1. Animal Husbandry

Beyond Milk & Meat Livestock Take Care of Nutrition Security

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

Livestock directly contribute to nutrition security. Milk, meat, and eggs, the “animal-source foods,” though expensive sources of energy, are one of the best sources of high quality protein and micronutrients that are essential for development and good health.

Currently, livestock supply 13 percent of energy to the world’s diet but consume one-half the world’s production of grains to do so. However, poor people tend to sell rather than consume the animal-source foods that they produce. The contribution of livestock to food, distinguished from nutrition security among the poor, is mostly indirect: sales of animals or produce, demand for which is rapidly increasing, can provide cash for the purchase of staple foods & provision of manure, draft power and income for purchase of farm inputs can increase sustainable crop production in mixed crop-livestock systems.

Zebu cattle originated in Southwest Asia have evolved from three breeds of Indian cattle. The Guzerat, Nelore and the Gir had most influence over Zebu breeding. Zebu cattle are humped and they belong to the Bos primigenius species of cattle. They were shifted to Africa at an early date and within the last 100 years, have been exported to Brazil and America. 

It started with small groups of this breed being taken to Brazil in the 17th & 18th Centuries where they were crossed with Brazilian cattle. These importations gradually spiked interest in cattle breeders which increased the number larger importations. From 1890 – 1921, over 5000 Zebu cattle were exported to Brazil from India. But a Rinderpest outbreak occurred which then saw a ban on importation of Indian cattle for 9 years. 

During this time cross breeding of these cattle continued, Brazilian farmers that were doubtful of pure bred Indian cattle used characteristics like large ears, loose skin, the presence of a hump as an indicator of purity, both of which were common to Gir & Guzerat not Nelore. These cross breed were originally called Indu-Uberaba as it was developed in the region of Uberaba in the state of Minas Gerais but was then changed to Indu-Brazil. The Rinderpest was slowly eliminated and imports were resumed and the new imports of Gir, Guzerat & Nellore were used to create pure strains of Zebu breed. 

The world’s oldest domesticated cattle Zebu today can be used as a direct name for that breed of cattle but also as a general name for breeds like Brahman, Gir, Guzera & Nelore. Many other breeds have been created via cross-breeding and selection using the Zebu such as Sanga and Canchim.

Zebu cattle are generally red or grey in colour, are horned, have loose skin, large ears and have a hump above their shoulders. This breed is used for its milk, meat and as draft animals. In India, they are sacred and are only used for draft and milk. In Brazil and other meat producing nations they are produced largely for their beef as they cope better than European breeds in sub-tropical environments. They are Heat tolerant; Parasite and disease resistance; Hardy; Milk, Meat and Draft.

Today Zebu is present on all the continents, mainly in India & Brazil, which has the largest commercial herd in the world, with 155 million head. India has over 270 million Zebu and the US has over 2 million Zebu. 

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