There are many things that appear attractive when viewed from a distance, but on closer scrutiny the reality is different. Dairy farming is an example. Shortage of fodder and shrinking areas of cultivation are forcing many farmers to give up rearing cattle.

The Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) has introduced a new project called a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model for dairy farmers. Accordingly a memorandum is signed between the farmer and the University officials for growing the fodder for seed production.

MoUs are being signed with farmers who desire to grow fodder grasses like Bajra Napier (Co-4), Guinea grass,(Anjan grass), Fodder sorghum (CoFS-27), Multi cut fodder Sorghum (CoFS-29), African tall maize, Legumes (Desmanthus, Stylo, Cowpea) and tree fodder varieties (Sesbania, Subabul, Glyricidia).

“Today it is true that fast shrinking lands pose a threat to maintaining cattle. For the available animals and farmers sourcing the green fodder proves a daunting task. The cost of one heap of good variety straw goes up to several thousands. Through this project we expect to solve the problem of fodder availability for the remaining animals and also seed shortage in these crops,” says Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVASU) Vice-Chancellor, Dr. R. Prabakaran.

So far, 58 farmers from eight districts (Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Salem, Karur, Vellore, Tiruchi and Villupuram) have signed the memorandum to grow and supply green fodder.

Demonstration units are being maintained at the University’s KVK farm at Namakkal for farnmers to visit and learn things firsthand. Till date about 8,92,000 Co4 grass slips, 1,10,000 Guinea grass, 174 kg CoFS-29 seeds, 227 kg of Desmanthus seeds, 80 kg fodder maize seeds, 111kg of of Anjan grass seeds, 100 kg of subabul seeds, 54 kg of fodder cowpea seeds and 1,117 Glyricidia saplings have been supplied to farmers.

“This model hopes to address three problems that the farming sector today faces. One is the availability of green feed to the animals. Two, the seed shortage for fodder can be overcome, and three is revenue generation for the farmers,” explains Dr. Prabhakaran.

Once planted the fodder varieties can be maintained for a period of three years.

“The first harvest can be done five months after planting. The seeds can be sent through good parcel services to our KVK office and after quality checking, the money is sent through ECS to the farmer’s account,” says Dr. Mohan, Head, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Veterinary College and Research Institute Campus, Namakkal.

“But before starting on this it is advisable for interested persons to first call and meet us to personally discuss and see our demonstration plots and also interact with those who are doing it to help clear doubts,” he adds.

The seeds are procured, tested for purity and germination, and then sold to Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy Co-operatives, and progressive farmers.

When we spoke to several farmers who maintain some cattle about this project, many of them expressed surprise about such an MOU.

Says Mr. R. Chandramouli a native cattle farmer at Padapai near Chennai: “Though there are several books written by dairy experts promising to make a dairy farmer successful in terms of generating revenue, the ground reality is that, maintaining only milch animals can never prove to be remunerative.”

The reason being, more than the animals’ health, the problem lies in providing them with feed.

Absence of grazing grounds forces a farmer to buy the cattle feed from retail shops. Several farmers maintain a monthly account for buying the feed and the interest in some of the shops is quite high since they give credit. And an animal yields milk for only 5-6 months, after which it comes into gestation.

“Till it is sold off the farmer needs to continue the feeding. For a single animal the cost of feeding can come to Rs. 75-100 a day. This can be reduced to an extent if one has some lands and grows grass in them. And all these years farmers having some small areas were reluctant to grow grass as it did not generate revenue for them expect for feed. But with this new MoU being offered by the University I think that more farmers would come forward to grow these crops and rear some cattle,” he says.

For more details interested farmers can contact Dr. B. Mohan, Programme Coordinator & Professor and Head, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Veterinary College and Research Institute Campus,Namakkal - 637 002, email: kvk-namakkal@tanuvas.org.in, namakkalkvk@gmail.com, phones : 04286 – 266244, and 266345.