Impacts of Natural calamities on livestock sector and their mitigation strategies

Madhu Suman, Kale V.R., A.K. Tyagi* and Nazam Khan
Dairy Cattle Nutrition Division
National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, 132 001 (Haryana)

“Protecting animals: Protects people; Reduces poverty; Protects food security; Reduces the spread of disease and Protects cultural values”

Livestock plays a central role in the natural resource-based livelihood of the vast majority of the population especially in developing countries. “Livestock in these countries are the poor people’s ATM. In good times people build up their herds and in bad times they sell livestock to generate cash”. It accounts for 40% of the gross value of the agricultural production globally (FAO, 2000) and this figure is likely to go up, as the demand for livestock products is increasing rapidly with the increase in income and urbanization. However, in India it contributes 24 % share in agriculture and allied gross domestic product (GDP) and provides stability to family income especially in the arid and semi-arid regions of the country.  Livestock are the best insurance against the vagaries of nature due to drought, famine and other natural calamities. (Planning Commission Govt. of India 2007-12). But nature is not free of calamities and affects both human as well as animal’s life. Animals who survived from these calamities are threatened by non-availability of feed and shelter. Like other agricultural crops, fodder fields are also completely destroyed. These feed deprived and shelter less animals are stressed and immune-suppressed, thus become susceptible to contagious diseases. Outbreaks of fatal diseases such as Hemorrhagic Septicemia (HS), Black Quarter (BQ) can occur which will further aggravate the death toll of livestock. Every year natural disasters challenge agricultural production. Agricultural impacts from natural events and disasters most commonly include: contamination of water bodies, loss of harvest or livestock, increased susceptibility to disease and destruction of irrigation systems and other agricultural infrastructure. These impacts can have long lasting effects on agricultural production including crops, forest growth, and arable lands, which require time to mature. Thus learning how to prepare for and recover from these natural events and disasters can decrease their long-term effects on agriculture as well as on environment.

Types of various natural calamities and their effect on livestock sector


Drought is defined by deviation from the normal rainfall. In India, the possibility of drought occurrence in India varies from once in 2 years in Western Rajasthan to once in 15 years in Assam. Out of 44 (1965-2009) years, Orissa witnessed droughts in 19 years, floods for 17 years and cyclones for 7 years.  In the past, India has experienced twenty two large scale droughts from 1891 -2002 (Drought Management Strategy, 2009). Drought’s most severe effects on agriculture include water quality and quantity issues. Other impacts include decreased crop yields, impact to feed and forage and altered plant populations, thus leads to adverse impact on cattle health. In addition to the effect of poor quality forage and limited energy intake on production, it adversely affects fertility also. It reduces the intensity of estrus activity. Bulls are especially vulnerable to heat stress. Overheating can cause damage to semen quality that may last for up to six weeks. It is known that parasite eggs tend to concentrate more in the lower part of the forage plants, thus short pastures due to drought conditions can increase the potential parasite load. This would tend to suggest that strategic parasite control programs are more important during drought situations.


Floods also impacts agricultural production, including water contamination, damage to crops, and loss of livestock, increased susceptibility to diseases, flooded farm machinery and environmental damage.

There are numerous strategies that can help dairy farmers for managing the various disasters and make the best of a tough situation. Although every farm is different, the management strategies given below may assist dairy farms during these untoward events.

Feeding technologies to be used during disaster

Different feeding technologies developed earlier have capacity to meet the challenge of feed scarcity or quality improvement to correct malnutrition.

Concentrate mixture supplement

Feeding of straws for a short period of time may be alright for survival but for production purpose, straw must be supplemented with better feeds (Prasad et al., 1990). Supplements such as minerals or proteins are used to enhance rumen fermentation leading to increased intake and digestibility.

Urea treatment of straws

Urea treatment of straws is the only chemical treatment with practical potential under field conditions. Urea-treated straw saves on concentrate feeding, increases milk yield by 1-2 litres/animals/day, offers better economic returns to the farmers and may help reducing land area required for green fodder production. For processing of one tone straw, 40 kg Urea dissolved in 350-500 litres of water should be spread on the straws (Kumar and Paswan, 2012).

Urea molasses liquid diet (UMLD)

 Molasses can be used as a potential drought/scarcity feed after supplementing deficient nutrients viz. protein, minerals and vitamins. An experiment conducted at IVRI, lzatnagar on lactating cows revealed that, about 8 kg of milk production can be sustained by the animals if they are fed on liquid urea-molasses diets supplemented with 1kg of dry matter through green oats per 100 kg of body weight, 0.8 kg of maize grain and 0.5 kg of fish meal per head per day. The animals consumed about 6 kg of liquid diets (Ranjhan and Khera, 1976).

Urea molasses mineral block (UMMB)

The bulk of the diet for ruminants available commonly in scarcity as in drought in India consists of fibrous feeds mainly crop residues (straws and stovers) and dried grasses (Kumar and Paswan,2012). These feeds are deficient in protein and other essential nutrients. Owing to excessive lignification, the digestibility and intake of crop residues is low. These blocks can easily be stored, transported and distributed as against the common bulky diets available in scarcity. The following ingredients were used in preparing UMMB: molasses 38 parts; urea 10 parts; portlald cement 10 parts; wheat bran 40 parts; salt, 1 part; mineral mixture 1 part; vitablend 1g/100 kg. The above-mentioned ingredients were mixed in the following order: water, urea, salt, mineral mixture, vitablend, cement, molasses and wheat bran. Water was added at the rate of 1/3rd of the weight of cement to wet it completely. The mixture was then transferred to specially designed moulds to form blocks. The blocks were allowed to settle for a period of 24 h.

Compressed complete feed block (CCFB)

A novel feeding system has been evolved in last two decades known as complete feed. Complete feed is a system of feeding concentrates and roughages together in blended form. Minimizing feed cost and labour cost and maximizing production is the need of time and can be achieved by complete feed system. This system is economical and efficient as it allows inclusion of low cost agro industrial byproducts and low quality crop residues with their efficient utilization. Also these CCFBs can be made as part of feed bank (Verma et al., 1996; Samanta et al., 2007).The blocks were made of proportionate mixture of wheat bran, rice bran, mustard, groundnut cakes, one percent urea, molasses, minerals and salt. The blocks have dimension of 0.5 cubic feet containing about 13% proteins and 50 to 55% total digestible nutrients. The nutritive value is 33% higher than common feed.

Silage technology for scarcity period

The process is very simple and involves spraying of urea solution uniformly over the straw and storing it for a specific time period.

1. Ensiling paddy straw, fruit factory waste and poultry droppings. A large amount of fruit waste is going waste every day. These fruit by products are generally rich source of soluble carbohydrate containing little amount of protein containing sufficient amount of soluble carbohydrate to facilitate microbial fermentation. Therefore, these byproducts which cause a great disposal problem can be ensiled with paddy straw and poultry droppings (50 parts paddy straw, 25 parts fruit waste, 25 parts poultry droppings). Paddy straw should be chaffed and mixed uniformly with other two components. Such silo should be kept for 4 weeks at least after that it is ready for feeding of animals.

2.         Ensiling paddy straw and poultry droppings: Paddy straw, poultry dropping, green grass and molasses in the ratio of 40:40:10:10 on dry matter basis form very good silage (Baruah et al, 1983) and is highly relished by the animals.

Use of sugarcane crop residueas animal feed

Sugarcane is a major cash crop grown in many parts of the country. It is popular among farmers in many regions for its ability to withstand extremes of environmental conditions and because of its assured market price. The by-product of sugarcane i.e. sugarcane tops, sugarcane bagasse, molasses can be fed to cattle and buffaloes during scarcity period. A number of methods have been evolved for improving the nutritive value of sugarcane bagasse. Urea when used for treatment of bagasse enhances its nutritional quality however, its digestibility can be increased by steam treatment. ( Singh and Chandramoni,2010)

Tree leaves and vegetable leaves

Green fodder is not available during scarcity. But tree leaves are easily available. Leaves of neem, mango, banyan, pipal, babul, subabul, mahuva, etc. can be used as green fodder. They are good source of protein (6-20% CP), calcium (0.5-2.5%) and Vitamin A. Complete feed prepared using 50kg tree leaves, 5kg groundnut cake, 25 kg vilayati babul pods (Prosopis julifora pods), 15 kg molasses, 1 kg urea and 2 kg mineral mixture is palatable to animal and forms a good maintenance ration. The vegetable leaves and creepers like cabbage, cauliflower, and potato can also be used as animal feed during scarcity; moreover they are rich source of crude protein and fair source of soluble sugars (Kumar and Paswan, 2012).

Crop residues

Crop residue available in abundance can be used for the feeding of livestock. As it contains negligible digestible protein and supply little amount of energy but it satisfies the appetite of the animal. However, treated crop residues can form a good maintenance diet for livestock.

Feeds not to be fed exclusively during such calamities

In the scarcity conditions animals do not get enough feeds for eating and they mostly pass through under fed conditions due to non-availability and scarce supply of feed-stuffs. At the end of such scarcity period, animals usually develop craving for food and eat uncontrolled access to herbage. Thus, it is desired to be careful in feeding the farm animals after the flood water has receded.

1. Newly growing grasses contain high concentration of nitrite and nitrate and they should be fed in small quantity mixed with dry roughages like paddy straw and wheat straw.

2. New tree leaves contain high level of hydrocyanic acid. Due to its softness animals eat larger quantity and occasionally suffer from toxicity. Such tree leaves should not be fed as a sole ration and should be incorporated in straws for partial supply of nutrients.

Pre-disaster and post disaster feed management


  • Mobile fodder depots, Loans from banks at cheaper rates for purchase of fodder must be made available
  • Professional approach of feed management,
  • Coordination of Disaster Management Institutes with animal nutrition faculty.


  • Creation of feed and fodder bank, pasture improvement and application of fodder conservation techniques,
  •  Management of stocking rates
  •  Promotion of seeds that flourish from the first irrigation and introduction of drought-resistant and water logging tolerant plants varieties.

Creation of feed & fodder bank

It is an important asset to meet the needs of livestock during drought and floods. The following types of feeds and fodder can be stored for meeting the above emergencies.

  • Feed bank from ingredients not fit for human consumption:

 The feed ingredients which become unfit for human consumption can be spared for livestock use & stored in feed banks either in silos or stores after testing it for aflatoxin contents, pesticides and drug residues.

  • Fodder Banks: Grasses from periphery of forest area, wastelands and farmlands may be harvested and stored as hay in briquettes and high density stacks. Crop residues of the major cereals like rice and wheat straws, coarse cereals, legumes, haulms left after removing grains from the crops may be stored in these banks. This programme is used to meet the fodder needs during extreme winters and snow covered seasons.

Preventive measures against epidemics and diseases

There are certain diseases which are more common during drought and flood periods so these diseases need more attention so as to prevent its outbreak. The most common diseases are Foot and Mouth disease, Hemorrhagic septicaemia, Black Quarter, Anthrax, Enterotoxaemia, Coliobacillus, Surra, Babesiosis, Thelaeriosis, Anaplasmosis, Pox disease, Mastitis, Brucellosis, Ring worm, Ascariasis, Fascioliasis, Microfilariasis,Tick infestation and mange etc.

To control and prevent these diseases, following measures are to be adopted:

1. Vaccination: In drought conditions animals become more susceptible to diseases due to stress and thus all vaccination schedules should be followed.

2. Deworming: To check the parasitic infestation regular deworming should be followed.

3. Disinfection of animal sheds by insecticidal spray: This can be done with the compounds like lime powder, alum, 2% formalin, 4% NaOH, 1% KMnO4 , sodium bicarbonate, Bleaching powder, Copper sulphate, phenol gases like HCN, formaldehyde etc. For control of ticks, flies, mosquitoes, lice etc. various insecticides like methrin, melathion, aldrin, etc. may be used for this purpose.

4. Carcass Disposal by Burning or Burial:

During drought period there is heavy mortality in animals due to heat stroke, dehydration, infectious and non-infectious diseases. As infected animals may spread the diseases to other animals, hence proper disposal of the carcass is essential. The carcass can be disposed by following either burning or burial method.

Animal welfare considerations

An important emergency response consideration in natural disasters is the alleviation of suffering and humane destruction of moribund animals in addition to provision of feed and water. Veterinarians are best qualified to ensure the welfare of animals, including the decision and recommendations on methods for euthanasia. Euthanasia programmes are intended to prevent animal suffering and the spread of epizootics. However, the methods used and their intended effectiveness will also need to be justified.


An effective recovery phase from disasters commences with effective mitigation programmes which include the establishment of trade and mutual aid agreements between countries to supply goods and to restock livestock populations following a disaster. These agreements are implemented in the recovery phase and provide an opportunity to improve on existing systems. Appalling results can be seen if livestock are replaced without prior consideration of local needs following a disaster. There are too many examples of Bos taurus cows being sent to tropical countries, where they succumb to endemic diseases to which Bos indicus breeds are resistant. Furthermore, animals that are not adapted to heat suffer greatly from climatic change, resulting in extremely low fertility rates and virtually no milk production. However, these secondary disasters can be prevented through planning.


Natural calamities especially when they are severe can create a very stressful situation for livestock farming. Being proactive and seeking management strategies to help alleviate as many of the negative impacts of the calamities as possible will help compensate for limited forage supplies. Feeding management during disaster has to be given utmost care to prevent starvation. Technology applications like concentrate mixture, urea treatment, urea molasses liquid feeding, and urea molasses mineral block has the capacity to meet the challenge. Unconventional feeds and wastes also have the capacity to mitigate the challenge. Proper veterinary aid is necessary to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.

Corresponding Author:  A.K. Tyagi, Principal Scientist, DCN Division, NDRI Karnal E-mail:

[Content courtesy : Livestock Institute for Knowledge & Excellence (LIKE) E-mail:]

References :

Drought Management Strategies. 2009. National rainfed area authority ministry of agriculture Government of India, New Delhi.

FAO, 2000.  Agriculture towards 2015/30. Technical interim report, Economic and social department, Rome, Italy.

Jayasurya, M.C.N. 1987. Improvement of poor quality roughages, Advances in Animal Nutrition for Developing Countries. IndoVision, 236-259.

K.K. Baruah., Pathak, N.N.  and Saikia, A.1983.Livestock Feeding in Flood Affected Area of North Eastern Region, Jorhat, Assam, AAU Bulletin No.142.1.05.

 Kumar, K. and  Paswan , V.K. 2012. Feeding strategy for livestock during natural disaster – a review. Livestockline,5:14-18.

Prasad,C.S., Sampath, K.T., Shivaramaiah, M. T. and Sampath, S. R. 1990. Bioconversion of Crop Residues. Annual Report, NDRI,  Bangalore, India.

Ranjhan S.K.  and Khera, R.C. 1976. Feeding Farm Animal During Scarcity. ICAR.

Report of the working group on animal husbandry and dairying 11th Five year plan (2007- 12) Govt. of India Planning Commission, New Delhi.

Samanta, K. K., Singh, K. K. and Das, M. M., 2007. Effect of complete feed block on dry matter intake and milk yield on murrah buffaloes. Ind. Vet. J. 84: 1320-1322.

 Singh, P. K. and Chandramoni. 2010. Feeding Of Farm Animals During Scarcity. SMVS Dairy Year Book, 93-95.

Verma, A.K., Mehra, U.R., Dass, R.S. and  Sing. A. 1996. Nutrient utilization by murrah buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis) from compressed complete feed blocks. Ani. Feed. sci. Tech. 59: 255-263.



Posted in Animal welfare, Disaster and Emerging issues