Dairy farms usually evoke images of smelly cowsheds littered with dung and hay, and farmers perched on rickety stools to milk the animals. Now try replacing that picture with another one of squeaky clean parlours, programmable feeders, automatic milking machines and cleaning robots.
The dairy farming sector in Kerala is all set to receive a massive dose of technology. The State government has launched an ambitious project to establish a chain of hi-tech dairy farms under the Kerala Livestock Development Board.
While work on the first hi-tech dairy farm at Kulathupuzha at Kollam is progressing, the second one at Kolahalamedu in Idukki district is expected to take off in less than three months. The project is funded by the National Project for Cattle and Buffalo Breeding (NPCBB).
Minister for Dairy Development C. Divakaran told The Hindu that the project was aimed at enhancing milk production and producing a new generation of quality livestock. “Simultaneously, we have also launched a project to encourage fodder cultivation and improve the production of cattle feed.”
The Minister said three more hi-tech dairy farms would come up at Ayoor in Kollam district, Mattupetty in Idukki and Valiathura in Thiruvananthapuram.
The farms will be equipped with the latest technologies in feeding, milking, shed management and recording practices. They will have 500 high-yielding cows of the Jersey, Holstein Friesian and Indian breeds as well as hybrids.
Each cow will be fitted with a transponder equipped with a micro chip carrying information about the animal like pedigree, milk yield and feeding pattern. Feeding will be through programmable feeders. When the animal enters the feeding parlour, the radio signals from the transponder to activate the feeding mechanism and the quantity of feed recommended for the animal as per its age, growth and milk production will be automatically delivered to the parlour and monitored. An automated system will be used for watering of the animals also.
The cows will be milked using automatic machines in separate parlours and milk collection from each animal recorded in the computer. The data will enable the milk to be traced back to source. Mr. Divakaran said the government was thinking of marketing the milk produced in the hi-tech farms as a separate brand.
Automatic scrapers and water jets will keep the cow sheds clean. The animals will be checked with heat detectors and artificially inseminated in time. The data on health care and reproductive performance will be regularly updated for better management.
While female calves produced in the farm will be distributed to dairy farmers, the bull calves are to be used for production of breeding bulls.
The proposed model hi-tech bull mother dairy farm at Kolahalamedu will also have research programmes on embryo transfer technology and progeny testing for production of bull semen for the domestic and export markets.
KLDB Managing Director Ani S. Das said global tenders had been invited for the supply of the latest state- of- the-art equipment for the project. He said KLDB would offer technical support for dairy farmers to set up satellite farms.