Cattle population in 2019 is 192.49 million, about 0.8 per cent more than in the 2012 census, when it had dropped to 190.9 million from the 199.07 million of the previous census in 2007.
The increase was mainly driven by a sharp increase in cross-bred cattle that give higher milk quantities and also due to a higher female indigenous cattle population. The number of female cross-bred cattle has risen from 33.76 million in 2012 to 46.95 million, an increase of 39 per cent. The indigenous female cattle population rose 10 per cent from 89.22 million in 2012 to 98.17 million.
However, the number of indigenous cattle has gone down from 2012 to 2019. The number of milch animals has gone up by 6 per cent. Cross-bred animals contributed around 28 per cent to India’s total milk production of 188 million tonnes in 2018-19, it is estimated. The buffalo population increased to 109.85 million from 108.7 million in 2012.
“The latest numbers show why India’s milk production has grown at over 6 per cent (annually) since the past few years, despite drought and falling prices, as the number of milk-bearing animals is steadily rising,” said R S Khanna, a senior dairy consultant.
As the number of cross-bred female cattle rise, he said, the entire concept of lean and flush seasons for milk will go away, as these animals give similar quantities in all seasons. Overall, the livestock population was 535.78 million in 2019, up from 512.06 million in 2012, mainly due to increase in sheep and goat population.
“It is important that milk production is increased by improving per animal productivity. The more the number of animals that produce milk, the more would be pressure on land and fiercer would be competition between man and animals for survival,” observes Sharad Gupta, editor, Dairy India (Edition Seven).
Also, the census shows a sharp increase in backyard poultry. Poultry birds in 2019 were estimated at 851.18 mn, up 17 per cent from 2012. In it, the share of backyard poultry is 46 per cent higher than in the earlier census while that of commercial poultry farms has risen by 4.5 per cent.
“The sharp increase in backyard poultry is a significant change in the rural landscape and can help in alleviating poverty,” Khanna said.