Animal production forms the backbone of the agriculture sector in terms of income and employment generation, equity, sustainability and foreign exchange earnings in the country.

Therefore, a crucial role is being envisaged for livestock in a system of sustainable agriculture by the Agriculture Ministry in its report “State of Indian Agriculture”.

Benefits

What is of interest is that when growth in agricultural production was lower than the four per cent target in the first four years of the 11th Plan, growth in animal production and productivity was at an encouraging pace.

In addition, animals provide non-food benefits of livestock include fibre (wool, mohair, hairs, etc.), skin or leather, dung and draft energy.

Animals also provide considerable energy through diverse draft animal breeds. The livestock sector accounts for about 29 per cent of the value of output of the agricultural sector.

The Agriculture Ministry is of the view that, in the present scenario, livestock can play a crucial role for developing a sustainable agricultural system, especially in Indian conditions where land holdings are shrinking due to rapid increase in population and increased urbanisation.

The livestock sector strength is seen in terms of the economic and social security it gives to 60 per cent of the population engaged in the animal-farm sector.

Improving resources

In trying to achieve its objective of sustaining agriculture through the livestock sector, the Ministry is looking at strategies to tackle key challenges such as improving genetic resources in cattle and overcoming diseases.

The Ministry says that the small sized of herds in most parts of the country is an important issue that needs to be tackled especially when developed nations are making use of genomic tools for vertical genetic improvement in their livestock resources.

Disease diagnosis, health and hygiene maintenance of livestock are factors identified as affecting the production potential, while availability of quality nutrients through feed and fodder resources is another problem.

The Ministry sees efficient flow of information and knowledge, services and support to the Agricultural Research, education and extension to livestock farmers for better decision-making as way forward for rapid growth.

Apart from Government policies affecting feed supply, shift in industry structure towards integrated ownership and coordination of input, production and marketing operations in livestock could help expansion driven by rising incomes. They will also shape the future growth in animal production, as well as in emerging trade and investment opportunities.

Making it profitable

Potentials and ways in which this could be achieved are by sustaining higher growth in the livestock sector, says the Ministry.

Development of value chains, market infrastructure and quality and safety mechanisms is also seen as ways to make livestock rearing profitable.

It also sees the need for a strong HRD programme in emerging areas of biotechnologies to solve problems affecting livestock.

Attention towards improving breeds, use of best production and management practices and developing a dependable health cover should be accorded priority, it says.

mrsubramani@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 2, 2012)
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