Dairy At Glance


P.Thirumurugan and Yashwant Singh

Division of Livestock Production and Management, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences & Animal Husbandry

SKUAST -Jammu,  R.S. Pura, Jammu-181102

Agricultural production, processing, marketing and trade scenario is rapidly charging especially after WTO arrangements, where quality standards are expected to play a major role. Many changes are taking place in agricultural sector compelling the policy makers to change policies to suit the new order in the globalized scenario. Keeping pace with the global developments in the area of agricultural production, India too is taking initiative. One of the fast emerging realities is Organic Production of agriculture commodities including of livestock products. On the other hand, problems aggravated by intensive use of agrochemicals, antibiotics and over exploitation of natural resources have led to manifold troubles for man and animals alike forcing thinkers to think more sustainable way of animal production systems, which allowing for preservation of the environment and with a high standard of animal welfare without compromising food security and food safety. Many consumers are seeking alternatives to conventionally produced animal products. Organically produced milk, meat and egg are such an alternative to conventionally produced animal products and the demand for this ‘Organic Product’ is sharply increasing day by day in the developed countries. Hence, there is potential for boosting organic production to earn foreign exchange, besides, ensuring the wholesome food to domestic consumers. Considering the rapidly increasing global demand for organic products, the Government of India approved a National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) on 2nd May 2001 to boost organic production.


What is organic farming?

There are many explanations and definitions for organic farming all converge to state that it is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external synthetic inputs. It is a system that begins to consider potential environmental and social impacts by eliminating the use of synthetic inputs, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, veterinary drugs, genetically modified breeds, seeds and feeds, preservatives, additives and irradiation. These are replaced with site specific, locally adapted variety and organic manure can be used to increase long-term soil fertility, animal productivity and prevent pest and disease.

“Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem, health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfill any specific function within the system” (FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1999).

Organic Movement Around the World

There has been tremendous growth in the number of organic farms around the world in the past decade. As a result of changed consumer preferences, organic market growth in developed countries has rejuvenated the agricultural sector in developing countries too. Developing countries throughout the world are increasingly penetrating developed countries’ markets and several developing countries are also building up sizable domestic markets.

World wide about 130 countries produce certified organic products in commercial quantities, which include 30 countries in Africa, 30 countries in Asia, 20 countries in Central America, 5 countries in Australia and the Pacific, and most countries in Europe as well as the United States of America and Canada (ITC, 1999). There should be more than 2,50,000 organic farms all over the world, covering a surface of about 17-18 million hectares (Santucci, 2002), the recent growth has been impressive and all experts forecast a continuous expansion.

Organic Movement in India

Organic production systems, unlike traditional systems of production, are governed by a set of standards to be followed strictly by the producers of organic foods. These standards have been developed by different countries including India. The awareness, however, on organic production as per these standards is still at very low level especially in developing countries. Some advances have already been made in India in the area of organic tea, coffee, spices, cotton, etc. as these agricultural commodities are being exported as organic produce from India. The Non Government Organizations (NGOS), private sector and certain public sector agencies like Agricultural and Processed food products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under ministry of commerce and Industry, are making concerted efforts to boost organic production in India. These agencies have taken up several steps to augment supply of organic food products mainly to meet export demands from developed nations, which has risen sharply in recent years. During 2001 The country launched National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) and development of Indian standards for organic production, which together have been published by ministry of commerce and Industry to guide organic producers in India. The livestock sector in India by and large is untouched by these developments though animals are very crucial to organic farming. The information knowledge and skill on organic farming would be in great demand during the next decade as the planning commission of GOI has kept the organic farming as one of the priority areas for attention during the 10th five year plan. Organic farming is knowledge intensive rather than input intensive as it requires more design and management.

Organic Dairy production – Significance of Indigenous Cattle and Buffaloes

Livestock production, and especially ruminant livestock, forms an integral part of many organic farms due to its role in nutrient recycling on farms. Hence, along with organic crop agriculture, organic livestock production too is gaining ground internationally. This is most relevant for a country like India, which is enriched with a vast reservoir of genetic diversity in her livestock wealth. From time immemorial, Indians have treated livestock as a member of the human extended family.

Now, a serious and relevant question that comes into mind is that “what kind of animals is suited for organic farming”? The animals adapted to highly specialized system that strive for high yields, thriving on huge amount of externally supplied inputs, namely concentrate feeds and drugs, shout not be used. Instead, organic farming should envisage animals that are well adapted to local situations and resources besides having pronounced ability to utilize fibre and non-protein nitrogen (Chander and Kumar, 2002). Herein lies the significance of indigenous cows and buffaloes, which perfectly fit into organic farming practices. India is enriched with enormous bovine population (185 million cattle and 98 million buffaloes) having 26 native cattle breeds and all the breeds of riverine buffaloes (8 breeds) contributing towards establishing India as the undisputed number one milk producer in the globe. Milk is India’s number one farm commodity in terms of its contribution to the national economy. The growth in milk production has been truly phenomenal, having trebled to 66.3 million tonnes between 1970 - 1995. In this period the production of food grains and oil seeds doubled while population had gone up by 70 per cent.

Milk production in India is predominantly the domain of small hold farmers in a holistic mixed farming system. Indigenous cattle and buffaloes render economic stability to farmers in confronting uncertainties associated with farm production in dry land or rain fed areas which constitute 70% of India’s arable land. In fact, the indigenous cattle play a significant role in sustaining the economy of majority of the small hold and marginal farmers.


Dry land or rain fed areas comprises about 70% of the total arable land of India. These areas confront great instability in crop production primarily due to erratic and inadequate rainfall. In the face of these uncertainties in crop production, livestock production has been a virtue to the farmers, ensuring economic stability to them. The bovine population provide draught power, milk, meat, hides, bones and much needed organic manure for sustainability of the soil, as well as to meet the requirements of house hold kitchen fuel in rural India. The chemical fertilizer consumption along with the other agrochemicals like pesticides and herbicides are very low in non-green revolution areas like rain fed areas. Such areas are heavily dependent on farm yard manure which is supplied by the indigenous cattle and buffaloes at negligible maintenance cost of their own unlike more demanding crossbred counterparts usually common in green revolution areas which are well endowed in terms of external inputs.

The indigenous cattle breeds have long been ignored in India but have attracted greater attention in foreign countries particularly in South America. The Indian breeds possess certain unique characteristics like endurance, docility, resistance to tropical diseases, ability to utilize coarse forage and heat tolerance, for which they are highly rated abroad. In recent years, they are being used for crossing with local breeds and for the development of new breeds in developed country like USA  (Singh and Moore, 1982). The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had taken note of this fact, hence, rightly taken steps to conserve, promote and develop the indigenous cattle through research and development programmes. At the moment, the national level programme is being implemented by ICAR for the welfare of the local cattle in India.

It appears as though the exotic cattle is more productive than the local breeds but deeper evaluation reveals that this is more apparent than real. The exotic breeds require higher inputs than the indigenous breeds. The average milk production of 500 organic herds (herd size 87 cows) in Denmark was 10% less than that of conventional farms as organic milk production is based on high yielding dairy cows of the same genetic make up (Kristensen and Mogensen, 2000). Moreover, the low income and marginal farmers argue that they neither have the money to invest, nor the grazing land or fodder to feed them (Daniel, 1999). On the other hand, the indigenous breeds thrive on crop residues like straw of rice and wheat, sugarcane leaves, etc., that would not be utilized in any other way, there by maintain their productivity efficiently. These qualitative traits of Indian cattle also make them unquestionably suitable for organic practices. Hence, these animals need to be given due attention when designing research and development programme in organic agriculture. Crossbred bulls do not have the brawn for ploughing. Their beef cannot be consumed, as they are taboo to a majority of Indians. These exotic species have to be fed with costly grains that could have been utilized otherwise as human food. Such diversion of food grains cannot be justified to the local community and it has serious food security implications to them. Indian livestock industry is by and large based on low quality forages instead of grains, which is common in western countries.

According to the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), cattle dung in India has a fuel value equivalent to 35 million tons of coal or 68 million tons of wood. An estimated â…“ of the dung, amounting to some 300 million tons, is used as fuel in rural houses. Another 340 million tons go back to the soil as organic fertilizer (Lensch, 1987). India portrays an enormous indigenous bovine population, contributing to the organic manure, which is an essential feature of organic farming in view of its ability to maintain long-term soil productivity, thus, ensuring to get rid of expensive and hazardous chemical fertilizer application which has become a serious health hazard in western developed countries as well as in many Asian countries.

The health care requirement of Indian cattle and buffaloes is one of the lowest in the world, owing to high disease resistance. Health signifies the most important sign of successful organic animal husbandry and all other aspects such as profit, fertility, growth rate, milk yield and feed conversion, are related to the animal health (Boehncke, 1995). Since health is directly related to contribution of animals to the environmental soundness of the farming system, indigenous cows and buffaloes are perfectly suited to organic farming. Moreover, indigenous cows and buffaloes are the main source of income for the landless people in the rural area thus checking the migration of rural people towards the urban areas.

Animals in organic farming are often viewed to be necessary for crop production, as creature that keep the weed burden down, and that produce manure to improve nutrient status of the soil. So the focus in the first instance should be on livestock in their own right as organic livestock husbandry, besides being an essential contributor to the organic crop husbandry. The indigenous cattle and buffaloes in India deserve attention in a sense that these are ideal for organic system if we evaluate in terms of principles, practices and standard of organic agriculture as developed by IFOAM, FAO/Codex Alimentarious and other bodies.

Organic Dairy Production - Indian Husbandry Standards

Production of organic milk is founded upon a number of basic principles, which are embodied within the Standards of Organic Production. In India, the National Standards for Organic Production developed by Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India provide guidelines for organic production. Some of these relevant to organic dairy production are given below to illustrate the concept.

Housing and management

·         The animals must be allowed to fulfill their basic behavioural needs.

·         Dairy farming cannot be done in isolation from crop farming. This is significant from Indian dairying point of view considering that more than 60 percent of the livestock farming community in India are landless. But, the positive aspect is that to grow organic crops; one has to rear livestock too.

·         The number of livestock must be closely related to the area available in order to avoid problems of over-grazing and erosion and to allow for the spreading of livestock manure so that any adverse effect on the environment can be avoided.

·         Permanent tethering is not allowed, but occasional tethering is allowed.  

·         Use of hormone for augmenting milk yield and let down of milk not allowed

Conversion period

·         The time between the start of organic management and certification of crops and animal husbandry is known as the conversion period.

·         Indian organic standard has a conversion period of minimum 12 months for crop and dairy farms.

Brought-in animals / Origin of animals

·         All animals intended for organic milk production must be born and raised on organic farm

·         When organic animal is not available, certification programme shall allow calves up to 4 weeks old that have received colostrums and are fed a diet consisting mainly of full milk

Breeds and breeding

·         Breeds should be chosen which are adapted to local conditions

·         Reproduction techniques must be natural

·         Embryo transfer techniques are barred

·         Hormonal heat treatment and induced birth are not allowed

·         Use of genetically engineered / modified animals not allowed.


·         In general mutilations are not allowed.

·         But, the exceptions are castrations and dehorning with minimum suffering and anaesthetics.

Nutrition and feeding

·         The animals should be fed 100 per cent organically grown feed and fodder

·         More than 50 per cent of the feed shall come from the farm unit itself or shall be produced within the region

·         However, in some cases 15 per cent of total feed could be obtained from conventional farms

·         The use of synthetic growth promoters or stimulants, synthetic appetizers, preservatives, artificial coloring agents, urea, farm animal by products to ruminants, all types of excreta, feed subjected to solvent extraction or the addition of other chemical agents, pure amino acids, and genetically engineered organisms or products there of are not allowed.

Veterinary Medicines and animal health

·         An important objective of organic dairy husbandry is the avoidance of reliance upon routine and/or prophylactic use of conventional veterinary medicines.

·         Natural medicines and methods, including homeopathy, ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture shall be emphasized

·         The use of conventional veterinary medicines allowed when no other justifiable alternative is available with the withholding period being twice the legal period.

·         Vaccines shall be used only when diseases are known or expected to be a problem in the region of the farm and where these diseases can’t be controlled by other management techniques.

·         However, all synthetic medicines and genetically engineered vaccines are prohibited.

Apart from the above mentioned standards, there are several other standards concerning record keeping, transport and slaughter. The principles and production standards outlined above are only a few illustrative once not an exhaustive list, according to Indian Standards on organic dairy production.


India has some excellent breeds of indigenous cattle and buffaloes possessing natural resistance against many diseases. These breeds are well adapted to Indian climate and food availability situations. Most of the dairy husbandry practices are traditional with a close resemblance to prescribed organic practices. It is an opportunity to convert our advantages into fruitful gains. Small holding, low level of literacy, lack of information, high stocking density, inadequate food and fodder, high cost of certification, absence of marketing facilities are some hindrances in the way of conversion from traditional to organic. The most important areas where the policy initiatives need to be taken are: Improvisation of Organic Standards, establishment of low cost certification agency, development of strong domestic market, establishment of a growth centre for organic production, research and development, training and extension and Government has to take legislation (Pthak et al., 2003). Hopefully things will resolve in near future to open plethora of opportunities for Indian organic farmers to export organic livestock as well as agricultural products in years to come.


Boehncke, E. 1995. The future of organic livestock. Ecology and Farming, September issue.

Chander, M and Kumar, S. 2002. Indigenous cattle and buffalo wealth of India: Exploring its role in promoting organic farming practices. Proceedings of the national workshop on Organic Animal Husbandry Standards, PP:73-77.

Daniel, J. 1999. The return of India’s native cattle? Ecology and Farming

ITC. 1999. Organic food and beverage: World supply and major European market, Geneva, International Trade Center, UNCTAD/WTO.

Kristensen, T and Mogensen, L. 2000. Danish organic dairy cattle production systems. In:Hermansen, E. 2003. Organic livestock production systems and appropriate development in relation to public expectations. Livestock production science, PP:3-15.   

Lench, J. 1987. Problems and prospects of cattle and buffalo husbandry in India. Special reference to the concept of “Sacred cow”, Hamburg, Germany

Pathak, P. K., M. Chander. And A. K. Biswas. 2003. Organic meat: an overview. Asian-Aust. J. Anim. Sci. 16: 1230-1237.

Santucci, F. M. 2002. Market issues in organic meat and dairy markets. Draft of the paper for the symposium on organic markets for meat and dairy products, FAO, Rome.

Singh, H and Moore, E. N. 1982. Livestock and poultry production, 2nd ed. Prentice hall of India pvt ltd., New Delhi,PP:55-57.

Akshay Sadana
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Posted Date : 31/03/2015 Posted By : Admin