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Cattle numbers down by 6% since 2012, sharpest fall in states with tough cow slaughter laws

Livestock survey finds male population of indigenous cattle has undergone a particularly sharp decline, falling 29% since last census 7 years ago.

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New Delhi: The Modi government might be going all out to promote indigenous cattle but their total population in the country has declined by 6 per cent since 2012, showed latest livestock census.  

According to the 20th livestock census conducted by the Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, India’s indigenous cattle population now stands at 14.21 crore, down from 15.17 crore in the last census seven years ago.

The male population has undergone a particularly sharp decline, falling 29 per cent to 4.3 crore from 6.1 crore, according to the census, which has been accessed by ThePrint. The population of indigenous female cattle is up 10 per cent, to 9.8 crore from 8.9 crore.

Indigenous cattle breeds are those that are native to India. 

According to the National Dairy Development Board, India has a large indigenous bovine population with 40 well-defined breeds, including Gir, Red Sindhi, Sahiwal and Deoni. 

Also Read: With Rs 200 subsidy scheme, Modi govt aims for female-only cattle & end to stray menace

Laws fail to prevent decline

States with some of the toughest laws against cow slaughter have witnessed the sharpest decline in cattle populations, according to the survey. 

Uttar Pradesh, where cow slaughter can lead to seven years’ jail and/or Rs 10,000 fine, has registered an almost 4 per cent decline in cattle population, to 1.87 crore from 1.96 crore. 

The decline has been 10 per cent, from 1.55 crore to 1.39 crore in Maharashtra, where cow, bullock, bull slaughter is punishable with five years’ jail and/or Rs 10,000 fine. 

A retired secretary in the ministry told ThePrint that the fall in population was because India was left with a low amount of healthy semen to breed indigenous cattle.

“If India had healthy semen of Indian bulls, we would not have had to import the germoplast of Gir bulls from Brazil,” the official added, referring to a Memorandum of Understanding India signed with Brazil in 2018 for 1 lakh doses of frozen Gir bull semen for artificial insemination.  

Navneet Maheswari, president of the Kamdhenu Dairy Farmers Welfare Association in Uttar Pradesh, attributed the fall to “our failure to breed indigenous populations because of their lower milk yields as compared to the Holstein Friesian, which gives a minimum of 50 per cent higher yield”.

“Also, there are fewer male cattle heads left, which makes their semen expensive in India… Hence, farmers prefer to utilise their artificial insemination expenses to get a hybrid crossbreed with higher yields,” Maheswari added.

ThePrint had reported last month that the Centre is planning to introduce a subsidy for dairy farmers that will help them procure special ‘sex-selection’ semen at a discount to ensure primarily-female progeny. 

The move, industry experts said, is expected to serve the twin purpose of boosting milk production and tackling the problem of stray cattle.

Increase in total livestock population

According to the census data, cattle population comprises 36 per cent of India’s total livestock (cattle, buffalo, yak, sheep, goat, pig, horse, donkey, camel, etc). 

India’s total cattle population, including hybrids and non-indigenous breeds, has increased by 0.8 per cent since 2012, when it was estimated at 19.09 crore. While the number of females is up by 18 per cent, from 12.20 crore to 14.50 crore, the male population is down 30.2 per cent from 6.79 crore to 4.7 crore.

According to the 20th Livestock Census, India’s total livestock population stands at 53.58 crore, an increase of 4.6 per cent since 2012.  

Also Read: This is why India needs semen of Brazilian cow breed Mohan Bhagwat is opposed to


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  1. As long as these anti slaughter laws remain the population will decline further. Farmers want milk cows that produce the most milk and those are not of the Indian native cows. America has a glut of milk and cows!

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