From chronic shortages of milk, India has emerged as the world’s largest milk producer with production exceeding 140 million tonnes in 2014–15. This success did not come overnight. It is the result of four decades of persistent toil by milk producers and their cooperatives, supported by a shared vision, the commitment and the expertise of the professionals of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).

India’s milk production stagnated during the 1950s and 1960s. As our population grew, per capita milk availability declined. The absence of adequate processing facilities and organised milk marketing of the milk not consumed in our villages provided an opportunity for traders to establish and entrench themselves. Milk producers were forced to depend on, and were exploited by these traders, particularly in the fl ush season. The government had set up dairy schemes in metro cities but a large part of their throughput was met with commercial imports of milk powder. There was, therefore, no incentive to produce more milk. However a successful cooperative was functioning in Anand, set up on the advice of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who later became the Deputy Prime Minister of independent India.

In 1964 the then Prime Minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, visited Anand and spent a night in a village to understand for himself the reasons for the success of this milk cooperative. Seeing for himself the advantage of a milk producers’ cooperative, he set up the NDDB. Dr V. Kurien who was the General Manager of the Anand milk producers’ cooperative, was appointed NDDB’s fi rst Chairman.

Operation Flood (OF), an ambitious programme conceived by the NDDB, was launched in the 1970s. Its objective was to meet growing urban demand for milk through a network of village milk producer societies federated to district milk producers’ cooperative unions. The district unions in a state were in turn federated to a state level cooperative federation. The fundamental idea was that milk producers would own the business.

 Food aid for development

The OF programme was the first in the world to use food aid for development. Milk powder and butter oil were combined with cooperative-produced milk and sold in the Metro markets. The sales proceeds were used to fi nance milk production, procurement, processing and marketing infrastructure. OF is a rare example of food aid being used to promote self-suffi ciency and to integrate millions of small and marginal producers into the economic mainstream.

From the start of OF, dairying and milk production were no longer considered to be ends in themselves. Rather, dairying came to be seen as an instrument for social and economic change. To ensure there was an incentive for domestic production, the milk powder and butter received as food aid was sold in the domestic market at par with domestic prices. Milk procured by milk producer cooperatives and the movement of processed milk to urban demand centres were the programme cornerstones. An assured, remunerative market created producer confi dence. They responded by producing more and more milk, building the foundation for national self-reliance. By 1976, regular commercial imports of milk powder ceased.

The three phases of Operation Flood were implemented between 1970 and 1996 with a total investment of about Rs.16,000 million, financed through a combination of European Union food aid and soft loans from the International Development Agency.

OF introduced modern liquid milk processing plants and created a national milk grid with road and rail tankers moving milk from surplus to defi cit areas. The tanker design and manufacture was facilitated by NDDB along with innovations in milk packaging and dispensing, a range of traditional and western milk products and a national marketing network. NDDB also facilitated the design of the electronic milk tester which assured producers that they were being paid fairly for the milk they supplied. NDDB also promoted the manufacture of quality veterinary vaccines and biologicals through a subsidiary company—Indian Immunologicals.

To meet the need for skilled, committed managers, NDDB conceived and facilitated the setting up of the Institute for Rural Management, Anand (IRMA). All of these combined to transform dairying into a remunerative occupation for millions of India’s rural poor, linking them to a market and ensuring regular cash in their hands through payments made to them by their village societies.

Currently about 15 million dairy producers are members of around 150,000 village cooperative societies. They receive milk payments of about Rs. 225,000 million annually. The dairy cooperatives currently procure just under 30 million kilograms of milk per day, marketing it as liquid milk and milk products. To date, an aggregate milk processing capacity of about 50 million litres per day and cattle feed manufacturing of about 11,000 metric tonnes per day has been created in the cooperative sector.

Milk production in India has been growing at around four percent annually compared to about 2.75 per cent growth in world milk production. Daily per capita availability of milk in India is now around 300 grams compared to the world average of about 290 grams. India is perhaps the only country in Asia and Africa to have ensured national self-sufficiency in milk. India’s milk producers—small holders with few milch animals—have changed the face of Indian dairying. Singly, they may pour just a few litres of milk, but together they have made India the world’s top milk producer.

Milk is India’s single largest agricultural commodity in value, greater than the combined value of paddy and wheat. Milk also accounts for more than two-thirds of the value of India’s livestock output. More importantly, despite climatic constraints, milk production in India has grown as a small holder milk production system relying largely on crop residues and byproducts as feed and on family labour for farm operations. This approach has helped add economic value to resources such as crop residues and family labour, which otherwise have limited alternate value.



Aided and supported by NDDB’s professional management and technical services, combined with training and research, new cooperatives have been guided and nurtured and established ones have been assisted to realise their full potential. For decades, NDDB has been the catalyst of change in India’s dairy sector and the year 2014, when I decided to step down as the Chairman, marks the beginning of its golden jubilee celebrations. Therefore an overview of the organisation which has played such an important role in the development of dairying in the country would be in order.

NDDB—Institution of national importance

NDDB was set up in 1965 and registered as a society. In 1987, the National Dairy Development Board Act made NDDB a statutory body and an Institution of National Importance. Its main function is to plan, promote and organise programmes for the purpose of development of dairy and other agriculture-based and allied industries and biologicals. It is also mandated to adopt the cooperative strategy in an effective manner.

NDDB presently employs about 400 professionals, including veterinarians, engineers, dairy technologists, agricultural, finance and management professionals. It includes about 12 technical and support groups. NDDB has also set up four wholly-owned subsidiaries to aid in implementation of some of its objectives.

A brief account of the major activities carried out by NDDB over the years includes:

Human Resource Development: Capacity building through sustained development of human resources has been a key thrust area since NDDB’s inception, with a wide variety of specialised training programmes being conducted through its own training centres. More than 800,000 milk producers, cooperative leaders and employees have participated in about 24,000 training programmes.

Specially designed programmes are conducted for women to increase their participation in cooperatives, enhance their leadership skills and to prepare them for governance. Institution building is a continuous process and village society-level programmes for Management Committee members encourage them to attain and pursue a shared vision. Custom-designed programmes are conducted for union and federation directors, enabling them to develop strategic plans including short and long term goals and the process to achieve these goals. A Farmer Induction Programme at Anand introduces milk producers to the functioning of cooperatives, giving them the confidence to organise their own when they return to their villages.

Nutrition: Feed accounts for about 70 percent of the cost of milk production. NDDB’s Animal Nutrition Group has developed ways to optimise the efficiency of available feed resources, reducing the cost. NDDB’s efforts have led to the development of improved technologies in cattle feed production. Area-specific mineral mixtures have been formulated based on district-specific mapping of deficiencies.

For more efficient utilisation of protein, a technology was developed to convert protein into bypass protein. Feed supplements have been developed to improve fertility, overcome anoestrus, reduce the incidence of mastitis and improve semen quality. These achievements have resulted in increases in both the quantity and quality of milk produced.

A user friendly software has been developed by NDDB to enable milk producers to feed a balanced ration. The software can be installed on a handheld device which trained Local Resource Persons use to help farmers to balance rations with locally- available ingredients. A balanced ration increases milk yield and reduces the cost of feeding thus increasing the milk producer’s income. Ration balancing also results in reduction of methane emissions.

Breeding: Over the years NDDB has helped create an infrastructure for the breeding of genetic merit bulls and production of quality frozen semen. It has encouraged and supported cooperative efforts to put in place quality-assured AI delivery systems to reach the producers’ doorstep. NDDB helped establish two of the country’s largest semen stations which are now managed by its subsidiary NDDB Dairy Services. These stations annually produce about 18 million doses of frozen semen of different breeds, supplemented by OFsupported cooperative sector stations which produce another 14 million doses of frozen semen. NDDB has pioneered the use of the embryo transfer technology at the ET laboratory established at SAG Bidaj. Current plans call for establishing a Genomic Centre to accelerate production of high genetic merit bulls.

Health: NDDB’s initiatives in animal health include development of theileriosis and brucellosis vaccines, diagnostics and medicated feed pellets. A simple, quick and affordable test for detection of sub-clinical mastitis and pellets containing anthelmentics for ease in delivery by farmers were also developed. Recognising the massive economic loss caused by FMD in the country, NDDB set up an FMD vaccine production facility to make available quality and affordable FMD vaccine. This facility, now owned and operated by NDDB’s subsidiary, Indian Immunologicals, has become the largest FMD vaccine facility in Asia.

An Information Network: To capture and analyse reliable data, NDDB has developed an Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH), an IT application for desktops, networks and smartphones. This network facilitates capture of real time, reliable breeding, nutrition and health services data. The system is grounded in best practices and standard operating procedures (SOPs) recommended by domain experts and is designed to meet the information needs of milk producers, field technicians, milk unions, state federations, policy makers and analysts. INAPH can send messages to farmers, providing them with timely advice on animal health and management. Ear tagging with a unique digit number is mandatory for animals registered in the network.

Engineering: NDDB provides turnkey services for design, procurement, civil works, erection and commissioning of dairy and cattle feed plants. Over the years NDDB has assisted in the building or expansion of about 180 milk processing plants, 58 powder plants and over 200 chilling centres. It has also erected about 60 cattle feed plants and semen stations, mineral mixture plants and bypass protein plants for co-operatives. NDDB has created a cell specialised in setting up High Security Laboratories. One such lab has been set up for ICAR in Bhopal and another one is being constructed in Bhubaneshwar.

Quality Control: With the growing concern for food safety, NDDB established a state-of-the-art Centre for Analysis and Learning in Livestock and Food (CALF). The Centre’s laboratory offers a range of reasonably-priced, reliable and accurate analytical services for food and animal feed as well as diagnostics for animal health, genetic disorders and animal health. CALF supports NDDB’s nutrition, breeding and disease control programmes by undertaking the required tests.

Product Development: To encourage product diversification, NDDB has developed and shared product and process technologies for commercial manufacture of a range of indigenous products like dahi, srikhand, mishti doi, and gulabjamun as well as for products like ice cream, yoghurt, cheese and probiotic drinks. A number of cooperatives manufacture, package and market these products under their own brand names with NDDB technology and technical support. To meet the increased problems with adulterated milk, NDDB has developed and commercialized a ready-to-use adulterant detection kit.

Cooperative Services: During the implementation of OF, NDDB spearhead teams worked in the milksheds to organise village cooperatives and expand the cooperative network. NDDB has over the years encouraged state governments to amend their cooperative acts to provide greater autonomy for cooperatives. NDDB drafted a Model Cooperative Act which the Central Government circulated to all the states. The results, however, have not been encouraging.

Planning: Investment plans are key to future growth. NDDB has worked closely with cooperatives to determine their investment requirements and to assist them to prepare financially viable projects for funding. By now, NDDB has assisted in the preparation of about 200 detailed project reports for cooperatives. Currently NDDB is working with the cooperatives to prepare sub-project plans under the National Dairy Plan.

Finance and Appraisal: During OF, NDDB released about Rs.16,000 million after rigorous appraisal of cooperative union and federation projects. Of this, Rs. 5,500 million was given as grants and Rs.10,500 million as loans on below the market interest rates. Subsequently, appraisal and approval of projects worth about Rs. 8,500 million was carried out by NDDB for the implementation of the Perspective Plan. At present, National Dairy Plan appraisals and release of funds are being undertaken.

Management Information Systems (MIS): NDDB developed an internet based dairy information system for collection and sharing of information among the cooperatives. Milkshed studies and surveys are conducted on an ongoing basis.

Subsidiaries: NDDB has established four subsidiaries to further some of its objectives. Delhi Mother Dairy, the largest liquid milk plant in the country, processes and markets milk and milk products nationally. Indian Immunologicals Ltd manufactures vaccines, biologicals and nutraceuticals. IDMC Ltd manufactures dairy and allied equipment and undertakes projects on a turnkey basis. NDDB Dairy Services, a not for profit company under Section 25 of the Companies Act and a wholly owned subsidiary of the NDDB, focuses on facilitating the setting up of Producer Companies and some productivity enhancement activities.

National Dairy Plan (NDP)

The Planning Commission has estimated that the demand for milk is likely to increase to about 155 million tonnes by 2016–17 and about 200 million tonnes by 2021–22. To meet this growing demand, NDDB determined that it was imperative that a scientifically-planned, multi-state initiative be launched to increase the productivity of milch animals and increase milk production. There was also a need to provide rural milk producers with greater access to the organised milk processing sector. This led to the launch of the National Dairy Plan (NDP). It focuses on the 16 major milk producing states that account for more than 90 per cent of the country’s milk production and which have over 85 per cent of our breedable cattle and buffalo population. The NDP has a fifteen-year horizon with the first sixyear phase financed by the International Development Association.

The key NDP components are:

  • Production of high genetic merit cattle and buffalo bulls through Progeny Testing/Pedigree selection;
  • Strengthening A and B grade semen stations;
  • Setting up a pilot model for AI delivery services at the producer’s doorstep following the SOPs laid down by the Government;
  • Ration Balancing programme to cover 40,000 villages;
  • Strengthening village-based procurement systems and Producer Companies;

The state governments participating in the NDP are expected to commit to provide the regulatory and policy support required for creating an environment for successful implementation. This includes:

  • Putting in place an appropriate Breeding Policy;
  • Adoption of common protocols and SOPs for all breeding activities as directed by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Government of India;
  • Notification of state rules under the Prevention and Control of Contagious and Infectious Diseases in Animals Act 2009;
  • Charges for AI delivery to be gradually raised to cover full cost; and
  • AI delivery services not being notified as a Minor Veterinary Service (MVS).

In terms of overall benefits, the NDP will promote a scientific approach and systematic processes which, if followed, will take the country on the path to improving the genetics of milk producing animals in a consistent and continuous manner. It will make more prudent use of the country’s natural resources, help reduce methane emissions, strengthen the regulatory and policy measures that will create an enabling environment for the future growth of dairying in the country, and contribute to improving the livelihoods of smallholder milk producers who are the bedrock of India’s milk producing system.

The introduction of a unique identification ear tag number for milch animals will, for the first time, enable effective monitoring and capture of individual animal data. This will permit assessing productivity increases resulting from such interventions as Ration Balancing and improved genetics.

While increasing productivity is essential, there is a tendency to compare our milch animal yields with those achieved in advanced dairy countries. While drawing comparisons, one must keep in mind that unlike conditions in those countries, our land-to-population ratio is adverse and, coupled with a scarcity of resources including water and feed, it precludes our achieving those levels.



 As our economy grows and incomes increase, the demand for milk and milk products is expected to grow rapidly. If we fail to achieve the desired growth, India, the world’s largest milk producer, would need to resort to imports. Even relatively small imports by India would spike international prices. Hence, enhancing milk productivity and increasing milk production to meet the growing demand is the key challenge facing our dairy sector.

Only about 30 per cent of the marketable surplus from our villages is sold to the organised sector—with cooperatives and private firms having almost equal share. For consumers, milk processed and marketed by the organised sector is safer and less likely to be adulterated. Therefore we need to substantially increase the share of the organised sector in the procurement and marketing of milk and milk products.

Domestic prices of milk have increased substantially in the past few years which poses food and nutritional security concerns. While increases in the price paid to producers compensates them for the increased ost of production, continued price rises will erode our international competitiveness. Paradoxically, milk producers are finding the business of milk production increasingly unremunerative due to the increase in costs. This could lead to producers exiting from dairying and looking for alternatives sources of livelihood. There is no alternative but to increase the productivity of our milch animals to neutralise the increase in production costs.

Increasing productivity now requires a mindset change in the approach to breeding and disease control. We need to understand the importance of a carefully drawn Breeding Policy; the need to educate both farmers and artificial inseminators about the Breeding Policy; the need to educate farmers about the short- and long-term benefits of selecting a particular breed; the fact that the production of disease-free semen is a specialised activity; the need to train artificial inseminators to adopt the SOPs that have been laid down by the Government which include ear tagging and capturing data to enable monitoring; and to ensure that the SOPs for each of these activities is followed meticulously.

A steady increase in the productivity of cattle and buffaloes can only be achieved by improving their genetic potential. To accelerate genetic progress the NDP envisages production of high genetic merit bulls of different breeds which would be used by Grade A and B semen stations across the country. But the most difficult task we will face is the delivery of quality AI at the farmer’s doorstep. Today only about 20 per cent of our breedable animals are being inseminated.

To achieve the 2021–22 target of breeding at least 50 per cent of breedable animals through AI will mean that the number of AIs to be carried out annually will need to increase to 135 million from the current level of 45 million. Today the state animal husbandry departments are the largest AI service providers which continue to be a largely stationary service. We will have to accelerate the shift to a mobile service that reaches the farmers’ doorstep. But to achieve the increase in the number of AIs required with some level of accountability and following the SOPs that have been laid down by Government which include in addition to just AI, ear-tagging the animal, using semen which is in accordance with the Breeding Policy of the state and capturing data related to the AI on a hand held device will be possible only if we can encourage more professional service providers to provide an efficient service and charge for it. But the deterrent to the entry of service providers is the present heavily subsidised service by the Government. There is therefore a need for Animal Husbandry departments to charge the farmer the actual cost of delivering AI services. Subsidies can always be provided to BPL farmers. But unless this is done it will be difficult to sufficiently increase the coverage of animals under AI.

Ultimately, taking input services to the farmers’ doorstep and investing in educating her is going to make the real difference. I believe every processor that collects milk has a responsibility to ensure that an efficient service provider who follows the SOPs laid down by the government—from being familiar with the Breeding Policy, to ear tagging, to recording data, doing the PD on the proper date—is in place to service the farmers.

In India a number of diseases are endemic, particularly those infectious diseases that impact productivity. With the focus on high genetic merit bulls and upgrading of semen stations to produce disease free semen, it is essential that selected areas in each state participating in the NDP be declared Disease Free Zones, where regular vaccination is made mandatory. In addition to the programme on the control of FMD, Brucellosis also requires urgent attention. An effective vaccination programme is not possible without requiring that animals be ear tagged.

Green fodder is an important source of nutrients. Currently less than eight per cent of cultivable land is used for fodder production. However only six to seven per cent of the area under green fodder is sown with improved seeds. There is an urgent need to ensure production and distribution of improved seeds so as to substantially increase the use of these seeds in the area cultivated under fodder.

With competing claims for biomass for producing energy, the cost of dry fodder will continue to rise. Since dry fodder constitutes a major portion of the animals ration, it becomes all the more important to secure all the straw that is presently being burned in the fields. It can then be enriched and processed into blocks or pellets.

The dependence of small and marginal farmers on common lands around their villages to meet the demand for fodder for at least four to five months of the year will increase as the productivity of the animal improves. However most of these common grazing lands are largely degraded as a result of years of overuse and, of late, are being diverted to other uses. Incentives to encourage village communities to re-vegetate whatever is left of these lands need to be put in place urgently.

Today the estimates of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions generated by different sectors including agriculture and livestock are largely based on theoretical calculations and assumptions. Considering the importance of dairying to millions of households, it is necessary that we have more accurate values based on actual measurements under field conditions.

Studies undertaken by NDDB under field conditions have demonstrated that it is possible to reduce methane emissions by 12 to 15 per cent by feeding a balanced ration. In the Indian context, the contribution of a breeding programme which leads to animals with a higher feed conversion efficiency and feeding a balanced ration is the only solution to lower methane emissions.

Water could be a limiting factor for growth, with an increasing monopolization of water resources—a common property resource—and many of the country’s zones and districts being declared as dark. Besides quantity there is also the question of quality. Increasing salinity due to varied reasons, especially heavy irrigation without drainage—has rendered water in several locations unpalatable; levels of fluorine are also surfacing which is a cause for concern in States like Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

A serious constraint that the dairy industry faces is the lack of trained professional manpower who are committed to making a contribution to improving the lives of our countrymen whose lives depend on livestock. And this is particularly so if we wish to increase productivity.

Starting with veterinarians because they are going to be critical to the programmes aimed at increasing productivity, what we need is persons who can contribute to livestock production and the ability to plan and manage progeny testing semen stations or ration balancing programmes in the field.

If we really believe that scientific breeding strategies need to be put in place, it will require professionals trained in different areas related to breeding to bring about sustainable genetic change in the population. If genetic improvement programmes are to be undertaken in the field we need to recognise there is a science behind it.

Quantitative genetics forms the basis of any genetic improvement programme as most of the traits of economic importance such as milk yield, fat yield, protein yield, body weight, and fertility are quantitative traits. Breeders responsible for making selection decisions need to have a basic knowledge of quantitative genetics. Unfortunately, the subject is not getting the importance it deserves in our colleges. Professors teaching genetics and breeding need to have much more exposure to the field where the real problems have to be addressed. Because it is considered to be a very dull subject we don’t see enough students taking post graduate or doctoral studies in quantitative genetics.

So the onus is now on the professors to make the subject interesting with exposure and involvement in the many programmes being undertaken in the field today, so that many more students take to the subject. Other related subjects which require specialists are cytogenetics and molecular genetics.

And if we are to bring about a change in the mindset of our farmers we need veterinarians who can communicate effectively. The veterinarians of tomorrow must be communicators with the ability to convince farmers of the need to adopt new practices and this should be included in their curriculum.



To ensure inclusive growth, the role of institutions that best serve our small producers are critical to the future of dairying in our country.

The cooperative structure has been a catalyst for the extraordinary growth of India’s dairy industry, ensuring regular incomes, delivering services and inputs and developing a market. However, cooperatives have largely been overtaken by bureaucratic and political interference. Today they face the related issue of leadership. The more effectively managed cooperatives will run, but new economic challenges and the growing private sector necessitates new structures that are also producer centric but which are managed as competitive enterprises by competent professionals. We now have a legislation which enables us to set up new generation cooperatives—Producer Companies—which combine the institutional and ideological strengths of cooperatives with the flexibility and autonomy available to companies. It is hoped that the example set by the initial Producer Companies that have been incorporated in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh will pave the way for many more.

So I do believe we can be optimistic about the future of the dairy industry, with every participant—governments, universities, the industry both cooperative and private, and service providers recognising the crucial role that each must perform and take responsibility for achieving the goals we have set. This alone will ensure livelihoods to millions more of our small producers.