Goats, sheep drive India’s livestock numbers

The number of camels, pigs, donkeys, horses, mules, ponies and indigenous cattle breeds has drastically declined

By Jitendra
Published: Thursday 17 October 2019
The Nagaur cattle mela in Rajasthan. Photo:

The number of Indian livestock has increased due to a rise in the population of sheep and goats, even as indigenous cattle and other farm animals have declined, according to the 20th Livestock Census.

The livestock census has been periodically conducted once in every five years since 1919. But the 20th census was conducted after six years.

“The 19th Livestock Census in 2012, was done in four years’ time. Hence, we extended one year,” Bhushan Tyagi, assistant commissioner of the Department of Animal Husbandry told Down to Earth.

The findings of the 20th Livestock Census, which was started in 2018, were released on October 17, 2019.

The findings show that the total number of Indian livestock has increased. Livestock numbers were 528.69 million in 2007. This declined to 512 million in 2012, which increased to 535.78 million in 2018.  But this increment is driven by a sharp increase in the number of small ruminants like sheep and goats, which is nearly 95 per cent of the total livestock increase.

There were 71.5 million sheep in 2007, which reduced to 65 million in 2012, and increased to 74.2 million in 2018. The number of goats was 140.5 million in 2007, which declined to 135.1 million in 2012, and rose to 148.8 million in 2018.

Declining indigenous cattle breeds

The census also showed that indigenous Indian cattle breeds like Gir, Kankrej, Pulikulam, Kangeyam, Ongole and others.

While the total number of bovines including cattle, buffaloes, yaks and mithun have minimally increased, the number is not up to the level of 2007.

In 2007, foreign cattle breeds numbered around 33 million. They increased to 39.7 million in 2012 and it reached to 50.4 million in 2018.

At the same time, indigenous Indian cattle breeds have consistently decreased despite the launch of government schemes like the Gokul Mission for improvement of indigenous breeds. The number of indigenous Indian cattle breeds was 166 million in 2007, which decreased to 151.1 million in 2012, which further decreased to 142.1 million in 2018.

The decline in numbers is explained due to people abandoning indigenous cattle because the governments have drastically changed their preferences.

Then, there has been the spiral of violence in rural areas in the name of cow protection. Many Bharatiya Janta Party-ruled states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra came out with regressive laws, which damaged prospects of indigenous cattle.

This led to the breakdown of the cattle economy which contributed one-fourth of the income of rural Indian households. 

Due to a lack of implementation of the schemes to improve the stock of indigenous cattle breeds, people prefer exotic foreign breeds over indigenous ones. They also shifted to buffaloes due to the rising violence. The number of buffaloes has marginally increased. It was 108.7 million in 2012, which increased to 109.8 million in 2018.

Dwindling numbers

The numbers of donkeys, camels, pigs, horses, ponies and mules have also sharply declined.

The number of camels has decreased by 37 per cent in comparison to 2012. In 2007, there were 517,000 camels, which decreased to 400,000 in 2012, which further decreased to 250,000 in 2018.

Donkeys decreased by 61 per cent in comparison to 2012. The total number of donkeys in India in 2018 is 120,000. In 2007, this number was 438,000, which reduced to 320,000 in 2012.

The number of pigs also registered a decline. There were 11.1 million swine in 2007, which decreased to 10.2 million in 2012. In 2018, there were 9 million swine.

Horse and ponies also sharply declined by more than 45 per cent. The number was 612,000 in 2007, which increased to 625,000 in 2012, and then sharply decreased to 340,000.

Poultry increases

The total number of domestic fowl in the country in 2018 was 851.81 million. It increased by 16.8 per cent from the 2012 census. The total number of commercial poultry in the country was 534.74 million in 2018, an increase of 4.5 per cent from 2012.

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