Udaipur is one of the projects sites for the India Research Initiative on Human-Animal-Environment Interface. Dr. Prakash C Sharma, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Genetics and breeding and PI buffalo project (Surti), Udaipur, provided insights into the overall dairy farming practices and marketing model found in Udaipur region of Rajasthan and the areas around.
Can you give a brief overview of the dairy farming scenario in Udaipur region of Rajasthan?
Rajasthan and Udaipur in particular is governed by different agro climatic regions which is why farm animals that are found here are more diversified than in other parts of the country. In peri urban areas specifically, farmers prefer more exotic animals which are reared for higher yields of milk and profitability. It is common to find exotic cross breeding of cattle. In the western parts of Rajasthan, which are mostly hilly regions where tribal communities reside, the tendency is to go for indigenous cattle. The size of buffaloes reared by them tend to be smaller and milk production is therefore lesser and usually for self consumption.
There are a number of cooperatives in the state but it is the Rajasthan Cooperative Dairy Federation that is most active. However, it has so far not demonstrated great success. This is largely because most of the dairy farming is individual driven following an ownership model. In the southeastern part of Udaipur, local trading is common. While the big dairy farms have their own marketing effort, preferring to directly tie-ups with hotels, restaurants, office canteens and other small establishments, the smaller farmers feel safer selling directly from door-to-door, to make ends meet. In smaller villages, you will still find some cooperatives that are working and the dairy farmers routing their sales and produce through them for ease and convenience.
How do the big and small farmers diagnose and treat their sick animals?
Mastitis is common in cows and buffalos and so are uterine and reproductive problems. Small dairy farmers are constrained with finances and will often try to treat the animal themselves by administering antibiotics. If there is an infectious disease in the village, there is a likelihood of the disease being found in the animal herd as well. Based on what they can find out from fellow farmers or see in the government hospital, they imbibe and try and treat the animal on their own. If the condition deteriorates they take the animal to the nearest government hospital. Large dairy farmers on the other hand will not lift a finger and will call a private paravet for help.
Are farmers aware of healthy farm practices?
Carcass disposal remains an issue with small farmers often disposing the animal off within the village itself. This unknown to them leads to the spread of infections. Large dairy farmers are better informed and are found to dispose off the corpse properly. By and large farmers are receptive to information and knowledge. They are more than happy to learn and improve their farm hygiene. With regard to some traditional practices they may exhibit initial resistance but when they see others following the same, they are more likely to follow suit.
How do dairy farmers access outreach services?
In peri urban areas, animal husbandry services are good though the same are patchy in remote areas. Most outreach services in peri urban areas are from the animal health perspective providing access to farmers. In remote areas, there are many paravets from the government and private side who provide services within a couple of hours. The farmer actually desires services at his doorstep since taking the animal to the health care facility is fraught with challenges and loss of precious time. This is one reason why paravets are in demand. Most dairy farmers have their mobile numbers at hand and all it takes is a call and the paravet arrives to take stock of the situation. The farmer, who tends to his fields or is on a daily wage income does not have to lose a man day. Which is what makes his reliance on the paravet even more pronounced. Overall, the diagnostic practice for screening disease amongst farm animals is uneven and even poor although their treatment once brought to the government facility, is satisfactory. Clearly, a lot of strengthening is needed.
Any specific government efforts that you can talk about?
In recent years, the government has taken to holding large scale health camps as part of their free medicine scheme. Here, antibiotics are distributed to farmers who use them mostly to treat animals and not so much to increase production, size etc. Sometimes in one day 30,000 camps held where lakhs of animals are treated. This increased use of indiscriminate antibiotic use is undoubtedly leading to high levels of antibiotic residue. Rajasthan has about 3000 vets which excludes ship and goat rearers. All of them pick up0 these free antibiotics. This easy way of using antibiotics has led to high dosage levels being used for minor conditions. For example, if 1.5 gm of albendazole was earlier used in cattle, now the same has gone up to 6.0 gram which is more than triple the earlier dosage. Similarly, in the case of Oxytocin, there is awareness on using it judiciously but dairy farmers are still using it discreetly. The government should formulate a policy to stop this indiscriminate use.
Any suggestions or steps to improve the situation?
It is a matter of worry to us that our next generation is not keen to adopt dairy farming or animal rearing. If at all they want to stay connected with farming it is by associating themselves with commercial dairy farming. If we can make the dairy business more profitable by cutting costs it might still hold them back. If government can give some subsidy for the cattle feed that will help in bringing down the cost per litre of milk. Instead of free medicines this would be far more beneficial to the small scale dairy farmer.