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Bullock can pull rural economy

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Dr Bipin B Verma
Dr Bipin B Verma
The author is a retired professor of NIT Rourkela. He follows a nationalistic approach in life. His area of interest is “sustainable rural development”. Email: [email protected]


India is the highest milk producing country and dairying is a major source of livelihood for farmers. The female cattle are the source of milk and male for the draught power. The mechanisation of agriculture has rendered the male beasts of no practical use. In the present article, an attempt has been made to signify the importance of muscle power of draught animals. The importance of dung and biogas are also presented briefly.


India is the highest producer of milk in the world and contributes 20% of world production. In India, milk production has been increasing at an average annual growth rate of 4.5%. The total milk production in 2017-18 was 176 million tons [1]. Dairying is a vital source of income for rural people, particularly at the times of agrarian distress. Therefore, governments put great effort to increase the production of milk. The female cattle are the source of milk and male for the draught power. Till the advent of the green revolution in India, bullocks were an indispensable component of the rural economy and society.

Population of cattle and buffaloes

Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying had released the 20th Livestock Census in Oct. 2019 [2]. The survey reported an increase in livestock population from 512.06 million in 2012 to 536 million in 2019, nearly 4.6% increase. It also registered an 18% increase in the female cattle population from 122.98 million in 2012 to 145.12 million in 2019. On the other hand, the number of male cattle dropped from 67.92 million in 2012 to 47.4 million in 2019. A drop in male to female cattle ratio from 1:1.8 in 2012 to 1:3 in 2019.

At present, the country has a total of 109.85 million buffaloes, nearly 1% more as compared to 108.70 million in the 2012 census [2]. During this period the population of female buffaloes increased by 8.61%, whereas male buffaloes population declined by 42.35%. 

Decreasing population of draught animals

The gradual introduction of mechanisation of agriculture, such as tractors, tillers, electric/ diesel pumps, etc. has rendered the male beasts of no practical use. The efforts to protect the cow makes the bullock even more of a liability. The productive female bovines are valuable, but the males are nearly worthless. The reducing population of male cattle and buffaloes indicates that millions of male animals have been culled and slaughtered for meat. There is a ban on cow slaughtering and ban on trade for slaughter, across the country. There is a complete collapse of the market for male cattle, and in turn, their commercial value. As a result, farmers abandon their cattle in droves, giving rise to a massive stray cattle-man conflict. Crop damage due to stray cattle has become common in villages. On many occasions, the farmers attack the stray beasts with sharp weapons causing injury and even death.  

Muscle power of draught animals

Draught animals play a dominant role in the rural economy. Over the last few decades, bullock carts, bull ploughing machines, and Persian wheels are being replaced by trucks, tractors, and pumps respectively. It is a serious concern and is responsible for reducing the population of male cattle. On average, a draught animal produces power equivalent to 0.50 hp (= 372.85 W) [3]. A male beast can produce energy equivalent to (373 W × 7 hours × 3600 s=) 9.4 MJ, if it is employed for 7 hours a day.  Based on 20th livestock census, the total male cattle and male buffaloes in India is 47.4 million and 9.26 million, respectively. If it is assumed that 75% of the total male beast population is adult, then the total energy production using muscle power of male draught animals is (9.4 MJ × 56.66 million × 0.75 × 365 days) = 145.8 × 109 MJ per annum. Thus the available power is equivalent to 15844.26 MW. On the other hand, the investment for 1 MW solar power plant in India is more than Rs. 6 Crore [4]. Therefore, the investment required to generate equivalent electricity using solar panels is close to Rs. 95065.55 Crore. It is worth to mention that solar panels are mostly imported. India imported solar panels and modules worth $ 1,179.89 million from China in the first nine months of the financial year 2019-20 [5].

The population of draught animals in 2009 was approximately 83 million, and available energy from the adult beasts was 215.58 × 109 MJ per annum [6]. The total energy loss due to irresponsible population management of the male beast is {(215.58-145.8) × 109 MJ =} 69.78 × 109 MJ per annum. The use of bull muscle power for generating electricity is successfully attempted by several individuals and groups [7, 8, 9, 10]. A sincere effort is required to tap this cheap renewable energy source.

Engagement of the male beast

Unfortunately, we ignore the traditional resources, strength, and mostly trust in imported ideas and technologies. It is high time to focus on locally available resources, technologies, and generate employment. The effective engagement of the male beasts can save huge investments without environmental pollution and precious foreign exchange. It is high time to employ bulls in farming and other rural activities. Bullock operated slow speed traditional kolhus, cereal grinding mills etc. are recommended for crushing oilseed and cereal respectively, especially for rural areas. It is worth mentioning that these products are of high nutritional value and they can fetch a higher market price.

Dung and biogas

Cattle and buffalo dung is made up of digested grass and grain. It is a cheap and easily available bio-resource on this planet. It is high in organic materials and rich in nutrients. It contains about 3% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 1% potassium (3-2-1 NPK). Dung also contains a diverse group of microorganisms that produce a range of metabolites [11]. The daily production of dung in the nation is close to 3,360×106 kg and, the annual production is around 1,226.4×106 tons. Proper collection and their use in agriculture can fulfil the requirements of fertilisers and manures to a great extent.

Additionally, dung can be used to generate biogas, a source of green energy. On average, an animal produces 12 kg of dung per day which can produce 0.48 m3 of biogas [12]. The calorific value of biogas is 22.5 MJ/m3. The anaerobic biomass digestion of dung produced by a single animal can yield biogas energy equivalent to 10.8 MJ/day. The total biogas energy produced by male cattle and buffaloes (56.66 million) dung is 223.35 × 109 MJ per annum. It is also worth mentioning that the burning of the biogas converts methane into carbon dioxide. The burning methane to carbon dioxide reduces the global warming impact nearly 9 times [13].

Fig. 1. Muscle and biogas energy of male beasts

Sex-sorted semen project

Uttar Pradesh is piloting a sex-sorted semen project to ensure the birth of fewer male calves [14].The method has registered a 92% success in the pilot project. In my opinion, we shall develop a module to use male animals for economical activities rather than artificial means to reduce the population of male animals.

These artificial means may trigger some unknown consequences. Moreover, it is also observed by some gaushala operators that artificial breeding reduces the total number of calving in the lifetime of a cow.


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Dr Bipin B Verma
Dr Bipin B Verma
The author is a retired professor of NIT Rourkela. He follows a nationalistic approach in life. His area of interest is “sustainable rural development”. Email: [email protected]
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