Meghalaya is a hilly State in the North Eastern Region of India between the plains of Assam in the North and Bangladesh in the South. The State falls under the temperate zone which favours luxuriant growth of vegetation and thick forests with rich varieties of flora and fauna. Meghalaya receives the direct influence of the South West Monsoon originating from the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea . Generally, monsoon begins sometimes in the month of April and continue till October. The topography, climate and Socio-economic conditions makes the people to depend more on Animal Husbandry activities mainly because of traditional agriculture in hilly areas allows only about 10% of the land in the State. Heavy rainfall in sloppy hills not only causes soil erosion but also makes it acidic by removing the soluble basic part of the soil by the solvent action of the run-off water and loss of productivity. Indiscriminate mining for stones, gravels, coal, etc. diminishes the area under cultivation, forest land and grass cover. Under such situation, livestock and poultry farming is the only alternative avocation on which the villager can fall upon for a subsidiary living.
Agricultural operations having limitations in Meghalaya due to its topography, climatic situation and socio-economic conditions claiming only about 10% of the total land for cultivation, livestock and poultry provide the only alternative avocation the villagers fall upon for a subsidiary living. Application of modern technologies have brought a high hope for commercial livestock and poultry farming as a full time occupation for a decent living. Though the present output of livestock production in the State has been increasing at higher proportion to the growth of human population, the overall availability situation is not encouraging with only 75 grams of milk per person per day is now available in the State. Similarly, availability of eggs per person per year has been estimated at 38 Nos. only as against the NRC recommendation of 180. In case of meat, the availability situation meets the requirement, taking the import from other States into consideration. All these indicate that greater efforts are necessary to bridge the gap between production and the requirement considering the following plus points:-
- Traditional dependency of rural tribal population in livestock for livelihood;
- Food habits of the people is mostly non-vegetarian in nature.
- Absence of any taboo for consumption of chicken meat, pork or beef.
- Absence of sentiments for slaughter of livestock including cattle for meat supply.
- Readiness of the farmers to adopt modern technologies for breeding, feeding, management.
- Availability of favourable markets within the State as well as in the adjoining States.
- Availability of manpower for control of Livestock and Poultry diseases.
The thrust areas for overall development of the Livestock Resources of the State for future plans are as follows :-
- Qualitative improvement in all classes of indigenous domestic stock e.g., Cattle Buffalo, Sheep, Pigs, Poultry, Ducks and Rabbit to improve the overall productivity in these animals.
- In doing so, the aim will be to increase the per capita availability of milk, egg and meat.
- This is to be achieved through creation of adequate infrastructure for animal production, health coverage, processing of animal products and organisation of an efficient marketing system to match the production so envisaged.
- Production of fodder and balanced livestock feed will receive high priority to make animal production activities cost effective and remunerative to the farmers.
- Greater participation of farmers will be sought for, and for this purpose, organisation of farmers co-operatives, involvement of N.G.Os in various activities will be encouraged.
- Breeding facilities of cattle and buffaloes will be so organised that the cattle and buffalo owners need not travel a long distance to get the stock inseminated with frozen semen
- Breeding facilities for other animals extended through supply of quality breeding animals provided by the Govt.
- The State Farms will supply the breeding animals of better germplasm. Facilities for training of local farmers and demonstration of latest systems of farming already created and strengthened further.
- At the same time, the Department will encourage establishment of Commercially Viable Projects by private entrepreneurs, Co-operative societies.
- Dairy Development will be given priority mainly for processing as pasteurised milk and/or milk products for sale in cities and towns in Meghalaya and adjoining States preferably through Co-operative efforts. Marketing facilities in rural areas also will be created for the interest of the rural people.
- To establish modern abattoirs for Sheep and Goat and Pigs. Set up Poultry Dressing Plants and banning clandestine slaughter altogether. Modern beef slaughter houses need to be established in Shillong and Tura in the first phase.
- To generate additional employment opportunities for the unemployed youths, commercial rearing of Khasi Hill Goats, improved pigs and poultry – egger and broiler – to be encouraged.
The Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary is entrusted with the responsibility of all aspect of Livestock and Poultry Development, like, production, processing and marketing of livestock and poultry and their products through augmentation of production of milk, meat, eggs and wool. Animal health care service and prevention of animal diseases is a priority for maintenance of a healthy stock for optimum production. Creation of suitable infrastructure for breeding, feeding and management of livestock and poultry, processing of milk, meat and eggs and marketing of livestock and livestock products is also given due importance. Besides, the Department is engaged in providing the required training and extension support to livestock producers so as to promote scientific rearing of livestock and poultry amongst them with consequent generation of employment avenues in the rural areas. To bring about a developmental change in livestock and poultry sector, number of programmes and infrastructure development were undertaken by the Government where the activities of the Department were mainly centered round the following broad objectives:-
- Providing protection to livestock and poultry from the ravages of diseases through treatments and preventive vaccinations.
- Introducing improved breeding techniques for upgrading the local stock.
- Ensuring better Animal Husbandry practices through adoption of Extension and Research.
- Building up of adequate technical and professional man-power through Education and Training.
- Encouraging setting of Livestock and Poultry Industries.
The main constraints as of now in livestock and poultry production in the State are:-
- Lack of Awareness - Majority of the farmers of the state are still ignorant about the modern technology and improved practices of livestock and poultry rearing. Various schemes implemented by the department benefit only a small percentage of farmers where application of modern technological practices hardly reached the masses. Rural folks are also ignorant about the funding source from were they can avail necessary incentive as required by them.
- Low Production - Low production and slow growth rate of the indigenous stock which most of the farmers are rearing.
- Feed - Almost all the feed ingredients needed for manufacture of a balanced feed are to be procured from outside the Region, resulting in very high feed cost not affordable to general farmers resulting in a decrease in the production status.
- Diseases - Being hilly and difficult terrain, disease control measures cannot reach remote areas which needs further improvement as morbidity from various diseases is also one of the constraints in production besides mortality causing economic loss.
- Market - There is no organized marketing facility available till date to ensure sustainable value addition from the Livestock and Poultry produce in the rural sector.