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Climate change spurs positive for India: Overseas demand for indigenous cattle rises

India’s cattle population declined 4% to 190.9 million, according to the 19th livestock census in 2012, the most recent.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Nov 11, 2014, 10.49 AM IST
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India’s cattle population declined 4% to 190.9 million, according to the 19th livestock census in 2012, the most recent. 
India’s cattle population declined 4% to 190.9 million, according to the 19th livestock census in 2012, the most recent. 
NEW DELHI: Climate change is spurring something positive for India: growing overseas demand for indigenous cattle, which the government is keen to support. Markets from Australia to Brazil are seeking India’s cattle for their resilient qualities such as tick resistance, heat tolerance and the ability to flourish even with inadequate feeds.

“There is demand for Indian cattle in the international market. Brazil and Australian want Indian breeds,” agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said. “Climate change will reduce productivity in all cattle. Drop in milk yield will be maximum in exotic breeds, not so in local Indian cattle.”

The germplasm — genetic material including sperm and embryos — of cows from Gujarat’s Gir to Andhra Pradesh’s Ongole are some of the varieties that are in demand for their superior milk producing ability. The minister said government support could help to improve the quality of local breeds of cattle and increase milk production.

India’s cattle population declined 4% to 190.9 million, according to the 19th livestock census in 2012, the most recent. The number of indigenous cattle dropped 8.9% to 151.1 million from 166 million in 2007.

The government has set up the Rashtriya Gokul Mission to promote the conservation and development of indigenous cattle breeds through professional farm management and superior nutrition, recognising the potential to enhance their productivity.

The size of the export market for cattle is difficult to estimate and demand exists from tropical countries in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, according to Satyajit Khachar, a breeder of Gir cows from the former princely state of Jasdan in Gujarat. Khachar has exported cattle embryos and semen to Brazil.

“Indian breed cows are in demand in Brazil and Argentina due to their sturdy qualities and high milk yield,” Khachar said. He added that it was “very economical” to export Gir and Kankrej breeds of cows, both from Gujarat, and Ongole cattle, which are known to be resistant to mad cow disease.

“Cattle like Gir and Ongole with good breed characteristics will get you Rs 5-6 crore in Brazil. A Kankrej cow from Kutch will fetch Rs 40-50 lakh. Indian breeders have been exporting embryos, which fetch Rs 2 crore,” Khachar said. Khachar and cattle breeders from Brazil had invested in a laboratory in Bhavnagar district and last exported in 2010 and 2011.

“I would like to further export, but the process to get permission is very long,” Khachar said. The government has also received a request from the Nepal government for 1,000 cattle from India for cross breeding, ministry officials said.

Hundreds of Gir cattle were exported to Brazil in 1927, where they are called ‘jir’ and used for milk and meat. Indian cattle, including the Gir and Ongole varieties, were used in the development of the American Brahman breed of cattle.

The government allows export of germplasm, heifers and calves and live full-grown cattle only for breeding and rearing and not for scientific purposes, a government official said. Most indigenous cattle — represented by 37 well-recognised breeds such as the Sahiwal (found in Ferozepur and Amritsar districts of Punjab), Red Sinhi, Gir, Rathi, Hariana, Kankrej, Ongole, Tharparkar and Deoni — are sturdy, resistant to disease and able to thrive under extreme weather conditions and nutritional deficiency.

A senior official of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, under the agriculture ministry, said that the protection, development and preservation of indigenous cattle and their progeny was a focus of the national livestock policy.

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