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India: Global warming may affect milk producing cows

NEW DELHI: Dairy business provides livelihood to 60 million rural households and India continues to be the largest producer of milk in the world, but global warming could result in adversely impacting the overall output in the coming years.

Indian dairy scientists predict that climate change may lead to decline in milk production by over 3 million tonnes (MT) per year by 2020. The projections, shared by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) with the agriculture ministry, should be cause for worry considering the growing demand for milk in the country, estimated at 200 MT by 2021-22.

Though milk production has been steadily increasing with 2015-16 recording an output of 160 MT, the impact of rising temperatures, especially on cross-bred cows, will make the task of meeting domestic demand difficult and could eventually lead to a decline in per capita consumption.

World’s major producers, including the US, Brazil and Australia, are importing Indian animals to develop heat-resistant species, meanwhile government is focusing on indigenous breeds by introducing various schemes through its ambitious National Gokul Mission programmes.

Indigenous breeds will be least affected by global warming,” agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh told TOI.

Singh said the Centre has been assisting states in setting up ‘Gokul Gram’ i.e integrated indigenous cattle centres that would scientifically help local farmers conserve ‘desi’ breeds of cows and buffaloes.

Gokul Gram will act as a centre for development of indigenous breeds and a dependable source for supply of high genetic stock to the farmers in the breeding tract. So far, the central government has approved setting up 14 Gokul Grams in different states under the National Gokul Mission.

These Gokul Grams will be self-sustaining centres and generate resources from the sale of milk, organic manure, vermi-compost and urine distillates. They will also produce electricity from bio-gas for in-house consumption and sale of animal products. Each Gokul Gram will maintain milch and unproductive animals in the ratio of 60:40 and will have the capacity to maintain about 1,000 animals.

“The indigenous breeds of cows are not only best suited to fight the impact of global warming but these are also known to produce protein-rich (A2 type) milk which protects us from various chronic health problems,” Singh said. In order to increase the numbers of indigenous cattle and preserve such breeds, the government has also planned to set up two national Kamdhenu breeding centres. One such centre is being set up in Andhra Pradesh, while the other one will come up in Madhya Pradesh.