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How to bring about White Revolution 2.0

Context- The Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) for 2022-23 reveals that milk has become the highest expenditure food item in both rural and urban India.

In rural areas, the average monthly expenditure per person is as follows:

  • Milk and dairy products: Rs 314
  • Vegetables: Rs 203
  • Cereals: Rs 185
  • Egg, fish & meat: Rs 185
  • Fruits: Rs 140
  • Edible oil: Rs 136
  • Spices: Rs 113
  • Pulses: Rs 76

In urban areas, the average monthly expenditure per person is:

  • Milk and dairy products: Rs 466
  • Fruits: Rs 246
  • Vegetables: Rs 245
  • Cereals: Rs 235
  • Egg, fish & meat: Rs 231
  • Edible oil: Rs 153
  • Spices: Rs 138
  • Pulses: Rs 90

The challenge

The increased spending on milk in India, which is seen as a “superior” food, is beneficial for the dairy industry and farmers. However, there are two potential challenges:

  1. Inflation affecting consumer demand: The most commonly quoted price of milk in India has risen from Rs 42 to Rs 60 per litre over the past five years, with a significant increase from Rs 52 to Rs 60 occurring in the last year alone.
  2. Rising costs of production: The costs of fodder, feed, and raw materials have significantly increased, leading dairies to raise procurement prices paid to farmers and subsequently pass these costs onto consumers. There is a limit to how much consumers can pay for milk before demand decreases.

To increase farmer incomes without reducing domestic demand or harming the global competitiveness of the Indian dairy industry, the cost of milk production needs to be reduced.

How can that be achieved?

  • One method to increase milk yield per animal is through genetic improvement and new breeding technologies.
  • A typical crossbred cow can produce 5-7 calves in its lifetime, with only 50% being female (future milk-producing cows) through natural breeding or artificial insemination (AI). However, using sex-sorted (SS) semen increases the probability of female calves being born to over 90%.
  • Amul, also known as the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union, performed 13.91 lakh AIs on its farmers’ cows in 2022-23, with 20.5% (2.86 lakh) based on SS semen. They aim to increase this ratio to 30% by 2024-25.
  • With every third AI leading to conception and 90% of calves being female, this means more future milk-producing cows than bulls.

ET and IVF

Embryo Transfer (ET) and in-vitro fertilization are two technologies that can increase the milk yield of cows:

1. Embryo Transfer (ET):

  • This involves injecting a follicle-stimulating hormone into cows to release multiple eggs in a single estrous cycle. These eggs are then fertilized by sperm from a genetically superior bull.
  • The fertilized eggs are collected and implanted into multiple recipient animals. This process allows for the production of several calves from a single high genetic merit (HGM) cow. With six procedures, each yielding six viable embryos, and a 33-35% conception rate, around 12 calves can be born from each donor cow per year.

2. In-vitro Fertilization:

  • This more recent technology involves extracting immature eggs directly from the cow’s ovaries and allowing them to mature in an incubator. The mature eggs are then fertilized in vitro, i.e., outside the cow’s body.
  • The resulting zygotes are transferred to recipient cows after six days. With 20 procedures, five viable embryos per procedure, and a 33-35% conception rate, there can be 33-35 calves per donor cow per year. This is significantly higher than the 5-7 calves produced during a cow’s entire lifetime through normal breeding.

Taking to farmer

  • Amul opened a Bovine Breeding Centre in Mogar, Gujarat in March 2020. The center, established with an investment of Rs 15 crore, aims to breed a nucleus herd of High Genetic Merit (HGM) bulls and cows.
  • Their superior semen and in vitro-fertilised embryos, frozen at -196 degrees Celsius, are used for Artificial Insemination (AI) or transferred into farmers’ animals.
  • The center has produced 170 male and 180 female animals through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Embryo Transfer (ET) technology.
  • These include exotic breeds (Holstein Friesian and Jersey), HF-Gir and HF-Sahiwal crossbred, and indigenous breeds (Gir, Sahiwal, and Murrah buffalo).
  • The Kaira union has already implemented IVF-ET technology, with 63 pregnancies and 13 calvings recorded so far. Other member unions of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation have also adopted this technology.
  • For instance, Bhavnaben Chaudhary, a farmer who supplies around 150 litres of milk daily to the Banaskantha District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union, has a 4.5-month-old pure Kankrej calf born through IVF-ET to a surrogate HF-Kankrej crossbred mother. She chose Kankrej due to its higher fat and solids-not-fat content, which could fetch a better price despite lower yields and reduced feeding and maintenance costs.

Animal nutrition

  • To reduce the feeding costs of animals, farmers are encouraged to cultivate high-yielding, protein-rich green fodder grasses and decrease their reliance on expensive compound cattle feed and oil-meal concentrates.
  • Amul is establishing a 30-tonnes-per-day Total Mixed Ration (TMR) plant at Sarsa in Anand. The TMR will include dry and green fodder, concentrates, vitamins, and mineral mixtures in a ready-to-eat form for animals. This approach will save farmers the cost of separately purchasing and storing fodder and administering it in addition to cattle feed.
  • The fodder for the TMR plant will be sourced from farmer producer organisations, whose members will exclusively grow maize, jowar, hybrid napier, or oat grass and make their silage.
  • The primary focus of White Revolution 2.0 is to lower the cost of producing milk at the farm-gate, rather than increasing procurement prices year after year.

Conclusion- With milk emerging as the top expenditure item in both rural and urban India, the industry faces challenges from inflation and rising production costs. However, innovative breeding technologies like Embryo Transfer and In Vitro Fertilisation offer potential solutions by increasing milk yield per animal. Additionally, efforts are being made to reduce feeding costs through the cultivation of high-yielding, protein-rich green fodder grasses and the introduction of Total Mixed Ration plants.

The focus of the industry is shifting towards reducing the cost of milk production at the farm-gate, marking a significant shift in the approach towards dairy farming in India. This could herald a new era for the dairy industry, benefiting both farmers and consumers.

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