Will India’s rising LSD cases see an increase in buffalo numbers?

Sept 2022

In the two months, there has been an escalation in Lumpy Skin Diseases (LSD), with 62,000 cases reported in five Northern Indian states. This has seen substantial financial losses across the dairy sector as milk production has dropped by more than 50% with animals infected. India has yet to report these diseases to WAHIS (World Health Organisation for Animal Health)

On my recent visit to India in March, I met with seven different regional vets across many of these impacted states. On each occasion, they stated that indigenous dairy cows were impacted by LSD, with almost no buffalo animals affected – many vets saying that most buffalo breeds have natural immunity. There has not been much research on comparing LSD’s impact on buffalo and milking cows – so much of this evidence is based on anecdotal evidence, and more research is needed.

The milking herd comprises 200 million indigenous dairy cows and 110 million buffalo. Given the rate of LSD spread, this could see an increase in buffalo numbers over the next few years to address the disease problem and ensure milk supplies remain at required levels.

A bi-product of the Indian dairy industry is buffalo meat exports, which this year points to 1.2 million tonnes of buffalo meat exports and India will rank as number three in bovine exports globally. Should buffalo numbers increase, this would see a dramatic increase in global buffalo shipments, given that 100% of buffalo are slaughtered and exported (no dairy cows are slaughtered for religious reasons, only buffalo) – with no buffalo going domestic. I estimate a 10% increase in Indian buffalo numbers would see an additional 120,000 MT of buffalo shipped yearly.  Simon Quilty


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