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State PCS

  • 18 Jan 2022
  • 7 min read

Mobile Vet-Units for Livestock

This editorial is based on “Just What The Doctor Ordered For The Livestock Farmer'” which was published in The Hindu on 18/01/2022. It talks about health-related issues of livestock in India.

For Prelims: 20th livestock census, Livestock Health and Disease Control Programme, Mobile Veterinary Units (MVUs), Bovine Mastitis, Rashtriya Gokul Mission, National Livestock Mission, National Artificial Insemination Programme.

For Mains: Significance of livestock for Indian economy, Challenges faced by livestock farmers.

The Twentieth Livestock Census indicated that India today has a livestock population of approximately 537 million; of this, 95.8% is concentrated in rural areas.

Given the fact that most of the country’s livestock is in rural and remote areas, access to veterinary services is a major challenge. Livestock farmers are often compelled to travel far from their villages whenever their animals need treatment. This adversely impacts the longevity and the productivity of their livestock.

To resolve the problem of access to vet-services, the government introduced the facility of Mobile Veterinary Units (MVUs) to provide doorstep services to the farmers.

Along with this significant step, the main focus in the near future shall be on upgradation of vet health-care services, disease surveillance and training (CVE), and disease reporting in real time.

Livestock Health and Related Initiatives

  • About: Animal husbandry is an integral component of Indian agriculture, supporting the livelihood of almost 55% of the rural population. India is the highest livestock owner of the world.
    • Approximately 70% of India’s milk supply is sourced from farmers who own less than five animals.
      • However, problems such as bovine mastitis (alone) amount to a milk loss of approximately 10 litres per day per farm translating to about ₹300-₹350 per day.
      • Hence, for most farmers, death of or disease in livestock could mean the difference between sustenance and starvation.
    • The animal health issue is also compounded by the growing presence of salesmen of drug distributors in rural communities.
  • Government Initiatives for Livestock:
    • Rashtriya Gokul Mission: To develop and conserve indegenous breeds of bovine population and enhance milk production and to make it more remunerative to the farmers.
    • National Livestock Mission: To ensure quantitative and qualitative improvement in livestock production systems and capacity building of all stakeholders.
    • National Artificial Insemination Programme: To suggest novel methods of bringing about impregnation in female breeds.
      • To prevent the spread of certain diseases which are genital in nature, thereby enhancing the efficiency of the breed.
  • Reforms in Livestock Health and Disease Control Programme: The Government revised provisions of this programme by including ‘Establishment and Strengthening of Veterinary Services – Mobile Veterinary Units (MVUs)’.
    • A typical MVU is a four-wheeler van, with working space for one veterinarian, one para-veterinarian and a driver-cum-attendant.
      • It will be built on the doorstep delivery model
    • It also has space for essentials such as equipment for diagnosis, treatment and minor surgery, other basic requirements for the treatment of animals, audio-visual aids for awareness creation and GPS tracking of vehicles.

Challenges Associated to Livestock Health

  • Inadequate Testing: The Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying has observed that inadequate testing and treatment facilities for veterinary diseases pose a major challenge.
    • This problem is further exacerbated in the current scenario where there is a drastic rise in cases of zoonotic diseases.
  • Untrained Animal Health Workers: Untrained animal health workers have been popular in rural India as they charge less for consultations and are easily accessible.
    • This has led to the inappropriate administration of antibiotics because of flawed prescriptions especially in cases of mastitis.
  • Increase in AMR: Consequently, problems pertaining to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occur when the animal no longer responds to a drug to which it was originally responsive.
    • AMR can be caused because of factors such as high or low dosages, incorrect duration of medication, and overprescription.
  • Issues in Accessing Credit: The M.K. Jain Committee Report has highlighted that livestock farmers face greater challenges in comparison to traditional agricultural farmers especially while accessing credit and livestock insurance.
    • Lack of availability of credit further discourages the farmers from accessing vet services for their livestock.

Way Forward

  • Mitigating AMR: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” — a catalogue of 12 species/families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.
    • The MVU model will mitigate the issue of antimicrobial resistance and is in alignment with the ‘One Health vision’ laid down by the Global Action Plan of WHO.
  • MVUs for Livestock: The LH&DC scheme envisages one MVU for one lakh animals; however, the number of vans in use could be higher in regions with difficult terrain.
    • The availability of MVU’s must be assured in sufficient numbers, even in difficult to reach areas, so that merely geographical location does not hinder the reach of better veterinary services.
  • Private Sector Involvement: There is a great deal of scope for innovations and intervention by the private sector in the context of animal health and MVUs.
    • The lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic have already witnessed innovations by start-ups, video consultation sessions between livestock farmers and veterinarians, along with apps that provide detailed information to farmers on livestock health and nutrition.
    • Further, with the growing prevalence of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, the MVU model is poised to generate higher returns on investment.

Drishti Mains Question

Discuss the challenges faced by the livestock farmers in rural India.

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