India’s indigenous cattle population has fallen by 8.9 per cent between 2007 and 2012 even as the numbers of exotic/crossbred cows and female buffaloes have gone up by 28.8 and 8 per cent respectively, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s latest Livestock Census. Disturbing though this may seem to some, the trend is a reflection of rational economic choices made by farmers.Traditionally, cattle and buffaloes were reared for the following purposes — draught power for agricultural operations, dung for manure and fuel, and milk. The advent of tractors, chemical fertilisers and LPG cylinders/kerosene has undermined the first two roles; as a result, farmers use bovines mainly as milch animals. This has resulted in a premium on female animals; not surprisingly, the decline in male animals between 2007 and 2012 is much sharper at 18.8 per cent for cattle and 17.9 per cent for buffaloes.
Even within females, indigenous cattle lose out not only to their crossbred counterparts that yield more milk, but also to buffaloes that produce milk with higher fat content. So, farmers find it far more attractive to maintain buffaloes and cows containing genetic material of ‘western’ breeds such as Holstein Friesian and Jersey. The rising price of milk has only tilted the economics further in favour of these animals. Only a little over a fifth of the country’s milk now comes from indigenous or desi cows; at the current rate of decline, they are threatened with total marginalisation. One can draw a parallel here with many of our traditional tall wheat or paddy cultivars that have been displaced by semi-dwarf high-yielding varieties in the post-Green Revolution era.
Posted on September 10, 2014 by odishakhabara