Mass Skin Disease has created a livelihood crisis for smallholder dairy farmers in India

Livestock is the mainstay of most of India’s poorest farmers, especially in arid and semi-arid regions; they have no other source of income

On July, Lakshmi Devi’s cow Laalri noticed swelling in her legs. The next day, the animal’s body was covered with lumps. Devi called a local veterinarian to learn that a viral disease called Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) was spreading in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district.

The doctor advised him to isolate the sick cow. But since there was not much space in his house, he created a distance of 20 feet between Laalri and the other cows. Over the next five days, the infection spread to two of his other cows.

“We were very tense because it happened suddenly. The day before the masses began to appear, the cow was fine. And then, she just got sick and stopped producing milk. We later came to know that other cows in the village are also getting sick,” said Devi from 1 LKD (Lunkaransar Distribution) village in Lunkaransar. talukahe said Down to Earth.

Devi’s family of five depends on animal husbandry for their livelihood and LSD has severely damaged their income. The family does not have any agricultural land and therefore leases some land for farming. But selling milk is their main source of livelihood.

However, total milk supply to the family’s local dairy has fallen by a whopping 33 liters per day, a direct income loss of Rs 1,155 per day since the outbreak began.

The family has 13 cows, four of which were producing 40 liters of milk before contracting the virus. This resulted in a daily income of Rs.1400. Now, just two cows give a total of seven liters of milk a day.

Laalri, named for the color of her red coat, did not recover even in the second week of September and now her hair has lost its color and luster.

She was a healthy cow before the disease, weighing over 250 kilograms and producing an average of 10 liters of milk per day. Since the illness, he has lost more than 100 kg and now needs help to stand.

His livelihood was cut off

Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

Most of the households in Rajasthan recorded losses in milk production after the outbreak. This has reduced their livelihood.

Livestock is the mainstay of most of India’s poorest farmers, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. The sector accounted for 4.35 percent of total value added in 2019-20.

It acts as an insurance against environmental stresses and has become more reliable than crops, especially for small and marginal farmers.

Small and marginal farmers (those with less than two hectares (ha) of land) have a higher share of livestock than their medium and large counterparts.

For example, 10.9 percent of those with a land area of ​​0.01 ha, and 1.2 percent and 0.8 percent of those with a land area of ​​4-10 hectares and over 10 hectares, respectively, are engaged in animal husbandry.

That’s why it is Assessment of Land and Livestock Status of Agricultural Holdings and Households in Rural India, 2019 Prepared by the National Statistics Office.

Dependence on livestock for income is also higher among marginal farmers, as shown in the survey data. According to the survey, the share of livestock in total farm income is higher among small farms and even more than crop cultivation for marginal farmers.

Rajasthan has the largest number of cattle in the country (56 million). The sector is very important to many farmers like Devi in ​​the state. The LSD epidemic threatens their livelihood.

Most of the deaths due to the epidemic occurred among pregnant cattle, and farmers were deprived of the opportunity to have both productive cattle and calves.

Iqbal Singh and his wife Harpinder Kaur lost Holstein-Friesian (HF) dairy cow, the only dairy cattle they have, to LSD in August. HF is known to be one of the highest yielding dairy animals in the world.

“We bought it for Rs 55,000 last year and now it is priced at Rs 80,000 in the market. She was a very healthy cow, giving about 10-11 liters of milk twice a day. He was about to deliver before he got the infection,” he said.

An estimated 100,000 cattle have died from LSD in India, and estimates put the direct economic loss at Rs 300 crore so far. This is given subject to the minimum market value of a domestic or cross breed cow being Rs 30,000.

This excludes opportunity costs such as loss of milk production due to cattle loss, loss of milk yield of recovered cattle, delay in subsequent pregnancy, loss of body mass, abortions in pregnant cattle and infertility in others.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, animals can be debilitated for up to six months, with reduced milk production due to loss of feed intake due to mouth sores.

Loss of milk production can be between 26 and 42 percent in local cattle and up to 50 percent in exotic breeds.

According to a research paper published in January 2022, LSD could cause huge economic losses in affected Asian countries, with direct livestock and production losses estimated at $1.46 billion. Veterinary journal.

Indirect losses resulting from trade barriers, including exports of live animals, meat and meat products, dairy products and hides, are higher than direct losses and are estimated at $5.51 billion.

Another thing that worries livestock owners is the fact that scars and wounds remain on the skin of animals even after recovery. This will degrade the marketable value of the cow as well as the value of the hide for hides.

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