India’s compounded annual growth rate of milk production in the last decade has been about 4.4 per cent against about 2 per cent globally. The demand for milk is steadily growing. With higher GDP growth and possible increase in exports, the aggregate demand for milk may cross 200 million tonnes by 2021-22. In real terms, India has added on an average about 4 million tonnes of milk each year during the last ten years and the challenge is to add almost twice that volume in order to produce more than 200 million tonnes in 2021-22.

India has a very large population of cattle and buffaloes with very low productivity. According to the 19th Livestock Census 2012, the country had 76.69 million adult female cattle and 56.59 million adult female buffaloes. The local adult female cattle population has declined by 0.22 per cent between 1992 and 2012, whereas crossbred cattle and buffalo population has increased by 6.16 per cent and 1.29 per cent respectively (Table 1). The average milk yield per day of both local cows and buffaloes has been steadily increasing whereas that of crossbreds has been almost constant.

Table 1: Trend of population and productivity of cattle and buffaloes, 1992 to 2012.


1992 1997 2003 2007 2012




Adult females (million)
Local cows


55.08 52.21 56.76 55.42 -0.22
Crossbred cows


9.35 12.30 16.16 21.27



43.81 46.77 50.97 54.47 56.59


Adult females in milk (million)

Local cows

27.55 27.36 27.63 30.69 29.65 0.37
Crossbred cows


5.93 8.18 10.72 14.30



25.89 28.41 33.32 35.64 36.57


Milk yield per day per animal in milk (kg)
Local Cows


1.83 1.92 2.09 2.36 2.30
Crossbred cows


6.36 6.53 6.53 7.02



3.12 3.83 4.24 4.44 4.80


Source: Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI.


Assuming that the current adult female population in milk of local cows, crossbred cows and buffaloes would continue to increase annually at the rate of 0.4 per cent, 6 per cent, and 1.75 per cent respectively for the next ten years, the productivity targets per day per animal for local cows will have to be raised from the current level of 2.36 to2.8 kg, for crossbred cows from 7.02 to 8.4 kg and for buffaloes from 4.8 to 5.7 kg to achieve the target of about 200 million tonnes by 2021-22 (Table 2).

Table 2. Productivity targets for indigenous and crossbred cows and buffaloes by 2021-22.


2012-13 2021-22
Adult females in milk (million)

Yield per day per animal in milk


Adult females in milk


Yield per day per animal in milk


Total milk production

(million tonnes)

Local cows


2.36 30.72 2.8 31.6
Crossbred cows


7.02 24.2 8.4




4.80 42.6 5.7







Are these productivity targets achievable? This paper argues that these targets are definitely achievable if we invest properly in creating adequate infrastructure, take up programmes for genetic improvement of animals and invest in extension of infrastructure to create positive environment to exploit fully the genetic potential by providing balanced nutrition and protecting animals against diseases. Equally important would be to evolve right institutional structure that transmits knowledge and builds capacity of people to implement genetic improvement, nutrition and healthcare programmes on a long term basis.

Genetic improvement of animals

There are many success stories in genetic improvement in advanced dairy producing countries. Remarkable increase in average lactation yields have been achieved (Table 3). Some 70 to 75 per cent of the improvement in productivity in these countries is attributed to genetic improvement and the other 25 to 30 per cent to improvement in environment.

Table 3. Average lactation yield per cow in some advanced dairy producing nations and India, 1975 to 2012.


1975 1985 1995 2005 2010 2012


7,919 8,739 9,822 10,767




5,913 7,441 8,877 9,587




4,622 6,366 7,496 8,531




4,163 5,517 6,288 6,278




5,684 6,656 8,123 8,640




5,370 6,613 7,299 7,468




3,441 4,646 5,215 5,810




632 815 1,087 1,284



920 1,120 1,297 1,570 1,679


Source: FAOSTAT. (Figures in Kg)

These countries have achieved a steady genetic progress by following more or less similar approach as given below:

  • Build an infrastructure for progeny testing of bulls and improve its efficiency to achieve higher genetic progress by putting in place increasing number of bulls under test, evaluating bulls put under test with increasing number of daughters, adding more and more traits for evaluation of bulls, and refining continuously the methodologies for estimating breeding values of bulls;
  • Build an infrastructure for semen processing and ensure that only the very best bulls produced through progeny testing programmes are used for semen production and that the semen production and processing technologies are refined to produce ever-increasing number of doses per bull with high sperm motility and no disease causing organisms;
  • Expand the infrastructure for delivering artificial insemination (AI) services at the doorstep of producers using only high quality semen doses produced from high genetic merit bulls;
  • Establish an information network to collect accurate and timely data on an individual animal basis for all events such as registration, AI, pregnancy diagnosis, calving, measurements of all traits like milk production, milk components, type characters, etc. as they happen and generate and make available information to producers, service providers and policy makers for further decision making and planning;
  • Put in place effective quality control systems for progeny testing programmes, semen production and processing, and AI delivery ensuring continuing improvement in the quality of products and services provided.

These countries started their progeny testing programmes long time back (sometime in the early ’seventies) and gradually expanded their infrastructure for evaluation of bulls and for dissemination of genetics in their population. These countries have demonstrated that by running efficient progeny testing programmes for production of high quality genetics and using it for breeding the maximum number of animals gradually genetic improvement happens in any population. They have demonstrated that an increase of about 80-100 kgs in average genetic potential of animals per year is feasible with efficient genetic improvement programmes. Genetic improvement is a slow process, but genetic gain is cumulative and therefore with a long term implementation of genetic improvement programmes on scientific principles, as shown by them, a reasonable genetic progress is possible in any population.

Status of genetic improvement in India

The efforts that have been made to increase the genetic potential of our vast varied animal population include:

  • There are 51 semen stations in the country having 3,250 bulls under semen collection. Only 15-20 per cent of these bulls have been selected based on some genetic improvement programme, the rest have been procured based on one or two records of their dams. This means there is negligible selection pressure applied in producing the replacement stock.
  • These 51 semen stations in 2012-13 produced 81 million doses. The top ten stations accounted for 54 per cent of the total doses produced in the country and the top 25 semen stations some 80 per cent. This means that there are 26 small semen stations that produce only 20 per cent of the total doses. The Central Monitoring Unit (CMU) of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries has a system of certifying semen stations for production of quality disease free semen doses. The CMU in their last evaluation in 2010 awarded either grade A or B to37 semen stations. The average number of semen doses produced per bull by all semen stations together in the country is about 25,000 against an average of one lakh doses in advanced dairy nations.
  • There are presently about 93,579 AI centres of which 66,674 centres are operated by the state governments, 18,062 centres by the cooperatives, and 8,843 centres by other agencies. These centres together in 2012-13 carried out 58.32 million inseminations. In addition, there are many freelance AI technicians providing AI services. Their exact number is not known, but presumed to be about 10,000 carrying out some 8-10 million inseminations. About 25 percent of the breedable animals are bred through AI and 75 percent are bred through natural service. Of the 58.32 million AIs performed each year, 36.33 million are performed by state governments and their agencies, 8.53 million by the dairy cooperatives and 13.46 million by other agencies. The overall conception rate is assumed to be around 25-30 per cent. There is no regulation in place on AI delivery services.
  • Not many have put in place an information system for breeding programmes that captures data at source on activities such as registration of animals, artificial insemination, pregnancy diagnosis, calving, milk recording, typing, growth measurement of calves, etc and that provides relevant information to different stakeholders.
  • There is no legislation for regulating matters related to quality of bull production, semen production and AI delivery.

Strategies for genetic improvement of animals in the country

To accelerate the genetic progress in the country, the percentage of animals bred through artificial insemination need to be raised substantially. The bulls required for semen production need to be obtained largely through establishing an infrastructure for progeny testing for different breeds in their native tracts, and the existing infrastructure for semen production needs to be strengthened to produce the required high quality disease free semen doses. It would also be necessary to establish information systems for collection of data related to animal breeding activities on an individual basis and put in place legislation for regulation of breeding activities. These are the key strategies that have been adopted under the National Dairy Plan (NDP) initiated by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). The key targets set under NDP to achieve a steady genetic progress in the diverse population of cattle and buffaloes in the country are given in Table 4.

Table 4.National targets for bull production, semen production and AI delivery under NDP.


Existing (2011-12) By end of NDP-I 2016-17

By end of NDP-II 2021-22

Breedable animals inseminated (percentage)




Semen doses required (number)




Bulls under collection (number)




Bulls required for replacement (number)




Bulls provided through genetic improvement programmes (percentage)





Table 5. Approved progeny testing programmes under NDP-I.


End Implementing Agency State

Cumulative project end target for HGM bulls

Holstein Friesian

Karnataka Milk Federation



Holstein Friesian Crossbred

Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala



Uttarakhand Livestock Development Board



Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation

Uttar Pradesh


Kerala Livestock Development Board



Jersey Crossbred

Tamil Nadu Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation

Tamil Nadu


Andhra Pradesh Livestock Development Agency

Andhra Pradesh



Mehsana Milk Union



Banas Milk Union




Animal Breeding Research Organisation

Uttar Pradesh


Haryana Livestock Development Board

Haryana 221

Punjab Livestock Development Board



Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Gujarat


The following broad strategies have been adopted to achieve the set targets (More details are available on the NDDB website:

I. Making available quality bulls

  1. Establish large field progeny testing programmes for pure Holstein Friesian, Holstein Friesian crossbred and Jersey crossbred cattle, and Murrah and Mehsana buffaloes in the pockets, where best genetics of these breeds is available. The institutions that have the requisite experience and capacity to undertake such programmes have been identified and assigned the responsibility to undertake these programmes on a long term basis to produce the required high genetic merit (HGM) bulls. The institutions that have initiated progeny testing programmes under NDP-I along with their cumulative project end targets are listed in Table 5. These programmes are treated as national programmes and follow common standard operating procedures (SOP).
  2. Some important breeds of cattle such as Gir, Kankrej, Rathi, Sahiwal, Tharparkar and Hariana and that of buffaloes such as Jaffarabadi, Nili Ravi and Pandharpur for which it will not be feasible to initiate progeny testing programme to begin with, a pedigree selection programme has been initiated in their respective native tracts (Table 6). An infrastructure for AI and milk recording is being created under these programmes. A common SOP to be followed under the pedigree selection programme has been laid down.
  3. It is also planned to import some 400 bulls of Holstein Friesian and Jersey breeds to take the advantage of the genetic progress achieved in the advanced dairy producing nations.

Table 6. Approved pedigree selection programmes under NDP-I.


End implementing agency State

Cumulative project end target of HGM bulls






Banas Milk Union




Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala




Haryana Livestock Development Board




Rajasthan Livestock Development Board




Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala




Maharashtra Livestock Development Board



Nili Ravi

Punjab Livestock Development Board



II. Producing required high quality disease free semen doses

As semen production is a specialised job, it may be necessary to have a limited number of large capacity semen stations rather than a large number of small capacity semen stations to meet the requirement of semen doses. Under NDP-I, those semen stations that have been awarded A or B grade by the CMU and have the potential to expand their capacity have been considered for strengthening. The target is to produce 100 million frozen semen doses by 2016-17.

III. Expanding and modernising AI delivery systems to deliver AI service at producers’ door-step

It is planned to raise the proportion of breedable cattle and buffaloes inseminated from the current level of 25 per cent to 35 per cent by 2016-17 and to 50 per cent by 2021-22. Under the ‘National Programme for Bovine Breeding and Dairy’, the Government of India has planned to convert the existing 84,000 government stationary AI centres to mobile centres and support additional 30,000 private AI workers.

The state governments and dairy cooperatives currently provide AI services at prices that are much lower than the actual cost being incurred by them. This is a major deterrent for professional private sector AI service providers to enter this sector. Therefore, it is important that the state governments are persuaded to gradually charge for AI services that is closer to the full cost and provide subsidy for below poverty line (BPL) milk producers. The other important intervention required is to improve the quality of AI services. The average number of inseminations required per conception is assumed to be around four, which needs to be brought down to less than two. Towards this end, AI service providers would need to ensure that AI technicians are trained/reoriented at certified AI training institutes to implement the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

IV. Putting in place a National Information Network

The country has to think about putting in place an information network for productivity enhancement activities including animal breeding, nutrition and healthcare. The facility should be such that any service provider can join the network and use it for capturing data at source for activities that it undertakes and also to use it for generating information for decision making and planning at all levels of its organisation. At aggregate level, the database created from such a system (aggregation from all service providers) can provide information for long term planning and investment. NDDB has put in place such an integrated information network referred to as “Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH)”. All projects implemented under NDP are using INAPH. Already some three million animals have been registered under this network and this number is increasing rapidly.

V. Enacting legislation for regulating breeding activities

A bill to regulate breeding activities—bull production, semen production and AI delivery—has been drafted (Bovine Breeding Bill 2009) and circulated by the Government of India to all state governments for comments. It is imperative that this bill is passed and the Act is enforced to regulate and improve the quality of breeding services being provided in the country.

Providing balanced nutrition

It is well established that animals will not produce to their genetic potential unless they are fed balanced ration. There is evidence to show that when a milch animal is fed a balanced diet, it receives the required nutrients to produce milk commensurate with its genetic potential. As the genetic potential of animals enhances, their requirement of nutrients also goes up. It is important that: farmers are advised on feeding balanced ration so that existing resources are used efficiently in right proportion avoiding wastage; the utilisation of existing resource are improved with value addition; farmers are advised on supplementation of their ration with mineral mixtures, vitamins etc; infrastructure for production of compounded feed and feed supplement expands; and, fodder production from existing land improves with use of certified fodder seeds.

 Protecting animals against diseases

High emphasis needs to be placed on bio-security measures at semen stations to maintain disease free bulls and produce disease free semen doses. Effective management of diseases is very critical, for diseases can easily neutralise the production enhancement efforts. Besides, the presence of diseases in animals not only causes high economic loss to the farmer, but it also denies him the opportunity to participate in international trade and thus the prospects of fetching a better price for his produce. Efficient management of diseases therefore is perhaps the single most important function of the Governments—both at the Centre as well as State. In order to address disease control in a more targeted manner, the “Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases in Animals Act” should be enforced in all states. The states need to finalise state rules for implementing this Act and notification of control areas. Prompt reporting of epidemics is essential for undertaking immediate control measures to prevent further spread of the disease. Recording of each incidence of disease also helps in estimating economic loss, undertaking risk analysis, developing disease control strategy and also for obtaining disease free status for the country, which is very important for international trade.

 Institution building

Mere strengthening of existing institutions would not be enough. There is need to evolve professional organisations that commit themselves in building a strong infrastructure and taking up programmes on scientific principles to bring about sustainable genetic change in the population, to increase availability of feed and fodder resources and create advisory network to advise on balanced ration, and to extend veterinary health services to protect animals against diseases. This would also entail strong capacity building programmes and infrastructure for scientific research to offer solutions to practical problems. The research institutions in the country are not actively working with the industry. The systems of measurement, data collection and taking decisions on reliable data in the area of animal genetics, nutrition and health care are very weak. No regulatory systems are in place to control productivity enhancement products and services. It is necessary to create governance capacity in these areas.

With the growing demand for milk on one side and a large genetic resources on the other, producing the required quantity of milk to meet the domestic demand of milk and even exporting a small quantity seems to be very much feasible, provided the country creates the right infrastructure and takes up programmes on genetic improvement, providing balanced nutrition and healthcare of animals on scientific principles through responsible institutions on a long term basis.