Four Slips to Four Hundred Acres- Ensuring Forage Security (Fodder)
In Kerala, even though 60% of milk requirement is met through procurement from other states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, cattle rearing is fast declining due to high cost of production and labour shortage. The heavy dependence on other states for raw materials, push up the cost of concentrate feeds. Hay which was fed to the cattle became scares due to decline in area under rice cultivation. For mitigating this situation incorporating the required green fodder is the only way for profitable Dairy management.
Koipuram Milk society was established on the banks of Holy river Pampa in 1986 October 26 under the leadership of Mr. Gopalakrishnan Nair to protect the interest of dairy farmers from the clutches of middlemen. They were exploiting the farmers by not providing correct and timely price for their produce. During peak production time like Monsoon season the farmers used to get only Rs2.40 per liter of milk while the market price was Rs 6 per litre. The society was started with 400 members and 1500 liters of milk was procured by the society and was sent to MILMA the milk marketing federation of Kerala for further processing and sales .The farmers were given price by the society on the basis of SNF and Milk fat readings.
Since 1995 Koipuram society encouraged fodder production for its members and they introduced different fodder grasses like Congo Signal, Gunnie grass, Hybrid Napier like CO1,CO2 and CO3 in the area . By 2009, 150 ha in Koipuram region was brought under fodder cultivation. Fodder from Koipuram was sold to Kuriyottumala Buffalo farm, and to many private farms in Kollam Allapuzha ,Kottayam and Idukki Districts. On an average 800-1200 Kg of green fodder is sold by the farmers of this society.
The CARD KVK was in the forefront of fodder promotion in the Pathanamthitta district and had conducted many trails to identify suitable forage varieties for the district. In 2009, Mr Vinod Mathew , Subject matter Specialist (Agronomy) brought four cuttings of CO4 Hybrid Napier from Tamilnadu Agriculture University Coimbatore, and multiplied at KVK farm .Farmer participatory assessments on the performance of CO4 was conducted in 2009-10 at Koipuram which compared growth and yield of CO4 Hybrid Napier with that of CO3 and under scientific management. The farmers were given training on scientific fodder management practices. According the Sri Sree Raj who participated in the trail, CO4 attained maturity well before CO3. The leaf width and height of the plant was also better than that of CO3 . According to Sri Gopalakrishnan Nair who has 6 cows CO4 was more succulent, palatable and liked by the cattle . ”Feeding one bundle(15Kg) of CO4 increase milk yield by almost 200ml per cow” he says. Seeing this superior growth characters farmers are replanting and fresh planting only with CO4 variety and it almost replaced the CO3 variety.
Apart from Koipuram Society, CO4 Hybrid Napier was supplied from KVK many ATMA farmers group within and outside the district for demonstration. From Koipuram Society around four six lakh cuttings of this fodder variety was supplied to Chavara ,Kundra, Thiruvalla, Mallapally ,Ranny, Brammagiry project Wayanad, etc.
Farmers are selling this fodder for Rs1.30/Kg and they take 7-8 cuttings per year according to irrigation facility and are getting an average yield of 270 tones/ha yield and Rs 15000 net profit. The society was able to generates 6000 mandays of employment through this activity per year.