Promotion of economic activities in animal husbandry sector

Dr Ravindran R *

Introduction : Globally animal husbandry is a highly dynamic sector contributing to the livelihood of the farmers by providing alternative sources of income to the farmers with agriculture being their mainstay.

Livestock Sector/Animal Husbandry is a vital component of the farming activities in India. The Indian Livestock sector with its number one position in milk production contributes to the country’s economy in a huge way of providing employment opportunities and income to the seasonally employed farming community. Livestock plays an important role in the Indian economy.

About 20.5 million people depend upon livestock for their livelihood. Livestock contributed 16% to the income of small farm households as against an average of 14% for all rural households. Livestock provides livelihood to two-third of rural communities. It also provides employment to about 8.8% of the population in India. India has vast livestock resources.

The share of livestock in agricultural sector GDP growth has been increasing faster than the crop sector in the past decade because of the rising demand for livestock products propelled by income, population, growth and urbanization. The livestock sector plays an important role in the socioeconomic development of rural households. It contributes about 4.2 per cent to the Gross Value-added (GVA) and 28.8 per cent to the Agricultural Gross Value Added.

Animal Husbandry

In India, Animal Husbandry is making a significant contribution to the national economy and socio-economic development of the country. As per the latest census, with 10.7% of world’s livestock population India has the overall livestock population at about 535.78 million, India stands first in buffalo population, second in cattle and goat population, third in sheep, fifth in chicken and sixth in camel population world over with bovine population of 299.9 million, 135.17 million goats, 65.06 million sheep, 10.29 million pig, 0.4 million camels and 729.2 million poultry as per latest census.

India stands number one in the world for total milk production with an estimated milk production of 140 million tons with an average yearly growth of over 4 percent and per capita milk availability of around 307 grams per day.

Poultry industry, which provided a cheap source of animal protein, has taken a quantum leap in the last few decades evolving from a near backyard practice to a venture of industrial promotion. The egg production in 2012-13 was 69.73 billion with an annual growth rate of 4.94% with per capita availability of 61 eggs. Meat production including poultry was 6.3 million tons.

India is the second largest producer of fish and the second largest producer of fresh water fish in the world contributing 5.86% of the global fish production. The total fish production was 9.45 million tons (3.44 million tons for marine and 6.10 million tons for inland fisheries).

As per a 2011-12 data the total contribution of the livestock sector was about 4063.5 billion which was about 21.58% of the total agriculture and allied sector. The animal husbandry and dairy sector play a significant role in supplementing family incomes and generating employment in the rural sector. More than 20.5 million workers are engaged in animal farming and about 87.7% of the livestock is owned by farmers of marginal, small and semi-medium operational holdings.

The animal husbandry and allied sectors have a vast infrastructural support from the government of India. There are more than 11,100 Veterinary hospitals and polyclinics, >22,000 Veterinary dispensaries and > 27,000 Veterinary aid centres. These institutions mostly provide clinical Veterinary and breeding services and together employ over 100,000 Veterinarians and para-veterinary staff.

India has one of the largest breeding infrastructures in the world (48 frozen semen stations, 3297 bulls and 98283 artificial insemination centres) with total production of about 81 million frozen straws per year and 62 million artificial inseminations. Veterinary education too is gaining a lot of emphasis.

The country has 13 State Veterinary Universities, 2 Deemed Universities constituting about 18.84% of the National Agriculture Research System. There are currently 55 Veterinary colleges sufficing the growing requirement of human resource and their development in the country. Growth plans are on the way to start another few colleges and exclusive State Veterinary universities.

The Livestock Sector is a fast growing sector with 5 years Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.2% which is at par with the CAGR of the manufacturing sector. This CAGR is higher than Agriculture (Crop) sector’s CAGR of 1.4% and services sector's CAGR of 7.7%.

The country is also the second fastest growing processed meat and poultry market with a CAGR of 22%. The total meat production in the country during 2018-19 is 8.11 million tons and the sector requires investment under different categories of the value chain to harness its complete potential.

Contribution of livestock to people

A large proportion of rural (and urban) households in developing countries keep some form of livestock, usually in small numbers, either as their main agricultural enterprises or, more frequently, in conjunction with crop production.

The many roles livestock play in these households include the provision of services (e.g. draught/hauling power, insurance and savings), food (e.g., meat, milk and eggs) and non-food products (e.g., wool, hides and skins)and less tangible benefits such as status and inclusion in social networks. The relative importance of each of these different roles varies by livestock species, agro-ecological zone, production system and socio-cultural context, and livestock often assume several roles simultaneously.

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 tons of milk in a year (2017-18).

Similarly, it produces about 95.22 billion eggs, 7.70 million tons of meat in a year. The value of output of livestock sector at current prices was Rs 9,17,910 crores at current prices during 2016-17 which is about 31.25% of the value of output from agricultural and allied sectors.

At constant prices and the value of output from livestock was about 31.11% of the value of the output from total agriculture and allied sectors. During the financial year 2017-18 the total fish production in India is estimated at 12.61 Million Metric tonnes.

Fibre and skins: The livestock also contribute 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 41.5 million kg of wool per annum during 2017-18.

Draft: Bullocks are the backbone of Indian agriculture. Despite a 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 serves 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 of during emergencies. They serve as capital and in cases of landless agricultural labourers many times 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.

Weed control: Livestock are also used as Biological control of brush, plants and weeds.

Cultural: Livestock offer security to the owners and also add to their self-esteem especially when they own prized animals such as pedigreed bulls, dogs and high yielding cows/buffaloes etc.

Sports/recreation: People also use the animals like cocks, rams, bulls etc for competition and sports. Despite the ban on these animal competitions, cock fights, ram fights and bull fights (jallikattu) 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.

Role of livestock in farmers’ economy

The livestock plays an important role in the economy of farmers. The farmers in India maintain a mixed farming system i.e. a combination of crop and livestock where the output of one enterprise becomes the input of another enterprise thereby realizing resource efficiency. The livestock serve the farmers in different ways.

Income: Livestock is a source of subsidiary income for many families in India especially the resource poor who maintain few heads of animals. Cows and buffaloes if in milk will provide regular income to the livestock farmers through sale of milk.

Animals like sheep and goats serve as sources of income during emergencies to meet exigencies like marriages, treatment of sick persons, children education, repair of houses etc. The animals also serve as moving banks and assets which provide economic security to the owners.

Employment: A large number of people in India being less literate and unskilled depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods. But agriculture being seasonal in nature could provide employment for a maximum of 180 days in a year. The landless and less land people depend upon livestock for utilizing their labour during lean agricultural season.

Food: The livestock products such as milk, meat and eggs are an important source of animal protein to the members of the livestock owners. The per capita availability of milk is around 375g/day; an egg is 74/annum during 2017-18.

Social security: The animals offer social security to the owners in terms of their status in the society. The families, especially the landless which own animals are better placed than those who do not. Gifting of animals during marriages is a very common phenomenon in different parts of the country. Rearing of animals is a part of Indian culture. Animals are used for various socio religious functions.

Cows for house warming ceremonies; rams, bucks and chicken for sacrifice during festive seasons; Bulls and Cows are worshipped during various religious functions. Many owners develop attachment to their animals.

Draft: The bullocks are the backbone of Indian agriculture. The frames, especially the marginal and small, depend upon bullocks for ploughing, carting and transport of both inputs and outputs.

Dung: In rural areas dung is used for several purposes which include fuel (dung cakes) fertilizer (farm yard manure), and plastering material (poor man’s cement).


In conclusion, it can be said that for achieving the government objective of “Doubling of Farmers’ Income by 2022 diversification of farming activities should play a key role for achieving the same and the animal husbandry sector will play a very important role in this aspect.

The animal husbandry sector provides multiple employment and economic opportunities to small and marginal farmers and plays a major role in ensuring the food security of the most vulnerable part of our population to climate change.

Therefore, future Animal Husbandry interventions should focus on climate smart livestock farming that can meet the challenges of climate change and its impacts. There is also a need for understanding the latest trends in livestock farming, pooling of the knowledge sources and formulating strategic approaches for development of the sector.

For further details contact: -
Public Relations & Media Management Cell,
CAU, Imphal.

* Dr Ravindran R wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is at Department of Veterinary Pathology,
College of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry,
Central Agricultural University (I)
Selesih, Aizawl, Mizoram
This article was webcasted on October 03 2023.

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