Dairy development board adviser calls for arresting fall in cattle population

Kerala will have to take urgent steps to arrest the decline in cattle population and enhance productivity if milk production is to match the projected demand in the near future, according to Kamlesh R. Trivedi, adviser, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Trivedi who was here to participate in a national workshop on breeding policy organised by the Kerala Livestock Development Board, stressed the need for the State to address the macro economic issues that had led to the drop in cattle population.

“Based on the projected population and consumption, the annual milk production in Kerala would have to be increased from 2.64 million tonnes in 2010- 11 to 3.58 million tonnes over the next 10 years. This means, the average productivity of crossbred animals in Kerala would have to be enhanced from 8.92 litres per day to 12 or 13 litres,” he said.

Crossbreds constitute 94 per cent of the total livestock in Kerala while at the national level, the percentage is less than 20.

“Despite all the talk of conservation, local cows constitute only 0.6 per cent of the cattle,” Mr. Trivedi observed.

He said the State would have to work out a concrete action plan based on consultations with farmers and other stakeholders in the dairy sector to prevent a drop in the population of crossbreds. “Macro-economic issues like high labour costs and the scarcity of land for fodder cultivation that are making the dairy sector unremunerative for farmers will have to be tackled through wide ranging discussions with stakeholders.”

Milch cows

Mr. Trivedi said improving the productivity of milch cows was a more manageable task. “Pushing up the average productivity to 13 litres per day translates into a growth rate of 3.7. Considering the growth rate of 3.49 over the last 10 years, that figure seems achievable, though a lot of work needs to be done”.

Genetic side

On the genetic side, Mr.Trivedi said, uncontrolled breeding and the lack of a planned programme had resulted in a mosaic population of crossbreds. “The breeding programme in Kerala started with the Swiss Brown. The Jersey and the Holstein Freisen were added to the genetic stock at different stages, with the result that the existing population is a mosaic combination of all three,” he said.

Mr. Trivedi advocates the creation of a line of HF and Jersey crossbreds that are preferred by farmers instead of randomly crossing everything.

He sees the need for a technically sound progeny testing programme. “The current productivity of 8.92 litres/ animal/day is the second highest in India. It proves that what was done is technically good,” he said.

He feels that Kerala could tap new markets in other parts of the country to offset the diminishing demand for cattle semen within the State. “The demand for artificial insemination is going down, proportionate to the decline in population of crossbreds in the state. It will require a well thought out programme with branding and promotion to sell outside the State,” he said.

He said big dairy farms could come up in Kerala in the near future if farmers found fodder cultivation more profitable than food crops.

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