  • Enforce regulations for the maximum BOD levels in discharge of effluents in water (which live stocks drink!).

For the overall sector some policies would be required:

  • Solutions for uneconomic cattle (religious consideration)
  • Cooperative Societies Acts cause several constraints in actual operation. There is a need to liberalise the policies to attract private capital inflows in several sectors where there currently serious problems as we have pointed out (be it in AI, or fodder or other supply chain elements).
  • Realign the policies of free heavily subsidised veterinary/AI services etc... which are basically private good and also functionally very poorly implemented and not helping the poor.  These can be privatised as they will only adapt the local realities! Instead let govt concentrate on preventive healthcare.
  • Encourage private (even foreign investors) to step up vaccine production in India for livestock care and delivery to end users. For initial period some subsidies/grants may help in building local capacities to deliver such as the institutions like BAIF.
  • Massive education programme for creating awareness in the rural people about live stock hygiene, care and immunity. For this government may also follow methodologies like “Pulse Polio” programme to create better herd immunity and continue with them. Also to enter into areas like rearing DUCKS.
  • The current behemoth of govt institutions and the staff have to realigned to service mode; if necessary decentralise the administration to create accountability to local areas and also in some cases privatise them. Use of (physically)mobile service clinics will be useful to reach the villages where the livestock are.
  • Indian S&T institutions, which receive huge grants from tax payers’ money including the ones under ICAR like IVRI, ought to be restructured to make them work for helping this mission “LIVESTOCK IN INDIA: FOR HEALTH AND WEALTH” not by starting new projects which take years, but to use the existing knowledge, in the world and India, to better use. They should be asked to work with the Industry that will emerge for Livestock Sector (if the policies referred to here are implemented) and the Delivery Systems.

Let us target about 7 to 8% of GDP from this sector, lifting to help rural India to get better incomes and also helping other Indians to get richer and healthier India can truly become a LIVESTOCK CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.

Y S Rajan