Credit RSOE Alert Map
Milk production in India - the highest in the world - has been hit by a relatively new disease. Lumpy skin disease (LSD), a transboundary animal disease that spreads quickly, has started affecting Indian cattle and Asian water buffalo. The disease can decrease milk production by more than half, damage hides and cause emaciation, infertility, and abortions in animals. It has spread to 20 of India's 28 states, putting at risk more than 303 million cattle and buffaloes that drive India's milk production.
Characterized by skin nodules, nasal and ocular discharge, fever, and reduction in milk production, the diseases was first detected in India in July 2019. India is the largest milk producer in the world, with an annual production of 187 million metric tons in 2018-19, about 22 per cent of the world's annual milk production, followed by the United States, China, Pakistan and Brazil. LSD was first found in Zambia in 1929. Since then, it has spread throughout Africa, the Middle East, southeastern Europe, Central Asia, and more recently in South Asia and China.
The World Organisation for Animal Health, which monitors LSD and other diseases, wrote: "The causative virus seems to be spread mainly by blood-feeding insects, such as certain species of flies and mosquitoes or ticks, and outbreaks can be widespread and difficult to control." The disease was first detected in India in July 2019 in Odisha, which is the worst-affected state in the country. "We have recorded 57,893 cattle and buffaloes affected with LSD till now," said Dr Bibhu Prasad Das, deputy director at the Directorate of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services of the government of Odisha. "Besides illness, milk production reduced by around 60 per cent," said Das. "Even after the milch animals recover, their production capacity does not return." There are 73 million dairy farmers in India who depend on one to five cattle or buffaloes for their livelihood.Around 87 per cent of India's 130 million farmers have land of fewer than 2 hectares (5 acres), making them among the smallest land-holding farmers in the world. With small plots of land, owners turn to dairy farming over agriculture. Income from crop production is seasonal, whereas dairy provides year-round income and can be a lifesaver during frequent droughts. It is a major generator of employment in rural areas. According to the national plan, the milk sector must grow annually by an average of 4.2 per cent to achieve milk production of 240 million metric tons by 2025.