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Livestock Farming : Livestock is a lifeline for small farmers

According to the All India Livestock Census, total livestock population in the country in 2012 was over 512 million — the largest in the world even as there was a decline of 3.3 percent over 2007. Add to this poultry birds numbering 729 million and fish to appreciate the wealth we have.

Due to indigenous species of cattle, sheep and pigs declined between 2007 and 2012 while that of crossbred/ exotic population increased, which reflects the market orientation of producers. Poultry recorded 12.39 percent increase between these two years.

Animal farming in India is largely pursued as a complementary or supplementary activity. Livestock is integrated in the farming activity. When one or both of the complementary activities are scaled up, the balance is lost. They may start competing with each other for resources, including managerial capacity.

With major encouragement given to crop production to tide over the food crisis during the 1960s, the sector grew faster. Of late, several entrepreneurs have taken up livestock enterprises as a standalone commercial activity.

At the grassroots level, animal farming supports a sizeable chunk of livelihoods both in rural and urban areas. An average rural household earned about 12 per cent of his net income from animal farming.

Animal farming integrates well with the family’s economic crusade against unemployment, poverty and uncertain income flows from main activity.

Even today women are employed in this sector. According to 66th round of NSSO survey (2009-10), 1.6 per cent of males and 9.5 per cent of females usually worked on principal or subsidiary basis in farming of animals.

Besides, animals give food and fuel for humans and manure for farms while eating on left-overs and by-products from crop cultivation which is otherwise considered waste.

Thus, one can operate an animal farm with zero cost and good income by mere by-product management between different livelihood activities on the farm.