Making the Connect: Small Holder Dairy Farming and the Risk of Zoonoses
Dairying as a livelihood option: It is an important source of livelihood for marginalised populations, contributing significantly to India's GDP. India is one of the largest consumers of milk/milk products with industry size estimated at USD 70 bn. Average size of milch cattle holding is 1-2 animals and production is scattered over large number of dairy farmers.
Challenges in livestock management: India's dairy system relies mostly on milk produced through small/marginal farmers who lag in technological interventions for efficient milk production. With strong linkage to poverty and lack of resources, they need support to deal with changing market needs and growing zoonotic threats.
Vulnerable to disease and zoonoses: Milk can contain harmful microorganisms such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia enterocolitica, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium botulinum, Mycobacterium bovis, Brucella abortus and Brucella melitensis leading to zoonotic infections like tuberculosis, brucellosis, leptospirosis, salmonellosis and listeriosis.
Chemical and environmental risks: Small holder dairy farms face severe issues with growing urbanisation, migration, rising prices and high cost of maintaining cattle. Milk/milk products can cause food-borne illnesses putting dairy farmers, their families, cattle and local communities at risk. Quality of milk is affected by pathogen contamination and growth, chemical additives, environmental pollution and nutrient degradation
Milk contamination: Inadequate control of equipment, environment and milk storage facilities also contaminate. Chemical hazards include detergents, teat disinfectants, dairy sanitisers, anti-parasitics, antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.
Upgrade peri-urban conditions: General hygienic and disease control practices must be integrated in milk production process, particularly at smallholder level. Awareness and training will improve disease control in animals and reduce public health risk of milk-borne zoonoses.
PHFI/RCZI is currently conducting a study in small holder peri-urban dairy farms in India. These will look at bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis at human-animal interface along with addressing veterinary use of antibiotics. Through partnership with regional veterinary colleges and facilitation by NGOs, it will provide insights into safe and sustainable milk production in peri-urban small holder dairy farms.