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Impact of COVID-19 on Livestock sector

Trends in Dairy Sector

COVID-19 has affected the lives and livelihoods of millions across the world. The fear has been bigger than the impact. Livestock sector, considerably one of the most essential sectors has also not gone unscathed. The Dairy sector though has seen some disruption but has been more resilient in terms of production and supply chain when compared to other sectors.

Being the global leader in terms of milk production, there was a lot of attention on how the Indian Dairy Sector would deal with the situation. Indian Dairy Farmers have been affected by dip in prices in few areas and inconsistency in fodder and feed availability. They have still been better off than their global counter parts as the procurement was smooth, thanks to the giant cooperative network in the country, with major milk cooperatives collecting milk regularly barring few small cooperatives in few states. Millions of our animal-owning households, the majority being smallholders, particularly those connected to producer-centric institutions continued to milk their cows and buffaloes and sell the surplus to the village milk collection centres. Utilising the lockdown situation wherein there was a dip in liquid milk sales, many smart cooperatives have converted excess milk procured to skimmed milk powder to meet growing demand for milk products.

As per the industry data, there has been a drop in demand of milk and milk products by 19 % as the HORECA (Hotels, Restaurants and Cafeteria) segment which contributes to 15% of dairy revenue has completely dried up during the lockdown period. However, the revenue loss has been compensated to certain extent by the increase in domestic consumption. Demand and sales of shelf stable milk and milk product categories such as Paneer and Cheese have gone up. Covid-19 has made people more aware of the need to adopt a healthy diet. Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up the real possibility for our dairy industry to benefit as large sections of consumers may shift from meat-based to dairy-based protein.

Every new challenge teaches us something, and COVID-19 has made dairy farmers learn several lessons and given them new insights for future management and growth. Biosecurity practices in the farm and processing centers are being given top priority for the well-being of animals and humans too. Covid-19 crisis has witnessed reverse migration of labour force from urban to rural areas leading to social disruptions. On the positive side, we can look at this as an opportunity; these workers can be encouraged and incentivised to join their family agriculture/dairy farms.

The prospects of Dairy Sector seem very bright as World Health Organisation (WHO) is also encouraging the consumption of Milk and Milk Products to improve the protein consumption as well as to boost the immunity..

Impact of Covid-19 on other Livestock sectors including Sheep & Goat and Piggery

Shepherds and Piggery farmers in India have faced a difficult situation due to shortage of feed, a lack of transportation for live animals, and nowhere to sell. The demand and market price of Mutton and pork has increased mainly due to less availability as well as decline in consumption of poultry meat. The sealing of borders has affected transportation of animals. Even though livestock is under essential category and no restriction on transport, vehicles were not available to carry animals. Lockdown of hotels and restaurants have impacted many small piggery farmers as most of the farmers feed the animals with leftover food at restaurants to minimise the costs.

Corona Virus and Dairy Cattle - Facts
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses known since 1968. Coronaviruses are divided into Alpha-, Beta-, Gamma- and Delta- coronavirus groups. Members of Beta-corona virus group cause illness in humans ranging from the?common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)?and Severe Acute Respiratory?Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19 and belongs to the Beta-corona virus group.

There exists a Bovine Corona virus (BCoV), belonging to Beta-corona virus group which causes diarrhoea in calves and respiratory disease in adult cattle.

COVID-19, causing respiratory disease in humans is different from Bovine corona virus and bovines do not catch or act as host of COVID-19. Care should be taken to avoid contamination in the handling/processing chain of Milk and Milk Products, when handled by people who are infected with COVID-19 or who are not following good hygiene practices. For this reason, it is important to emphasize the need to implement robust hygiene practices to protect Dairy products from contamination from COVID-19.

It is important for all employers to plan now for COVID-19, to reduce the chances of COVID-19 spread among personnel working at different levels in Livestock business. Major Dairy activities including farm management, feed production and marketing are included in the advisory. This guidance is intended for awareness and planning purposes. Farmers should use this planning guide to help identify potential risk levels in different operations and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement.