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Data: Many states witness a decline in the Cattle population


As per the 2019 Livestock Census, many states have reported a decline in the cattle population. Across states, the population of the male cattle & male buffaloes has decreased substantially compared to their female counterparts. West Bengal is now the state with the most cattle population overtaking states like UP & MP. 

In the earlier story, we had reviewed various “Prevention of Cow Slaughter” laws in the country. Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Haryana made changes to their respective law in recent years, with a new ordinance being approved in Karnataka recently.  

With the exception of 5 states and one UT, the remaining States/UTs have laws related to the prevention of slaughter and protection of cattle. Nevertheless, the scope of the law in each of the stats varies as observed in our earlier story.  One of the key reasons cited for the recent changes in the cow-slaughter laws was protection and to facilitate the propagation of the cattle in India. 

We take a look at what the numbers say regarding the bovine population in the country over the years. The information is collated from the “Livestock Census conducted by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying. The first Livestock Census was conducted in 1919, with the latest being the 20th Livestock Census, conducted in the year 2019. 

Slight improvement in the Cattle numbers in the latest census after the drop observed in previous census 

The Bovine population as per the Livestock Census includes 4 species – Cattle, Buffalo, Mithun & Yak. Of these, Cattle & Buffalo are the more widespread and have the major share of the bovine population in the country. 

Cattle refers only to the species of Cows and their progeny – Bullocks, bulls, etc. i.e. the bovine species under “Bos Indicus” & “Bos Taurus” (the livestock includes both indigenous and exotic breeds). Buffaloes are categorized separately.  

As per the 2019 census, the total Cattle population in the country is 19.34 cores i.e. an increase of 1.34% compared to the previous census in 2012, wherein it was 19.09 crores.  The improvement comes after a decline recorded in the 2012 census by about  4.1 % compared to the census in 2007. The trends over the last five censuses indicate fluctuations in the growth trends of the Cattle population of India. 

On the other hand, there is a steady growth in the population of buffaloes over the past 5 censuses. As per the 2019 census, the total population of buffaloes in the country was 10.98 crores compared to 10.87 crores in the previous census 0f 2012. 

Unlike the recent legislation in Karnataka, where even buffaloes are included in the scope of protection against slaughter, most of the state laws allow for the slaughter of the buffalo under certain conditions. However, it is interesting to note the consistent increase in the numbers for buffaloes, despite no specific ban on slaughter. It contrasts with the trend for cows (cattle). As highlighted in the earlier story, most of the states have Cow-protection laws for many decades. In spite of these protection laws, the growth in Cattle numbers has been inconsistent. Specifically, there has been a decline during the 17th (2003) and 19th (2012) censuses, compared to the respective previous census. 

Odisha, Karnataka, M.P, U.P & Gujarat report a decline in Cattle population 

Although the population of Cattle has increased at the national level as per the 2019 Livestock Census compared to the 2012 Census, the trend is not even across the different states. 

  • Odisha reported the greatest decline in the cattle population between the two censuses. The population declined by nearly 15%, from 1.16 crores in 2012 to 99 lakhs in 2019.
  • In Maharashtra, the population declined by 17 lakhs while Karnataka, which has recently affected more stringent legislation also reported a  decline of the population of cattle by more than 10 lakhs. 
  • The Cattle population in Gujarat & Uttar Pradesh which have made legislative changes over the past decade have also reported a decline in the Cattle population as per the 2019 Livestock Census. 
  • Andhra Pradesh (Telangana included for uniformity), Madhya Pradesh, J&K, H.P & Uttarakhand are the other states with significant cattle population and have reported a decrease in their population. 

The increase in the population of Cattle at the national level is majorly contributed by the increase in the cattle population of Bihar, West Bengal, and Jharkhand. As per the 2019 census, West Bengal overtook M.P & U.P as the state with the highest Cattle population in the country. 

Kerala, one of the states without any cow-slaughter law, has also reported an increase in the population of cows. 

Punjab & Haryana report a decline in the Buffalo population 

While U.P, M.P & Gujarat were among the states which have reported a decline in the population of Cattle during the 2019 census, the population of Buffaloes in these states has increased. Buffalo’s population in Madhya Pradesh has increased by more than 25 %. Chhattisgarh on the other hand has reported a fall in the population of buffaloes in contrast to the increase in the number of cattle in the state. The same is the case with Tamil Nadu. 

Meanwhile, states including Odisha, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana) have reported a decline in the buffalo population similar to the decline observed in the cattle population in these states. Punjab and Haryana have reported the largest decline in the population of buffaloes in the 2019 census when compared to the 2012 census

Decline in the numbers for both Male Cattle & Male Buffaloes 

The marginal increase in the national level numbers for both Cattle & Buffaloes in the 2019 survey compared to 2012, can be attributed largely to an increase in the number of females of both Cattle & Buffaloes.  This increase was able to cover up the decline in the male gender of both the cattle and buffaloes. 

In terms of total numbers, the number of female animals of cattle and buffalo outnumbers that of males by a large margin. In the case of buffaloes, the decline is more evident. In 2012, there were 1.61 crore male buffaloes which by 2019  decreased to 92 lakhs, a reduction of around 42%. Correspondingly there has been a marginal increase in the number of female buffaloes with it reaching 10 crores in 2019 compared to 9.25 crores in 2012. 

In the case of Cattle, there has been a substantial increase in the female. In 2019, the number of female cattle was 14.59 crores compared to 12.29 crores in 2012 whereas the number declined by nearly 19% for male cattle during the same period. 

Information not available for the offences booked under the Anti-slaughter laws 

While there could be various reasons for the decline in the population of the bovine, the decreased dependency on the male cattle/buffaloes (bulls, bullocks, etc.) for agriculture & allied sectors could be a reason for their decline.  In contrast, Cows & Buffaloes (female) are seen to be retained for a longer period due to their milk productivity. This trend is observed across states.

For example, in Uttar Pradesh which is among the states with a major decline in the Cattle Population, the population of Male cattle fell by more than half. In 2017, the population of Male cattle in the State was around 49 lakhs which fell to 20.1 lakhs by the 2019 census. Whereas the decline in female cattle population was just around 1.6% i.e. decline by around 3.1 lakhs from the 1.89 crores recorded in the 2012 census.

The correlation between productivity and survival of the Cattle can also be ascertained by the fact that nearly 98% Female cattle in the country as per 2019 census are productive cattle, indicating that the probability of cattle being disposed beyond their productive age is very high. 

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The legislation in many states does allow for the slaughter of bovines including cows if they are certified to be fit for slaughter i.e. are unproductive or for other reasons. However, with the legislative changes being brought in to prevent the slaughter of these animals also, it may prove to be an additional burden on the cattle rearers unless the government provides support for the care of these animals. 

The National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) annual ‘Crime in India’ (CII) report is a compilation of the offences registered, disposed & pending of the various crimes committed in the country, as reported by the respective states. The offences include those registered under IPC (Indian Penal Code) & SLL (Special & Local Laws). 

Since the Anti-cow slaughter laws are passed by states, they become part of SLL. However, the NCRB’s CII report does-not provide specific information on offences registered for cow slaughter or under any of the bovine protection laws. In the absence of such data,  it is difficult to judge the implementation & the efficacy of these legislations. 

Featured Image: Cattle population


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HR professional, now focused on contributing towards a positive change in the society. Passionate reader. Loves writing and photography and to narrate stories through words and pictures.

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