India is the world’s largest producer of milk. Livestock production is fast emerging as the most important agricultural activity in the country.Dairy farming dominates livestock production, providing 18 million people, 70% of them women, with employment.Majority of milk production is carried out by small-scale, often landless farmers, who get a large share of the total price paid by consumers making milk production a financially viable option for poor farmers.
However, compared with other major world dairy producers, average milk yield is poor essentially because technological input is low.This case study presents how a small dairy farm used innovative approaches and local solutions to increase productivity manifold – nearly six times the national Indian average.The commercial dairy farm in the state of Haryana succeeded in achieving high milk yields while simultaneously providing its cows with a comfortable environment.Randeep Kumar, co-owner of the dairy, is extremely happy with the financial returns from the farm. His cows do not put any additional financial burden on him. They pay for their feed, for his bank loan instalments, feed for non-milking cows, maintenance of calves, staff salaries and running of his household.
Making the dairy farm a lucrative enterprise
Kisan Dairy, a privately owned 50-acre dairy farm in Tarawadi which is an agricultural hub in the state of Haryana began its dairy operations in 1987 with 20 cows (10 indigenous and 10 Holstein Friesian crosses). In 2014 it had grown in scale and operations with nearly 90 dairy cows and 222 cattle, majority of which are cross bred for better suitability to the hot and humid local conditions. Employing four family members and 12 local staff hired to manage milk production and marketing of milk in the village, it produced 1,100-1,200 litres of milk a day during the wet summer months and 1,800-2,000 litres a day in the dry winter months. Further, in winter, when production reaches its peak, surpluses are sold to the local dairy cooperative. The milk produced is also consumed by family members and workers.
Short distribution chain: The short distribution chain ensures maximum income for the producer and guarantees freshness of milk. In the hot conditions of Haryana, the milk must be distributed rapidly and efficiently to the consumer to avoid spoilage and maintain value as there is a lack of widespread refrigeration. Longevity is an important aspect of the success of the operation. Cows at Kisan Dairy have between 7-8 lactations on average. Healthy, long-lived cows save on replacement costs and expensive veterinary treatments and guarantee a stable milk supply. The owners attribute this long and productive life to good quality feeding, genetics appropriate to the local environment and the high level of care, which all lead to good health and welfare.
Housing and feeding the cows: Right from the start, the farm has ensured good quality feeding since they feel that genetics appropriate to local conditions combined with favourable levels of animal care will eventually lead to good health and welfare. Healthy, long-lived cows save on the cost of replacement and expensive veterinary treatments and guarantee a stable milk supply. This has helped them deliver levels of productivity nearly six times higher than the current national average.
A major factor that contributed in making the farm sustainable is that it grows most of its cattle feed keeping in mind the local climate. Apart from green fodder, maize, sorghum, barsim grass and oats are grown in rotation. Surplus feed is converted into silage and stored as backup against shortages in the rainy season and during lean periods when fodder is less available. This diet is supplemented with high energy and protein concentrates sourced locally and mixed at the farm. The concentrate is based around cotton seeds, soy, rice bran, mustard, barley and maize. Rice is grown locally, and during harvesting season, rice bran is purchased at low cost from neighbouring farms and used as part of the concentrate. Paddy straw, another by-product from local agriculture, is used as bedding material for the cows at calving and is incorporated back into the land as fertiliser. Troughs provide fresh water round the clock, although water quality is not formally monitored.
Steps taken to create greater efficiencies
In the next few years, owners of the farm are keen to invest in a new mechanised milking parlour that can increase efficiency and improve hygiene standards. They would also like to explore the option of having sexed semen which would be a significant development. While a straw of regular semen costs Rs.10 from government semen stations, a straw of sexed semen costs Rs.1,000. While this is more expensive, using sexed semen is beneficial because most of the offspring will be female and can be used for replacement in the herd or sale.
While they find more economical ways of running the dairy they would continue to work towards enhancing the welfare of male dairy calves by establishing a healthy collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship with all interested stakeholders
World Animal Protection. A case study of high welfare milk production in India [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2015 Oct 7]. Available from: http://www.worldanimalprotection.org/sites/default/files/int_files/high-welfare-milk-production-india.pdf