Opinion

Focus needed on fodder shortage in India

Pankaj Parmar/Harekrishna Misra | Updated on April 28, 2020 Published on April 28, 2020

Adequate feeds and fodder is essential for productivity of the livestock. The growing gaps between demand and supply warrant concern

Livestock rearing is a key livelihood and risk mitigation strategy, especially for small and marginal farmers in the rain-fed regions of the country. As per the 20th Livestock Census released last year, the total livestock population in India is 535.78 million, which is an increase of 4.6 per cent over the previous Census in 2012. The bovine population is 302.79 million, consisting of cattle, buffalo, mithun, and yak.

The livestock’s growth and development is conditioned by the adequate availability of feed and fodder. The production of milk has significantly increased over the last few decades, and India has emerged as the biggest milk producer in the world (187.7 million tonnes in 2018-19) since the last 20 years.

Supply deficit

The availability of feed and fodder remains a major area of concern; there is a gap between its demand and supply in the country. As per the estimates of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR)-affiliated National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology (NIANP), the deficit in the requirement and the availability of dry fodder, green fodder and concentrates during 2015 was to the extent of 21 per cent, 26 per cent, and 34 per cent, respectively. This is likely to increase to 23 per cent, 40 per cent, and 38 per cent, respectively, by 2025. The fodder deficit in India in terms of green fodder, dry fodder, and concentrates was 26 million tonnes (MT), 21 MT, and 34 MT in 2015, which is expected to reach 40 MT, 21 MT, and 38 MT by 2025, respectively (Table 1).

 

The NIANP in its reports on ‘requirement’ and ‘availability’ of fodder, 2012, had stated that “this shortage is due to increasing pressure on land for growing food grains, oilseeds and pulses and inadequate attention being given to the production of fodder crops.”

The critical issue currently faced by the Indian dairy sector is that since the NIANP’s estimate, the government has not yet compiled any report on fodder availability in the country.

According to a parliamentary panel report in 2016, fodder shortage is due to increasing pressure on land for growing food grains, oilseeds, pulses and inadequate attention being given to the production of fodder crops.

The Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying (DAHD) in a May 13, 2019, advisory issued to States had acknowledged that while the number of livestock is growing rapidly, the grazing lands are gradually diminishing due to pressure on the land for agricultural and non-agricultural uses. “Most of the grazing lands have either been degraded or encroached upon restricting its availability for grazing. The area under fodder cultivation is limited to about 4 per cent of the cropping area, and it has remained static for the last four decades,” the advisory had stated (Table 2).

 

Productivity requirements

Due to unavailability green fodder, especially during summer months, dairy farmers have been feeding animals a disproportionate amount of concentrate to sustain growth in milk production. As per the study published in the Archives of Animal Nutrition in 2018, “Feeding of concentrates is required during the early lactation period to meet the nutritional requirement of milch animals. The concentrate feeding indeed increases milk production, but it also leads to rumen acidosis and causes severe health problems in dairy cows”.

This practice imbalances the intestinal micro organisms and releases more toxins, which in turn lead to subsequent liver damage. So, proper ration balancing in livestock is also required to reduce these risks.

According to a statement by the DAHD in Lok Sabha (March 27, 2018), the fodder shortages are based on the assumption that all categories of livestock are fed as per the standard recommendations to meet the nutrient requirements for growth and production. “Due to shortages of feed resources, farmers feed only the productive animals optimally, and the rest of the animals (male, calves, spent females) are fed lower quantities,” the statement noted.

ICAR’s Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI) in its vision document for 2030 has noted that there is a need to meet the demands of an increasing livestock population and also enhance their productivity for which availability of feed resources have to be increased.

DAHD officials acknowledge that there is a need to adopt the practice of land use with multiple crops in a sustainable manner. Adopting silvi-pastoral and horti-pastoral models suitable to the area could help in substantially enhancing the availability of forage for the livestock. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her union budget (2020-21), had stated that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) ‘would be dovetailed to develop fodder farms.’

Enhance fodder production

About 29 million hectares area in the country falls under the category of open forests with less than 0.4 canopy density, which can be developed with fodder trees. This huge land resource can be utilised for growing fodder, not only as an understory on the partially shaded ground without affecting standing trees, officials say.

“Emphasis should also be laid on the non-cropped areas in the agricultural land which are not cultivated, viz bunds, pond embankments, basins of plantation and horticultural crops, hedges with fodder crops, etc,” according to a note by the DAHD.

Promotion of cultivation of varieties of green fodder such as napier, marvel grass, moringa, maize, bajra, jowar, cow peas, velvet beans, thorn-less cactus, oats, berseem, rye grass and Chinese cabbage could help farmers get adequate fodder supplies.

Data collection

On the issue of lack of adequate and genuine data on production and availability of various types of fodder and feed grains, the National Livestock Policy 2013, has stated: “Competent agencies will be encouraged to generate real-time and time-period data on fodder production, feed grain production, land availability for grassland and other pasture grounds, etc.”

Unlike food crops, the Agriculture Ministry does not collect data on fodder crops, whose availability poses a serious challenge in increasing productivity. “There is no agency to provide precise data on fodder crops production, productivity, and adoption of improved varieties and technology for effective policy formulation and research planning,” according to IGFRI.

The government must play a proactive role in promoting fodder cultivation so that the increase in milk production is sustained in the long run. Initiatives such as creating fodder cooperatives, increasing the common grazing lands for an adequate supply of feed and fodder for the milch animals, which could sustain the milk production. Water irrigation cooperatives could be linked to the fodder cooperatives for adequate water supply for fodder production.

The writers are with the Verghese Kurien Centre of Excellence, Institute of Rural Management, Anand. Views are personal

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Published on April 28, 2020
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