Consuming Animal Sourced Foods (ASFs) is a must for a healthy living, so let’s improve animal production!
In April this year, I presented a paper at 2019 Global Nutrition Symposium in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was focused on why and how to increase the production and consumption of nutritious animal-source foods (ASF). It enlightened me further that, for a healthy living, everybody needs 20 grams of animal protein every day. This is possible only when 33 kg of lean meat or 45 kg of fish or 60 kg of eggs or 230 kg of milk or a combination of these protein sources are available to an individual over the course of a year. Unfortunately, in many developing countries, the poorest are deprived of this essential requirement. It is no surprise that many such ASF deprived populations are anemic, stunted, and vulnerable to many diseases. Should we not act to reverse the situation?
Let’s examine the Indian scenario. Looking at the huge livestock numbers in India, it looks as though it would be sufficient to meet the ASF requirement for the Indian population, however, livestock productivity is dismally low. A lot is required for animals in almost every aspect, including their feeding, keeping, and health care. Due to these challenges, there is low availability of milk, meat, fish, and eggs, severely impacting human health. As per the Global Nutrition Report, over 50 percent of women and children in India are anemic, and alongside Nigeria and Pakistan, nearly 50 percent of children under 5 years of age are stunted. India holds 120th rank out of 130 countries in wasting among children under 5 years in the world. To improve human nutrition, we can improve livestock productivity by improving breeding, feeding, health care and managemental practices, for which location specific interventions can be made.
There is a 35.6 percent deficiency of green fodder and a nearly 11 percent deficiency of dry fodder in India. All in all, 44 percent of concentrate feed ingredients are deficient in diets of livestock in India. At our institute— the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, we are currently focusing on improving animal feeding by promoting the cultivation of green fodder. We have chosen improvised varieties of Hybrid Napier (CO-4 & CO-5) for promotion among farmers in the region. Over the last two years, we organized several training programs for men, women, and rural youth on good feeding practices with the year-round availability of green fodder. We also provided rootslips and cuttings of napier to farmers. Many farmers have now started cultivating fodder in their farms and have expressed a positive reception for their green fodder production and feeding in terms of enhanced lactation length and milk production. Enhancing the availability of green fodder is just one intervention, yet many interventions are required in the areas of animal health, housing, etcetera. This calls for a greater commitment on the part of all stakeholders, partnerships, and different agencies collaborating for a better outcome.
For better returns from livestock in any country, we have to recognize the importance of bridging research to extension and agriculture to nutrition linkages. This is important for improving human nutrition and livestock production. At our institute, established in 1889, we are committed to improving animal productivity by improving animal health, breeds, balanced feeding, keeping, and animal welfare practices. The extension and advisory services wing of the institute is working closely with the farmers & developmental agencies to ensure that there is improved availability of ASF while improving livestock production and productivity.
Our interventions for livestock production improvement will lead to the required availability of ASF for India’s poor, towards the goal of healthy diets, improved farmer income, and quality of life.
We are confident & quite hopeful of our goals & actions!