A doorstep survey was conducted to collect information on dairy husbandry practices followed and productive-reproductive performance and problems faced by the dairy farmers in arid and semi-arid areas of Kutch and North Gujarat. The information on land holding, agriculture and occupational practices of 1189 livestock farmers and reproductive and productive parameters of 7611 animals were obtained. The percentages of landless, small, medium and large landholder dairy farmers in arid area were 10.55, 55.86, 19.69 and 13.90, and in semi-arid area 3.64, 59.22, 31.80 and 5.34, respectively. The irrigation facility for agriculture was up to 41.18 and 95.15 % in arid and semi-arid areas, whereas the corresponding primary occupation of agriculture with animal keeping was up to 78.25 and 97.57 %. Among 2350, 1131 and 4130 zebu cattle, crossbreds and buffaloes surveyed, 32.47, 16.71 and 41.82 % animals had different reproductive problems. The average age at first calving was higher and the mean calving interval and postpartum estrus interval were longer in animals of arid area than semi-arid area. The problem of silent heat was more in buffaloes including heifers of arid area. The percentages of anoestrus and repeat breeding were comparatively higher in buffaloes of arid area as compared to semi-arid area. The average milk yield/day was higher and the mean lactation length was longer in crossbred cows and buffaloes than the zebu cows, and both were also higher in animals of semi-arid area. Around 85 to 90 % of dairy animals were bred through AI in both arid and semi-arid areas. Feeding practices of green fodder and concentrate were higher in semi-arid area, while that of dry fodder were higher in arid area. The higher percentages of cows (37 vs 12%) and buffaloes (66 vs 10%) in semi-arid area were supplemented with mineral mixture, and concerned farmers had a greater tendency to provide drinking water ad lib or 3 times a day. The percentage of animals kept in open animal houses was comparatively more in arid area than semi-arid area. The findings show the difference in facilities of farmers of two areas in dairy husbandry practices and thereby productive-reproductive performance and infertility problems in their animals, that can be resolved by scientific interventions.
Animal husbandry is not only a subsidiary source of livelihood in rural Gujarat, but a major economic reform, especially in the arid and semi-arid regions of the state. This sector plays a vital role in the rural economy of the state and has significant impact on employment generation for marginal, sub-marginal and landless farmers (Swain et al., 2012). Gujarat is also known as “Milk bowl of India” with milk production and productivity higher than the national average, owing to development of wide network of co-operative dairy system (Patel et al., 2013). To work out appropriate sustainable livestock management practices and intervention policies, it is crucial to have surveillance of livestock management practices followed by the farmers and the productive-reproductive performance to identify the problem areas of the animal rearing system (Dhami et al., 2017). Hence, the present study was undertaken to gather information regarding existing animal husbandry practices adopted and productive-reproductive problems faced by dairy farmers of arid and semi-arid areas of Kutch and North Gujarat.
Materials and Methods
A field survey was conducted to collect information on dairy animal husbandry practices followed and different types of productive and reproductive problems faced by the dairy animal owners of arid (777) and semi-arid (412) areas of Kutch and North Gujarat. Mass contact programmes were made at farmers’ doorsteps with preformed questionnaires in randomly selected 12 villages of arid districts Kutch and Patan, and semi-arid districts Mehsana and Sabarkantha with the help of local veterinarians and dairy co-operatives for collection of data on land and animal holdings of farmers, type and age of animals, productive-reproductive status of their animals, reproductive problems faced, and awareness regarding estrus signs, feeding, breeding and housing practices followed etc. The breedable age for crossbred, zebu and buffalo heifers were considered as 24, 30 and 30 months, respectively. In each village entire population of breedable cattle and buffaloes was covered in the survey. In all, information on 1189 dairy farmers and 7611 animals (2350 zebu cattle, 1131 crossbreds and 4130 buffaloes) were obtained on above issues from both arid and semi-arid areas. The data thus collected were suitably tabulated, analyzed for frequency or means ± standard errors, and were interpreted.
Results and Discussion
Land Holdings and Agricultural Practices of Farmers
Among 1189 stakeholders/dairy farmers surveyed, the percentages of small land holder ≤5 acre (55.86 vs 59.22) and medium land holder 5-10 acre (19.69 vs 31.80) farmers were comparatively higher, while landless (10.55 vs 3.64) and large land holder ≥10 acre (13.90 vs 5.34) farmers were relatively less in semi-arid area as compared to arid area. These findings are comparable with Dhami et al. (2017) in tribal and non-tribal areas of Middle Gujarat. Majority of livestock farmers have irrigation facilities through canal or tube well/bore well in semi-arid area (95.15%), although it is less in arid area (41.18%) and are engaged in agriculture with animal husbandry (97.57 vs 78.25%). The animal holdings varied from 1 to 15 breedable animals per family. These findings concurred with the report of Patel et al. (2014) regarding mixed farming (agriculture and livestock) being followed by majority (91.20%) of the farmers in Narmada valley region of Gujarat. The lesser irrigation facilities observed in arid area surveyed is due to limited resources of natural water reservoirs/ground water irrigation and low rainfall zone of Gujarat region. The prominent livestock wealth found in both the areas was Kankrej/non-descript cattle and Mehsana/non-descript buffaloes, while HF crossbred cows were found only in semi-arid area of North Gujarat.
Productive and Reproductive Status and Problems
The incidence of reproductive problems among 2350, 1131 and 4130 zebu and HF crossbred cattle and buffalo surveyed was 32.47, 16.71 and 41.82 %, respectively. The study revealed higher average age at first calving in buffaloes (44-46 months) than the zebu (40-41 months) and crossbred (30-32 months) cattle and it varied between arid and semi-arid areas (Table 1 and 2).
These observations are in agreement with Dhami et al. (2017) in cattle and buffaloes of tribal and non-tribal areas of Middle Gujarat. The mean age of buffaloes including heifers was higher than the zebu and crossbred cows and also higher in arid area as compared to semi-arid area. The higher average breedable age of heifers noted was mainly due to negligence and malnutrition of growing/non-productive heifers in both arid and semi-arid areas. The mean calving interval and postpartum estrus interval were lower in crossbred cows than in zebu cattle and buffaloes, and also in animals of semi-arid areas than the arid areas. These findings also supported the earlier observations of Patel et al. (2014) that the majority of dairy farmers (91.30%) bred their animals after 3 to 5 months postpartum and hence had extended calving interval. A longer calving interval in buffaloes might also be due to summer stress, silent heat problems and low conception rates, apart from delayed postpartum breeding. The mean duration of estrus was almost similar in zebu cattle and buffalo (18-20 hrs), however it was little longer in crossbreds (24-30 hrs) and it was more or less similar in arid and semi-arid areas. Parmar et al. (2016) made similar observations in cattle and buffaloes in coastal areas of South Gujarat. The postpartum complications were higher in buffaloes and zebu cows as compared to crossbred cows and it varied with the arid and semi-arid areas and type of animals (Table 1 and 2).
Table 1: Productive and reproductive status and problems in breedable cattle of arid and semi-arid areas of Kutch and North Gujarat
|Parameters||Arid area||Semi-arid area|
|Zebu cows||Zebu heifers||Zebu cows||Zebu heifers||CB cows||CB heifers|
|Total no. of animals||1551||640||128||31||832||299|
|Av. age of animals (years)||7.17 ± 1.97||2.87 ± 1.23||6.86 ± 2.49||2.71 ± 1.56||6.24 ± 2.14||2.24 ± 1.02|
|Av. age at first calving (months)||41.06 ± 4.32||—||40.50 ± 4.16||—||31.18 ± 3.05||—|
|Mean calving interval (months)||16.89 ± 2.87||—||16.84 ± 3.81||—||14.15 ± 2.24||—|
|Postpartum complications (%)||12.25 (190)||—||9.38 (12)||—||7.81 (65)||—|
|PP estrus interval (days)||68.57 ± 12.43||—||65.93 ± 8.74||—||59.76 ± 10.36||—|
|Duration of last estrus (hours)||22.98 ± 2.40||21.77 ± 2.42||23.62 ± 3.56||22.48 ± 3.12||28.98 ± 1.81||26.63 ± 1.48|
|a) Clear (%)||80.98 (1256)||83.44 (534)||87.50 (112)||90.32 (28)||97.72 (813)||94.65 (283)|
|b) Unhealthy (%)||11.28 (175)||8.13 (52)||7.81 (10)||3.23 (1)||2.04 (17)||4.01 (12)|
|c) No discharge (%)||7.74 (120)||8.44 (54)||4.69 (6)||6.45 (2)||0.24 (2)||1.34 (4)|
|Treatment during last estrus (%)||7.41 (115)||7.34 (47)||7.03 (9)||9.68 (3)||4.45 (37)||4.35 (13)|
|Estrous cycle length (days)||21.44 ± 2.17||22.08 ± 1.87||21.86 ± 1.68||21.43 ± 1.34||21.89 ± 1.37||21.87 ± 2.08|
|Nature of Reproductive Problem|
|a) Normal cyclic/ Early PP (%)||19.34 (300)||18.75 (120)||32.03 (41)||35.48 (11)||56.25 (468)||26.76 (80)|
|b) Pregnant (%)||50.87 (789)||42.66 (273)||34.38 (44)||29.03 (9)||31.61 (263)||42.47 (127)|
|c) Anoestrus (%)||9.16 (142)||12.81 (82)||10.16 (13)||9.68 (3)||2.04 (17)||8.36 (25)|
|d) Repeat breeder (%)||14.51 (225)||17.97 (115)||17.97 (23)||19.35 (6)||8.17 (68)||16.39 (49)|
|e) Others (%)||6.13 (95)||7.81 (50)||5.47 (7)||6.45 (2)||1.44 (12)||6.02 (18)|
|Cows in milk (%)||80.85 (1245)||—||69.53 (89)||—||71.15 (592)||—|
|Body weight (kg)||371.68 ±13.54||243 ± 13.81||408.41 ± 18.21||284.66 ± 15.32||364.46 ± 12.87||264.87 ±14.23|
|Milk yield (liters/day)||3.70 ± 1.17||—||3.84 ± 0.54||—||8.68 ± 0.43||—|
|Lactation length (days)||240.91 ± 14.37||—||256.42 ± 17.34||—||298.97 ± 16.81||—|
Figures in parenthesis indicate number of animals. PP = Postpartum, CB = Crossbred.
The finding on postpartum complications is in agreement with Shivhare et al. (2013) and Dhami et al. (2017). Dystocia, abortion, retained placenta and postpartum uterine and/or vaginal prolapse were reported to be major obstetrical complications during field survey. Problem of silent heat was more prominent in buffaloes including heifers of arid area, which did not evince much discharge at estrus, and concurred, with report of Parmar et al. (2016) and Dhami et al. (2017). Metestrus bleeding was recorded in 2.51 % of crossbred cattle mainly in semi-arid area. The estrous cycle length reported was on an average 21 days in all classes of animals and agreed with Parmar et al. (2016) and Dhami et al. (2017). The incidence of anoestrus and repeat breeding was higher in buffaloes (15-22%) and zebu cattle (10-19%) than crossbred cattle (8-16%). In heifers, anoestrus was more common due to malnutrition and negligence, while in pluriparous animals repeat breeding was more due to genital infections. The percentages of anoestrus and repeat breeding were comparatively higher in cows and buffaloes of arid area as compared to semi-arid area (Table 1 and 2).
Table 2: Productive and reproductive status and problems of breedable buffaloes in arid and semi-arid areas of Kutch and North Gujarat
|Parameters||Arid Area||Semi-Arid Area|
|Total no. of animals||2041||926||710||453|
|Av. age (years)||8.32 ± 2.13||3.65 ± 1.29||7.43 ± 2.32||2.87 ± 1.29|
|Av. age at first calving (months)||46.66 ± 4.54||—||44.26 ± 3.98||—|
|Mean calving interval (months)||19.62 ± 2.68||—||17.61 ± 2.59||—|
|Postpartum complications (%)||14.16 (289)||—||7.46 (53)||—|
|Postpartum estrus interval (days)||85.92 ± 9.69||—||83.95 ± 11.35||—|
|Duration of last estrus (hours)||18.23 ± 2.41||20.18 ± 1.83||21.83 ± 2.27||20.53 ± 1.75|
|a) Clear (%)||68.64 (1401)||66.31 (614)||87.32 (620)||73.51 (333)|
|b) Unhealthy (%)||11.95 (244)||7.56 (70)||3.94 (28)||7.95 (36)|
|c) No discharge (%)||19.40 (396)||26.13 (242)||8.73 (62)||18.54 (84)|
|Treatment during last estrus (%)||9.02 (184)||8.10 (75)||7.61 (54)||7.51 (34)|
|Estrous cycle length (days)||21.42 ± 1.31||21.36 ± 1.17||23.29 ± 1.19||22.25 ± 1.70|
|Nature of Reproductive Problem|
|a) Normal cyclic/ Early PP (%)||15.04 (307)||16.41 (152)||46.06 (327)||32.23 (146)|
|b) Pregnant (%)||39.78 (812)||36.29 (336)||27.75 (197)||27.81 (126)|
|c) Anoestrus (%)||15.43 (315)||20.30 (188)||7.04 (50)||21.63 (98)|
|d) Repeat breeder (%)||22.20 (453)||21.27 (197)||14.37 (102)||15.23 (69)|
|e) Others (%)||7.55 (154)||5.72 (53)||4.79 (34)||3.09 (14)|
|Buffaloes in milk (%)||81.43 (1662)||—||71.27 (506)||—|
|Body weight (kg)||416.17 ±15.01||259.72 ±12.94||433.46 ±16.40||301.08 ±12.90|
|Milk yield (liters/day)||5.53 ± 1.07||—||5.94 ± 0.72||—|
|Lactation length (days)||279.33 ±14.05||—||282.06 ±17.05||—|
Figures in parenthesis indicate number of animals, PP = Postpartum
This may be due to difference in quality of feed/fodder and breeding services available in respective regions. The incidence of anoestrus found in buffaloes was in accordance with Modi et al. (2011) and Dhami et al. (2017), while Kumar et al. (2013) reported higher incidence in buffaloes as compared to present finding. The incidence of repeat breeding in buffaloes was higher than that reported by Parmar et al. (2016) and Dhami et al. (2017), but in cattle it concurred with Mohteshamuddin et al. (2012). The endometritis, abortion and other miscellaneous reproductive disorders were relatively higher in buffaloes of arid area due to migratory nature and poor veterinary support available in time. Similar findings were also reported by Mittal et al. (2009) in buffaloes of the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh.
The average body weight and body condition scores were higher in cows and buffaloes of semi-arid area as compared to arid area, which reflect the nutritional status of animals, as were noted in tribal and non-tribal areas of Middle Gujarat by Dhami et al. (2017). The percentages of zebu cows (69.53 vs 80.85) in milk were less, while buffaloes (81.43 vs 71.27) in milk were higher in semi-arid area as compared to arid area. The average milk yield/day was higher in crossbred cows followed by buffaloes and zebu cows and it was higher in animals of semi-arid areas than the arid areas, which is in agreement with Patel et al. (2014). The mean lactation length was longer in crossbred cows and buffaloes than the zebu cows and it was longer in animals of semi-arid area as compared to arid area (Table 1 and 2). These findings corroborated with report of Parmar et al. (2016) in coastal areas of South Gujarat and Dhami et al. (2017) in tribal and non-tribal areas of Middle Gujarat.
Breeding, Feeding, Housing and Watering Practices
In both arid and semi-arid areas, nearer to 85 to 90 % animals are bred through AI network of dairy cooperatives and state animal husbandry department. The average green fodder fed to the cows and buffaloes were fairly higher in semi-arid area (12 vs 8 kg) than arid area, while dry fodder fed to cows and buffaloes were comparatively higher in arid area (14 vs 10 kg) as compared to semi-arid area (Table 3). The farmers of both the areas adopted feeding system to their milch animals according to availability of feed. The dry fodder feeding was higher in animals of aria area due to low availability of green fodder during winter and summer months. The amount of concentrate feed supplied was in the range of 2 to 4 kg per day being higher in productive than nonproductive animals and also in semi-arid area than arid area. These findings are in accordance with Rao et al. (2015). Further, most of the farmers fed compound concentrate manufactured by co-operative dairies in semi-arid areas (Sagar dan). The higher percentage of crossbred and zebu cattle (37 vs 12%) and buffaloes (66 vs 10%) in semi-arid area were supplemented with 40-50 g mineral mixture per day. These findings are in accordance with Sabapara et al. (2010). The feeding of salts was practiced mainly in crossbreds (35%) with misconception that it is already added in compound concentrate, and thus supported the views of Sabapara et al. (2010). The higher percentage of cattle and buffalo owners in semi-arid area had a tendency to provide drinking water ad lib or at least 3 times a day, which is supported by Rao et al. (2015). The arid farmers had tendency to offer water twice a day to both cattle and buffaloes. The percentages of cows and buffaloes kept in open animal houses were comparatively higher in arid area than the semi-arid area, where cattle and buffaloes were managed equally in open area under Kachcha houses or tree sheds (Table 3). Similar observations were also made by Patel et al. (2013), who reported that majority of farmers of North Gujarat kept their animals in loose houses (36%), shelter plus under tree (31%) and open or under tree (33%) in arid and semi-arid areas.
Table 3: Feeding, housing and watering practices followed for cattle and buffaloes by dairy farmers in arid and semi-arid areas of Kutch and North Gujarat
|Parameters||Arid Area||Semi-arid Area|
|Zebu cattle||Buffalo||Zebu cattle||CB cattle||Buffalo|
|Roughage: Green (kg)||8.14 ± 2.07||8.77 ± 1.90||12.31 ±2.14||12.94 ± 2.18||14.12 ± 2.08|
|Dry (kg)||11.93 ± 1.70||13.67 ± 1.62||9.57 ± 1.45||8.62 ± 1.43||9.63 ± 1.37|
|Concentrate (kg)||1.53 ± 0.62||1.69 ± 0.75||3.80 ± 0.67||3.19 ± 0.56||2.99 ± 0.55|
|Mineral mixture (gm)||25.70 ± 1.48||30.41 ± 1.97||48.33 ±3.56||49.27 ± 3.93||45.99 ± 3.19|
|% Animals fed Min Mix||11.91 (261)||10.08 (299)||37.11 (59)||85.23 (964)||66.47 (773)|
|% Animals fed Salt||5.20 (114)||5.66 (168)||13.21 (21)||34.57 (391)||23.04 (268)|
|Close confinement (%)||1.96 (43)||2.02 (60)||4.40 (7)||57.21 (647)||47.29 (550)|
|Open area (%)||98.04 (2148)||97.98 (2907)||95.60 (152)||42.79 (484)||52.71 (613)|
|2 times (%)||81.29 (1781)||70.17(2082)||23.90 (38)||30.68 (347)||47.98 (558)|
|3 times / ad lib (%)||18.71 (410)||29.83 (885)||76.10 (121)||69.32 (784)||52.02 (605)|
Figures in parenthesis indicate number of animals. CB = Crossbred
The study concludes that most of farmers in both arid and semi-arid area were small holders. The mean calving interval and postpartum estrus interval of dairy animals were longer and problem of silent heat in buffaloes was also more in arid area. The incidences of anoestrus and repeat breeding in both cattle and buffaloes were comparatively higher in arid area. The average milk yield/day was higher with longer lactation length in animals of semi-arid area. Almost 85 to 90 % animals were bred through AI in both the areas. Feeding and watering practices in arid and semi-arid areas were followed as per geographical availability of fodder and water resources under low rainfall zone region. The open animal housing system was relatively common in arid area. The observations show that the reproductive and productive performance of animals need to be improved by scientific interventions and using animal husbandry extension services by the Government and rural development agencies for sustainable livestock management practices.
We sincerely thank the ICAR, New Delhi, for funding the project “AICRP on nutritional and physiological interventions to enhance reproductive performance of dairy animals” to senior author as PI, under which this surveillance work was carried out.