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Impact of Rising Temperatures on Milk Production in Indian Regions


A 2022 study in ‘Lancet’ projected that rising temperatures could lead to a 25% reduction in milk production in India’s arid and semi-arid regions by the year 2085. This estimate ranks second highest in India, following Pakistan, which is expected to experience a 28.7% reduction. In humid and sub-humid areas, the projected reduction stands at 10%.


GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Impact of Heat Stress on Cattle
  2. Status of Milk Production in India
  3. Challenges Faced by Dairy Farmers
  4. The Way Forward for Dairy Farming Sustainability

Impact of Heat Stress on Cattle

  • Effects on Mating Behavior:
    • Elevated temperatures disrupt natural mating behavior in cows, reducing the duration and intensity of oestrus (readiness to mate) expression.
  • Reduced Conception Rates:
    • During summer seasons, conception rates in cows can decrease by 20 to 30%, according to a study published in Lancet.
  • Lactating Cows’ Sensitivity to Heat:
    • Lactating dairy cows are more sensitive to heat stress compared to non-lactating (dry) cows.
  • Challenge for High-Yield Cows:
    • Cows that produce higher milk yields are more challenged by heat stress due to the positive relationship between milk production and heat production.
  • Impact on Milk Production:
    • The increasing temperatures, especially affecting cross-bred cows, pose a significant challenge to India’s milk production, potentially leading to a decline in per capita consumption.
  • Direct and Indirect Effects of Climate Change:
    • Climate change affects the dairy sector both directly and indirectly.
    • Direct effects include stress on animals due to changes in the temperature-humidity index, directly impacting milk production.
    • Indirect effects involve adverse climate events affecting feed and water availability for cattle.

Status of Milk Production in India

  • Total Milk Production: According to ‘Basic Animal Husbandry Statistics 2022,’ India’s total milk production in 2021-2022 reached 221.06 million tonnes, solidifying its position as the world’s largest milk-producing country.
  • Contribution of Indigenous Cattle: Indigenous cattle contribute 10.35% of the total milk production in India.
  • Contribution of Non-Descript Cattle: Non-descript cattle contribute 9.82% to the total milk production in the country.
  • Contribution of Non-Descript Buffaloes: Non-descript buffaloes contribute 13.49% to the total milk production in India.
  • Top Five Milk-Producing States: The top five major milk-producing states in India are Rajasthan (15.05%), Uttar Pradesh (14.93%), Madhya Pradesh (8.06%), Gujarat (7.56%), and Andhra Pradesh (6.97%).
  • Global Significance: India’s milk production accounts for approximately 23% of global milk production, underscoring its substantial contribution to the world dairy market.

Challenges Faced by Dairy Farmers

  • Government Policies Impacting Productivity:
    • Dairy farmers allege that government policies introduced to enhance milk production, such as sex-sorted semen production, may have unintended consequences and potentially reduce overall productivity.
  • Sex-Sorted Semen Policy:
    • The sex-sorted semen policy aims to produce female calves with a claimed accuracy of up to 90% to boost milk production and control the population of stray cattle.
    • Over the next five years, 5.1 million pregnancies are expected to be established under this program, with a subsidy offered for sex-sorted semen.
  • Overlooking Male Cattle:
    • The policy’s focus on female calf production may overlook and eliminate male cattle, which could serve as an energy source in farming.
  • Underutilization of Male Cattle:
    • Male cattle can have utility in agriculture, but their potential role has not been adequately considered.
  • Challenges in Selling Unproductive Female Cattle:
    • Farmers face difficulties in selling unproductive female cattle due to anti-slaughter rules in many states, which affects the overall management of dairy herds.

The Way Forward for Dairy Farming Sustainability

  • Invest in Research and Innovation: Encourage research and innovation in cattle breeding and management practices to develop strategies that mitigate the impact of climate change on the dairy sector.
  • Promote Sustainability and Renewable Energy: Promote sustainable farming practices within the dairy industry, including the use of renewable energy sources for dairy operations, to reduce the sector’s environmental footprint.
  • Advocate for Inclusive Policies: Advocate for policies that take into account the welfare and utility of both male and female cattle, ensuring a balanced and sustainable approach.
  • Responsible Management of Unproductive Cattle: Explore responsible and ethical options for the management of unproductive female cattle to address the challenges of their care and well-being.
  • Contribute to Climate Mitigation: Recognize that climate change is a universal challenge and that the dairy sector must contribute to both adaptation and mitigation efforts. Work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dairy operations, aligning with global climate goals.

-Source: Down To Earth

December 2023