Improving Feed and Fodder Availability for Enhancing Livestock Productivity
I wrote in 2014, about the daily struggle of Indian farm women to secure fodder for their livestock. This was my personal reflection, how my family used to face fodder scarcity those days.
The problem of feed and fodder still continues in India. Many other countries also have feed and fodder scarcity. India faces a net deficit of 35.6 percent green fodder, 10.95 percent dry crop residues and 44 percent concentrate feed ingredients. This deficit in animal nutrition adversely impacts livestock productivity and production. Low livestock productivity is a major problem in the Indian livestock sector. Improving the productivity of farm animals is one of the major challenges in India. Low livestock productivity means insufficient availability of animal-sourced foods in human diets. We know, consuming animal-sourced foods is a must for healthy living. So, it’s obvious, we have to overcome the feed and fodder shortages. It’s possible. You might be wondering: how?
Livestock is important for India
India has the world's largest population of livestock (535.8 million) and poultry (851.8 million). Livestock includes cattle (37.3 percent), buffalo (21.2 percent), goats (26.4 percent), and sheep (12.2 percent). About 20.5 million people depend upon livestock for their livelihood. Livestock contributes 16 percent to the income of small farm households, compared to an average of 14 percent for all rural households. Livestock provides livelihoods to two-third of rural communities. It also provides employment to about 8.8 percent of the population in India. The livestock sector contributes 4.11 percent to the gross domestic product and 25.6 to the total agriculture gross domestic product.
But the productivity of Indian livestock is among the lowest in the world. The unavailability of balanced rations is among the major causes of this low productivity of Indian livestock. Maintaining huge livestock numbers with poor productivity is detrimental to the economy and the environment. India’s huge population of ruminants contributes to greenhouse gases emission as well. This needs serious attention.
A good option could be reducing the numbers and improving livestock productivity by good breeding, health care, and feeding practices. Researchers have found that the unavailability of dry and green fodder respectively, accounts for milk production losses in India of 11.6 and 18 percent. Green fodder scarcity in India hits milk production and affects farmers, a circumstance well-known over the years. So, I am going to focus here on how to feed livestock well.
What to feed and how
The productivity of dairy animals in many developing countries including India is greatly constrained by the lack of green fodder and good quality feed. The green fodder is being cultivated only on 8.4 million hectares (5.23 percent) of the cropping area in India. Crop residues and dry grasses are the major sources of forages for feeding livestock in these countries. India produces 300 to 400 million tons of straws/stovers annually, which contributes 45–66 percent of the feed consumed by dairy animals in India. These crop residues are low in nitrogen and high in fiber and lignin. This restricts intake and digestibility in animals. The nutritive value of these crop residues can be enhanced if supplemented with nutrients.
There is also regional feed disparity in India, some parts being sufficient in green fodder and over-supplied in straws, while others are lacking in greens and dry roughages. Straws worth millions of dollars are burnt in the fields in north Indian states such as Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. This not only wastes a feed resource but also causes environmental pollution and soil degradation. There is a need to improve the management of feed resources in India. One improvement would be using specially designed balers for collecting straw from fields and then subjecting straw to processing technologies for the commercial production of balanced animal feeds. Feed supplementation technologies such as urea molasses mineral blocks, if promoted among livestock farmers, can help effectively meet mineral and other nutrient deficiencies. Apart from efficient use of crop residues, it is very important that attention is paid to agro-industrial by-products and nonconventional feed resources, including cactus and tree leaves, to enhance the availability of feed resources. A number of technologies and practices for improving livestock feeding in India are now available, which need to be put into practice at the farmer level.
Efficient use of available feed resources, including a reduction in wastage and enlargement of the feed resource base through exploring novel feed resources, particularly those not competing with human food, is key to sustainable development. Fruit and vegetable processing, packing, distribution, and consumption generate a huge quantity of fruit and vegetable waste in India, as in many other countries. Also, by-products from the fruit and vegetable processing industry often remain underutilized. A large proportion of these wastes are dumped in landfills or rivers, causing environmental hazards. There is a big potential in recycling such materials through livestock as feed resources. Globally, slashing food loss and waste is being emphasized. In India, almost 30-40 percent of vegetables and fruits and about 10 percent of all agricultural produce go to waste. Here lies the opportunity to make use of wasted fruit and vegetables, which have huge untapped potential in India.
Fruit and vegetable waste as animal feed
We published a paper showing the multiple ways fruit and vegetable waste can be used as animal feed. This paper gives an overview of the potential of fruit and vegetable waste as animal and poultry feed. It also describes strategies to confront the constraints and challenges, highlights social marketing on waste disposal with special reference to fruit and vegetable waste, and emphasizes the collaborative involvement of stakeholders involved in the fruit and vegetable value chain. As animals and poultry, directly and indirectly, contribute to many of the sustainable development goals, farmers and stakeholders in the fruit and vegetable value chain need to be connected with strategic extension and research initiatives to propagate and use the potential of fruit and vegetable waste as animal and poultry feed.
Adoption of a food–feed system could also be useful in making efficient use of farmland for human food and animal feed availability. Animal feeding practices such as the use of a compressed complete feed block, silage, fodder chaffing, and soaking should be adopted to make the best use of available feed and fodder resources. Extension and advisory services must launch campaigns to promote good livestock feeding practices among farmers. We could enhance the area under green fodder cultivation at farmers’ fields by sustained outreach efforts such as those we made in the last two to three years at our institute. Our YouTube video on hybrid Napier promotion campaigns has been very effective in promoting green fodder cultivation.
Finally, I would say, for improving the livestock productivity, good feeding practices hold the key! So take care of livestock feeding!