1. Introduction:
    The livestock sector in Bangladesh significantly improves food and nutrition, reduces poverty, creates jobs, and empowers women (Saleque, 2021). Many prospects exist for the livestock sector to grow further in our country due to the fast-growing population, urbanization, economic expansion, rising purchasing power, and rising demand for animal products. According to the Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association (BDFA) and the Department of Livestock Services (DLS report, 2022), there are roughly 1,200,000 dairy farms in our country, and 9,400,000 people work either directly or indirectly in the dairy sector (BDFA, 2023). The BDFA estimates that there is now about Tk 90, 000 crore invested in the local dairy industry.
    Over the past 20 years, there has been a notable increase in the production of meat and milk, making the livestock industry in Bangladesh one of the fastest-growing sectors. Bangladesh produced 8.71 million metric tons of meat and 14.07 million metric tons of milk in 2022–2023, fulfilling 114% and 88.6% of its total meat and milk consumption, respectively (DLS, 2023). Cattle account for 49.81% of the total meat production (DLS, 2023). Although milk and meat production have increased by more than 155% over the past ten years (DLS at a glance report, 2023; Table 1), the number of cattle has only increased by 6%. This is primarily due to the increase in crossbred animals with higher productivity in our country. Several reports have indicated that 45–50% of cattle in our country are cross bred. The local cow only produces one to two liters of milk every day (200–250 liters per lactation). However, the average amount produced by cross-bred is 7 to 8 liters per day (1500 to 1800 liters per lactation). Additionally, cross-bred cattle produce almost three times as much meat as cattle of the local breed, and the FCR is favorable for cross-breeding. Artificial Insemination (AI) is one of the most important assisted reproductive technologies that has raised the genetic merit of cattle in Bangladesh in respect to production.
    Table – 1: Milk and Meat production over last 10 years
    Source: DLS at a glance (2023)

  2. Why do we need to produce more milk and meat?
    As incomes rise, the structure of food demand shifts towards increased nutritional intake. Significant diversification of consumption has occurred, with lower per capita consumption of rice and higher consumption of high-value food items such as meat, fish, milk, vegetables, fruits, and edible oil. Supply response has mirrored demand shifts, with diversification of production from rice agriculture to increased production of non-cereal crops (Bangladesh Prospective Plan 2021-2041).
    With a current deficit of about 1.78 million metric tons of milk and an additional requirement of 3.82 million metric tons in 2030-2031 (Table-2), Bangladesh needs to produce 19.7 million metric tons of milk in 2030-2031 (Bangladesh prospective 2021-2041). The demand for meat is expected to grow to 10.93 million metric tons by 2030–2031, so in addition to the existing production, 2.22 million metric tons of meat has to be produced. This increased demand can be met by either increasing the yield of meat and milk per animal or increasing the number of animals. Due to land and other resource constraints, increasing meat and milk yield per cow is the preferred and only option for Bangladesh. Production increase requires a combination of good genetics of cattle improvement (via artificial insemination with quality semen), and fertility management. Farmers must therefore gain a better understanding of how to maximize production and productivity by improving the genetic merits of their cattle and practicing fertility management. Cross-breeding through artificial insemination is the quickest way to improve a breed in our country.
    Table-2: Current and projected meat and milk production for the years 2030-31
    Source: DLS (2023), Perspective Plan of Bangladesh 2021-2041

  3. Why is it necessary to expand AI coverage?
    Our country has about 24.85 million cattle (DLS at a glance.2023) of which about 9.55 million breedable cows (ACI report 2023). To expand the coverage of AI services, the government has encouraged more private sector participation in AI activities. The government, in collaboration with private sector stakeholders, is working hard to improve milk and meat production as well as creating more job and income opportunities in livestock sector. DLS, Milk Vita, and seven private sector organizations (BRAC, ACI, ADL, Lal Teer, Ejab Sajak, and TDL) are currently the major AI service providers in Bangladesh. Artificial insemination (AI) coverage in our country is currently around 70%- 75% (Analysis of various reports, 2023, and ACI own report, 2023). However, according to Sorowar et al., AI covered 81% of the cattle in his study areas. According to field data, the supply of semen for AI has been increased about 30% over the last five years as a result of public and private sector intervention. However, there is still a gap in AI coverage in our country, and more cross-bred animals are needed to meet increased demand. As a result, there is a huge opportunity to expand the use of AI in cattle development in our country. The technical skills of AI workers in both the public and private sectors must be improved further in order to broaden the net of AI services available to farmers and provide them with high-quality services.
    ACI estimates that about 14.1 million doses of semen were used in 2022–2023, of which 4.23 million doses were supplied by DLS and the remaining doses were supplied by the private sector. DLS supplied both frozen (88.7%) and liquid (11.3%) semen (DLS annual report, 2023). However, the private sector only sold frozen semen. Several studies on conception in Bangladesh show that the conception rate ranges from 50% to 72% in our country. It also varies significantly depending on the breed of cow and other factors (age, parity, season, nutrition, and so on). Siddique et al. (2013) found a conception rate of 50.71.9%, Khatun et al. (2014) 54.9%, Sharifuzzaman et al. (2015) 62.86%, Haque et al. (2015) 52.6%, Khan et al. (2015) 59.3%, Paul (2010) 57.3%, Mollah (2011) 55.1%, ACI (2023) 70%, and Howlader (2019) 72%.

  4. Current challenges and issues to be addressed: According to Saleque (2021) multiple factors influence sustainable cattle development in this country. The main challenges are as follows: a) Lower milk production efficiency of local breeds; b) Low coverage of Artificial Insemination services; c) High cost of feeds and shortage of fodder; d) Lack of improved feeding practices; e) Infertility and calf mortality; f) Unsecured market for selling milk and price fluctuation; g) Lower price of imported powder milk; h) Impact of seasonality on products and markets; i) Cattle diseases affect production; and lack of easy access to financial support.
    We must prioritize important issues such as breed development through increased coverage of AI to increase productivity per cow, as well as address issues to overcome the challenges mentioned above.

  5. Conclusion: In Bangladesh, milk and milk production have increased dramatically over the last 20 years, and there are numerous opportunities to further increase milk and meat production. The government places a strong emphasis on cattle development through AI in order to achieve self-sufficiency by increasing its milk and meat production of acceptable quality. It focuses on increasing productivity per cow rather than the total number of cows. All stakeholders have to provide accurate information and collaborate with the government. Farmers must increase efficiency, reduce milk production costs, and take the necessary precautions to avoid milk adulteration. The processors must not only collect the milk but also pay a fair price and finally, end-user satisfaction with milk quality. Academics and researchers should also develop strategies and recommend the government to take the necessary steps to ensure the sustainable development of cattle in this country.

Dr. Md.A.Saleque, Chief Technical Advisor, ACI Animal Health and ACI Genetics
Dr. Hiresh Ranjan Bhowmik, Chief Advisor, ACI Animal Health and ACI Genetics