Domestication of livestock for milk and draught power was a major milestone in man's progress from primitive existence to civillised life. Strangely, even now, India's economic progress is heavily dependent on livestock, which will remain so for many more decades to come. Unfortunately, such an important productive asset is in a totally neglected state, resulting in colossal wastages and losses to the economy, particularly to the rural poor who raise and utilize livestock for milk,
ploughing, carting, dung and meat.
Livestock Sector Contribution
Livestock species consists of cattle and buffaloes, sheep and goats, pigs and poultry. Their asset value and estimated market value of their outputs may be of the order of
Rs. 1,00,000 Crores. Yet the livestock sector gets almost not more than Rs.100 Crores
Strangely, livestock gives food products valued at Rs. 1,00,000 Crores (milk, meat and eggs). And indirectly, work animals contribute power for ploughing and carting, valued at Rs. 6,000 Crores per year. Dung is used as manure and fuel, which may be worth Rs.5,000 Crores. And yet this vital sector is not encouraged or modernized.
Benefits of modernization
Welfare programmes for high-yielding milk cows and buffaloes are fairly well taken care of by the NDDB and the ICAR institutions (10 per cent of the total milk production). 50 per cent of poultry sector has been commercialized. But draught power and meat sectors do not get any support. The present status and potential benefits of modernization are elaborated in this paper. Primary producers and users of livestock are the 300 million marginal and small farmers, to whom livestock and adjunct equipments, agri-implements and carts are the main instruments of production. These are of inefficient design and due to lack of organizational support have an adverse effect on productivity of the food grain sector. Consequently, farmers live at subsistence level. Main reason for persisting poverty is the low productivity of the Livestock sector. With improved implements, carts and equipments, farmers could benefit directly by way of increased food grain output, employment and earnings. Poverty levels will come down. Work animals would suffer less.
Draught Animal Power (DAP) Sector
Details of the draught animal power system (work) are at Encl.2. 80 million draught animals (market value- Rs.15,000 Crores) make available 40 million horsepower, in as many points of application. Work animals provide energy for ploughing 100 million hectares, which forms two-thirds of the area cultivated in the country. They haul 25,000 million tonne kms of freight per year. Work animals save at least six million tones of petroleum fuel, valued at Rs. 12,000 Crores per year; most of it inn precious foreign exchange. Replacement by petroleum-based mechanical power will take several years, and would need an investment of over Rs.100,000 Crore; which is clearly beyond the reach of marginal an small farmers as well as the economy.
As many as 70 million rural-based work animals are used only for 100 days a year. During the rest of the 250 days, when animals are idle, they can be put to work for an additional 100 days. An additional 7,000 million animals days of work can be generated. Incremental net earning may be as much as Rs.10,000 Crores per year, which will directly benefit 70 Crores of rural people.
Implements - Poor Design
As many as 60 million agricultural implements and 14 million bullock carts are at present of the traditional design and inefficient variety. By improving their designs, effectiveness of the animal's draught effort can be doubled, with no additional effort by them. Also, animals can be worked for longer hours, at reduced work effort, with less fatigue and injury to them. Potential benefits are enormous, which remain untapped due to indifference to this vital resource.
30 varieties of improved agricultural implements have been designed by CIAE, of ICAR, at Bhopal, for operations such as, weeding, plucking, seeding, winnowing, threshing, grinding, crushing, nut cracking, water lifting, etc. But these are not being used in the field. Rural Development schemes should give attention to the modernization of the DAP system.
Carts - Inefficient
Improved carts are made of steel, fitted with pneumatic tyres and smooth bearings, which reduces tare weight as well as axle and rolling friction. Four wheel carts eliminate neck load and injury. Better harnesses increase efficiency of draught effort. Donkeys are excellent work animals, potential of which is not tapped. Double piece yoke and even bar system of harnessing will enable use of young animals and females for work. Also, animals of different species, size and strengths can be put to work. All these improvements will more than double the productivity of the DAP system, bringing in additional employment and earnings as well as increased agricultural output.
Animals and Environment
450 m livestock depend on the meager pasture land of 12 m hectares, which is a heavy burden on land. Overgrazing degrades pasture, Livestock encroach neighbouring forests, depleting forest resources. Solution lies in increasing pasture and raising fodder crops. Due to lack of adequate feed and nutrition, cows and she buffaloes do not calve regularly. Work animals are unable to work efficiently. Very often, these animals are sent for slaughter ahead of their useful life. In the meat sector, slaughter houses pollute the city environment - atmosphere and water if adequate sanitary measures are not provided. Meat produced in such unhygienic conditions is a public health hazard. Illegal slaughter has many ill-effects. Animals are not even checked for diseases. Establishment of RAs will reduce: illegal slaughter, pollution, wastage in transport, animal suffering, etc.
Human progress depends on the judicious utilization of animals and nature resources in a balanced way. Self interest alone would provide sufficient impetus for proper animal care. Massive and intensive campaigns are required to create awareness among farmers that better animal care would lead to tangible economic benefits to them by way of increased income. This can only be achieved through massive input of technology and management. The economic benefits arising from improvement in productivity would adequately justify the investment required for modernising the existing system.
Thus modernization of the Livestock system will lead to all around benefits to society. The sector involves an output value of Rs. 100,000 Crores. Millions are engaged in this sector. Main reason for poverty is neglected of this vital sector. Food grains sector gets massive subsidy. But Livestock sector, managed by farmers in rural areas, gets no support. Rural Development and poverty alleviation schemes should include the Livestock sector in a more intensive way.