Choice of Dairy Animal

The potential entrepreneur may start the dairy farm either with the crossbred cows or with improved breeds of buffaloes or a rightful combination of both high yielding crossbred cows and buffaloes. The important economic characteristics to be considered while selecting the dairy animal are:

The half-bred cows are the economical producers of milk under good feeding and management conditions. They are high producers of milk with production levels of 4000 to 5000 kg of milk in standard lactation quite attainable. The half-bred cows can further be upgraded to 62.5 and even up to 75 percent of exotic inheritance in subsequent generations as the husbandry practices get stabilized and the farmer gets the experience in the management of high grade cows.  These high grade cows can produce under Indian conditions of feeding and management on an average of about 5000 to 6000 kg of milk in a lactation period. The average milk fat content of crossbred cows is low (3.5 to 4.0 %) as compared to buffaloes and indigenous cows. They grow at a faster rate and mature early and come into production at about 28 to 30 months of age. They breed comparatively regularly if proper care is given and produce one calf every 13-14 months. They are more amenable to modern husbandry practices such as calf weaning and machine milking. These are available in sufficient numbers in the market at reasonable prices.

However the price of cow milk is lower than the buffalo milk due to lower milk fat content. There may be lower consumer preference for fresh cow milk. The higher grades of crosses though producing higher milk may not be adapted to all climatic conditions prevailing in the country. The male crossbred cattle calves fetch little market value, however, they can be used for draft purpose also.


Good milch breeds of buffaloes like Murrah, Nili-Ravi, Mehsana are available in the country which are economical producers of milk and are suitable for commercial dairy farming. Elite buffaloes belonging to these breeds can yield 3000 kg of milk in a lactation period. The buffalo milk is rich in fat content which usually ranges from 6.0 to 9.0 percent and therefore is more in demand for making butter and ghee and is priced higher than the cow milk. Buffaloes can be maintained on more fibrous feed residues and hence has more scope for reducing feed costs. Buffaloes are well adapted under the diversified agro-climatic conditions of the country and are less likely to suffer from mastitis, milk fever and ectoparasites as compared to high-grade crossbred cows. The buffalo males after weaning and other unwanted animals such as infertile and old animals fetch good price as meat animals. The buffalo males are also good work animals. However the major consideration unfavourable to dairying with buffaloes is the comparatively higher calf mortality, slower rate of growth, late maturity and higher calving interval (15-18 months).

Market Demand

From the foregoing discussion it is evident that the choice of dairy animal shall depend on the demand of milk and market price of the milk. It would be worthwhile to conduct a market survey of the potential area where the farm is to be set up regarding the consumer preferences for cow or buffalo milk and the comparative prices offered. However it would be advisable to initially start with both cows and buffaloes in the 50 : 50 ratio and subsequently depending on the demand and price of milk increase the number of cows or the buffaloes as the case may be. However, at a large dairy farm integrated with a milk processing plant or situated in the milk-shed area of a milk processing plant with a high level of mechanization and automation keeping of high milk producing crossbred cows is likely to be more economical than the buffaloes.

Climatic Effect

It has been conclusively established that Holstein Friesian crosses perform better than the other exotic cattle crosses in Northern Indian conditions where adequate green fodder can be made available to cows throughout the year and the cows are protected   against summer stress. In hilly regions and coastal areas Jersey crosses may be more suitable. The cows with a level of 62.5 or even 75 % exotic cattle inheritance can be commercially more viable under favourable climatic conditions provided they are maintained under scientific feeding, management and proper healthcare. In fact many such large farms with high level of mechanization including mechanical feeding, cleaning, machine milking coupled with electronic animal identification and computerized data recording being set up in different parts of the country are maintaining only the high grade crossbred cows.