Module 1. Introduction and history of dairy development in India

Lesson 1

1.1 Introduction

Milk is the substance created by nature to feed the mammalian offspring. All species of mammals produce milk for this purpose. Several centuries ago, perhaps as early as 6000-8000 BC, ancient man learned to domesticate species of animals for obtaining their milk for consumption. These included cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats and camels, all of which are still used in various parts of the world for the production of milk for human use. The ancient Indian scriptures provide ample proof of dairying being an integral part of life in the olden days.

Dairying in India is considered an implement for social change. The nation's milk supply comes from millions of small producers, dispersed throughout the rural areas. These farmers maintain an average herd of one or two milch animals, comprising cows and/or buffaloes. The animals' nutritional requirements are largely met by agricultural waste and byproducts. Milk production in India is dominated by small and marginal landholding farmers and by landless labourers who, in aggregate, own about 70 percent of the national milch animal herd. This pattern is in sharp contrast to that in the advanced countries of the world which practice specialized dairy farming. This small scale and scattered production creates a serious problem in marketing of milk. Organized dairying on the pattern of developed countries is conspicuous by its absence in India. Although the major challenge for the dairy sector is to increase milk production, policies must become more market-oriented.

1.2 Milk Production

India ranks first in respect of cattle and buffalo, second in goat and third in sheep population in the world. As per 2008 data, India has more than 175 million cattle which are about 13% of the global cattle population (www.fao.org). Of these, nearly 23 million are crossbred, comprising nearly 13% of the total cattle population. The country has nearly 99 million buffalo population, which is about 55% of the world buffalo population. However, in spite of this large cattle wealth and India’s position as the highest producer of milk, productivity per animal is only 987 kg/lactation as compared to the world average of 2038 kg/lactation (www.dahd.nic.in). The typical size of animal holding is only 1 to 5 due to poor economic conditions. Milch animals are reared mainly through the utilization of crop residues in India, thus making milk production subsidiary activity to agriculture. In the advanced dairying countries, milk is produced from comparatively fewer, but high producing animals. In countries such as Denmark and Israel, though the total number of bovine population has steadily declined over the past decade, the total milk production has gone up, thus pointing to increased productivity of animals.

The trend of the past two decades indicates that global milk production has grown only by 0.78% as against the growth rate of 4.07% in India. India has the distinction of being the largest milk producer in the world, with 110.04 million tonnes (MT) of milk produced in 2009 (www.fao.org), despite very low productivity per animal. Cow milk (44 MT) accounts for about 40% of the milk produced in India, while buffalo milk (61 MT) makes up about 56% and other milch animals such as goat, sheep and camel account for the remaining 4%. The highest cow milk production was registered by USA accounting for a share of 15% in the world, whereas buffalo milk production was the highest in India with a global share of 68%.

India is among the world’s largest and fastest growing market for milk and milk products, the market size in value terms being USD 47.6 billion (INR 2000 billion) growing at nearly 7.5% annually. In India, along with Oceania and USA, where milk is produced at competitive prices, prospects for future growth seem bright during the current century. India is able to produce milk at very competitive prices on global basis owing to the use of crop residues for rearing the animals. Owing to this, huge opportunities exist in the export of milk and value added milk products to neighboring countries where domestic production cannot meet demand. As subsidies on agriculture commodities have to be withdrawn as per the directives of the World Trade Organization (WTO), most of the exporting nations of European Union were compelled to readjust their economies by curtailing milk production.

1.3 Dairy Animals

Domesticated cattle are usually classified into two major groups namely zebu (Bos indicus- Fig. 1.1) and European (Bos taurus – Fig. 1.2). Most of the cattle indigenous to the tropics belong to the zebu species.


Fig. 1.1 Zebu cattle


Fig. 1.2 European cattle

The term humped cattle is frequently used as a synonym to zebu cattle because the external trait which most clearly separates zebu from European type cattle is the hump over the shoulders. Zebu cattle are well adapted to the tropical environments, mainly owing to a high degree of heat tolerance, partial resistance to ticks and thus to the many tick-borne diseases occurring in tropical countries, low nutritional requirements due to small size, low metabolic rate, and may ensure more efficient digestion at low feeding levels. However, the potential for milk production is poorly developed in most zebu cattle and therefore, the milk yield is low. Zebu animals are late maturing, both physiologically and sexually, and heat symptoms are weaker than in European cattle. The fat and solids-not-fat content of milk is higher in zebu cattle than in most European dairy breeds. Some of the well known indigenous breeds of milch cattle are Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, Tharparkar, Hariana and Kankarej. For small and marginal farmers and in conditions where feed resources are limited, upgradation of non-descript stock could be done by utilizing superior germplasm of indigenous breeds. Systematic efforts to increase milk production in tropical countries by crossbreeding with European dairy breeds dates back to early years of the last century. Exotic breeds namely Jersey, Holstein-Friesen, Brown Swiss and Red Dane were employed for the venture. The milch bovine population in the country as per the 2003 Livestock Census is nearly 116 million, of which buffalos, indigenous and crossbred cows comprise 44, 45 and 11% respectively (www.nddb.org). In India, most of the milk produced (~ 56%) is buffalo milk. In the hot and humid climate of the country, the water buffalo contributes more to milk production than the cow because of its inherent ability to thrive under the adverse climatic conditions. Buffalo population has increased at a faster rate than cattle, confirming the pivotal role the buffalo plays in the agricultural economy of Indian sub-continent. Buffalos are known to be more efficient converters of poor quality roughages and crop residues into a valuable milk commodity. The Murrah (Fig. 1.3) is known to be the best milk yielding breed among buffalos.


Fig. 1.3 Murrah buffalo

1.4 Milk Consumption

The role and consumption pattern of milk in the traditional diet varies widely in different regions of the world. The tropical countries have not been traditional milk consumers, whereas in Europe and North America, traditionally milk and milk products have been parts of the diet. The total milk consumption (as fluid milk and processed products) per person varies widely from highs in Europe and North America to lows in Asia. However, as the various regions of the world become more integrated through travel and migration, these trends are changing, a factor which needs to be considered by product developers and marketers of milk and milk products in various countries of the world.

In tropical countries where high temperatures and lack of refrigeration has led to the inability to store fresh milk, milk has conventionally been preserved through means other than refrigeration. These include immediate consumption of warm milk after milking, boiling milk, or use of fermentation and drying to convert milk to more stable products. Even within regions such as Europe, the custom of milk consumption has varied greatly.

Selected Readings

Aneja, R.P. 1994. Dairying in India – A Success Story. Publication No. 1994/4. Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI)

Banerjee, J.C. 1999. A Textbook of Animal Husbandry. 8th edn. Oxford and IBH Publishing Company Pvt. Ltd., Bombay.

Last modified: Tuesday, 9 October 2012, 7:04 AM