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Chapter fifteen
Dairying in integrated farming systems
C. Devendra

Types of integrated systems
Economic importance of animals
Socio-economic benefits of dairying in integrated systems
Sri Lanka
Major constraints to dairy production
References and suggested reading


There are two distinctive features about dairying in integrated systems throughout the developing countries. One is that dairying is a very important money generating component of integrated farming systems. This importance is more apparent especially in small farm systems where diversification is the rule, and production resources have to be used to maximum advantage to generate immediate farm income. Therefore, as fluid milk can be sold daily, and money also generated likewise, farm operations are able to become more flexible and perhaps even stable. In general, these integrated systems are more important in the rural areas, whereas in peri-urban areas, more intensive and specialised units are found in which dairying is a major enterprise.

The second feature relates to the fact that while dairying is most commonly identified with cattle throughout the developing countries, goats are also widely used for milk production. This is especially true in rural areas where goats are not only sold for cash, but also used to enhance rural nutrition. In Vietnam for example, approximately 84 to 89 per cent of all goats milk produced is sold commercially, and the remainder used for family consumption and even feeding pigs (IAS 1995). In Asia, dairying is further extended to include milch buffalo, which make a most important contribution to both rural families and the national economy. In India, about 79 million buffalo produce approximately 55 per cent of the total volume of milk, compared to about 40 per cent from 199 million cattle. Smallholders in South Asia often use both buffalo and cattle together for milk production in order to combine the different butterfat contents.

Integrated farming systems are common throughout the world. They involve several sub-sectors like crops, animals and fish which are used in a mutually reinforcing manner. The interactions of these components are synergistic, and result in greater total effect than the sum of their individual effects (Edwards et al 1988). More specifically, the benefits often result in ecological and economic sustainability.

The rationale for the type, extent and intensity of integrated farming systems is influenced to a very large extent by environmental dictates, notably, rainfall, temperature and elevation, availability of local resources, and market opportunities. Diversification is central to such efforts, and integrated farming systems also have other distinct advantages as follows:

Dairying within these systems is largely influenced by agro-ecological conditions market opportunities and forces, traditions of milk consumption, feed availability, genotype and availability of suitable animal numbers. This chapter discusses the nature of dairy production in integrated systems, contribution to small farm systems, constraints and opportunities for improvement.

Types of integrated systems

Two broad categories of integrated farming systems are identified:

1. Systems combining animals and annual cropping:

2. Systems combining animals and perennial cropping:

In general, systems combining annual crops are more common in irrigated and lowland areas where water is available and enables intensive crop production. Systems combining animals and perennial crops are more common in upland rainfed areas.

Between the two systems, dairying involving mainly cattle and buffalo is very much more common in the first system involving annual cropping. These are the areas which are usually irrigated where intensive cereal cropping is common, and a distinctive market pull exists because of the peri-urban demand for milk. Thus, dairy production is an expanding feature in these situations in which it is integrated with crop cultivation and provides an economic motivation for farming systems. Such systems flourish throughout the developing countries, and examples of these systems are as follows:

Although dairy production is more commonly integrated with annual crops, mainly cereals, in some countries it is also practised in areas where tree crops are cultivated. Good examples are dairying in coconut growing areas in the Philippines, Sri Lanka and South India, and oil palm and rubber in Malaysia and Indonesia.

In Sri Lanka, a variation that is common in the upland areas is the `Kandyan Forest Garden System' which involves a combination of tree crops, root crops and herbs stratified into large overhanging foliage categories. Cash crops of vegetables, bananas, pepper and coffee are grown to take advantage of the more open canopy in the widely spaced trees. Dairying is very common among the 20 per cent of farmers in the areas in which goats and poultry are also reared. Widely spaced trees also allow for intercropping with grasses, and the use of multipurpose trees as fences such as Gliricidia to provide forage for livestock.

Economic importance of animals

It is important to keep in perspective the economic role of animals in an integrated farming system. There are four broad advantages:

Food production is the primary objective, but the role of animals clearly surpasses this function. Within integrated systems, animals play a particularly vital role, the extent of which is dependent on the type of production system, animal species and scale of the operation. In this context, dairy production is becoming an increasingly important integrated system in many countries, in which this component generates significant, and more importantly, daily cash income, as well as contributing to the improvement of the livelihoods of very poor people and the stability of farm households. It is for these reasons that dairying in the developing countries is considered to be an important instrument of social and economic change, and is identified with rural development (Kurien 1987).

In the state of Gujarat in India for example, Holstein Friesian and Jersey crossbreds are widely being adopted in mixed farming systems. These crosbreeds are having a considerable impact: 1.8 times more milk than Desi, Gir and Kankrej cows, acceptance by both tribal and non-tribal farmers in the farming systems, farm income, and employment opportunities (Patil and Udo 1997).

In recent years, dairying in integrated systems has significantly contributed to the development of peri-urban dairy operations through the supply of animals in several countries. Pregnant cows are often brought from the rural areas into peri-urban systems to promote milk production.

Socio-economic benefits of dairying in integrated systems

It is relevant to consider the magnitude of economic benefits from dairying in integrated systems. To reflect this, case studies that give an indication of the contribution by dairying in such systems in various countries, are presented.

Sri Lanka

The economic performance of three farm units of the Mid-Country Livestock Development Centre were assessed over eight years (1985, 1992). The contribution from vegetables, bananas, pepper, coffee, tree crops, dairying, goats and poultry to the gross farm margin were calculated. The results indicated that dairying contributed most to the total gross margin of the 0.2, 0.4 and 0.8 ha units of 31, 63 and 69 per cent respectively, followed by crops (29, 37 and 19 per cent), poultry (22, 0 and 9 per cent), and goats (18, 0 and 3 per cent). The overall ratio of cash income per Sri Lankan rupee spent was 3.2 for dairying, 1.1 for poultry, 4.5 for goats and 9.9 for crops. Dairying and goats proved to be attractive cash earners with a high labour productively and high capital requirement, while manure to improve soil fertility and biogas to replace domestic fuel were important benefits. Poultry did little to improve farm income (de Jong and Ariaratne 1994). Figure 15.1 illustrates the results.

Parallel to this, the financial, technical and economic performance of dairy farming introduced on abandoned marginal tea lands were surveyed in 76 settler farms that received interest free cattle loans between 1984 to 1990, to stimulate crop-livestock farming for gainful self-employment. Dairy cattle were still present on 93 per cent of the project farms with 77 per cent selling milk. Milk production was attractive for farm gross margins of both project (66 per cent) and control (81 per cent) farmers, and contributed significantly to family gross margins by 32 and 40 per cent respectively. Land improvement by livestock was mentioned as a benefit by 64 per cent of the farmers. Crops contributed mainly to subsistence and only marginally to income (de Jong and Ariaratne 1994).

Also in Sri Lanka, the integration of legume-based pasture (Brachiaria milliformis/Pueraria phaseoloides and Gliricidia sepium and Leucaena leucocephala) and dairy cattle, indicated that the coconut palms in the integrated system yielded 17 per cent more nuts and 11 per cent more copra, while maintaining the nutrient status of the palm above the critical level, despite reduced application of fertiliser. Nutrients returned from 73 kg of fresh manure and 30 litres of urine/palm/yr reduced the cost of fertiliser needs by 69 per cent. In regards to the animals, there was sufficient forage to promote 306 to 590 grams per head live weight increase and three to eight litres of milk per day during the first lactation. The integrated system was more sustainable and economically viable than the monoculture system (Liyanage de Silva et al 1993).


Economic analysis of different farming systems (one hectare of irrigated land or 1.5 ha of un-irrigated land) indicated that under irrigated conditions, mixed farming with crossbred cows yielded the highest net profit, followed by mixed farming with buffalo, and arable farming. Mixed farming with Hariana cows made a loss (Singh et al 1993).

Comparative productivity and economies of dairy enterprises (mixed farming with three crossbred cows on one hectare of canal irrigated land versus mixed farming with three Murrah buffalo) indicated that mixed farming with crossbred cows under canal-irrigated conditions was more efficient for the utilisation of land, capital, inputs and the labour resources of the farmer (Kumar et al 1994).

Baseline surveys in Gujarat India, indicated that around 75 per cent of rural households kept cattle in the face of under-employment. More particularly, the farm surveys showed that cattle kept mainly for milk, contributed 32 per cent and 20 per cent for tribal and non-tribal ethnic groups respectively (Patil and Udo 1997).

By comparison to cows and buffaloes, lactating goats contributed between 54-68.9 per cent to total farm income through the sale of milk (Deoghare and Bhattacharyya 1993; 1994; Deoghare and Sood 1994). The significance of milk production from goats and the links to food security and livelihoods of the poor has recently been reviewed (Devendra 1996).

Major constraints to dairy production

In most small farm situations, land is a limiting factor, but small farmers try to maximise production through diversification of the available resources and efficient use of low cost inputs. Within an integrated system where dairying is an important component, there are two major constraints to production, firstly the availability of improved genotypes and secondly, feeds and nutrition.

Concerning the availability of improved genotypes, cattle crossbreeding programs in many countries have lacked co-ordination and have been further constrained by problems of infertility, instability of the crossbreeds and inefficient artificial services at the farm level. The level of exotic blood in the crossbreeds, mainly Holstein Friesian, is highly variable, and ranges from 25-75 per cent in small farms. The overriding issue is inadequacy of numbers and their instability, resulting in inability to intensify and expand commercially. Constraints related to feeds and feeding are as follows:

Feed resources and nutrition

The availability and quality of feed resources and efficient nutritional management is the principal constraint to dairy production. This was the case in an assessment of livestock research priorities for crop-animal systems in rainfed agro-ecological zones of nine countries in South East Asia (Devendra et al 1997). The problem is also exacerbated by the higher nutrient demand of improved dairy animals, for example Holstein Friesian crossbreeds, for milk production. The feeds available include grasses and forages, crop residues, agro-industrial by-products (AIBP) and non-conventional feed resources (NCFR).

Priorities for use of AIBP and NCFR

Priorities for efficient use of both AIBP and NCFR are presented in Table 15.1.

Intensifying the use of crop residues

The major research needs for more intensive utilisation of crop residues are as follows (Leng and Devendra 1995):

Table 15.1. Priorities for the utilisation by animals of agro-industrial by-products (AIBP)1 and non-conventional feed resources (NCFR) in Asia (Devendra 1987).
Feed source Characteristic Species
Energy and protein concentrates (e.g., rice bran, coconut cake, soybean meal, poultry litter)

Good quality crop residues

(e.g., cassava leaves)

Medium quality crop residues

(e.g., sweet potato vines)

Low quality crop residues

(e.g., cereal straws and bagasse)

High energy

High protein

High protein

High energy

Medium protein

Low protein

Very fibrous

Pigs, poultry, ducks, lactating ruminants

Pigs, ducks, lactating ruminants

Pigs, ruminants 2 (meat and milk), camels and donkeys

Ruminants (meat and draft), camels and donkeys

1. The reference to AIBP includes crop residues.
2. Ruminants refer to buffalo, cattle, goats and sheep.

Supplements and supplementation

A variety of supplements exist that can be used for feeding dairy animals. These include oil meals and cakes as well as leguminous tree forages such as Leucaena and Gliricidia. Purchased concentrates (mainly energy and proteins) are expensive and their use can only be justified in relation to six factors:

Leguminous forages and the use of multipurpose trees in farming systems (for fuel, fence line, shade, medicants, forage production and sustainability) are underestimated, and need to be more widely used. The beneficial responses and economic benefits for lactating dairy animals has been reviewed (Devendra 1990). Associated with the use of multipurpose trees is alley farming, which is becoming increasingly common. In many parts of Africa, Asia and elsewhere, feed deficits are common, and alley farming systems that use feed or forage crops between hedges of multipurpose trees such as Leucaena and Gliricidia that are regularly pruned for mulch and/ or forage have been successfully developed especially in Nigeria. It is a technology that improves soil fertility, improves crop yields and animal feed shortages, as well as providing fuel for the household.

A recent review of the role of alley farming in African livestock production (Reynolds and Jabbar 1994), indicated that high quality supplementary feed from legume trees, used strategically, could allow milk output to increase by 25 per cent. On smallholder farms, the additional nitrogen in manure from supplemented cattle, returned to maize crops as fertiliser, increased maize yields by one ton per hectare. The return from using Leucaena as animal feed was 2.8 times higher than when used as mulch.

Nutritional strategies

Feeding and nutrition represents the principal constraint to production and strategic intervention is a most important means to increase productivity from goats. The situation has recently been reviewed in depth (Leng and Devendra 1995) and involves the following approaches:

1. Intensifying the use of crop residues which include:

2. Enhancing the utilisation and digestibility of straws through alkali treatment.

3. Strategic supplementation.

In view of the immediate benefits associated with improved feeding, several studies in various countries have demonstrated good results and have been reviewed (Devendra 1993). More recent examples are reflected in the results from using Zebu and Shorthorn cattle in Tanzania (Chenost et al 1993), crossbred Malgache Zebu cattle in Madagascar (Chenost 1993) and crossbred Holstein Friesian cattle in Nepal (Shrestha et al 1997).


The role of dairy cattle in integrated farming systems is easily overlooked when dairying is examined through western eyes. Nevertheless, smallholders may not consider becoming specialist dairy producers until an assured market and the reliability of income is clear, and most appear to prefer to integrate the enterprise with other agricultural activities. This creates efficiencies in family labour usage, use of residues and farm nutrient recycling. The smallholder views dairy cows as fertiliser producers, power supply for cultivation, companions, users of easily grown or procured fodder, a self replacing crop, sellable assets from time to time, an acceptable livestock enterprise, and various other modes. Dairying in integrated farming systems is therefore a complex enterprise. Potential improvements and increased productivity from this enterprise can only come from a better understanding of the nature and extent of the interactions with the other sub-sectors, like crops and natural resources, economic benefits, as well as the impact on the livelihoods of small farmers and the environment. Research on these aspects provides major challenges for sustainable dairy development and integrated farming systems in the future.

References and suggested reading

Chenost M. and Kayouli C. 1997. In: Roughage Utilization in Warm Climates. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 135. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Rome, Italy. pp. 136-137.

Chenost M., Royer V., Centres J.M., Gaillard F. and Davis J. 1993. Traitment des tiges de maïs à l'urée et utilisation pour la production laitière en région productrice de café et de banane en Tanzanie. Revue d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux 46(4):597-608.

de Jong R. and Ariaratne M.G. 1996. Performance of dairy farming on abandoned marginal tea lands in the mid country Sri Lanka. In: de Jong R. (ed), Dairy Stock Development and Milk Production with Smallholders. Wageningen, The Netherlands. pp. 148-192.

de Jong R., Kuruppu L.G., Jayawardena Q.W. and Ibrahim M.N.M. 1994. Performance of small scale livestock/crop demonstration-cum-training farms in Sri Lanka. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 7:571-582.

Deoghare P.K. and Bhattacharyya N.K. 1993. Economic analysis of goat rearing in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 63:439-444.

Deoghare P.K. and Bhattacharyya N.K. 1994. Economics of Jamunapari goat rearing in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 64:1390-1393.

Deoghare P.K. and Sood S.B. 1994. Income and employment potential of goat rearing on farms in the rural households of Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 64:295-300.

Devendra C. 1987. Expanding the utilisation of agro-industrial by-products and non-conventional feed resources in Asia. In: Proceedings of Animal Feed Resources in Asia and the Pacific, Asian Productivity Association, Tokyo, Japan. pp. 106-141.

Devendra C. 1990. Shrubs and Tree Fodders for Farm Animals. IDRC (International Development Research Centre), Ottawa, Canada. 349 pp.

Devendra C. 1991. Dairy production systems and development in Asia: characteristics and opportunities for their improvement. In: Proceedings of the 23rd International Dairy Congress, Montreal, Canada, 8-12 October 1990. Volume 1. IDF (International Dairy Federation), Brussels, Belgium. pp. 327-351.

Devendra C. 1993. Feeding and Nutrition. Proceedings Dairy Farming in Asia, Asian Productively Association, Tokyo, Japan. pp. 65-105.

Devendra C. 1996. Opportunities for increasing the economic contribution of small ruminants in Asia. In: Jambre L.F. and Knox M.R. (eds), Sustainable Parasite Control in Small Ruminants. ACIAR Proceedings 74:27-32. ACIAR (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research), Canberra, Australia.

Devendra C., Thomas D., Jabbar M.A. and Kudo H. 1997. Improvement of Livestock Production in Crop-Animal Systems in the Rainfed Agro-ecological Zones of South East Asia. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya. 107 pp.

Devendra C., Thomas D., Jabbar M.A. and Zerbini E. 1998. Improvement of livestock production in crop-animal systems in the agro-ecological zones of South Asia. International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya (In Press).

Edwards P., Pullin R.S.V. and Gartner J.A. 1988. Research and education for the development of crop-livestock-fish farming systems in the tropics. ICLARM Studies and Reviews No. 16-53 pp.

IAS (Institute of Agricultural Sciences). 1995. Goat Milk Production and Marketing in South Vietnam. IAS, Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam. 51 pp.

Kumar H., Singh J.N., Kadian V.S., Singh K.P., Saxena K.K. and Kumar H. 1994. Comparative productivity and economics of dairy enterprises under mixed farming systems. Farming Systems 10:36-44.

Kurien V. 1987. True dimensions of dairy development. In: Gupta V. (ed), Dairy India. Third edition. New Delhi, India. pp. 21-24.

Leng R.A and Devendra C. 1995. Priorities and direction for research for more effective use of feed resources by livestock in Asia. In: Devendra C. and Gardiner P. (eds), Global Agenda for Livestock Research. Proceedings of the Consultation for the South-East Asia Region, IRRI, Los Baños, The Philippines, 10-13 May 1995. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 25-44.

Liyanage de Silva M., Jayasundara H.P.S., Fernando D.N.S., Fernando M.I.N. and Liyanage de Silva M. 1993. Integration of legume based pasture and cattle into coconut farming systems in Sri Lanka. Journal of Asian Farming Systems Association 1:579-588.

Patil B.R. and Udo H.M.J. 1997. The impact of crossbred cows in mixed farming systems in Gujarat, India: Milk production and feeding practices. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 10:253-259.

Reynolds L. and Jabbar M.A. 1994. The role of alley farming in African livestock production. Outlook on Agriculture 23:106-114.

Shrestha H.R., Kuwar B.S., Mandai P. and Thapa M.S. 1997. Economic assessment of crossbred dairy cattle under farmers management at Imadol, halitper. Nepal Veterinary Review 12:10-13.

Singh K.P., Singh S.N., Kumar H., Kadian V.S. and Saxena K.K. 1993. Economic analysis of different farming systems followed on small and marginal land holdings in Haryana. Haryana Journal of Agronomy 9:122-125.

Smallholder dairy production integrated with wheat production in Uttar Pradesh, India. Women largely undertake the management of cows and buffaloes.

Smallholder dairy production using Holstein-Friesian crossbred cows integrated with fruit production in Khon Kaen, Thailand.

Dairy production using Holstein-Friesian crossbred cattle on a small farm in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam.

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