Heat takes its toll on milk production in Kerala

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Mar 23 2010, 03:58am hrs
Kerala, which depends on dairies of Karnataka and Maharashtra to meet its demand for milk, is facing a phenomenal shortfall in domestic production. Alarmed by milk yield falling by 41,000 litre per day (compared to last month), the states animal husbandry wing has issued a list of best summer practices to cattle farmers. Rising temperatures in the state in the last fortnight is one of the main reasons for falling milk yield in Kerala.

Officials said in Palakkad, where temperatures have soared above 40 degree celsius, milk yield of cows dropped by 5,000 litre per day. This, along with falling supplies from Karnataka and Maharashtra, has caused problems for both the civic life and policy makers.

The Kerala governments animal husbandry department has directed farmers to spray cold water on cows at least twice a day, also keeping them off too much fibrous intake, during the hot summer months. Allowing the cattle to graze freely in open market places too has been discouraged. Officials have cautioned cattle owners from allowing or tethering cows in open sunny spaces between 11 am and 4 pm.

The States main dairy co-operative, Milma, used to collect 6.28 lakh litre of milk per day till February. This week, the collection has fallen to 5.25 lakh litre, managing director Sanjeeb Patjoshi told FE.

In Thiruvananthapuram zone of Milma alone, milk collection has dropped by 4000 litres per day. In Kochi zone, this has fallen by a whopping 15,000 litre per day.

In Malabar region, where milk production is estimated to be around 3.38 lakh litre per day, output has dropped to 3.15 lakh litres because of high temperatures.

But, milk consumption in the state is showing no signs of abating as urbanised lifestyles push up demand for milk-based bakery foods.

From 18.62 lakh litres per day in 1981, demand grew to 21.24 lakh litres in 1991. It reached 23.2 lakh litres in 2001. In 2002, the demand jumped to 27.18 lakh litre.

In 2010, Keralas milk demand is estimated to rise substantially to 29.5 lakh litres per day. On festival days like Vishu (in April) and Onam (in August-September), the per day milk consumption shoots up to 40 lakh litre.