The Livestock Feed Gap in Bangladesh
Increased demand for ASF In Bangladesh is following a worldwide trend
Having doubled their milk production in the last decade in the most densely populated country in the world, milk producers still cannot meet the increasing demand caused by growing consumption and purchasing power by certain classes of consumers. This leaves the poorest household without access to affordable animal-sourced foods.
The per capita availability of milk in Bangladesh is 9.4 million tons (DLS-2018) versus a need of 15 million tons — a reminder that 3 cups of milk are recommended each day to meet their shortfall of 6 million tons.
The shortage of livestock feeds is one of the primary obstacles to meeting this nutritional demand for livestock owned by poor households. It is the cause of low productivity due to the use of poor-quality crop residues and native grasses to meet the livestock requirements. Smallholder milk producers supply over 80 of the liquid milk in the country, and they are dependent on rice stubble and grass cut from roadsides and public areas such as playgrounds.
Also contributing to the forage constraints are seasonal monsoons and increasing salinity of the soils.
There is research to support the impacts of high-quality forages
As in Bangladesh, India has a limiting factor associated with the availability of forages for its livestock which has translated into high production cost for smallholder farmers. Two new varieties of grasses were introduced (Super Napier and a Sorghum, COFS-29) which increased the daily milk yield of the cattle by 41 percent with no other management changes made. This is due to the nutrient-rich content of the Sorghum versus a common roadside grass such as Bermuda; the change in metabolizable energy available to the animal jumps from meeting 58 percent of the animal’s needs to 75 percent, and the increase in meeting the protein needs increases from 6 percent to 89 percent. This means that only an additional 11 percent is needed from the more expensive commercial feed mixes.
Let’s take this one more step. If these producers are purchasing a 16 percent Crude Protein commercial feed mix, the farmer feeding the roadside Bermuda grass should be purchasing 2.0 kg per day to meet their animal’s nutrient needs. A farmer feeding the improved sorghum only has to purchase 0.5 kg/day.
By switching to a higher-quality forage, you increased milk production and income and reduced your feed costs. Even I can do that kind of math!
The economic picture begins to show why the demand for these forages has increased in India so quickly. It is also driving the demand by landless farmers to purchase cut and carry forages from green fodder enterprises. The next step will be the silage and hay-making for these enterprises during periods of low production to meet this new demand. Venture37 began the introduction of silage making to farmers during its USDA Bangladesh Dairy Enhancement Program (BDEP).
Innovations are available, but adaptation is needed
Bangladesh has started to introduce improved livestock genetics, but there is a mismatch of potential genetic gains in the animals and the feed quality necessary to realize the gains offered by the improved genetics.
The Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI) has been working on new varieties of forages such as the Napier (Pennisetum purpureum) cultivars of BLRI Napier-3 and BLRI Napier-4 which are suited for use in the coastal region of Bangladesh. These are saline tolerant fodder and are currently used for demonstration purposes in government dairy farms. The scaling-out and commercialization that supports the adaptation of this work is not taking place at a high enough rate. The public and private sector engagement has not been brought together. This is a common problem which has been identified around the world.
Bangladesh has also experienced a mismatch of timing and availability of improved forages to meet farmer demands. The development of forage enterprise will also need to take on a higher priority to increase the adoption of the BLRI innovations.
Handled in a timely and sequenced manner, improved forages can be introduced to many countries whose growing population is demanding higher quantities of animal source foods. Lessons learned from the Partnering for Innovations program helps the private sector to scale and market agricultural technologies for smallholder farmers through investing in technology commercialization and knowledge exchange has identified some success factors that should be incorporated into the scaling of high-quality forages in Bangladesh.
• Designing and establishing processes and facilities to produce the product at scale
• Building a supply chain
• Determining distribution channels and related logistics
• Designing and implementing a marketing strategy