Brief non-vegetarian history of agriculture


‘Agricultural production includes growing of field crops (including fodder crops), fruits, grapes, nuts, seeds, seedlings in the nurseries, bulbs, vegetables, flowers, production of plantation crops, production on forest lands, and production of livestock and livestock products, poultry and poultry products, fish, honey, rabbits, fur-bearing animals and silk-worm cocoons’. (NSSO, 20131)


BUT you would not know this from most writing on the products of agriculture. Most writing is about food grain – edible seeds – although oilseeds, which are grains, and pulses, which are seeds of legumes, rarely feature. Among the cereals – the grasses – much agricultural historiography focuses on the ‘noble’ crops: wheat and rice and celebrates (or sometimes doubts) their ‘hockey stick’ trajectories during the second half of the 20th century.

From the mid-1960s to 2020-21, the yields of India’s high yielding varieties of wheat responded to fertilizer and water and quadrupled, while production increased from 24m tonnes to 110m tonnes. The transformation of rice2 started later in the 1960s, because its plant architecture made it harder to dwarf to resist heavy fertilizer, monsoons, flooding or drought and cloudy seasons. But from later in the 1960s, rice yields also trebled, and production quadrupled, reaching 122m tonnes in 2020.3 

There have been many essential conditions for this extraordinary achievement which has enabled India to reach food grain self-sufficiency and exports, and which is now criticized for its environmental, social and nutritional impacts.4 But it could not have happened without animals. Indian agriculture is a mixed agripastoral project. In the 1920s the value of livestock5 was estimated to exceed that of cash crop production;6 a century later, it still comprises about a third of agricultural GDP. At one bovine for every two Indians, India tops the world in livestock population and in the production of milk.

The livestock economy is currently growing at four times the rate of crop production.7 Half of India’s beef is now exported; India is the world’s second largest producer of leather and shoes. The leather industry is worth $27bn and employs 3m people; in 2015 its exports amounted to $6bn while meat exports accounted for $8.3bn in foreign exchange. This activity requires the slaughter of animals, yet the cow is sacred to many Hindus,8 some of whom are more antipathetic to violence against cows than against certain categories of people with livelihoods in the animal economy.

Yet despite the importance of cattle as an enduring status symbol of wealth, fertility and bounty, as collateral for loans, and as insurance against risk and as security in emergencies of health, economy and environment, it seems that animal husbandry is below the radar for all but honourable exceptions among historians, scientists and development policy experts.

Searching for negatives is always risky but, even in two classic longterm village studies totalling close to a thousand pages in which land and labour are prominent, livestock, cattle, buffalo, cows and milk are all conspicuous by their almost complete absence.9 As long as researchers revisit villages and replicate crop-focused studies, we can expect agriculture to continue to be a vegan, or at best a vegetarian, story.

While livestock has been a research field of high priority for vets and animal genetics and low priority for social sciences, in 2017, Seminar’s volume 695 was entirely devoted to livestock landscapes. Here we develop Seminar’s project a little further by rescuing a few of the themes of a non-vegetarian history of agriculture by focusing on cattle and their relation to crops.

For centuries if not millennia, cattle have provided draught power for ploughing, tilling, sowing, weeding, threshing, water lifting, oil extraction, sugarcane crushing, carting and transport in India. During their lives animals produce milk and wool, and chicken and ducks produce eggs – and their afterlives bequeath meat, hides, bones, blood, fibre and other agroindustrial raw materials.10 Livestock also provide ‘waste’ used for manure, fuel and cement.11 Animal husbandry is more resilient than is crop production in rainfed regions of India but demanding in terms of human labour.

Indeed, another feature that keeps below the radar is that much of this human labour is female: it should rightly be called animal wifery. In the 21st century, it is thought that about 70% of the rural population keep some livestock and about 20 million rural livelihoods (9% of the population according to some official estimates) depend exclusively on livestock12 – not counting the ancillary activities (in leather- and milk-based products for instance) which are rapidly being absorbed into the commodified food industry.

While commodified chicken and egg production obeys the laws of capitalist accumulation and is industrialized and scaled up in intensive and irrigated factories, cattle in India are not intensively ranched in the way they are in, say, Brazil. Intensive dairying is not yet widespread.13 But India’s livestock-carrying density is nonetheless changing and is creating competing demands and stresses. These are most vividly seen in the least visible sector of all, which for this reason we place first here: the pastoral economy.

Pastoralists herd livestock in nomadic14 or seasonal transhumantic movements, providing livelihoods to between 7 and 5% of the population – up to 88 million people who are organized in about 500 tribes or groups. More is known about the latter’s cultural differentiation, the commodification of their pastoral skills and their political struggles for identification and recognition (thanks to the perverse politics of official downward mobility)15 than about their animals. Of their livestock’s variety – from camels through sheep and goats (shoats) to pigs and even ducks16 – there is no doubt.

In stark contrast to human demographics, I can find no estimates of animal populations in India’s pastoral systems; only to references to the scantiness or non-existence of information and to the ‘sad and shocking’ silence about pastoral development.17 The pastoral economy is well and truly below the radar.

Pastoral territories have been unsuitable for agriculture: arid tracts and mountain regions. Whether pastoralists now conserve or desertify these ecosystems depend (as it does with shifting cultivation) on animals’ demographic pressure on the recovery of resources: modifying herd sizes to coexist with competitive species, dispersing seeds of grasses inedible to humans, checking weeds and contributing to soil moisture and fertility.18

Movement and migration involve men minding animals and women minding most other aspects of their lives. Neither men nor women have entirely forsaken horseback for trucks or four-wheel drives. Their established routes matter to agriculture because they cross settled agricultural regions. When they halt in these regions, customary relations are activated, and their penned animals provide manure in return for stubble for feed.

But now the networked territoriality of pastoralist livelihoods increasingly butts up against the territorial boundaries involved in settled agriculture. Competition for shrinking pastures and seasonal grazing lands from settled and landless animal husbanders is enhanced by competition for land for settled livestock-crop husbandry. Grazing rights clash not only with private agricultural landed rights but also with the privatized environments of expanding cities which block pastoralist migration routes.19

Dramatic changes are disrupting the symbiosis between pastoralism and agriculture, for instance land use conversions from millet to irrigated sugarcane; climate change which is frying drylands; migration routes obstructed by infrastructure such as dams which irrigate and green for settled farming the deserts of pastoralists; defence territories seized through ‘eminent domain’; routes
and grazing barred by watershed development schemes, by social forestry and new enclosures under Forest Rights Acts, by SEZs and by the expansion of private land enclosed from commons or acquired through market transactions. Migration routes then get diverted, only to clash with other preexisting nomadic routes.

Although herded animals were always sold, markets have penetrated and transformed pastoralism: pastoralists now pay for pens on agricultural land and crop-producers pay for animal droppings; pastoralists pay for mobile phone charging and access to TV, and crop producers pay pas-toralists for their farm labour.20

In the past they were ‘not necessarily poor’21 and had wealth stored in their mobile banks of animals, even so relatively few pastoralists have the resources to purchase land and sedentarise and many are deprived in terms of the dimensions of human development and access to public goods and services. For All-India, Sharma et al. reported in 2003 that ‘there are no official pastoral development policies’,22 that pastoralists lack ministerial representation and face much open official hostility, a situation which appears unchanged.

Over the 20th century, the size and composition of the livestock economy changed dramatically. In undivided India’s first census of 1919 cattle and buffaloes numbered 151m;23 in independent India in 1951 they totalled 198m, and by 2019, 302m.24 Among the 12 major animal species censused quinquennially since 1919, cattle and buffalo have consistently made up 60% of the numbers.25 Livestock demographers argue that despite a slowly growing specialization on draught and milk from 1920 onwards, the low-quality, poorly-nourished cattle population exceeded requirements in a dysfunctional way until well into the Green Revolution of the 1970s.26

For all the routine culling of male calves after the 1970s however, cattle numbers held up. Without a systematic genetic improvement programme either for milch or draught cattle,27 India’s genetically cosmopolitan herd has gradually been purpose-bred for heat-tolerant, disease-resistant draught and milk using inseminated exotic germplasm. While female milch cows have bred draught-animals, they themselves – together with milch buffaloes – have been providing household income to replace that formerly derived from the energy inputs of bullocks which have been displaced by machines.

As for quality, it was not until the 21st century that the production of frozen straws (semen doses) increased by a factor of six to 65 m/year, with production shifting from the cooperative sector to self-regulated private semen stations.28 In just 12 years from 2007 onwards the male/female sex ratio for cattle plummeted from 0.72 to 0.32.29 

The change from animals for draught to animals for meat and milk has been nothing short of revolutionary. Consistent with predictions that diesel tractors and fertilizers would displace the draught and manuring roles of male livestock, the share of draught animals in total farm power has declined from about 78% in 1960-61 (when a pair of bullocks worked 1200-1800 hours per year) to as low as 5% by 2020 (and 300-500 hours per year).30 Yet the total number of cattle has done nothing but rise.

Meanwhile Operation Flood, the equivalent for dairy of the Green Revolution for food grains, had been launched in 1970. Like the Green Revolution, a state-mediated package of inputs, credit and assured markets created and improved livelihoods without requiring radical social change – except for the labour requirements of the rapidly feminizing herd. The addition of dairying to the provision of traction, organic inputs, beef and leather means that livestock products shot up from being 6% of gross agricultural output in 1970-71 to over 25% in 1992-93 and reached nearly a third by 2008.31

While at Independence milk production was 17m tonnes, by 2007-8, after the ‘White Revolution’ surge of the 1980s, it reached 104.8m tonnes. Since then, it has doubled, and India tops the world in milk.

Though meat is a major contributor to Indian exports, instead of vast, ‘improved’ cattle herds and ranches, about 70% of India’s milk and meat markets is supplied by about 70% of rural households: small and marginal farmers and landless households.32 They rely on access to common property resources: grazing lands, forests, margins of water bodies, bunds, fallow land, verge-sides. They glean agricultural residues: leaves, stalks, stubble and roots (plus post-harvest husk, haulms, cobs, shells, bran and pith). Whereas most cultivable land – on average 94% – is down to crops, only 12% of the land of marginal farmers is cropped. The rest has been used for livestock – generating up to 70-80% of their annual income, although this is rarely recorded.33

The livestock economy is disproportionately a sector for Muslims and Dalits. Muslim livelihoods are grounded in agriculture and its multipliers – renting out draught animals, cattle transport and trade, slaughter, tanning and leather work and processing of other parts of cattle carcasses. Among the large group of disadvantaged producers, landless households face increasing barriers to feed and forage. Dalits have regularly been found to face significant barriers to livestock ownership in the form of barred access to commons, lack of land, investment resources, access to co-ops, markets, extension and veterinary services, and price discrimination for both fodder and milk.34 

Inside the ‘black box’ of the family labour-force, animal husbandry is work for women and children who typically rear one or two cows or buffaloes, with cultivated feed, crop residues and by-products, food waste and fodder foraged from common land. Where surveyed, small enterprises are found to produce milk and manure more efficiently than larger ones. Women dominate the labour-intensive tasks of harvesting, transporting and chaffing of fodder, feeding, milking, cleaning of cattle sheds, and the preparation and sale of milk products. Often multitasking and interleaving livestock work with other household-reproductive tasks, the scale of their effort is once more ‘under the radar’.35

In one case study, a woman’s unreported livestock activity added up to 3.5 hours a day, in another up to 8.36 Whereas a third of dairy co-op members are women, men are found to control investments (and insemination).37 

What does India’s huge livestock population eat? Yet another below-the-radar feature of the livestock economy is animal nutrition. This specialized subfield of veterinary science is replete with papers discovering and deploring seasonal deficits in the complex of key nutrients needed for cattle health. India’s cattle population is considered undernourished. Like humans they suffer ‘hidden hunger’ and so are malnourished too.38 Fodder crops, cultivated or harvested for feeding animals, take the form of forage (cut green and fed fresh), silage (preserved under anaerobic conditions) and hay (dehydrated/dried forage crops).

Sorghum and clover account for half of India’s fodder along with maize, oats and gram. Paddy and wheat straw provide roughage. Apart from a few examples of finely crafted haystack architecture, India seems to have little history of barns or stores for harvested fodder.

Tree crop fodder, important for the cattle of smallholders or landless households, is subject not only to local tragedies of the commons resulting in animal numbers compensating for their poor yields and contributing to resource degradation but also to the diminishing of the commons through encroachment, privatization and commodification.39 Fodder seed has remained of poor quality, some of it not even domesticated. Forage grasses and legumes are perennial, and self-seed. Pastures are declining both in area, due to competition from crops, and in quality, due to overgrazing. Even by 1995 the deficits of dry and green fodder already stood at 20% and 60% respectively.40 

Cattle fodder is increasingly commodified in the shape of bran and the husk of food grain, broken grains, oilcake, and de-oiled bran residue.41 In the 21st century feed and fodder account for over two thirds of the commodified costs of animal production. Outside the trade, practically nothing is known about the impact of this aspect of agricultural commodification on male-female work burdens, decision-making or control over household budgets. We do know that prices of green fodder tripled between 2011 and 2016, necessitating their partial substitution by compounded commercial feed and producing an acute cost-price squeeze for both milk and cattle.42

By 2022, because of the rapidly growing commercial feed industry, the crisis had shifted to feed concentrates, where the shortfall was estimated at 44%. Humans and animals compete for food: Singh et al (2022) find that the country’s animals have half the fodder they need. Their overview of India’s fodder economy concludes strongly that its crisis results from a vicious circle of scant and unsystematic state budgetary allocations for research and development, lack of expertise, corruption and fraud, lack of data, lack of recognition and lack of interest. While milk production has been measured and seen to be continually increasing, there appears to be no fodder lobby, no demands or claims on local or central states, no outcry from milk coops.43 The statistics on cattle numbers and what they eat don’t add up.

Crop and animal production are related in an ecologically complementary way: the energy and manure of animals are a resource for crops, and straw and other residual waste from crop production is feed for animals.44 When incomes from smallscale crop production that experts consider ‘unviable’ are supplemented by the returns from livestock effort and products, they are economically complementary too.

In contrast, just as the commercialization and chemicalization of inputs to plants have rarely been free from inefficient take-up, resulting in the pollution of water and the denitrification and mineralization of soil, so the commercialization of livestock feed and the burning of crop residues extract soil nutrients without compensation and exacerbate physical and chemical imbalances in the earth’s outer crust – imbalances now termed the metabolic rift. Tractorization and the mechanization of lift irrigation widen this rift further. Once more under the radar – or perhaps so invisibly far above the radar in the ‘dustbin in the sky’ that detection is a matter for environmental science – the imbalance is gaseous as well as liquid and solid.

Research in puddled paddy fields has generated estimates of the environmental trade-offs in the replacement of bullocks by tractors and the replacement of their manure by fertilizer. While in ploughing and levelling there may be no significant difference in GHG emissions of bullocks and tractors either per hour or per hectare, bullocks are deceptive because they continue to emit GHG when not working – in a ratio of 10 idle hours to one working hour.45

When it comes to fertilizer, the GHG emissions from animal manure are a third higher per unit of nitrogen than those from chemical urea. They emanate from enteric fermentation and from the way manure generates feedstuff for other methane-generating species in flooded fields. Manure is uncosted but three times more labour-intensive to apply than chemical urea; but manure has huge benefits for soil health and biodiversity which urea lacks. The case of animals and rice technology teaches us that environmental impacts are not straightforward. 

The relative invisibility of livestock in research and data collection on Indian agriculture is not matched by invisibility in ecological debates. Alarming planetary statistics for livestock emissions (14-20% of all GHGs according to some sources in the IPCC and FAO46) underpin advocacy for ‘dietary behaviour change’: for vegan or vegetarian diets grounded in ecological principles rather than the food rules of upper castes.47 Nitrogen science underpins the case for legume-based diver-sification capitalizing on nitrogen-fixing microbes living symbiotically in the root nodules of legumes.48 But it is not uncommon to find agroecology (under one of its many labels) being discussed in the literature without mention of animals at all.49

Such vegan approaches to Indian agriculture fail to grasp essential agri-pastoral physics and chemistry. The practices of Zero Budget Natural Farming are exceptional in incorporating cattle into ‘ecological’ crop production, but they do it in ways that soil chemists and biologists see as unrealistic.50 Suggestions for reductions in animal methane production range from hightech feed to low tech increases in the workloads of bullocks.51

The recovery, recycling and reuse of chemical and organic nutrients in livestock and crop wastes is an infant industry – part of the family of technologies invoked for the circular economy. These wastes are often described as extensive. Crop residues are essential to mulch and to the preservation of soil structure, moisture and organic content, but they also fuel domestic and industrial feedstocks (for paddy parboiling, brick and lime kilns for instance). They are used for animal bedding and litter, packaging, compost, oil extraction, thatch, paper, construction and more. Each crop has its own pattern of residue and of residue uses. Incompletely commodified and changing in combinations and composition,52 there is intense competition for residues for all these applications.

For some time, agricultural residues have been being scoped for alternative uses to animal feed and soil health; but their potential as textile composites, composite wood substitutes, biogas and fuel-briquettes is compromised by variations in existing uses and existing markets and by ignorance. To take one example, the ‘gross technical potential’ of bioenergy in India is somewhere between 160 and 850 million tonnes,53 mostly from food grain, sugar cane and pulses. In fact, perhaps as little as 15-25% of the ‘potential’ raw material for biofuel is actually available and relative prices are thought to be volatile and a matter for local knowledge rather than that of the state.54

Availability varies with crop rotations and seasons. Some of it needs unplanned pre-processing which adds to costs. Cost-benefit analyses of biofuel technology mostly ignore the existing economy especially its human and animal livelihoods. If the assumed raw materials are in fact already being used, then new composting and biofuel technology will operate at lower capacity than assumed in the cost-benefit calculations. If the new technology operates at high capacity, then the livestock economy will be damaged. By 2010 just 0.8% of the total installed electric capacity in India came from biofuel, mostly using off-farm woody residues, with capacity utilization leaving much to be desired and ‘exhaustion effects’ creeping in, in some instances.55 

Of all the varied food-based products generated by the livestock economy, milk is thought to provide about two thirds of its total value.56 In the contemporary era, only about a fifth of marketed milk is supplied to the co-op sector. The most successful co-op, Amul in Kaira, Gujarat, was established in 1946 as a tiered organizational and technological system anchored in village supplies and small consignments. The Amul cooperative still follows the model of the enlightened engineer, V. Kurian: federated, controlled by producers, with rapid cash purchases priced according to fat content. It now exports milk products to the USA, Europe and South and Southeast Asia.57

By far the most milk – 70% – is sold to unregistered dealers at flat rates irrespective of quality58 and at a lower share of the final rupee than is obtained in co-ops. They supply an unregulated system lacking in infrastructure but crammed with intermediaries who rush commonly adulterated milk to urban consumers.

Meanwhile live animals are sold to traders or via commission agents at the farmgate or at periodic market-places at prices reported both as ‘secret’ and as responding to ‘observable characteristics’.59 Large numbers of cows end up in urban backstreet micro-dairies free-grazing the urban commons, fed on urban food waste and vegetable market residues, and supplying fresh milk to the suburbs. Others are slaughtered mainly by Dalits for consumption mainly by non-upper caste Hindus and for skins for the leather industry (often managed by Muslims and worked by Muslims and Dalits).60 

Cow slaughter and meat-eating are both controversial practices that are necessary to the agri-pastoral system, but which have both been periodically banned – cow slaughter was banned even by the meat-eating British, who in 1944 were worried about cattle numbers. But the newly independent Indian government, concerned even then with leather exports, pressured states against banning slaughter – without success in four cases. India is now dotted with illegal slaughter-houses where hygiene is not a priority enforced by independent inspections; cattle rustling is reported as common, as is smuggling cattle across neigh-bouring frontiers.

The livestock economy, with its large numbers of livelihoods criss-crossing the country, has been much disrupted since 2005 by cow slaughter bans enacted with varying scope (and enforced by cow vigilante protection groups) across 20 of the 28 states since the Supreme Court upheld their constitutional validity.61 In 2017, slaughterhouses and the cattle trade were also banned by the central government but after widespread protests this had to be dropped. Between 2014 and 2017, however, at least 200,000 live cattle worth an estimated $36m have been seized from Muslims alone by gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes), cooped up in shelters and then sold to Hindus for agricultural work. Starving feral cows are starting to be reported invading and rampaging through fields.62

The emerging outcomes of the ‘conjugated oppression’ meted out to livestock workers63 include 1-3m livelihoods destroyed in the livestock economy before 2017 alone – and more in multiplier industries such as leather and shoes, and countless more in the domestic work of women, stitching gloves and leather goods.64 The wages of those still in work have dropped. Considerable amounts of foreign exchange have been lost – exports declined by 40-50% from 2015 to 2020 – while international demand dropped.

Livestock is conventionally misclassified in official statistics, where experts anyway reckon that the sector and its employment multipliers are underestimated; it is analysed, if at all, as a sector in the rural non-farm economy.65 In fact, animal husbandry is integrated with agriculture, a specially vital supplement to land-scarce small-holdings and to their farm income, a complement to farm inputs, a significant and enduringly unrecognized part of the productive burden of rural women, and a semi-monetized subsidy to crop produc-tion without which the latter would
be compromised. And while milk production is one of India’s triumphs, livestock face widespread official indifference or outright hostility. The crises of livestock and cattle are yet two more of the many crises of agriculture.


* I am grateful to Tejbir Singh for catalysing this essay, to Dr Nitya Ghotge for helpful references on Indian pastoralism, to Prof Madhura Swaminathan for a pointer to Foundation for Agrarian Studies’ research on women and cattle and to Prof Colin Leys for a close reading of the draft. Errors are not their fault.x

1. NSSO, Situation Assessment Report (70th Round), Ministry of Statistics, New Delhi, 2013.

2. Indian output data often confuses rice with paddy – un-milled rice and about 1.5 times heavier.

3. Ministry of Agriculture, Crop Estimates for 2020-21, New Delhi, 2022,

4. R. Patel, ‘The Long Green Revolution’, The Journal of Peasant Studies 40(1), 2013, pp.1-63, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2012.719224

5. The term livestock encompasses cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, buffalo, oxen, llamas, camels, horses, donkeys, and mules. Although we focus on cattle, the least invisible, we are aware that other animals suffer much deeper neglect:
N. Ghotge, ‘The Problem’, Seminar 695 (Livestock Landscapes), July 2017, pp. 14-16.

6. F. Ware, ‘Animal Husbandry in India – Retrospect and Prospect’, Current Science 4(10), 1936, pp. 721-724.

7. Data in M. Swaminathan and R. Vijayamba, ‘Do Not Ignore the Role of the Woman Livestock Farmer’, The Hindu, 13 October 2022:

8. D.N. Jha, The Myth of the Holy Cow. Verso, London, 2002.

9. In Himanshu, P. Jha and G. Rodgers (eds.), The Changing Village in India (OUP, 2016) on long-term village studies, the decline of livestock economy in Tamil Nadu is mentioned in passing on pp. 276, 335 and 347 and in Bihar in passing on pp. 361 and 363. The provision of meat, milk or even eggs is not recorded in the non-farm economy. In Himanshu, P. Lanjouw and N. Stern (eds.), How Lives Change: Palanpur, India and Development Economics (OUP, 2018) about a village studied since 1957, the decline of fodder crops is explained by mechanization, the displacement of draught animals and their replacement by dairy (pp. 175-7). Later on, p. 251, we find livestock classified not as ‘allied’ activity or part of the non-farm economy as is conventional but instead, where it belongs, as an aspect of ‘cultivation’, supplying 10% farm income (which must be from milk). There is little discussion of this significant income source. Personal confession: until I started to research agricultural waste and GHG emissions, apart from one study of the nutrient content of compost and manure (B. Harriss-White and S. Janakarajan, Rural India Facing the 21st Century. Anthem, London, 2004, ch 2-5), my rural research also overlooked livestock, although cattle markets, bullock carts, milk, the dairy industry and urban animal and human compost were impossible to avoid in the long term study of a market town. B. Harriss-White (ed.), Middle India and Urban-Rural Development. Springer, New Delhi, 2016.

10. J. Ali, ‘Livestock Sector Development and Implications for Rural Poverty Alleviation in India’, Livestock Research for Rural Development 19(2), 2007, pp. 1-15.

11. A. Vaidyanathan, ‘Aspects of India’s Bovine Economy’, Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics 33(1), 1978, pp. 1-29.

12. Govt of India, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Annual Report 2018-19. Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, 2020.

13. Ghotge 2017.

14. Not all nomads are pastoralists. Many pastoralist groups are classified as denotified criminal tribes (N. Ghotge, 2022, What Does It Feel to be a Nomadic Dhangar Woman: A Study of Land Regimes and Policies in
the Indian State of Maharashtra and Their Impact on Nomadic Dhangar Shepherds, Particularly the Women. Unpublished mss, Pune (

15. S. Mayaram, ‘Pastoral Predicaments: The Gujars in History’ in M. Madani and M. Hostrmann (eds.), Peasants and Pastoralists in the Marketplace: Perspectives from Africa and Asia. Makerere Institute of Social Research, Kampala, 2015; and for a history see N. Bhattacharya, ‘Pastoralists in a Colo-nial World’, Südasien-Chronik – South Asia Chronicle 9, 2019, pp.17-50.

16. V. Sharma, I. Köhler-Rollefson and J. Morton, Pastoralism in India: A Scoping Study. Indian Institute of Management and League of Pastoral Peoples, Ahmedabad, 2003.

17. Sharma et al. 2003; Ghotge 2022.

18. S. Ramdas and N. Ghotge, ‘India’s Livestock Economy’, Seminar 564, August 2006, pp. 20-24.

19. M. Chakravarty-Kaul, ‘Transhumance and Customary Pastoral Rights in Himachal Pradesh: Claiming the High Pastures
for Gaddis’, Mountain Research and Devel-opment 18(1), 1998, pp. 5-17; M. Chakravarty Kaul, ‘Two Centuries of Change on the Commons: Twenty Villages in the Delhi Region’, Conference paper, Duke University, Durham, 1990.

20. Ghotge 2022.

21. Ibid.

22. Sharma et al, 2003; But see N. Ghotge and K. Kishore, ‘Pastoralism in India: the Warp and the Weft’, Rainfed Livestock Network/Anthra, 2016, for an evidence-based 10-point programme for pastoralists.

23. Government of India, Royal Commission on Agriculture: Report. 1928, Bombay, p. 20.


25. A standard simplification criticized by Ware 1936.

26. M. Harris, ‘India’s Sacred Cow’, Human Nature 1(2), 1978, pp. 28-36.

27. C. Nimbkar and Kandasamy, ‘Animal Breeding in India – A Time for Reflection, and Action’, Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 128(3), 2011, pp. 161-162.

28. See references here:

29. Data from the livestock censuses, Pers. Comm. Prof D.N. Reddy.

30. A. Gathorne-Hardy, ‘The Sustainability of Changes in Agricultural Technology: The Carbon, Economic and Labour Implications of Mechanisation and Synthetic Fertiliser Use’, Ambio 45(8), 2016, pp. 885-894. doi:10.1007/s13280-016-0786-5; V. Manomohan et al., ‘Legacy of Draught Cattle Breeds of South India: Insights Into Population Structure, Genetic Admixture and Maternal Origin’, PLoS One 16(5), e0246497. doi: 10.1371 journal.pone.0246497; S. Singh, R. Singh and S.P. Singh, ‘Farm Power Availability on Indian Farms’, Agricultural Engineering Today. 8(4), 2014, pp. 44-52.


32. Ramdas and Ghotge 2006.

33. M. Singh, Agricultural Situation in India. Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi, 2012; D. Singh, J. Bohra, V. Tyagi, T. Singh, R. Banjara and G. Gupta, ‘A Review of India’s Fodder Production Status and Opportunities’, Grass Forage Science 77, 2022, pp. 1-10.

34. A. Sarkar, ‘Role of Livestock Farming in Meeting Livelihood Challenges of SC Cultivators in India’, Indian Journal of Human Development 14(1), 2020, pp. 23-41.

35. R. Jeffery, P. Jeffery and A. Lyon, ‘Taking Dung-Work Seriously: Women’s Work and Rural Development in North India’, Economic and Political Weekly 24(17), WS32-WS37, 1989.

36. Swaminathan and Vijayamba 2022; Patnaik 1983 reported in Haryana, studied in the 1980s, that ‘84 per cent of the women in the labourer families returned themselves as workers, though only 51 per cent were engaged in wage-paid work’ the rest occupied unpaid with cattle. U. Patnaik, ‘On the Evolution of the Class of Agricultural Labourers in India’, Social Scientist 11(7), 1983, pp. 3-24.

37. Swaminathan and Vijayamba 2022; M. Moore, ‘Some Micro-Economic Aspects of the Livestock Economy’, Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics 33(1), 1978, pp. 66-77; P. George, ‘Dairying and Livestock Economy of India: A Review’, Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics 51(1-2), 1996, pp. 288-300.

38. Not helped by state neglect of veterinary science and the proliferation of veterinary quackery (Ramdas and Ghotge 2006).

39. N. Jodha, ‘Rural Common Property Resources: Contributions and Crisis’, Economic and Political Weekly 25(26), A65-A78, 1990.

40. Jitendra, ‘How is Fodder Crisis Rendering Livestock Vulnerable?’ Down to Earth, 2017;

B. Venkateshwarlu and J. Prasad, ‘Carrying Capacity of Indian Agriculture: Issues Related to Rainfed Agriculture’, Current Science 102(6), 2012, pp. 882-888.

41. George 1996.

42. Jitendra 2017.

43. See Jitendra 2017 for a case study of subsidised water-fodder and cattle camp projects in Marathwada, Telengana and Karnataka.

44. N. Raghuram, ‘Recycling Crop and Animal Waste Is a Win for Green Farming’, Nature-India, 2022,; A. Gathorne-Hardy 2016.

45. Gathorne-Hardy 2016; A. Sinha and S. Ahmad, ‘Status and Utilization of Tractor Power in Mahakoshal Region, MP, India’, Vegeto – An International Journal of Plan Research 30(3), 2017. 105958/2229- 4473.2016.00119.1 for working tractor-years of 850-1000 hours. See D. Pandit et al., ‘Utilization of Bullock Animal Power and Constraints Faced by Farmers in Hingoli District’, The Pharma Innovation Journal 8(10), 2019, pp. 40-44 for data for a bullock working year of 480-500 hours.

46. M. Herrero, P. Havlík, H. Valin, and M. Obersteiner, ‘Biomass Use, Production, Feed Efficiencies, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Livestock Systems’, PNAS (The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) 110(52), 2013, 20888-20893; D. Caro, S. Davis, S. Bastianoni and K. Caldeira, ‘Global and Regional Trends in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Livestock’, Climatic Change 126, 2014, pp. 203-216. DOI 10.1007/s10584-014-1197-x

47. EAT Lancet Commission 2019, Food in The Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems.

48. R. Meena and S. Kumar (eds.), Advances in Legumes for Sustainable Intensification. Elsevier/Academic Press, 2022.

49. As in this recent example: S. Paliath, ‘India Must Develop An Ecosystem-Centric Approach For Agriculture’, a conversation with sustainable farming expert P. S.Vijayshankar, 2022. https://www.indias

50. J. Smith, J. Yeluripati, P. Smith and D. Nayak, ‘Potential Yield Challenges To Scale-Up of Zero Budget Natural Farming’, Nature – Sustainability 3, 2020, pp. 247-252.

51. Gathorne-Hardy 2016.

52. S. Man Singh et al., ‘Availability of Feed Sources and Nutritional Status of Hariana Cattle in Different Seasons in the Breeding Tract’, Biological Rhythm Research 52(6), 2021, pp. 862-868. DOI: 10.1080/09291016.2019.1607222

53. Reviewed in A. Milhau and Fallot, ‘Assessing the Potentials of Agricultural Residues for Energy: What the CDM Experience of India Tells Us About Their Availability’, Energy Policy 58, 2013, pp. 391-402.

54. Milhau and Fallot 2013.

55. Ibid.

56. Ali 2007.

57. K. Rajendra and S. Mohanty et al., ‘Dairy Co-operatives and Milk Marketing in India: Constraints and Opportunities’, Journal of Food Distribution Research 35(2), 2004, pp. 34-41.

58. Kandhpal and his team found 80% samples of milk adulterated with water. S. Kandhpal, A. Srivastava and K. Negi, ‘Estimation of Quality of Raw Milk (open and branded) by Milk Adulteration Testing Kit’, Journal of Community Health 24(3), 2012, pp. 189-192.

59. S. Kumar, P. Nisha, S. Kumar and G. Kumar, ‘Pattern of Pricing of Dairy Cattle and Buffaloes in Tamil Nadu India’, Asian Journal of Agricultural Extension, Economics & Sociology 29(4), 2019, pp. 1-10.

60. See references in L. Kennedy, ‘Variations on the Classical Model: Forms of Cooperation in Leather Clusters of Palar Valley, Tamil Nadu’, Indian Industrial Clusters. Routledge, 2017, pp. 103-122.

61. Editorial, ‘SC Upholds Cow Slaughter Ban’, Times of India, 2005.

62. A. Gowen, ‘Why India Has 5 Million Stray Cows Roaming the Country’, The Washington Post, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.

63. For conjugated oppression and pastoralism, see this case of camels: Y. Narayanan, ‘A Pilgrimage of Camels: Dairy Capitalism, Nomadic Pastoralism, and Subnational Hindutva Statism in Rajasthan’, E-Nature and Space, 2021. DOI: 10.1177/25148486211062005

64. On top of the devastation after demonetisation, GST (Goods and Services Tax), labour law reform and poor to non-relief during covid.

65. D. Coppard, The Rural Non-farm Economy in India: a Review of the Literature. Natural Resources Institute, Greenwich, 2001.

66. B. Harriss-White, ‘More Than One Kind of Protest Is Unfolding’. The Long Cable, 2021,