Man and Animal association is continuing since time immemorial and man has used animals both for food and food production. Animals provide a diverse range of output varying from draught for cultivation, irrigation, transport; to fiber and leather goods, to manure as fertilizer and fuel; to self-employment throughout the year, as well as by direct production of milk, meat and eggs for human consumption.
It is a well known fact that for a sustainable development in any sector, there must be a definite policy so that a systematic approach can be made in the right direction. The policy so adopted should also similitude with the policy framed for the country as a whole. Considering the above factor, the department of A.H. and Veterinary Meghalaya has taken up various programmes for an overall development in this sector with special reference to the economic growth of the state as a whole.
Livestock ownership in Meghalaya is more evenly distributed with landless labourers. Small and marginal farmers. Around 2 Lakhs Milch cows and buffaloes are spread over 5000 villages. About 1.64 Lakhs households are engaged in rearing small animals and ruminants and other allied activities. Most of the livestock rearers are below the poverty line. The returns from livestock sector especially dairying and mixed farming in small and medium holdings are larger and highly sustainable. The progress, therefore, in this sector will result in more balanced development of rural economy.
As per available report India ranks 1st in milk and 5th in egg production in the world. In Meghalaya, the total milk production has gone up from 42 thousand tonnes in 1972-74 to 66 thousand tonnes at the end of the Ninth Plan period. As regard to egg production, it has gone up from 20 million nos. to 90.2 million nos during the corresponding period. It has been worked out that the per capita availability of milk in the state is only 75 gms which is far below the all India level. The main reason is that, the people in Meghalaya, especially in the rural areas are not in the habit of drinking milk and as such the people of the state were not inclined to milk production in earlier days. At present the department have taken various steps to make the people aware of the potentiality of Dairy Farming which is gaining momentum. Egg consumption in Meghalaya is about 38 nos. per head per year which is more than all India level of 30 egg, but far below the minimum recommended levels. In order to meet the demand of egg, the State have to import eggs, which is around 32 million nos. from outside the State. Meat production in the State was 16 thousand tonnes in 1972 and has gone up to 34 thousand tonnes at the end of the Ninth Plan period. But still the State is not self sufficient in meat production. Around 8 thousand tonnes of the requirement are met from those animals brought from outside the State.
The annual growth rate as recorded of milk, egg and meat is 2.76%; 1.47% and 2.95% during the last five years.
Livestock production systems are based on low cost agro-by-products as nutrition input for Livestock, as well as use of traditional technologies for producing milk, meat, egg, fibre, draught animal power (DAP) and manure. Around 80% of livestock are distributed in marginal, small and medium land holdings.
Although small farm production would continue to be the main animal production system, semi-intensive and intensive systems would also be adopted as commercial ventures. The priority shall be to study the problems of small farms and develop package of practices to maximize animal productivity/ unit of input/acre of land. The socio-economic problems such as land tenure, farm employment and income need to be studied and remedies suggested. Government policies and programmes shall be addressed in favour of small farms for higher production and sustainability. Extension models for effective transfer of technology in small farm production shall be developed.
Commercial poultry production is often located in sub-urban areas and is supported by a large network of pure line high performing layer and broiler breeding stocks, and feed plants. Farm holdings with 500-1000 birds for egg production and 100-500 for birds for broiler production are now common. In spite of commercialisation of poultry sector, rural poultry production system still contributes substantially to the total egg production after meeting household requirement. It is this sector which needs to be addressed through research and technology.
Many specific and parasitic diseases of animals are transmitted to human. In Meghalaya consumption of meat is very high. About 80 - 85 % of the people of the state consumes meat but unsanitary methods of traditional household cooking exposes the ignorant people at a greater risk of acquiring many zoonotic diseases specially parasitic diseases. Food poisoning have been reported from many areas through consumption of undercooked animal products like milk, meat and eggs. The department therefore have taken various awareness programmes to educate the people to adopt scientific production practices and their hygienic use to control the diseases of importance, communicable to human.
The country has rich and diverse livestock genetic resources as evident from the availability of all species of livestock and large number of breeds/strains. Meghalaya has some of the best breed of dairy, draught and dual purpose cattle.
These breeds of livestock and poultry are essentially the products of long term natural selection and are better adopted to withstand tropical diseases and perform under low and medium input. Many of these breeds may have useful genes for fast growth, prolificacy, and adaptability. Such utility genes and breeds shall be identified, conserved and utilized.
Many of the indigenous breeds because of poor economic viability are showing decline in numbers and even facing extinction. The livestock owner may neglect such relatively less productive breeds and, therefore, the State shall take up the responsibility of conserving them and appropriate action is being taken accordingly.
Efforts have been made in the past to increase milk production through selection and crossbreeding in cattle. A re-orientation of the cattle and buffalo breeding policy would be attempted in view of our concerns for indigenous breeds and need for Draught Animal Power (DAP). Producing quality males would be an essential component of breeding policy. Existing breeding farms, breeders associations, shall be involved in producing good quality pedigreed males for breeding purpose and for improvement of indigenous breeds shall be encouraged. An effective mechanism for providing disease free quality semen for high productivity will be put in place. Breeding services is being provided at the farmer’s door.
Breeding policy for small ruminants with focus on selection of rams and bucks shall be put in place and implemented through suitable programs. Preservation and development of pack animals shall also be considered.
A Milch herd of around 1 Lakhs cows and buffaloes with an effective genetic improvement programme for milk would be reasonable to meet the future milk needs of the State. The current yield levels for crossbred and indigenous cows and buffaloes are 3245, 274 and 616 kg per year respectively could safely be increased to the targeted levels through increased availability of feeds, culling of low producers, strengthening of field programmes of selection and progeny testing of bulls for milk and providing breeding and other input services at the farmers’ door. The newer breeding and reproductive technologies shall be an integral part of breed improvement. The crossbreeding shall be restricted to low yielding indigenous cattle breeds.
A National Project on Cattle and Buffalo Breeding has been agreed during the Tenth Plan. The project envisages bringing all breedable cattle and buffalo females under artificial insemination or natural service by high quality bulls, door step delivery of artificial insemination as well as conservation and improvement of indigenous cattle and buffalo breeds with the long term objectives to :
About 80 - 85 % of the total human population in Meghalaya consumes meat. The availability of unproductive animals (cattle) within the State is less and as such the demands of beef could not be met from within the State. The total nos. of animals slaughtered annually during the last four years was estimated at about 1.89 lakhs cattle 1.81 lakhs pigs, and 1.26 lakhs goat. Out of which about 40% of cattle, 11.25% pig and 18.36% goats are imported from outside the State.
The focus, therefore shall be to increase more crossbred cattle, crossing indigenous pig, goat with exotic breeds to produce more meat and extra income from their animals.
Poultry Sector is better organised. The germplasm, feed and other inputs like vaccines are being marketed by private Sector. Egg production in the rural Sector needs to be serviced by the Govt. as well as by the private Sector. The focus shall be on providing genetically improved Stocks and technologies for rural poultry production. Low input breeds have been introduced which will minimize feed expenditure. This will not only provide nutritional household security to rural families but extra family income also. Programmes on other Avian species like quails, guinea fowl and turkey shall be given importance.
Straws, stovers and other agricultural byproducts would continue to be major input as livestock feed for ruminants. Unfortunately, the existing technologies for improving digestibility of straws have remained mostly confined to laboratories and not used by the farmers mainly because of high costs and cumbersome processes involved. Biotechnological techniques which can develop recombinant microbes to digest straws, neutralize lignin and its byproducts, and release carbohydrates through a solid state fermentation process, shall be researched so as to make available energy for livestock feeding.
Productivity of livestock is dependent on availability of quality feed and fodder in requisite quantities. Production of coarse grains has gone down over the years. There is large shortage of green fodder and concentrates. Efforts would be made to make available required quantities of Cereals and oil meals for livestock and poultry sector. Non-conventional animal feed resources shall be exploited to make available protein for livestock feeding for which technical advice from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research for North Eastern Hill Region has been sort.
Efforts would be made to increase availability of green fodder and grasses through increasing area under fodder crops, agro-forestry etc.
Uncultivated, barren and fallow lands shall be developed for animal feeds (grasses, ago-forestry, pasture etc.) on priority. Appropriate resources and technologies for this shall be made available.
Quality of compound feed used for livestock and poultry is extremely important for enhancing production and productivity. Feed quality standards shall be continuously updated to help protect interests of livestock owners. Suitable machinery to enforce quality with necessary legislative back up will be put in place. Private and cooperative sectors have a large presence in this area. They shall be encouraged to evolve a system of self-monitoring with the State playing a supervisory role. The livestock and poultry owners will be educated about the advantages of using quality feed.
Pressures on controlled grazing with harsh restrictions for grazing in forest areas indicate the decreased role of sheep and goat under present system of grazing. To cope up with this situation, semi-intensive and intensive systems would be the future possibilities in small ruminants. Breeds, which could optimally perform under such system shall be propagated and production system integrating crops, livestock and trees shall be adopted.
A large infrastructure in terms of veterinary hospitals/veterinary aid centres has been created and trained veterinary manpower is available but much less than required. These facilities need further expansion in view of difficult terrain of the State and livestock population. Because of financial constraints, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the state to expand these facilities and provide better animal health care services. Some category of livestock owners shall be charged for the services provided. This will not only help the State to improve animal health services but also encourage their development in private sector.
Rinderpest, a deadly cattle disease has been eradicated. The focus shall be on control and eradication of Foot and Mouth disease and several other infectious and contagious diseases through compulsory vaccination and quarantine backed by legislative measures. In view of the large size of the country, it may not be possible to control and eradicated livestock diseases from the entire country at one point of time. Creation of disease free zones is a recognized method of solving this problem in a phased manner. A program to create disease free zones in the country is being initiated. In first phase States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra (Zone 1), Gujarat (Zone II) and Punjab , Haryana, Delhi and Western UP (Zone III) have been identified to be covered under this program.
An important component of comprehensive livestock health cover system is the disease reporting system. Prompt collection and validation of information about animal diseases not only helps in launching an appropriate control program but also help in creation of database. Notification of certain diseases is now an international obligation and access to information on animal diseases, veterinary institutions and trained manpower is an important parameter on international trade of livestock and livestock products. A system of reliable and prompt disease reporting and creation of database for all important diseases will be put in place.
A comprehensive animal health cover system is possible only if there are adequate facilities for prompt diagnosis of livestock disease. Facilities for specific and general diseases diagnosis shall be strengthened, by introducing good laboratory practices. In addition, an effective system for ensuring quality control on vaccines and diagnostics produced/imported shall be put in place. Vaccines and diagnostics needs to be produced in required quantities and made available at affordable cost. Quarantine facilities need to be further strengthened and zoo-sanitary and quarantine procedures followed to prevent ingress of exotic diseases. A model disease control bill is long overdue. Mechanism of Emergency Preparedness against emerging and exotic diseases shall be put in place.
No livestock owner will adopt modern livestock production system and management practices unless he is protected against risk of incurring losses. Adequate insurance cover to guard high producing animals against risks need to be provided. The Government of India has initiated a pilot scheme on cattle insurance with subsidized premium rate for non-scheme animals belonging to people below the poverty line. The scheme after initial experiences shall be extended to the whole country to benefit the poor livestock owners.
Credit is an important input to the livestock production process. The livestock sector’s ability to achieve its targeted growth in productivity and output will be greatly influenced by the quality, availability and accessibility of credit. Hence measures which facilitate access of credit especially to small holders will be promoted, together with forward and backward linkages. The credit policy would be designed to be in consonance with economic policies. The credit will be linked to access to extension, breeding and health services. Schematic lending shall be based on standardized project reports prepared and regularly updated according to realistic market prices.
Database is very critical for proper planning. Database for livestock sector are not only poor but lack authenticity. There are large data gaps. These gaps need to be identified and steps taken to generate the required information for proper planning and programme implementation.
There is shortage of manpower in the area of Veterinary Sciences. Manpower needs to support various programs shall be worked out and steps taken to produce them. Human resource shall also be retrained to meet the newer challenges.
The Livestock Policy through appropriate programs and investments shall help in achieving substantially higher growth rates for milk, egg and meat production and thus make available the required quantities of much needed animal protein in Indian diet. Livestock programs shall generate additional employment, provide household nutritional security, increased household income through increased productivity and thus help in poverty alleviation and rural transformation.