Since thousands of years animal husbandry has been an important supplement to agriculture. Plant parts after removal of grains are used as feed for livestock population which provides high quality protein to man and serves a number of useful purposes.

The rise in livestock population has kept pace with the growth in human numbers. Since 1950 A.D., the human population has doubled to about 5.4 billion while the number of catties, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, buffaloes, camels has grown from 2.25 billion to about 4 billion. The fowl population has multiplied even faster – from about 3 billion in 1950 A.D. to about 11 billion in the year 1990 A.D. The most populous countries in the world possess huge livestock population as well. China is the home for about 350 million pigs almost two out of every five in the world. India has about 107 million goats, 196 million catties, about 76 million buffaloes.

(1) Traditional Practices of Livestock Management:

Traditional livestock management utilized agricultural wastes, grasses, other wild herbs and useless organic matter to feed the animal population. It was essentially supplementary to agricultural activity. There was a cow, a pair of bulls, a buffalo in every well-to-do household. Goats, domestic- fowl, pigs etc. were reared by economically weaker sections of the society in general.


Domestic animals provided an excellent means of transport manures and performed such other jobs as irrigation, tilling, ploughing etc. Livestock, therefore, served man in a number of ways. In an agrarian society or agriculture-based society, domestic animals are still an essential component of a domestic establishment in most of the developing countries of the world. To millions of poor’s, livestock provide a bare means of subsistence.

(2) Modern Trends in Animal Husbandry:

During the present century animal husbandry has changed considerably. It is no longer a subsidiary unit, attached to agriculture. It has been transformed into a full-fledged industry. There are two basic reasons for this transformation:

1. A growing health consciousness has created a growing demand for meat, milk and milk- products, eggs and fish (high quality proteins) which cannot be met with traditional live-stock production system.


2. There has been a phenomenal rise in global food grain production which has resulted in substantial surpluses in a number of countries. The surplus grain is fed to livestock population which is reared in carefully controlled conditions to maximise production.

More than 1 billion people in the world consume at least one kg. of meat every week. About 170 million tons of meat is produced in the world annually. It is pork which is produced in largest amount followed by beef and chicken while mutton (goat’s meat) has the lowest rank. China is the leading consumer of pork followed by Europe while USA and former USSR lead in beef consumption.

USA leads the world in chicken production and consumption. Chicken constitutes about 60% of the total meat production in USA and on global scale it amounts to about 30% of the world chicken supply. There has been a similar expansion in global demand for milk, milk products, eggs, fishes etc.

A large part of animal population which provides milk, eggs, milk products, cloths, organic manure, transport and an efficient means of disposal of organic wastes is slaughtered to be consumed by the mankind. This shift in the pattern of livestock use has resulted in a number of problems for mankind and the environment.


Huge animal populations have to be raised using latest technology and a large amount of energy and materials which are desperately needed elsewhere. Small animal husbandry units which were essentially supplementary to agriculture have acquired the dimensions of a large-scale industry.

Animals in these farms spend their time eating a carefully measured diet under carefully controlled conditions. About 39% of global grain production – which includes corn, barley, sorghum, oats etc. – is now fed to the livestock while 12 out of every 100 people in the world go hungry. In USA livestock feed accounts for about 70% of the domestic grain consumption. The area planted to grow livestock feed has risen from 15 million hectares in 1950 A.D. to about 55 million hectares in the year 1990 A.D.

(3) Problems Originating From Modern Practices of Livestock Management:

The transformation of our traditional animal husbandry from small units attached to agricultural households into a full-fledged industry has created a variety of problems for mankind. These may be summarized as follows:


1. Heavy Demand for Energy and Material Resources:

Livestock management on modern lines requires large amounts of energy and material resources. High quality livestock feed, water, energy and suitable space etc. has to be arranged to raise huge populations of animals in carefully controlled conditions. About 38% of the total global grain production is consumed to feed animals. For a poor country acquiring self-sufficiency in food grain production requires just 200 kg of cereals per person per year. But about 400 kg of grains per person per year shall be needed if the people consume non-vegetarian diets with 20-25 gms of animal protein per day.

2. The Problems of Waste Disposal:

The traditional practice of livestock management involved raising the animal population mostly on organic wastes from agriculture whereas the faucal matter from livestock population provided excellent organic manure to the fields. This nutrient loop has been disrupted by modern animal husbandry which tends to isolate livestock from agricultural set-ups. Large amounts of organic wastes produced by animal farms have to be disposed of on one hand whereas large quantities of organic debris produced from crop field’s piles up and has to be disposed of on the other hand. The two fail to reach each other. This multiplies the problem of organic waste disposal.


3. The Problem of Methane Emission:

It has been estimated that ruminating animals discharge about 80 million tons of methane gas in belching and flatulence every year. Microbial activity in organic wastes and animal feed also releases about 35 million tons of methane per year on a world-wide basis. This adds unto about 115 million tons. A total of i 5-20% of global methane emission is contributed by livestock population we breed and about 3% of the global warming from all green house gases.

4. Over-Grazing:

We have developed huge livestock population which need something to eat, something to live on. This has resulted in enormous destruction of natural vegetation. Catties and other ruminating livestock graze almost half of the planet’s total land area. With pigs and poultry they also consume fodder and feed produced on about one-fourth of our cropland.


Though familiar and ubiquitous, the tremendous impact of our livestock population on the global environment has not been fully recognized. Over-grazing is a major threat to forests and wild-land in a number of developing countries of the world. Every year vast areas of forested land are cleared to be used as pastures. In Central and South America nearly 75% of the deforested land is put to use for growing grasses to be fed to catties.

(4) Improving Livestock Economy:

A high meat consumption and gradually rising use of grains as livestock feed is detrimental to human society. The adverse effects of excessive meat eating stems from the mistaken belief that we require large quantities of high quality proteins for good health and vigour.

This has led people in developing countries to ingest almost twice as much protein as they actually require. The danger lies in saturated fats which are present along with proteins in meat and dairy products. These fats are associated with most of the diseases of the rich and wealthy, like heart ailments, strokes and cancers of breast and colone, etc.

A diet rich in animal protein is neither healthy for man nor its promotion is a wise development strategy. Meat, milk eggs and milk products come from secondary trophic levels whereas vegetable matter, fruits, nuts or grains come from primary trophic level. Transfer of energy from primary to secondary trophic level involves a loss of about 88-90% – to produce 100 Gms of animal biomass about 1000 Gms of plant biomass are needed.

For a poor country where people use few animal products self-sufficiency in food grain production can be achieved by much less production than countries where people consume predominantly non-vegetarian diets. For about five to six fold increase in meat consumption the quantity of grains required to attain self-sufficiency per capita per year doubles up.

Therefore, instead of promoting large-scale, industry-like management, it should be better if we encourage the development of small animal husbandry units and maintain a closer co-ordination with our agricultural set-ups. A management on co-operative style which involves small farmers, the rural poor’s, should be promoted so that the benefit goes largely to the masses instead of industrialists or capitalists.

Prosperity at grass-root level shall automatically moderate many of the ill-effects originating from the huge livestock population which we have to breed. This should also keep the problems created by industry-like animal husbandry units within manageable limits.

(5) Animal Husbandry in India:

Since times immemorial animal husbandry has been a vocation complimentary to agriculture in India. Milk, milk products, eggs, meat, leather woolens etc. have always come from our livestock population, whose fortunes have fluctuated with the ups and downs of agricultural productivity. But above all it is the organic manure and cheap labour for irrigation, ploughing and transport etc. for which our animals have been most valued.

India is a land of sacred cow. There has always been more emphasis on maintenance of livestock for the recurring benefits which they provide instead of killing and consuming them in toto. This is highlighted by the fact that in spite of having a huge live-stock population, India has only about 3000 registered slaughter houses and an annual production of about 4.4 million tons of meat only.

In India goat’s meat is the preferred meat with a contribution of about 57% or more to the total meat output of the country. Catties and buffaloes are not reared for meat production. Most of the meat from large animals comes from their slaughter at the end of their productive life-span as much or draft animals. Unlike Western countries, in India, there is a little demand for processed meat which involves treatment of fresh meat in such a way as to make it more palatable to the consumers and require little kitchen work.

There are few units in our country manufacturing processed meat products, most of which are confined to larger cities. Export of processed meat from India started early in seventies and in 1994 A.D. it fetched an amount of Rs. 300 crores only.

Animal husbandry in India – some information.


Live stock population in India : Catties










Total meat production. (Annual).


million tons.


Total egg production. (Annual).




Total broiler production (Annual).


million broiler


Total milk production in India (Annual).


million kg.


Total wool production in India. (Annual).


million kgs.

Though the origin of poultry industry can be traced back to our country, as the modern hybrid he owes its ancestry to the Red Jungle Fowl of India, poultry farming as a commercial enterprise.

Is only a recent development in India. However, the growth of Indian poultry from a back-yard activity to an organized industry has been phenomenal. Organized poultry farming was introduced only in the sixties. Today, in spite of many setbacks, it has achieved a production of 28,000 million eggs and 280 million broilers. By 1992, there has been a fivefold increase in egg production and about seventyfold rise in broiler production over the figures of the year 1970.

In India dairy has been a subsidiary to agriculture and means of bare subsistence for the poor’s since pre-historic times. However, it has now developed into a well, recognised industry and during the last twenty-five years it has carved out a place among the major milk producers of the world. Milk output in 1950-51 was a meager 17 million tons per year which rose to 51.5 million tons by 1992 and in 1995 A.D. it has been estimated to be about 55 million tons per year.

An important step towards improving the Indian dairy was taken in the year 1965 A.D. when the National Dairy Development Board was established which launched a project called Operation Flood. The project aimed at building a viable self-sustaining national dairy industry on co-operative lines. It was due to the co-operation of people at grassroots levels, the small farmers with small animal husbandry units that such a high rate of growth could be achieved.