Feeding of Cattle in Resource Poor Farming Situations in Kerala
Dr. Jose James
General Manager, KLD Board, Thiruvananthapuram
Dairy production systems should be matched to the available resources to ensure optimal utilization of available fodder and feed resources (non conventional feed, treatment of crop residues) including the application of more balanced feeding schedules, and a better balance between the number of cattle and feed available in a certain area.
There is an urgent need to analyze the situation so as to suggest appropriate measures to reverse the trend and to improve milk production. The Government may initiate the conduct of a study of the livestock economy of Kerala, to assess the socio economic changes and the economics of milk production that might have contributed to this trend, in the backdrop of the scarce resource availability.
Geographical Information Surveys are to be undertaken to identify different agro-climatic zones in the state with special emphasis on the resources availability and production potential of animals in these different zones.
Legislations to regulate/ensure quality standards in manufacturing/selling or/and distribution, by whatever manner of compounded cattle feed, concentrates or mineral mixtures in the state should be framed under the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (Central Act of 1955) and Government must provide financial support for its efficient implementation. The Punjab Regulation of Compounded Cattle Feed, Concentrates and Mineral Mixtures Order (1988) and the Haryana Regulation of Compounded Cattle Feed, Concentrates and Mineral Mixtures Order (1999) are role models existing in this regard in the country.
Agencies concerned should develop optimal feeding schedules for the different farming situations and agro-climatic zones in the state and extend such information to farmers. Ration Balancing Software's (RBS) to formulate least cost rations for cattle, as that developed by NDDB should be utilized.
An integrated programme incorporating cattle management, fodder production, soil conservation, milk marketing, bio gas plant and the elements of organic farming may be promoted/ launched in selected districts/areas that are better endowed.
Increasing fodder production and availability within the state through the intervention of co-operatives and NGO's should be explored, as the scope for individual initiative by farmers in fodder cultivation seems rather limited. It is very difficult for the state to enforce strict land utilization laws so as to prevent the decline in the availability of dry fodder. What is more feasible will be to encourage farmers to take up fodder cultivation as a commercial programme with the support of the local bodies who should also incorporate fodder production as one of their major activities in the rural development sector. New varieties like CO3 and KKM1 are found promising for commercial fodder production and marketing.
Techniques to increase the nutritive quality of various roughage, which can be done by farmers at a modest cost, should be encouraged and mainly local co-operatives and other service/ extension departments, in this sector, should initiate diffusion of knowledge of such techniques.
Cattle keeping should be encouraged in areas endowed with feed resources and input services should favour these pockets more. The terms of trade in dairy sector should be made in favour of the dairy farmers for whom the distance between the price of feed materials and price received for milk produced by him should be narrowed. For this the concept of dairy co-operative system needs to revitalized for assuring marketing of milk, generation of dairy cash incomes and supply of all inputs including quality compounded cattle feed at reasonable rates. Attempts should also be made to increase the share of cooperative sector in the quantity of manufactured feed from the present level so as to make available quality feed at reasonable prices.
Feed manufacturers should come out with special blends like Bypass protein feed, calf starters and Type I cattle feed for those herds which are in the high input system and commercially high producers.