The Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying released the results of the latest livestock census, which provides headcount data of domesticated animals in the country. The census shows a further decline in the indigenous cattle population. It also shows that the cow belt of the country has shifted eastwards with West Bengal emerging as a state with the largest cattle population, leaving behind Uttar Pradesh.

What is the livestock census?
Under the livestock census, various species of animals possessed by households, household enterprises or non-household enterprises and institutions are counted at site — both in rural and urban areas. In other words, it covers all domesticated animals in a given period of time. India has been conducting livestock censuses periodically since 1919-20. This is the 20th one, started in October 2018. The last livestock census was conducted in 2012.

Which animals and birds are counted in this census?
The census tracks the population of various species of domesticated animals such as cattle, buffalo, mithun, yak, sheep, goat, pig, horse, pony, mule, donkey camel, dog, rabbit and elephant and poultry birds (fowl, duck, emu, turkeys, quail and other poultry birds). The breed-wise headcount of animals and poultry birds has been carried out in about 6.6 lakh villages and 89,000 urban wards across the country covering more than 27 crore households and non- households.

However, the key results released on Wednesday do not include the latest animal count for Delhi as the census operations in have not been completed as yet in the national capital. So the Delhi-specific figures are from the previous census.

For the first time, livestock data has been collected online through tablet computers.

What are the key results, and changes since the last census?
In 2019, the total livestock population is 535.78 million; cattle (192.90 million) is the largest animal group in the country followed by goats (148.88 million), buffaloes (109.85 million), sheep (74.26 million) and pigs (9.06 million). All other animals taken together contribute just 0.23 per cent of the total livestock population in the country.

As Chart 1 shows, in 2019, the total livestock population has registered a growth of 4.6 per cent over the last census in 2012 (512.06 million). The total population was 529.70 million at the time of 18th census in 2007.

However, the numbers of some animals such as pig, yak, horses and ponies, mule, donkey and camel have come down drastically.

The cattle population has grown marginally by 0.83 per cent, and the buffalo population by 1.06 per cent. The populations of sheep (14.13%), goat (10.14%) and mithun (26.66%) have risen significantly, underlining the preference of farmers for keeping milch animals.

What are the population trends for different kinds of cattle?
As Chart 2 shows, while the overall cattle population has increased by 0.8 per cent between 2012-19, the population of indigenous cattle has come down by 6 per cent — from 151 million to 142.11 million. However, this pace of decline is much slower than the 9 per cent decline between 2007 and 2012.

In contrast, the population of the total exotic/crossbred cattle has increased by almost 27 per cent to 50.42 million in 2019.

How do the data show an eastward shift of cattle, as mentioned earlier?
West Bengal has emerged as the state with the largest number of cattle in 2019 (Chart 2), followed by Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. In 2012, Uttar Pradesh had the largest number of cattle but this population has come down by almost 4 per cent since.

The cattle population is also down in Madhya Pradesh (4.42%), Maharashtra (10.07%) and Odisha (15.01%).

States that registered the maximum increases between 2012 and 2019 were West Bengal (15.18%), Bihar (25.18%) and Jharkhand (28.16%).

What are the implications of the decline in the numbers of indigenous cattle?
Due to continuous fall in productivity, indigenous breeds of cattle have become liabilities for farmers, forcing them to desert the unproductive cows. Farmers find other animals such as buffaloes, goats and sheep much more productive. Unlike cows, if these animals become unproductive, they can be sold and slaughtered for further processing.

Experts believe this could have long term health and environmental impacts because the milk of indigenous breed has higher nutritional value than that of crossbreeds. Moreover, there is a danger of losing these indigenous breeds, which have been developed and sustained by generations from time immemorial.

What are the trends in the population of livestock other than cattle?
The total population of buffaloes in the country has gone up from 108.70 million in 2012 to 109.85 million in 2019. States which have seen a rise in the buffalo population during this period include Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Telangana. However, some states including Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab have seen a decline in their respective buffalo populations.

In 2019, the total poultry in the country is 851.81 million — of which, 317.07 million are backyard poultry and 534.74 million are commercial poultry. While the total poultry has registered an increase of 16.8 per cent over the previous census, the backyard poultry has increased by around 46 per cent and commercial poultry by just 4.5 per cent.

Tamil Nadu is the leading state in poultry population followed by Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam, Haryana, Kerala and Odisha. Assam had registered the largest (71.63%) growth in poultry population.

Source: The Indian Express

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