Development of climate resilient Indian cattle: the future of Indian dairy
What stops me from advising a small farmer to buy country’s highest milk yielding cow and widely perceived to be essential for success in dairy- the exotic cows such as Holstein Friesian?
While these exotic cows can give milk yield of 30 to 35 litres per day and thought to be very suitable and profitable breed for commercial dairying then what makes farmers talking among themselves that dairy is not profitable? Why the newcomers are often told that dairy is a very risky business or why profits are always looked for in higher milk prices and not in reduced per litre cost of production and why despite spending so heavily on dairy infrastructure, feed, fodder and breeding the so admired highest milk yielder “exotic cows”, we see most of the commercial dairy farms in India are not doing well at all.
I, Nikki Pilania Chaudhary, 28 years old female, (postgraduate in MSc Business Economics and Finance from University of Surrey London, 2008) am involved in dairy farming since 2011 at our family farm in rural part of North West Indian State Uttar Pradesh.
I manage our dairy unit of 50 exotic – HF and Jersey Cross cows. We, at our farm, have built a modern dairy shed comprising of fans, foggers, automatic milking unit and all other facilities for efficient operations. Our dairy is considered to be amongst the best dairy farm in our state for having a good infrastructure, well bred high yield cows and good management practices. It is earning reasonable returns, then why is it that I am not contented and do not see these cows sustainable or our country’s future.
Holstien Friesian Cross is not a solution for dairy farming in India
The answer is simple because I have to think hundred times before recommending a small or medium farmer to buy these exotic high yielders.
I realised this the first time when a small very hard working farmer came up to me who had cattle shed big enough to accommodate two cows comfortably and asked me if he could also buy two high yielding HF cross cows and improve his agriculture income? My fear was not whether he will be able to afford these exorbitant cows but my concern was whether the cows will perform at his place where he will not be able to control / alter the environment for that breed to stay stress free and give milk.
In my five years of involvement in dairy I have visited majority of dairy farms in highest milk producing states of North India and almost all farms having crossbreeds are spending too much energy and resources to create ambient temperature for the crosses which cannot tolerate hot and humid weather of India. Despite huge expenditure we find that these cows face reproductive issues and average lactations are not more than 3, whereas our own heat tolerant cows are capable of giving on average 8 lactations.
This is the reality of the dairy industry in India where our obsession for Holstein Friesian crossbreeds which have not adapted to Indian conditions yet is affecting our country negatively. They might be capable of very high milk yields but there are limitations which severely affect their capacity as the cows are very vulnerable to tropical weather and diseases. Unlike our indigenous very good milch breeds such as Sahiwal and Gir, they also need to be kept in very high-cost, cool, all-weather shelters, and require much expensive stall feeding and medical care.
Clearly, the small farmer cannot bear these costs of rearing exotic crossbreeds. But because of negligence of our Government and policy makers, the low-maintenance, weather-resistant Indian breeds are continuing to decline. Rearing cattle, therefore, is becoming nonviable for small farmers.
Success of indigenous Gir breed in a tropical country – Brazil
Our own very high milk yielding cow Gir has been developed very successfully in a tropical country such as Brazil. Brazil started importing Gir cows from India way back in 1920s and now has developed great Gir genetics which has proved itself of superior milk yielding and disease resilient capabilities in country’s hot and humid climate. Markets from Australia to Brazil are seeking Indian origin pure cattle for their resilient qualities such as tick resistance, heat tolerance and the ability to flourish even with inadequate feeds.
Indian agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said, “Climate change will reduce productivity in all cattle. Drop in milk yield will be maximum in exotic breeds, not so in local Indian cattle.” Moreover when our cows have the capacity to perform better in terms of milk, climate change adaptability, disease tolerance and better feed conversion to milk then why are we ignoring them.
And for how long will we be able to alter the environment to make exotic cows perform to their potential. Even if few farms do succeed in creating that environment and take higher milk yields from few cows it is not sustainable agriculture as it is waste of our resources such as water, fuel, electricity, grains thereby further creating shortage of these resources and fueling up inflation in the economy.
Seed funding to sow seeds for developing superior Gir genetics in India
I would therefore like to work on Pure Gir breed and with this seed fund I would startup a project on these climate resilient cattle so that I have better idea of the performance of the breed in one year. I will purchase six best Gir cows from its breeding tracts along with semen of best bulls of Gir Genetics available from breeding centres such as Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala, Gujarat.
I will set aside $4200 to purchase about 6 pure Gir cows from its breeding tracts. It will cost me about $10 to purchase about twenty straws of Gir semen. About $400 will be used on Gir transportation from its breeding tract to our farm.
Insurance cost of cows for one year will cost about $100 and remaining $300 will be used in my own travel and accommodation to purchase the cows. It is not going to be difficult for me as I have my dairy setup to rear the cows and a separate space would be allocated to them.
Over a period of one year we will monitor their performance and shall have considerable data on their lactation length, total milk yields, health, maintenance costs, conception rate and number of off-springs and their reproductive performance. This will give us clear results on their suitability for dairy farming. I am sure that I will get good results from these cows and breed them with procured Gir semen of best bulls.
Having five years of dairy experience, it is not going to be difficult for me to identify pure Girs and purchase the most suitable ones. The project shall be expanded further with my own funds later on. At our farm since we have ample available green fodder, comfortable housing the cows will be reared properly from day one and we will be able to improve their genetic potential.
I am sure that these cows will lay strong foundation for dairy farming in India in time to come. It has become my strong desire to make dairy farming a happy and healthy venture for all farmers in India and I am committed to my endeavour.
Blogpost, video and picture submitted by Nikki Pilania Chaudhary (Uttar Pradesh, India) – chaudharyfarms(at)gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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