Eastern India has always been considered a laggard in milk production and hence seen as a lucrative market for milk powder and other dairy products. Defying this long-held status, Bihar has singularly shown the true potential for growth in milk production in the eastern part of the country. The State reached a milestone in 2018-19 by achieving 10 million tonnes in milk production, growing from a mere 2.7 million tonnes in 2001-02.

This has been reached with a historic 8 per CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) over nearly two decades; against the national average of 4.8 per cent. The States ranked second and third in terms of growth rate are Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh at 6.8 per cent and 6.7 per cent, respectively.

Bihar now accounts for 5 per cent of national milk production and has moved up by three ranks to rank nine. More importantly and interestingly, an additional 10 million female cattle was added during the period 2003 to 2019, of which, 60 per cent are young stock. With this, Bihar has singularly contributed 35.7 per cent to the additional cattle stock created at the national level during the period.

This young female population forms an excellent foundation for further growth in milk production in the State and can make dairying a truly inclusive livelihood for millions. It can also provide nutrition to the rural poor, especially women, right in their homes/villages, with little cash outflow.

Proper utilisation of these and the young male calves can pave way for agricultural renaissance in the State by providing farm yard manure/vermi compost, bio-pesticide and bio-gas and enable small farmers to partake in the economic progress of the State, producing organic food in a sustainable manner.

Ten million female cattle has been added to the population of 11 million in 2003. And this comprises all the three types of cattle — crossbred cows (2.9 million), indigenous cows (4.8 million) and she-buffalo (2.5 million). Of the 10 million, five million have been added in the last seven years. As a result, Bihar today has a large number of animals as replacement stock.


However, what is of concern is that the policies/strategies that brought the State to this height may not be sufficient to take it forward from here. Hence, the policies need to be recast in consultation with farmer groups.

The ratio of crossbred cow, indigenous cow and she-buffalo to the total female cattle, which was earlier 10:48:43 (2003), has changed to 18:47:34 (2019). This indicates that the she-buffalo population has been partially replaced by crossbred cows.

This change in proportion needs further granular study in terms of agro-climatic zones and mapping to resources and skills available across the State, to enable the administration take an informed, context-specific policy decision for the future.

The average productivity of crossbred cows and indigenous cows in Bihar compares well with the national average. However, the productivity of she-buffaloes in the State is only 65 per cent of the national average — 4.4 kg/day against 6.3 kg/day. Observing the higher productivity levels in other States, we could assume that there is scope for further improvement in the long-term in all three types of animals. This can be achieved using proper breeding strategies and use of semen from a group of males born to dams which are outliers (above +3 standard deviation) in terms of life-time milk production, from within and outside the State.


Combining productivity with proportion of the three types of animals, we find that crossbred cows contribute 28 per cent of the total milk produced in the State while indigenous cows and buffaloes account for the remaining 72 per cent in equal proportion.

Hence, all the three types of animals require policy support to continue in the short and medium terms to enhance milk production. It goes without saying that the strategy for the three types will be different.

The percentage of adult females that are in milk has improved specially post 2012. In 2019, 65-70 per cent of them were in milk. This indicates maximum utilisation of the adult female population for milk production. Bihar now accounts for 15 per cent of the total female bovine population in the country.

Breeding practice

This also indicates that the breeding system being practised by the farmers is yielding good results in terms of minimising the number of unproductive adult female animals.

This could be possible due to good breeding facilities either through artificial insemination with frozen semen — carried out by government agencies and private players — or naturally, using locally grown breeding bulls. It is seen that the number of artificial inseminations being carried out by institutions has stagnated at 25-30 lakh per annum, indicating that the growth in artificial insemination, if at all, might be coming from private practitioners.

Now, the onus is on the policymakers at the State level to create an atmosphere where young calves, born to dams which are above average in milk production, are reared on a long-term basis for milk production and as parent stock for progeny. Similarly, selection of bulls for use in future breeding programme by artificial insemination or natural process also requires attention.

The writer is Faculty, Development Management Institute, Patna