Milk production in India is growing at a historic compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.4 per cent, for past the five years from 2014-15 to 2018-19 against the average growth rate of 4.2 per cent in the preceding 22 years (see Chart 1). What are the reasons for this impressive growth rate in milk production?

India is not only the biggest consumer of milk in the world but also the biggest producer. This sector affects the livelihood and nutrition of millions of families in rural India and forms an integral part of Indian agriculture. Hence, analysing the growth in domestic milk production is important.


The 20th Quinquennial Census data of 2019 released in January 2020 gives support to the plausible cause of this unprecedented increase in the growth rate in milk production. There could only be two sources for this incremental growth: either increase in per productivity per animal and/or increase in number of female bovine population in milk, termed here as demographic dividend in cattle.

Slow and steady

As per the data available from Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of India, milk productivity of cross-bred cow, buffalo and indigenous cow is growing at a CAGR of 1 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively, during the 16-year period from 2000-01 to 2016-17 (see Chart 2) and is said to have touched 7.5 litres per day (lpd), 5.6 lpd and 2.8 lpd, respectively. This slow and steady growth rate overrules the first possible reason for increase in total production.


Hence, the other theory that can be advanced is that existing adult female population is being better utilised; in other words higher proportion of the adult female population is under milk production. Normally, adult females are sold away for slaughter, after their fourth or fifth lactation at salvage value. But due to cow vigilantism after 2014, these animals have been reared for more number of lactations; this population has shown the structural change in growth of milk production.

We do find support for this postulate when we compare the data of the previous three Quinquennial reports of livestock of 2003, 2007 and 2012 with the 20th Quinquennial report of 2019. Around 2014, the Government of India had promulgated against cow slaughter in the country. The rate of growth of total adult female population has changed between 2012 and 2019.

The growth on CAGR basis, which was a mere 0.94 per cent between 2007 and 2012, marginally increased to 1.13 per cent between 2012 and 2019. This is more so in indigenous cattle wherein the growth was negative at 0.66 per cent on CAGR basis from 2007 to 2012 turned positive to 0.32 per cent between 2012 and 2019.

The continued but reduced growth in the adult she-buffaloes from 6.15 per cent (2007 to 2012) to 5.03 per cent (2012 to 2019) may be explained by the fact that since cows were being prevented from being slaughtered, the slaughter market was absorbing more buffaloes (see Table).

Data on total young female population also reveals that more numbers were being reared in 2019 as compared to previous years. Their growth on CAGR basis rose nearly 100 per cent from 2.5 per cent between 2003 and 2012 to 4.85 per cent between 2012 and 2019.

Positive externality

This increase is more visible in female calves of indigenous cows and cross-bred cows, which increased from 0.94 per cent to 4.5 per cent and from 5 per cent to 8 per cent, respectively. As a result, young female stock available for replacement, rose from 60 per 100 adult female animals in the period from 2003 to 2012 to 81 in 2019.

Hence, the sharp rise in milk production is the result of structural change in demographic profile of female animals. It was a positive externality arising from the policy against culling, sale and slaughter of cows and the resultant vigilantism against their transport and slaughter, across the country.

The additional young stock which will come into production in next few years can contribute to this growth. This demographic dividend needs to be tapped by way of suitable policies.

In fact, this goes against the general thinking that reduction in the salvage value due to vigilantism will go against the very principle of increasing domestic milk production.


The writers are with Development Management Institute, Patna