The unabated shrinking of common grazing land because of expansion in agricultural activities has led to the country facing an acute shortage of various kinds of fodder, which is likely to hit country’s milk production in the long run.
According to the latest estimate of production provided by the department of animal husbandry, in the case of all types of fodder — green, dry and concentrate, there is a huge gap between demand and availability, which is unlikely to change in the next one decade or so if strong measures are not taken to augment output.
Official sources told FE that the problem of fodder scarcity is also compounded by the lack of availability of data on fodder productivity and output, as the ministry of agriculture does not capture annual data on fodder output as in the case of foodgrains and horticultural crops.
“There is an urgent need to create a real-time data-base on fodder resources. There is also a shortage of data related to the area under fodder production and productivity of different fodder crops. Similarly, the availability of forage from grazing lands is not clear,” P K Ghosh, director, Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI), a leading research body under the agriculture ministry, said.
Ghosh noted that scientific data collection on fodder would help formulating policy towards augmenting fodder output. “We would like to recommend that like that of agricultural commodity, National Sample Survey (NSS) should take the task of gathering information on fodder,” he noted.
Ghosh also said that besides scientific data collection on fodder output, IGFRI has been experimenting with giving thrust on perennial grass such as Napier grass hybrid and Guinea grass, which can be grown on common land. Out of 55 micro-regions in the country, only 12 regions have surplus fodder, while the remaining 43 have deficiencies of one or other kind of feed for animals. According to an official with the agriculture ministry, around 60-70% of total cost in livestock production is due to feed and fodder. “Any attempt towards enhancing the availability of fodder and economising the feed cost would result in better remuneration to livestock or dairy farmers,” the official said. Sources said that due to gap between the demand and supply of fodder, livestock, especially cows and buffaloes, have been fed with extra doses of concentrate, which would not only adversely impact the milk productivity but also push up prices of concentrate.
Meanwhile, Devendra Chaudhary, secretary, department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, recently said that the Centre would seek the support from the states for growing Napier grass in around 10% of the 10 million hectares of existing grazing land across the country.