Livestock keeping has always been an integral part of the socio-economic and cultural fabric of rural India.
In recent years, India’s livestock sector has been booming. Livestock now contribute about 25% of the output of the agricultural sector and the sub-sector is growing at a rate of about 4.3% a year. With over 80% of livestock production being carried out by small-scale and marginalized farmers, the benefits livestock generate for India’s poor are enormous and diverse.
In November 2012, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) held a high‐level partnership dialogue to help identify gaps and opportunities on livestock research and development in India.
Discussions covered three main topics.
Dairy and small ruminant value chains – participants concluded that development of the country’s livestock value chains depends as much on smallholder access to services and inputs as it does on supply and marketing of livestock and their products. The participants also agreed that transforming India’s livestock value chains required better infrastructure and development of a policy framework for improved animal breeding.
Improved disease control – participants highlighted the need for better disease diagnostics, more affordable vaccines and better veterinary service delivery for small-scale livestock keepers if the country was to succeed in better controlling diseases of livestock, as well as the many ‘zoonotic’ diseases that originate in farm animals and infect people as well.
Livestock nutrition – participants agreed that both conventional and new technologies should take ecological as well as economic considerations into account. With constant increase of animal numbers anticipated over the coming decades, fodder scarcities will have to be addressed through research work conducted to ensure the bio-availability and digestibility of fodder available to India’s small-scale livestock farmers.
At the close of the day, ILRI and ICAR signed a memorandum of understanding to help accelerate the travel of research from laboratory to field, where it can transform lives of poor people.