Small bovine sector, after agriculture, is the second largest means for economic sustainability and livelihood in India. It contributed Rs. 32000 crore to the gross domestic produce of India in 2012 -13 despite being severely hit by a major outburst of PPR. Currently it has a potential to contribute over Rs. 150,000 crore. However, due to gaps in the system act as its growth inhibitors. India has an agriculture driven rural economy, which forms about 18% of the GDP of the country. As a matter of fact, small bovines are the main source for rural economies due to participation of women (70% of total) and weaker sections of the rural society. Formulation of policies to support the development of the small bovine sector is urgently required. Sheep and goat husbandry is a tool for poverty alleviation of the rural masses because of wide adaptability with low investments, high fertility and fecundity, low feed and management costs, higher feed conversion efficiency compared with buffaloes and cattle, quick pay off and low risk. The reproductive traits of small bovines such as high prolificacy, sexual precocity and year round estrus need to be exploited for economic upliftment of small farmers.
There has been a significant increase in the population of goats during the last five decades due to increasing trend in size of land fragmentation and reduction in average land holdings, triggering a shift from large bovine husbandry to small bovines amongst rural masses. However, due to lack of supportive policies, the sector remains ignored and the farmers remain deprived of the attainable economic benefits. The ICAR Institutions have like Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute and Central Institute of Goat Research have been putting on good efforts to trigger a positive change in spite of low budgetary provisions, but lack of an organized technology transfer infrastructure restricts sustainable development in this sector.
67 years’ post-independence, the Indian goat breeds still produce less than an average of 1.5 lit of milk per day against an average of 6 lit per day in European breeds. Meat breeds of goats like Sirohi and Osmanabadi take 18 - 24 months to attain a body weight of 60 plus Kg. Sheep reared in India have relatively poor quality of fleece which doesn’t attract International buyers. The current low productivity of small bovines is a worrisome problem. It is reiterated that the interests of small bovine farmers must be protected at all costs.
So where are the gaps?
Central and State governments have been announcing very attractive schemes for livestock sector (large & small bovines), though the annual budget for National Livestock Mission has been reduced drastically in the current financial year 2015 - 16. Irony is, in absence of a monitoring system, inter-ministerial harmony and lack of coordination with the financial institutions, these schemes fails becoming toothless lions. The lead Nodal Agriculture Finance Bank NABARD observed that inflation has nothing to do with small bovines and therefore still promotes schemes with cost indicators valid during early 80’s. Government sets targets for all Nationalized Banks to compulsorily finance Agriculture based enterprises. However, no policy document of the Government clearly indicates the role of models of small bovine sector is an agricultural activity or as an allied agriculture activity. The Nationalized banks still continue to reject funding commercial goat and Sheep farming projects considering it as a high risk rating industry. All insurance companies charge a heavy premium ranging from 4.5 to 7% of the prevailing market value of small bovines. However in many cases, they provide a risk cover of 70 - 80%, which is greatly inadequate. A policy intervention is necessary to support goat and sheep industry on patterns similar to other agricultural programmes. Goats and sheep can thereafter truly become the poor man’s cows as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi.
Goat & Sheep Farmers Welfare Association