Strengths of Indian Dairying and Opportunities for Prosperit

Indian dairy sector has made significant strides during last few decades that placed the country at the top of the world with the production of about165.4 million tonnes milk during 2016-17, accounting to about 18.5 % of the total milk production in the world. At times, it is said that the huge dairy animal population in the country is the main reason for such high milk production in the country. Obviously, the country possess huge dairy animal population; but it is not the only reason behind the quantum of the milk produced in the country, instead it is the dairy animal production technologies developed during last few decades that played a major role in achieving the glory. However, maintaining this glory in future, in the era of changing climate, declining soil fertility and water availability, shrinking common property resources, deficiency in feed and fodder, emerging and re-emerging diseases and increasing infertility, is really a challenge. Further, unlike other developed countries wherein large numbers of cattle heads are managed at a single place, in our country it is the smallholders, who keeps few heads of dairy animals and spread over a vast area, are the major contributors for milk production. This poses problems in making available all the required inputs at the farmer’s door for efficient dairying and international trade. In spite of rise in milk production, the modern dairy industry has not really taken-off the way it was thought it would and India is a very minor player in the international dairy market. One of the major reasons hindering the competitiveness of Indian dairy sector in the global market is that much of the dairy sector still remains in the hands of small, informal, unorganized players putting constraints on promotion of high-value added dairy products, technological innovation and up gradation, and most importantly quality management.In this article, the strengths of the Indian dairying, the opportunities for prosperity and the futuristic approach to improve milk production are discussed.

Indian dairy development: A snap shot

Indian Dairying In India, the government’s attention to the dairy sector had started right from the first Five Year Plan in 1951. The Key Village Scheme implemented to increasing the supply of breeding bulls in the country by setting up bull breeding farms in the major cattle tracts was the most important component of the animal husbandry development programmes during the first three Five Year Plans. However, the milk production grew at the rate of 1% only during the period between 1951 and 1970. Based on the experiences learnt from the Key Village Scheme, a program called Intensive Dairy Development Programme was launched during Eighth Plan period and continued during the Eleventh Plan with the aim to increase the production of milk to feed public sector dairy plants.A centrally sponsored scheme on Strengthening Infrastructure for Quality and Clean Milk Production was launched in October 2003, with the main objective of improving the quality of raw milk produced at the village level in the country. Under this scheme, assistance was provided for training of farmers on good milking practices. This scheme helped the producers in obtaining training on dairying, procurement of stainless steel utensils, strengthening of existing laboratory facilities and setting up of milk chilling facilities at village level in the form of Bulk Milk Coolers. To bring about structural changes in unorganized sector, measures like milk processing at village level, marketing of pasteurized milk in a cost effective manner, quality up gradation of traditional technology to handle commercial scale using modern equipments and management skills, a new scheme called Dairy Venture Capital Fund was initiated in the Tenth Five Year Plan.

Operation Flood (OF), a massive dairy development programme was launched by the Government of India during 1970-71. This programme established milk producers’ cooperatives in villages and made modern technology available to them. Organizing dairy cooperatives at the village level, creating the physical and institutional infrastructure for milk procurement, processing and marketing services at the union level and establishment of dairies in major metropolitan centers were the major impact of the first phase (1970-80) of OF.In phase two (1981-85) the outlets for sale of “pasteurized” milk in major cities of the country were expanded. Further, processing units were established for production of butter, ghee, whole milk powder and skimmed milk powder. During phase three (1985-1996) the cooperative movement in the country was consolidated and use of modern technology, better breed of cattle, hygienic and sanitary methods of production and HACCP and other certifications were emphasized. All these innovative efforts has greatly increased milk production and ushered in a “White Revolution”, making India the world’s largest milk producer.

Indian Dairying The third phase of Indian dairy development started in 1991, when the Government of India introduced major trade policy reforms that favored increasing privatization and liberalization of the economy. The Government of India notified the Milk and Milk Product Order in 1992. Recently the Government of India has approved National Dairy Plan Phase-I (NDP-I) in 2012 that was implemented from 2011-12 to 2016-17. This plan aimed to increase the milk production through productivity enhancement, strengthening and expanding village level infrastructure for milk procurement and provide producers with greater access to markets. The strategy involved improving genetic potential of bovines, producing required number of quality bulls, and superior quality frozen semen and adopting adequate bio-security measures etc.

Inherent strengths of Indian Dairying

Indian Dairying Large dairy animal population: Although cattle, buffalo, goat and camel are considered as dairy animals in the country, only cattle and buffalo contribute more than 95% of the total milk produced in the country. The cattle population in 1951 was 115.3 millions, which increased steadily to 204.6 million in 1992, then dropped to 185.18 million in 2003 and increased to 199.1 million in 2007 and again dropped to 190.90 million in 2012. During 2007 – 2012, the total cattle population decreased by 4.10%. Among the cattle, the crossbred cattle population increased from 20.1 million in 1997 to 39.73 million in 2012. Extensive cross-breeding and various development schemes and extension programmes implemented in the country helped in increasing the crossbred cattle population in the country. The population of indigenous cattle decreased from 178.78 million to 160.49 million from 1997 to 2003 (AGR -1.78%), however it increased to 166.02 million during 2003 -2007 (AGR - 1.83%), which again decreased to 151.72 million in 2012. Unlike cattle population, the buffalo population increased steadily from 43.4 million in 1951 to 108.7 million in 2012 without any fluctuation. This indicates the growing preference for buffaloes among the milk produwcers.

World’s largest and leading buffalo germplasm holder: Buffalo are the second largest source of milk supply in the world. Trends in world milk production over the last years indicate that the volume of buffalo milk is increasing steadily at about three percent per year. In India, though buffaloes are less in numbers than cattle (108. 7 Vs 199 Million), yet they produce about 49% of the total milk produced in the country. Therefore, buffalo has paramount importance as the dairy animal of India. The milk pail of India is mainly contributed by the northern and north-central states, which are definitely buffalo, dominated areas. Analysis of the milk production across the country clearly indicates regional variations in terms of total production and productivity. The estimates of major livestock products by Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying reveal that the North and North Central region contributes to 54.5 percent of the total milk production in the country followed by the South (21.05%), West (15.18%), East (12.94%) and Northeast (1.16%) region. The Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western parts of the country has around 38, 24, 10 and 28% of country’s buffalo population, respectively. The buffalo population in a region and contribution of that region to the total milk production of the country go parallel indicating the importance of this species.

Indian Dairying Mega bio-diversity: As on date, we have registered 41 breeds of cattle and 13 breeds of buffaloes registered by the NBAGR in our country. The unique feature of these animals is that they were developed under varying agro-ecology, climate and production systems. Since time immemorial, these animals provide milk, work power and organic fertilizers to agriculture and employment to rural mass besides acting as a means for food and nutritional security. Since they were developed under indigenous management conditions and production systems, the indigenous dairy cattle breeds have been reported to be sturdy thrive under harsh environmental conditions and produce moderately under low input system. Maintenance and management of this valuable vast diversity has become a challenge as most of these breeds are low producers, facing genetic dilution or even complete erosion due to many factors like increasing pace of organization, mechanization of agriculture, over emphasis on some high producing breeds and many unforeseen factors.

High Milk Production with High Growth Rate: In world, India ranks first in milk production, accounting for 18.5 % of total world milk production. The annual growth rate in milk production during 2012-13 was 3.54 % while the growth rate during 2016-17 was 6.37 %. The milk production in the country has risen from a mere 17 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 165.4 million tonnes in 2016-17. The per capita milk availability during 1950-51 was only 130 g that increased to 355 g during 2016-17, which is well above the ICMR recommended level. The analysis of data on total bovine population and milk production also revealed that, the enhancement in milk production was not number driven but technology driven. Analysis of milk production based on “animal population based increase” and “productivity based increase” indicate that more than 50% of enhancement in milk production came from the productivity based increase. Thus it is imperative that the scientific advancements favored technology mediated increase in milk production in the country. We started crossbreeding of indigenous breeds with exotic high yielding breeds in 1960s and currently the contribution of crossbred cattle to total milk production is around 26%. The Indigenous cattle and buffaloes contribute to 21 and 49%, respectively.

Diverse Production Systems and Low Cost of Milk Production: In India, the dairy production system is more complex and can broadly be divided into four categories viz pastoral system, semi intensive or crop-livestock production system, peri-urban dairying and intensive or industrial production system. The pastoral system and crop-livestock production system aims at providing low input and obtaining medium output while the peri-urban dairying aims at medium input and medium output. Peri-urban and urban dairy production system is becoming an important supplier of milk products to urban centers, where the demand for milk and milk products is remarkably high. The existing dairy farming practices in peri-urban and urban areas of the country is largely characterized by modern dairy farming practices covering a range of intensive management practices and zero grazing. In recent years, many large sized dairy farms have been emerged in the countries who are mainly concentrating the husbandry of crossbred/ exotic cattle under high-input high-output production system. In this production system high milk producing animals are kept on stall feeding and good facilities are provided to them for breeding, health and other general management. The marketing of milk is also ensured to public and private entrepreneurs and proper recording system may also be seen at such farms.An interesting feature of the Indian dairy farming is the production system where the dairy animals are largely fed on crop residues and agricultural by products keeping the input costs low and high producing animals are supplemented with concentrate feed.Labour cost is also fairly low making the industry fairly cost competitive. Thus, the production system practiced in the country allow us to produce milk at lower cost and the cost of milk production remains to continue at lower side as compared to several other countries in the world.


Indian Dairying Realizing Full Potential of Indigenous Breeds: Although the crossbreeding contributed significantly to improve milk production, it also resulted in dilution of our Indigenous breeds of cattle. Further, the adaptation of temperate exotic breeds or their offspring out of crossing with Indian breeds need sophisticated and scientific management to exploit their full production potential under tropical climate of India. Yet another important problem is the disposal of crossbred males; since they are less preferred for draft purpose and for agricultural operations, a majority of the farmers do not wish to rear crossbred males and as such we do not have a well defined mechanism for their disposal. On the other hand, Indigenous cattle breeds, although produce less milk, have some inherent characteristics that match them with the existing production system. Some indigenous breeds are having good potential of milk production (Gir, Sahiwal, Rathi, Red Sindhi, Thaprparkar etc). Such breeds are mostly evolved in North-West part of the country. The lactation milk yield of these breeds varies between 1200-3000 litres or even more. Such breeds needs to be promoted and may also be used for grading up of non-descript cattle in different parts of the country for improving their milk productivity. Due to its unique characteristics like hardiness under unfavorable climatic conditions, breeds like Sahiwal and Gir were imported from India by wide list of countries and regions. Using Sahiwal, two Australian tropical dairy breeds, the Australian Milking Zebu and the Australian Friesian Sahiwal have been developed by Australia. The Gir breed is introduced in Brazil in 1911 and reports indicate that this breed performs better. While Indian cattle breeds are doing exceptionally fine abroad, their productivity has not been fully exploited in India. Indian cows and buffaloes have a rich A2 allele gene which helps them produce healthier milk. The frequency of the A2 allele in buffaloes is 100 per cent whereas in exotic cattle breeds it is less than 60 per cent. Suitable policy measures and concerted efforts are required to convert the strength of having huge dairy animal population into reality in terms of high milk production.

Scope for Improving Milk Productivity: Among the huge dairy animal population, a major portion still remains to be poor milk producer. The potential of having such huge dairy population is to be realized and the productivity of these animals needs to be improved. The milk production/cow/year in developed countries including USA, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands are above 7500 kg whereas in India the average milk production/cow/year is around 1200 Kg indicating enough scope to improve the productivity. Due to the research and development interventions, the milk productivity of individual animals in the country is in increasing pace. The individual cow milk productivity was 423.53 kg/annum in 1961, which thereafter increased continuously to reach 1191.54 kg/annum in 2011. Similarly the average milk productivity of individual buffaloes also showed a significant increase during the period (from 889.59 kg/annum in 1961 to 1700.78 kg/annum in 2011). The individual animal milk productivity in goats increased over the period to reach 150.16 kg/annum in 2011 from 100 kg/annum in 1961. During 2016-17, the average milk productivity of crossbred cows, indigenous cows and indigenous buffaloes was only 7.51, 2.84 and 5.23 kg/day respectively with wide inter-state and inter-district variations in the milk yield. Promising technologies for germplasm improvement and multiplication at faster rate needs to be implemented at field level in large scale.

Changing Life Style and Preference for Specialized Products: In recent years, there has been a shift in taste and preferences of consumers. They have become more health conscious and quality conscious. With an increase in life expectancy, the proportion of older people in the population will increase, and this could emphasize a demand for special nutritional products. Therefore, the dairy industry has to stand up to the expectations of the market and consumers; we need to bring in new insights to understand the customers, and bring out new and more customer-friendly products at reasonable costs while improving quality. With the evolution of novel technologies and scientific developments in the past years, an increasing number of potential nutritional products with medical and health benefits have gained an important place in the world market. These “Functional foods” are expected to perform functions such as enhancement of the biological defence mechanisms, prevention/recovery from a specific disease, control of physical and mental conditions, slowing the aging process. Many of the dairy ingredients are positioned as potential nutritional products for incorporation in functional foods. Peptides derived from casein have bioactive properties. Whey proteins have also demonstrated physiological properties. Many of the functions of whey proteins are related to the immune or digestive system. Minor whey proteins such as lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, lysozyme and immunoglobulins are effective antimicrobial agents. Lactoferrin exhibits both bacteriostatic and bactericidal activity against a host of pathogenic bacteria and yeasts. Lactose is known to enhance calcium absorption and its hydrolysis products lactulose and galacto-oligosacharides are being promoted as prebiotic growth promoters. These fractions of milk components offer tremendous scope for value addition in Indian dairying.

Untapped Potential of Improved Technologies: During the last few decades there had been a substantial development in dairy animal production and reproduction technologies. These technologies have been have been able to match with the economic demands over the last decades and yet are in a very good capacity to respond to the contemporary demand of sustainable development. For instance, recent developments in reproductive bio-techniques opened up new avenues for manipulating the reproductive process both in vitro and in vivo in dairy animals for improving their reproductive efficiency. In developed countries, the third generation reproduction technologies (For instance in vitro embryo production) are being applied at farmer level and the impact of these technologies on animal breeding and on the economic developments of breeders is very evident. However, in India still we are progressing with the first generation reproduction technologies (Semen cryopreservation and artificial insemination) and the other frontier technologies are mostly restricted to laboratories or few pockets. The infrastructure requirement, high investment associated with some of the technologies and inadequate expertise are few factors preventing the harness of full potential of these techniques. It is high time to make a self-assessment and transform the challenges into opportunities so that the potential of some of these technologies are harnessed in our country for greater multiplication of elite germ plasm and enhanced milk production.

Commercial Dairying is Gaining Momentum: Since milk consumption in India is regular part of the dietary programme irrespective of the region, the demand is likely to rise continuously. Further, the purchasing power of the consumers is on the upswing with growing economy & continually increasing population of middle class. To fulfil the requirements, large number of dairy plants in public and cooperative sectors besides several others in the private sector is coming up. Vast pool of highly trained and qualified technical manpower is available at all levels to support R&D as well as industry operations.

Bottom lines

No doubt, Indian dairying has made several strides during last few decades; however keeping in view the changing climate, declining soil fertility and water availability, shrinking common property resources, deficiency in feed and fodder, emerging and re-emerging diseases and increasing infertility, it is a challenge for us to sustain/improve the milk production substantially with the available resources. This necessitates effective utilization of available resources through propagation of animals having high input conversion efficiency along with technological backstopping for energy and input efficient milk production system. We need to gear up and develop tools to select input efficient dairy animals so that more output can be achieved from a unit input. For sustaining/improving the productivity and production, on one hand, we need to upscale the outreach of the most promising technologies and in the other hand we need to continue technology development keeping in mind the futuristic requirements of the sector. In order to meet the growing domestic as well as export demand, the dairy sector must increase its competitiveness in the global market place, by bringing about a qualitative transformation in the unorganized sector, which incidentally meets the entire demand for traditional dairy products, to ensure consumer safety.In the future, although Indian dairying is expected to undergo transformation from smallholders to semi-commercial or commercial mode of operation, still smallholders will continue to be a significant player in the country’s milk production. Thus, we need to equip ourselves with the technologies to cater the needs of smallholder as well as large scale dairying to improve upon the milk productivity and production.

Dr. A. K. Srivastava Chairman, Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board, New Delhi And Former Director and Vice Chancellor, ICAR-National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal