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Importance of green fodder

Increasing the production of milk and milk products help lift rural economy but it requires a sound strategy

milk products

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  24 Sep 2020 5:14 AM GMT

Increasing the production of milk and milk products help lift rural economy but it requires a sound strategy to achieve the targeted production in dairy sector. Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute in its Vision 2030 states that feed alone constitutes 70 per cent of the milk production cost and therefore fodder based cheaper feeding strategies are required to reduce the cost of production. India has net deficit of 61 per cent green fodder, 21.9 per cent dry crop residues and 64 per cent feeds. A Strategy Paper on Feed and Fodder Sector, Assam prepared by the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department has highlighted huge gap in production of milk and fodder in the state. It harps on the need to focus on increasing fodder production to boost milk production. Production of milk is estimated to be 904 million litres against total requirement of 2507 million litres. The shortfall of 1603 million litres indicate the potential for growth in the dairy sector and increasing income of the rural household in the state. The state produces only 85,633 MT of fodder against the requirement of 23,15,925 MT. Shortage of fodder is estimated primarily for cross-bred animals. The indigenous breeds mostly feed on natural fodder available in the surroundings and crop residues, mostly straw left on the paddy fields after harvesting. The strategy paper has sounded a timely alarm that due to shrinkage of areas under natural and traditional vegetation both crossbred and indigenous bred animals would eventually be dependent largely on cultivated green fodder. On an average 16 kilogrammes of fodder is required for each animal every day in the dairy sector. Encroachment of grazing reserves has added to shrinkage of pastures in the state. It has resulted in tremendous pressure of the livestock on the available pastures. The strategy paper underlines the need for bringing more and more areas under fodder cultivation which may be perennial or seasonal and growing various kinds of recommended varieties. The paper has identified two key policy bottlenecks in the state. Absence of pasture management and grazing policy which has rendered pasture lands including the village common lands and uncultivable wastelands as unproductive. The state therefore needs policies to govern the fallow and uncultivable wastelands. Secondly, absence of designated agency for management of the grazing land and fodder resources allowed the Forest department to close such grazing lands for raising plantations mostly of commercial trees species. It also focusses on conservation of natural fodder resources like pasture lands. The Land Policy 2019, Assam states that a block of government land from five bighas to 15 bighas, subject to availability in each village should be reserved as an open space for environmental/ecological purposes and be kept free from encroachment, allotment, settlement or any form of transfer. The land policy also states that encroachments, if any on the Village Grazing Reserve (VGR) and Professional Grazing Reserves (PGR), will be removed and the land under VGR and PGR will be not further decreased by way of de-reservation and allotment except for public purposes under special circumstances as defined by judicial pronouncements. Revisiting the land policy to dovetail the fodder policy will remove ambiguity in uses of such land. This is also required as out of the total cropped area of the state only a negligible area is available for fodder production. The dairy farmers are still dependent on traditional practice of rearing the animals using the green vegetation growing naturally. The climatic condition of Assam is such that the green vegetation is available round the year. However, due to shrinkage of such areas the farmers are finding it difficult to provide adequate fodder to their animals as transporting it from areas where it's abundantly available increases the rearing cost. The paper also highlights that the crop residues, which is primarily the rice straws, when used as fodder contains less nutrition but high fibre and therefore cannot keep the animals productive for long duration. Hence, rice straws cannot be a sole source of fodder, it is merely an alternative source of fodder and can be useful only after enriching with other essential inputs like urea, molasses, it adds. A pragmatic solution to reduce fodder shortage in the state suggested in the Strategy paper is bringing all potential lands available with the Department but lying unutilized, under fodder cultivation on a massive scale. Cultivation of green fodder holds the key to boosting cost-effective production in the dairy sector. A concrete strategy is now available with the State government. It is estimated that in the mixed production system of crop and livestock, dairy production contributes to about 20 to 50 per cent of family income. Timely action based on the identified strategies will go a long way in achieving the desired growth in the dairy sector and strengthening the state's rural economy.

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