Livestock Sector in India: Trends, Challenges and a way forward

The total number of cattle in the country is 192.49 million in 2019 shows an increase of 0.8 per cent

source -shutter stock

source -shutter stock


Col. Dr Prof. A. M. Paturkar, 

Vice Chancellor, Maharashtra Animal & Fishery Sciences University, Nagpur


 It is time to restructure and revitalize the present institutional set-up in the livestock sector, enhance institution-level efficiency, and promote new institutional models to handle the emerging challenges in livestock sector development. The efforts should aim to promote and nurture the grass-root level participatory bodies all over the state as the organic link between the animal husbandry department and the smallholders.

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 and population growth and urbanization. The livestock sector plays an important role in the socio-economic development of rural households. It contributes about 6 percent to the Gross Domestic Product and 25 percent to the Agricultural Gross Domestic Product. As per the 20th Livestock census, the total livestock population shows an increase of 4.6 per cent over the Livestock census 2012. Total Bovine population (Cattle, Buffalo, Mithun, and Yak) is 302.79 million in 2019 which shows an increase of 1.0 per cent over the previous census.

 The total number of cattle in the country is 192.49 million in 2019 showing an increase of 0.8 per cent. The female Cattle (Cows population) is increased by 18.0 per cent. The Indigenous/Non-descript female cattle population has increased by 10 per cent in 2019. The population of the total Exotic/Crossbred Cattle has increased by 26.9 per cent in 2019. There is a decline of 6 per cent in the total Indigenous (both descript and non-descript) Cattle population.

However, the pace of decline of the Indigenous Cattle population during 2012-2019 is much lesser as compared to 2007-12 which was about 9 per cent. The total buffaloes in the country are 109.85 million showing an increase of about 1.0 per cent over the previous Census. The total mulch animals (in-milk and dry) in cows and buffaloes is 125.34 million, an increase of 6.0 per cent. The total sheep in the country is 74.26 million in 2019, increased by 14.1 per cent over the previous Census. The Goat population in the country in 2019 is 148.88 million showing an increase of 10.1 per cent over the previous census. The total Pigs in the country is 9.06 Million in the current Census, which is declined by 12.03 per cent. The total Mithun in the country is 3.9 Lakh in 2019, which is increased by 30.0 per cent over the previous Census.

The total number of Yak in the country is 58,000 in 2019, which decreased by 24.67 per cent over the previous Census. The total Poultry in the country is 851.81 million in 2019, increased by 16.8 per cent. The total Backyard Poultry in the country is 317.07 million in 2019, increased by 45.8 per cent the total Commercial Poultry in the country is 534.74 million in 2019, increased by 4.5 per cent over the previous Census.


Global Animal food Market

The global market for animal-based food has been expanding rapidly. This sector now holds good export potential as its exports exceeded total imports significantly. The situation turned around during the early 1990s due to increasing exports of meat and meat products and a significant decline in imports of milk and milk products. The process of trade liberalization and the efforts made by the government in recent times have certainly boosted the country's exports of livestock products to newer heights, which is visible from the increasing surplus of livestock trade earnings in recent years.


Challenges faced by the Livestock sector in India

Improving the productivity of farm animals is one of the major challenges. The average annual milk yield of Indian cattle is 1172 kg which is only about 50 per cent of the global average. The frequent outbreaks of diseases like Foot and Mouth Diseases, Black Quarter infection; Influenza, etc. continue to affect Livestock health and lowers productivity. India’s huge population of ruminants contributes to greenhouse gases emission. Reducing greenhouse gases through mitigation and adaptation strategies will be a major challenge. Crossbreeding of indigenous species with exotic stocks to enhance the genetic potential of different species has been successful only to a limited extent. Limited Artificial Insemination services owing to a deficiency in quality germplasm, infrastructure and technical manpower coupled with poor conception rate following artificial insemination have been the major impediments. After more than three decades of crossbreeding, the crossbred population is only 16.6 per cent in cattle, 21.5 per cent in pigs and 5.2 per cent in sheep. The sector will also come under significant adjustment pressure to the emerging market forces. Though globalization will create avenues for increased participation in international trade, stringent food safety, and quality norms would be required.

The livestock sector did not receive the policy and financial attention it deserved. The sector received only about 12 per cent of the total public expenditure on agriculture and allied sectors, which is disproportionately lesser than its contribution to agricultural GDP. The sector has been neglected by financial institutions. The share of livestock in the total agricultural credit has hardly ever exceeded 4% in the total (short-term, medium-term and long-term). The institutional mechanisms to protect animals against risk are not strong enough. Currently, only 6 per cent of the animal heads (excluding poultry) are provided insurance cover. Livestock extension has remained grossly neglected in the past.

Only about 5 per cent of the farm households in India access information on livestock technology. These indicate a sub-optimal outreach of the financial and information delivery systems. Livestock derives a major part of its energy requirement from agricultural by-products and residues. Hardly 5 per cent of the cropped area is utilized to grow fodder. India is a deficit in dry fodder by 11 per cent, green fodder by 35 per cent and concentrates feed by 28 per cent. The common grazing lands to have been deteriorating quantitatively and qualitatively.

 Access to markets is critical to speed up the commercialization of livestock production. Lack of access to markets may act as a disincentive to farmers to adopt improved technologies and quality inputs. Except for poultry products and to some extent for milk, markets for livestock and livestock products are underdeveloped, irregular, uncertain, and lack transparency. Further, these are often dominated by informal market intermediaries who exploit the producers.

Likewise, slaughtering facilities are inadequate. About half of the total meat production comes from un-registered, make-shift slaughterhouses. Marketing and transaction costs of livestock products are high taking 15-20 per cent of the sale price.

Other major challenges faced by the sector are inadequate availability of credit, poor access to organized markets, limited availability of quality breeding bulls, water sources depletion, deficiency of vaccines and vaccination set-up, diversion of feed and fodder ingredients for industrial use. 


A Way Forward

A sustained rise in per capita income and urbanization is fuelling rapid growth in demand for animal food products. Demand for animal food products is income elastic and low-income households with a rise in their income will spend more on them. Though urbanization would continue to be the main driver of demand growth, rural areas will not lag. Besides, the world trade in livestock products has also been increasing fast, implying opportunities for increasing exports. Livestock production has been growing faster than crop production and the momentum is likely to continue. The demand-driven growth in livestock production will enable millions of poor to escape the poverty trap, as the distribution of livestock is more equitable as compared to land. The poor have sufficient labor of low opportunity cost and are capable of producing at a lower cost. A growing livestock sector will also contribute towards women empowerment. Market opportunities due to the anticipated rise in demand for livestock products will provide an avenue for resource-poor farmers to increase production, improve their livelihoods, reduce malnutrition and thereby, contribute to the goal of overall poverty alleviation. However, there is a need to provide an enabling environment in which small producers can take advantage of the opportunities, overcome the challenges and meet the threats.


Need of linkage between production and market

Public spending in the livestock sector as a proportion of the value of the sector’s output has fallen considerably over the last two decades. This needs to be increased to re-energize the sector. Markets for live animals and their products are under-developed and dominated by informal traders who often exploit producers. The strengthening of linkages between production and markets through institutions such as co-operatives, producers’ associations, and contract farming is the need of the hour. Institutional support in terms of credit and insurance is meagre and needs to be strengthened. Further, the governments and industry should prepare producers for a quality-driven competition in the domestic as well as global market.


Eradication of Infectious diseases

Infectious diseases are a major burden on the farmers’ economy. The recently launched the National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP), aims at eradicating Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and brucellosis in livestock. The program aims to vaccinate over 500 million livestock heads, including cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and pigs, against FMD, and some 36 million female bovine calves annually against brucellosis. The program has received 100 per cent funding from the Centre, amounting to Rs 12,652 crore for five years until 2024, the release said. 

The NADCP aims to control these two diseases by 2025 and to eradicate them by 2030. The program relies heavily on the Information Network system for Animal Productivity & Health (INAPH), a Desktop / Android Tablet based field IT application that facilitates the capturing of real-time reliable data on Breeding, Nutrition and Health Services delivered at farmer’s doorstep. The system is developed by NDDB.


AI and Automation Systems

A lot of progress has been made in artificial intelligence and automation systems. The livestock farm automation system is the opportunity to tailor operations to the needs of each animal. This saves time, requires less labor, and improves product quality, increases production, efficiency, accuracy, and safety. As automation demands high installation and repair costs; hence is more suitable for commercial & institutional farms. But with increased usage, the prices will be driven down. With the automation of farms, livestock management is shifting from being an art to an application on a mobile device.



Policymakers in India are finally acknowledging a structural shift in the agriculture sector they have been noticing for a decade. Livestock now controls a quarter of the agriculture gross domestic product (GDP). The livestock sector is performing well in the manner of production, value addition, and export of dairy, fishery, wool, poultry, and other products. Apart from its performance, some threats also exist; we need to overcome them to grab the global market opportunities.




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