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Climate Change & Impact on India's Dairy Sector

2023 OCT 4

Mains   > Agriculture   >   Allied areas   >   Climate change

In News

  • Over the last two years, there has been an 18% increase in milk prices in India, primarily attributed to a decline in milk supply as a consequence of the effects of climate change.
  • In 2022, a study published in ‘The Lancet estimated that increasing temperatures could reduce milk production in India’s arid and semi-arid regions by 25% by the end century in 2085.

Status of the Dairy Sector in India

  • According to ‘Basic Animal Husbandry Statistics 2022, total milk production in India was 221.06 million tonnes in 2021-2022, keeping it the largest milk-producing country in the world.
  • Indigenous cattle contribute 10.35% of the total milk production in the country whereas non-descript cattle contribute 9.82% and non-descript buffaloes contribute 13.49% of the total milk production in the country.
  • Top five major milk producing States are Rajasthan (15.05%), Uttar Pradesh (14.93%), Madhya Pradesh (8.06%), Gujarat (7.56%) and Andhra Pradesh (6.97%).
  • India’s milk production contributes around 23% of global milk production.

Impact of Climate Change on India’s Dairy Sector

Altered Feed and Forage Availability:

  • Climate change leads to erratic weather patterns, affecting the availability and quality of fodder for dairy cattle.
  • Droughts and extreme heat can lead to reduced pasture and crop yields, leading to shortages of animal feed.
  • This not only affects milk production but also increases the cost of production for dairy farmers.

Heat Stress on Cattle:

  • Elevated temperatures affect the cow's ability to display natural mating behavior, reducing both the duration and intensity of oestrus (female animal's readiness to mate) expression.
  • The decrease in conception rates during summer seasons can range between 20% and 30%. Lactating dairy cows are more sensitive to heat stress compared to non-lactating (dry) cows.
  • Furthermore, higher-yielding cows are more challenged by heat stress than lower-yielding animals.
  • Heat stress can lead to reduced milk production, lower fertility rates, increased susceptibility to diseases, and additional expenses for cooling systems and management practices.

Water Scarcity:

  • Climate change exacerbates water scarcity in many regions of India, affecting both cattle hydration and the irrigation of fodder crops.
  • Water scarcity can lead to decreased milk production and increased competition for limited water resources among farmers.

Disease Spread:

  • Changes in temperature and humidity can facilitate the spread of diseases, including vector-borne diseases like tick fever and mastitis, which can harm both cattle and milk quality. This necessitates increased spending on veterinary care and medicines.

Shift in Cattle Breeds:

  • As temperatures rise, certain traditional cattle breeds may become less viable. Farmers may need to switch to heat-tolerant breeds, which require different management practices and may yield less milk, affecting overall productivity.

Market Volatility:

  • Climate-induced disruptions in milk production can lead to market volatility, affecting the incomes of dairy farmers and the prices consumers pay for dairy products.

Way Forward

  • Climate-Resilient Agriculture Practices:Promote climate-resilient agricultural practices, such as crop diversification and agroforestry, to ensure a stable supply of animal feed and forage even in the face of changing climate conditions.
  • Improved Breeding Programs:Invest in research and development for breeding heat-resistant cattle varieties that are well-suited to local conditions. Encourage farmers to adopt these breeds.
  • Water Management: Implement efficient water management techniques, including rainwater harvesting, efficient irrigation, and water recycling, to ensure an uninterrupted water supply for both cattle and crops.
  • Enhanced Veterinary Support: Strengthen veterinary services and awareness programs to prevent and manage climate-induced diseases effectively. Encourage vaccination and regular health check-ups for dairy cattle.
  • Capacity Building: Provide training and capacity-building programs for farmers on climate-resilient dairy farming practices and better animal husbandry techniques.
  • Market Stability Measures: Develop mechanisms to stabilize milk prices and provide insurance or financial support to farmers during climate-induced crises to mitigate economic shocks.
  • Policy Support: Formulate policies that incentivize climate-resilient dairy farming, including subsidies for climate-smart technologies and sustainable practices.

Conclusion

The impact of climate change on India's dairy sector is undeniable and poses significant challenges to the livelihoods of millions of dairy farmers. However, with proactive measures and strategic planning, it is possible to build a climate-resilient dairy sector that can adapt to changing environmental conditions. The government, in collaboration with farmers, researchers, and industry stakeholders, must work together to ensure the sustainability and growth of India's dairy sector while addressing the challenges posed by climate change.

Practice Question

Q: Discuss the impact of Climate change on India’s Dairy sector.