ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Declining Cattle Population

There has been a major change in the composition and mix of the cattle population in India. The proportion of male cattle has declined sharply as farmers do not fi nd it worthwhile to maintain bullocks to plough holdings that are becoming smaller and smaller. The composition of the milch cattle population too is changing. The proportion of the indigenous breed is falling and that of the exotic/cross-bred is growing. There are differences between states in the pattern of change, but those who seek protection of the cow and a ban on cow slaughter seem to be unaware of what has been happening.

In recent times, the cattle population in India has shown signs of undergoing a sea change. Earlier, during the five years 1956–60, the cattle population of India increased at 2% a year; in Odisha the annual growth rate was 4.5% and in Uttar Pradesh 2.7%. The growth rate was as high as that of the human population. In the country there were 50 sacred bovines for every 100 humans. The situation threatened to get out of control. But over the next half century there was fortunately a change. By 1992, there were about 20 crore cattle, only 23 for every 100 humans. And during the 20 years since 1992 the total population of cows and progeny has declined, from 20 crore to about 19 crore (by 6.69%).

But this hides the differential growth of the exotic/cross-bred cattle and the indigenous type. The population of the exotic/cross-bred has been growing steadily, from about 1.5 crore in 1992 to a little less than 4 crore in 2012, constituting 7% of the total cattle population in 1992 and 21% in 2012. Taking these out of the total cattle population, the population of the indigenous cattle has declined from a little less than 19 crore to a little over 15 crore (a decline of 20.15%) over the two decades.

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