Farmers are earning Rs. 15,000 as net profit annually by selling the grass
In Kerala, even though 60 per cent of the milk requirement is met by procurement from other states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, cattle rearing is fast declining due to high cost of production, labour shortage and shrinking land.
Heavy dependence on other states for raw materials pushes up the cost of concentrate feeds.
“Dry straw (hay) used to feed cattle has become scarce due to decline in area under rice cultivation. It becomes a dire necessity for dairy farmers to start growing green fodder (grass) if they desire to run their unit profitably,” says Dr.S. Prabhu Kumar, Zonal Project Director, ICAR, Zonal Project Directorate, Bangalore.
Grow own fodder
And he adds that mere distribution of milch animals by the Government is of no use to farmers.
Along with the animals they must be also made aware of the importance of growing their own fodder for the animals.
Buying several commercial feeds available in the markets today is not profitable for a small farmer and is sure to burn a hole in their pocket, according to him.
Take the case of the Koipuram Milk society established on the banks of river Pampa nearly 20 years back by one Mr. Gopalakrishnan Nair to prevent dairy farmers from being exploited by middlemen who were not providing timely price for the milk supplied.
During peak production time farmers used to get only Rs.2.40 per litre of milk while the market price was Rs. 6 per litre.
The society was initially started with 400 members and 1,500 litres of milk was sent daily to the milk marketing federation of Kerala for further processing and sales. The price was fixed by the society.
Since 1995 the society encouraged fodder production for its members and introduced different fodder grasses like Congo Signal, Gunnie grass, Hybrid Napier like CO1, CO2 and CO3 in the area. By 2009, 150 hectares in the region were brought under different types of fodder cultivation.
“We brought four cuttings of CO4 Hybrid Napier grass from Tamil Nadu Agriculture University Coimbatore, and multiplied it in our KVK farm.
“Today our farmers are selling this fodder to several private farms in Kollam, Allapuzha, Kottayam and Idukki Districts. On an average 800-1,200 Kg of green fodder is being sold today by the farmers of this society,” says Dr. C. P. Robert, Programme Co-ordinator, CARD-KVK (Christian agency for rural development- Krishi Vigyan Kendra), Pathanamthitta district, Kerala.
CARD KVK has been in the forefront of fodder promotion in the Pathanamthitta district and has been conducting many trials to identify suitable forage varieties for the district.
Dairy farmers are given training on scientific fodder management practices as and when the need arises.
“Feeding one bundle (15Kg) of CO4 grass has been found to increase milk yield by almost 200 ml per cow. Seeing this superior growth characteristic, farmers are replanting CO4 variety today and it has almost replaced the previous CO3 variety,” says Dr.Robert. Till date several lakh cuttings of this grass have been sold to different agriculture project areas in Kerala.
Farmers are selling this fodder for Rs1.30 a kg and are able to harvest 7-8 cuttings a year (the cuttings may vary with the availability of water). Many are able to get an average yield of 270 tonnes per hectare and earn Rs. 15,000 as net profit annually.
The society also generates 300 days of employment through this activity a year, according to Dr. Robert.
For more details contact Dr. C. P. Robert, Programme Co-ordinator, CARD-Krishi Vigyan Kendra-Pathanamthitta District, Kolabhagam Post Office, Tiruvalla(Via), Pathanamthitta Dist, Kerala, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phones:0469- 2662094 and 2661821, mobile:09447139300.