The drop in cattle population in Maharashtra is a cause of concern, especially when the decline is more on account of indigenous cattle breed. Also, the drop in numbers is more in males.
Fall in Maharashtra’s cattle population from a total of 180.72 lakh to 154.84 lakh between 1997 and 2012.
While this may be apparent cause for concern, it, however, masks two significant trends.
The decline in the number of indigenous cattle breeds, which have shrunk by 37.81 lakh.
Rise (11.94 lakh) in the number of exotic/cross-bred cattle. Thus, it is the desi animals — as opposed to those containing genetic material of videshi breeds like Holstein Friesian and Jersey — that have suffered a decrease.
Secondly, as the accompanying table shows, the drop in cattle numbers is more in males than females. This bias towards females is clearly due to cattle being valued largely now for milk, rather than for draught or even breeding purposes. The latter roles have increasingly been taken over by tractors and artificial insemination technology.
But cattle being viewed mainly as milch animals also means a preference among farmers to rear crossbreds, which give more milk.
Increase in Maharashtra’s cross-bred female population by 13.28 lakh between the 1997 and 2012 Livestock Censuses.
The same trend can be seen for buffaloes, where the depletion is essentially in males. While female numbers have remained more or less unchanged, they could well go up following the implementation of the Maharashtra government’s comprehensive cattle slaughter ban legislation.