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Role of Livestock in Indian Economy

This topic provides information about the role of livestock in Indian economy

Livestock plays an important role in Indian economy. About 20.5 million people depend upon livestock for their livelihood. Livestock contributed 16% to the income of small farm households as against an average of 14% for all rural households. Livestock provides livelihood to two-third of rural community. It also provides employment to about 8.8 % of the population in India. India has vast livestock resources. Livestock sector contributes 4.11% GDP and 25.6% of total Agriculture GDP.

Livestock resources

India is

  • World’s highest livestock owner at about 512.05 million
  • First in the total buffalo population in the world - 105.3 million buffaloes
  • Second in the population of cattle and goats - 140.5 million goats
  • Second largest poultry market in the world - production of 63 billion eggs and 649 million poultry meat.
  • Third in the population of sheep (72 millions)
  • Fifth in in the population of ducks and chicken
  • Tenth in camel population in the world.

Source : 19th Livestock Census

Contribution of livestock to people

The livestock provides food and non-food items to the people.

  1. Food: The livestock provides food items such as Milk, Meat and Eggs for human consumption. India is number one milk producer in the world. It is producing about 165.4 million tones of milk in a year (2016-17). Similarly it is producing about 88.14 billions of eggs, 8.89 million tonnes of meat in a year. The value of output of livestock sector at current prices was Rs 8,11,847 crores in 2015-16.
  2. Fibre and skins: The livestock also contributes to the production of wool, hair, hides, and pelts. Leather is the most important product which has a very high export potential. India is producing about 43.5 million Kg of wool per annum.
  3. Draft: Bullocks are the back bone of Indian agriculture. Despite lot of advancements in the use of mechanical power in Indian agricultural operations, the Indian farmer especially in rural areas still depend upon bullocks for various agricultural operations. The bullocks are saving a lot on fuel which is a necessary input for using mechanical power like tractors, combine harvesters etc. Pack animals like camels, horses, donkeys, ponies, mules etc are being extensively used to transport goods in different parts of the country in addition to bullocks. In situations like hilly terrains mules and ponies serve as the only alternative to transport goods. Similarly, the army has to depend upon these animals to transport various items in high areas of high altitude.
  4. Dung and other animal waste materials: Dung and other animal wastes serve as very good farm yard manure and the value of it is worth several crores of rupees. In addition it is also used as fuel (bio gas, dung cakes), and for construction as poor man’s cement (dung).
  5. Storage: Livestock are considered as “moving banks” because of their potentiality to dispose off during emergencies. They serve as capital and in cases of landless agricultural labourers many time it is the only capital resource they possess. Livestock serve as an asset and in case of emergencies they serve as guarantee for availing loans from the local sources such as money lenders in the villages.
  6. Weed control: Livestock are also used as Biological control of brush, plants and weeds.
  7. Cultural: Livestock offer security to the owners and also add to their self esteem especially when they are owning prized animals such as pedigreed bulls, dogs and high yielding cows/ buffaloes etc.
  8. Sports / recreation: People also use the animals like cocks, rams, bulls etc for competition and sports. Despite ban on these animal competitions the cock fights, ram fights and bull fights (jalli kattu) are quite common during festive seasons.
  9. Companion animals: Dogs are known for their faithfulness and are being used as companions since time immemorial. When the nuclear families are increasing in number and the old parents are forced to lead solitary life the dogs, cats are providing the needed company to the latter thus making them lead a comfortable life.

Role of livestock in farmers’ economy

The livestock plays an important role in the economy of farmers. The farmers in India maintain mixed farming system i.e. a combination of crop and livestock where the output of one enterprise becomes the input of another enterprise thereby realize the resource efficiency. The livestock serve the farmers in different ways.

  1. Income: Livestock is a source of subsidiary income for many families in India especially the resource poor who maintain few heads of animals. Cows and buffaloes if in milk will provide regular income to the livestock farmers through sale of milk. Animals like sheep and goat serve as sources of income during emergencies to meet exigencies like marriages, treatment of sick persons, children education, repair of houses etc. The animals also serve as moving banks and assets which provide economic security to the owners.
  2. Employment: A large number of people in India being less literate and unskilled depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods. But agriculture being seasonal in nature could provide employment for a maximum of 180 days in a year. The land less and less land people depend upon livestock for utilizing their labour during lean agricultural season.
  3. Food: The livestock products such as milk, meat and eggs are an important source of animal protein to the members of the livestock owners. The per capita availability of milk is around 355 g / day; eggs is 69 / annum;
  4. Social security: The animals offer social security to the owners in terms of their status in the society. The families especially the landless which own animals are better placed than those who do not. Gifting of animals during marriages is a very common phenomenon in different parts of the country. Rearing of animals is a part of the Indian culture. Animals are used for various socio religious functions. Cows for house warming ceremonies; rams, bucks and chicken for sacrifice during festive seasons;   Bulls and Cows are worshipped during various religious functions. Many owners develop attachment to their animals.
  5. Draft : The bullocks are the back bone of Indian agriculture. The farmers especially the marginal and small depend upon bullocks for ploughing, carting and transport of both inputs and outputs.
  6. Dung: In rural areas dung is used for several purposes which include fuel (dung cakes), fertilizer (farm yard manure), and plastering material (poor man’s cement).

Livestock population (2012 Livestock census)

Sl. No



(in millions)

Ranking in the world population









Total (including Mithun and Yak)




















Total livestock




Total poultry















Production of livestock in India 2016-17

Sl. No.



Ranking in the world production


MILK in million tonnes




EGGS in billions ( nos)




MEAT million tonnes




WOOL in million kgs.




FISH  in lakh tonnes



Source: Annual Report 2017-18, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Govt. of India.

Related resources

  1. Livestock Census
Adhikari Sahu Jun 15, 2017 10:22 AM

Very nice information

Dr.Pushapnath chougale Jun 08, 2017 11:14 AM

Very very useful
Thank you soon much

GANGUNAUDU SURLA Apr 02, 2017 12:37 PM

it is an abstractive form more useful in refresh our knowledge.

Dr. Faizan javid Feb 01, 2017 09:02 PM

Summed up nicely

R.Ashok veterinary Jan 26, 2017 07:09 PM

very usefull information

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