Animal husbandry is the rearing of domestic animals or livestock and includes all aspects of breeding, caring, feeding and management. It is as old as our civilisation itself. The Palaeolithic man hunted animals for food, while his successor the Neolithic man tamed and confined them.
Livestock includes farm animals such as cow, buffalo, sheep, goat, horse, donkey, camel, elephant, rabbit, pig, yak, silkworm, etc. They provide us with many important products summarised in Table 1. Farm animals convert raw materials into animal products that are of nutritional or economic significance.
The products of animal husbandry furnish raw materials for many industries such as dairy, meat processing and packing, leather industry and textile industry. The development of veterinary science along with pharmaceutical industry has led to a phenomenal growth in the science of animal husbandry.
Animal husbandry may be divided into the following categories – cattle husbandry, sheep husbandry, pig husbandry, goat husbandry, horse, camel and rabbit husbandry. Agriculture is intimately connected with livestock. Improvement of agriculture requires the improvement of livestock.
India has the largest cattle, buffaloes and goat population in the world. There are approximately 200 million cattle, 83 million buffaloes, 50.7 million sheeps, 115.3 million goats, 12.1 million pigs, 3.6 million other livestock and 400 million domesticated poultry birds. Animal husbandry plays an important role in the national life and accounts for 10% of the national income, which is a considerable contribution.
They are the main source of draught power in agriculture operations and rural transportation. They provide essential food like milk, milk products and meat. It also provides products such as hides, bones, blood and organic manures.
Milk is one of the most important items of common vegetarian diet of Indian people. With rapid industrialisation, economic growth and 250 million potential of economically strong domestic consumers of milk and milk products, there is a very strong potential for future growth of the industry.
Cattle are considered to have been one of the first animals domesticated by man for agricultural purposes. They are raised as livestock for meat called beef, dairy products (milk and milk products), and leather and as draught animals (for pulling carts, plough fields, etc.) In some countries they are subject to religious ceremonies and respect.
India possesses one-sixth of the cattle and half of the buffalo population of the world. In fact, India has some of the best breeds of cattle and buffaloes in the world. There are about 218.8 million cattle (Tables 2, 3), which account for 17% of the total world population of cattle. But the milk production is low.
The reasons for the low production are:
i. Poor quality with low production potential.
ii. Lack of adequate nutrition.
Features of the Indian Cattle:
Indian breeds of cattle are hardy and are resistant to diseases and hot climate and can thrive well on low levels of nutrition. Cattle in India serve as bullock, used for cultivation and also for production of milk. Cattle rearing is a subsidiary industry to crop production. The majority of the Indian breeds are purely draught breeds or dual-purpose breeds.
Indian breeds of cattle have been introduced for cross breeding in countries such as USA, South Africa, Kenya, Australia, and South America, etc. Cross breeding of indigenous cattle with milk yielding exotic breeds offers a possibility of achieving rapid increase in milk production.
The need for commercial dairying was felt due to the following reasons:
i. Growth of human population
iii. Increased demand for milk and milk products
iv. Decrease in pasture growing areas.
European breeds of cattle may be classified according to utility into the following types as summarised in Table 4:
The rural milk production was finding it difficult to keep up the demand in the urban areas. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the first dairy farm and creameries were established. Later the five-year plans of the government took up commercial dairy farming seriously. Artificial insemination centres were established in 2000 key villages. Cross breeding programmes were initiated along with the ‘Gaushala development scheme’, Intensive cattle development projects, etc.
Improvement of Cattle:
Animal husbandry and dairying were recognised as important tools for generating employment and supplementing incomes for small farmers. Breeding of animals began thousands of years ago. Improvement of animals was done by mating ‘the best with the best’.
But by the twentieth century, the principles of genetics and reproductive physiology were applied to improve farm animals and there was phenomenal increase in the produce from farm animals. In India, an all India breeding policy was drawn by the Indian council of Agricultural research to increase production of milk in the country.
Today, animal breeding is an integration of three major areas – artificial insemination, embryo transfer and embryo micro manipulation techniques, biotechnology and genetics engineering.
The system of breeding can be grouped into two types:
i. Outbreeding and
Outbreeding is the mating of unrelated animals and includes hybridisation, grading up, crossbreeding and outcrossing.
Hybridisation is the mating between two distinct species.
b. Grading Up:
Grading up is the practice of breeding pure bred sires of a given breed with native females. Continued crossing with the pure bred sire would make the off-springs having characteristics closer to the pure breed.
c. Cross Breeding:
Cross breeding is the mating of pure bred animals of two distinct breeds. Cross breeding brings together divergent germplasms. It is usually done for increasing the yield. Indian cows are cross bred with European breeds. Sunandini and Karan Swiss are examples of some breeds developed at the National Dairy Research Institute in Kerala and Karnal, respectively.
Outcrossing is the crossing of unrelated animals within the same breed.
Inbreeding is the mating of individuals that are related and includes line breeding and close breeding.
a. Close Breeding:
Mating of a brother to sister, of a sire to his daughter, or dam to her son is known as close breeding.
b. Line Breeding:
Line breeding is the mating of animals with wider degree of relationships than those of close breeding. It is mating of cousins and other distantly related individuals.
The most important step in animal breeding is the selection of animals. The animal is carefully examined for physical defects such as crooked legs, abnormal udders or milk producing gland, etc. Animals that suffer from heritable defects such as dwarfism in cattle are avoided. Records of performance or production should be considered in the selection of breeding animals.
Artificial breeding is done through artificial insemination, which is the method of collecting semen from high quality bulls and inseminating the cows.
The advantages of this method are as follows:
i. It ensures good quality progeny.
ii. It is an economic procedure as semen from one bull can inseminate several thousand cows.
iii. This process does not require transportation of the bull, as this method requires the transportation of only the semen.
Latest techniques include superovulation and embryo transfer. Superovulation is a method where a female is induced to produce a number of eggs by injecting hormones. The female is artificially inseminated to produce 4 – 0 embryos. The embryos are removed and transplanted into surrogate mothers. This is known as embryo transfer. Embryos and semen can be frozen at -196°C and maintained in artificial media for future use.
Other methods in improving the farm animals include:
i. Splitting of an embryo into individual cells and developing each segment into an offspring. About 20 – 30 calves can be produced from one donor
ii. Embryo sexing permits selection of females to increase yield.
iii. Replacing the nucleus of an egg with a nucleus of a superior female to obtain superior progeny is another technique.
iv. IVF or In vitro fertilisation is also carried out in farm animals. The ova from the females and semen from males are mixed in culture dishes to allow fertilisation. The resultant embryos are implanted into surrogate females.
v. Male serum gonadotropin is used to augment fertility.
vi. To induce lactation in sterile cows Stilbesterol tablets are used.
The feeding and management of cattle are considered as the key to success in dairy farming. The feed is required for two main purposes – maintenance and production.
i. The maintenance requirement of a cow includes feed to perform body functions such as locomotion, digestion, tissue repair, etc.
ii. The production uses include secretion of milk, reproduction, fattening and body growth in case of immature cows. The cows should be fed twice the quantity necessary for maintenance of productive purposes.
The cattle requires the following nutrients – water, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins.
All feeds for the dairy cattle are classified into two main groups – roughage and concentrates.
Roughage includes green pastures, fodder, silage and dry roughage that is bulky in nature.
i. Pastures are the best-known single feed for cattle. These are rich in vitamin A, protein and minerals.
ii. Permanent fodder includes green crops that are harvested and fed. The examples of this group are Berseem and Napier grass.
iii. Silage is made from green material through natural fermentation and acid fermentation. It is a succulent feed and contains 70% or more water. Silage can be prepared form maize and sorghum.
iv. Dry roughage includes hay and straw.
1. Hay is a product made from grass and other fodder plants, which are dried.
2. Straw is the portion of the crop after the grain or seeds have been harvested. It contains very less amount of nutrients and is mostly made of fibres.
Concentrates include seeds of different plants. These are less bulky and contain fewer fibres.
The concentrates may be of the following types:
i. Low protein concentrates include cereal grains, especially maize, barley and sorghum.
i. Medium protein concentrates are byproducts of milling cereal grains For Example – Wheat bran, iii. High protein concentrates group includes cotton seed cakes, lin seeds and soyabean cake. They are rich in proteins.
Breeds of Buffaloes:
Murrah, Surti, Mehsana, Nili Ravi, Nagpuri are important breeds of buffaloes in India. The buffalo is a much better milk producer in India than the cows. The Murrah buffalo yields about 45,000 litres or more during its lactation period.
There are as many as 25 well-defined breeds of cattle and six well-defined breeds of buffaloes in India, which are distributed in different parts of the country. A few of these breeds are of the dairy type while a large majority of the breeds are of the draught type.
Dr. Kurien and the White Revolution:
The NDDB or National Dairy Development Board was created in 1965 to meet the need of the rural farmers. Dr. Kurien Verghese was selected to head the project. In 1960s the Board drew up a project called Operation Flood (OF), meant to create a flood of milk in India’s villages. Dr. Kurien Verghese is called the ‘Father of the white revolution’ in India.
He is also known as the Milkman of India. Dr. Kurien is credited with architecting Operation Flood – the largest dairy development programme in the world. He had set up the Anand model of cooperative dairy development, engineered the White Revolution in India, and made India the largest milk producer in the world.
He was the Chairman of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd., which sells the products produced by the dairies under the brand name of AMUL. Amul is a well-known model of a three tiered cooperative structure set up primarily to increase milk production and to help rural farmers.
The small rural milk producers have several problems. The major problems faced by the farmers include small herd strengths, small land holdings, shortages of green and dry fodder, low productivity of animals, non-availability of timely inputs for breeding, feeding and healthcare of animals, lack of suitable education/training for skill development for new viable and sustainable technology, inadequate finances, poor rural infrastructure facilities and lack of proper marketing support for their produce.
2. Sheep Husbandary:
A sheep is a ruminant quadruped belonging to family Bovidae. Domestic sheep belongs to genus Ovis and species aries. Sheep husbandry is the raising and breeding of domestic sheep. The main purpose of sheep farming is to raise lambs for meat and sheep for wool. Sheep may also be raised for milk. India ranks one among the top five sheep producing countries.
3. Goat Husbandry:
The goat, along with sheep, was among the earliest domesticated animals as early as 6000 and 7000 BC. Goat belongs to genus Capra, which consists of nine species. The animal commonly known as the ‘goat’ is the domestic goat. Goats belong to family Bovidae and are related to cows.
India ranks first among the countries of the world in goat population. There are more than 68 million goats in the country constituting about 19% of the total population. Goats are domesticated for its value as food, i.e. meat and milk, hair and skin. Goat droppings are valuable manure. Pashmina shawls are made from the fur of kashmiri goats. The wool is famous for its softness.
4. Swine Husbandry:
Swines are ungulates belonging to family Suidae. It includes animals commonly referred to as pigs and hogs. The genus Sus includes the domesticated pig and several wild species. Among them are Sus scrofa, the European wild boar; S.cristatus, Indian wild boar; S.andamanensis of Andaman Islands, etc. The modern breed is S.domesticus.
The pig was domesticated later than the cattle and sheep but earlier than the horse. It was probably selected for its ability to fatten rapidly. The meat is known as pork. Pork needs to be cooked properly to avoid tapeworm infections. Pig meat is used for preparing ham, bacon and sausages.
Sericulture is the rearing of silkworms for the production of silk. Silk is extracted from Bombyx mori. This technique began as early as 2700 BC in China. It is an industry suitable in the rural areas. It is rightly known as The Industry of the Poor that produces the ‘Queen of Fabrics’.
6. Apiculture or Beekeeping:
Apiculture is the practice of maintaining beehives. This is done for collecting honey and bee-wax, for pollinating crops, etc. Apiary is where bees are kept. The important species are Apis indica, Apis mellifera, A. florae, A. cerana and A. dorsata.
a. The bees produce and store honey.
b. The bee-wax can be used in various wax products like candles and seals.
c. Propolis is a wax-like resinous substance collected by honey bees from plants and used to cement and seal cracks in the hives. Propolis has medicinal properties and is used as a antibiotic and antifungal product.
d. The honeybee is a pollinator of crops. Due to habitat destruction and increasing use of land for agriculture, the agents of pollination have dramatically decreased. This is compensated by migratory beekeeping, with beekeepers maintaining the hives during the crop bloom and moving them after the harvest is over.
Poultry farming is the rearing of birds for their meat and eggs. They include members of the orders Galliformes such as chickens and turkeys and Anseriformes such as duck and geese. Pigeons, doves, ostrich and pheasants are also included in this category.
Eggs and chicken meat are important and rich sources of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. Poultry provides rich organic manure and is an important source of income and employment to millions of farmers. Chicken is the most widely eaten meat in India because like beef and pork, it does not have a religious taboo. It is economical, if compared to mutton and pork. Many Indians have accepted eggs as a supplement of their normal vegetarian diet.
India has made progress in the poultry industry and is self-sufficient country with regard to high quality breeding stock, modern equipments, vaccines and skilled manpower.
Advantages of Poultry over Livestock Rearing:
a. Poultry birds are easy to maintain since they can be acclimatised to a variety of climatic conditions.
b. They are prolific breeders. The hen has an average yield of 60 eggs per year; about 250 eggs in high yielding varieties.
c. The space required is less when compared to livestock.
d. The farmers are able to earn more in less time.
Chickens feed on seeds, insects and small plants. In the farms they are fed with prepared feed that includes protein source and grains. Domestic chickens are incapable of flying for long distances, although they are generally capable of flying for short distances such as over fences. The wings are clipped at the ends to avoid them from flying off from the farms.
Chickens as Pets:
a. Ornamental purposes, in Asia chickens with colourful plumage are kept in farms. The examples of such breeds are Cochin and Silkie.
b. They are also kept to check the population of insects.
c. Cocks of the game breeds are especially noted for their courage and pugnacity with rivals.
Poultry farms can take care of thousands of birds at the same time. In these farms the adult chickens are butchered, processed into commercial products that can be frozen and shipped to the markets. There are large farms established solely for egg production. Eggs are grown on factory farms in highly controlled settings. Special varieties of chickens are given feeds rich in calcium and protein to increase egg production.
Management and Feeding:
The place where the chickens are housed have to be ventilated, comfortable and dry. Birds of different ages are kept in different houses. The cages where they are kept are called coops. The place has to be rat proof and should be provided with proper water channels and should have appropriate drainage system.
The feed includes all nutrients and is made of oil cakes, protein concentrates, fishmeal, minerals and green vegetables. Two major feed ingredients required for poultry feeds are maize and soyabean meal. The indigenous breeds are cross bred with the exotic breeds to improve egg and meat production.
Work Done in India for Poultry Development:
a. Various programmes for selection and improvement of genetic stocks are being carried out by training institutions controlled by the central and state governments and the private sector poultry industry. Good breeds, proper equipment, feed, medicines and diagnostic facility are available to maintain and upgrade the available breeds.
b. The northern, western and southern states of India have progressed well but the Eastern and Northeastern states have lagged behind. This is mainly due to lack of infrastructure facilities.
c. The National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC) has contributed towards increase in production of eggs in the last 10-15 years. The committee has helped in collecting information on supply and demand position of eggs on a daily basis and also declared region wise wholesale egg prices. This has helped to prevent undue exploitation of farmers.
d. Some of the Institutes in the private sector such as Dr. B.V. Rao Institute of Poultry Training and Management have developed skilled manpower in the industry.
e. Banks provide loans to farmers for egg or broiler production. There are several schemes of central and state Governments to assist the small farmers in poultry production.
The camel is a group of even-toed, ungulate, ruminating mammals of the family Camelidae. Africa has the highest number of camels. The overall population of camels in India is about 1.03 million and India ranks fifth in the world.
They are valuable beasts of burden and used for transport in the arid regions. There are two different camel species – humped dromedary and humped bactrian camel.