Fodder innovations for smallholders in India

Improved fodder varieties and technologies offer better quality feed all year through for highly valued livestock in Hyderabad.

The online magazine New Agriculturist published the following article in its March 2006 issue;
http://www.new-agri.co.uk/06-2/focuson/focuson5.html.

Further information on this topic can be found on ILRI's website and its 2004 annual report;
http://www.ilri.org/home.asp?CCID=61&SID=1.

smallholders in IndiaHyderabad is one of India's fastest growing cities. The local markets in the central square sprawl onto the road, sellingcredit:Stevie Mann/ILRI everything from black pearls and embroidered rugs to plastic key rings. Fresh fruit stalls steadied on bicycles cluster by the side of the main road as motorbikes and rickshaws weave their paths through the chaos. Like the markets, the Indian economy is thriving and in the farming state of Andhra Pradesh, where Hyderabad is the capital, livestock produce is at the heart of development. Throughout India, livestock are highly valued for their agricultural products and buffalo, cattle, goats and pigs are the most important source of livelihood for poorer people in the state. Livestock supply daily food and milk, as well as draft power and manure, and the dairy industry provides valued employment for the poor, especially women. But many farmers cannot produce quality fodder – or enough of it – which prevents them from taking advantage of increased market opportunities and demand.


Rapid population growth, particularly in urban areas, has increased demand for produce such as milk and meat. However, the population expansion also means that there is little land available to support fodder production, in addition to the area needed for food crops. Family plots are divided and reduced over generations, making many plots too small to sustain livestock. And while public land is often used as a grazing area for livestock among marginal communities, the areas are shrinking. Consequently, over 40 per cent of fodder resources in India come from crop residues and are of poor quality.

Food and fodder

To help the poor in Andhra Pradesh benefit from India's livestock revolution, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is co-ordinating a project under the Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP) enabling smallholders to build on their assets by exploiting the growing market for livestock products. The aim of this work has been to improve fodder varieties and technologies in order to provide livestock with more and better quality feed throughout the year. Under the project, over 500 farmers from 47 villages have tested seed delivery systems and evaluated fodder and feed technologies. This process has included the farmers evaluating their own 'food-feed' crops (those that provide both grain for human consumption and fodder for livestock) and management systems, testing varieties provided by the research team, and evaluating researcher-managed demonstration trials. During the trials, farmers consistently found improved varieties to be superior to local cultivars.


smallholders in IndiaThe project has also supported seed supply for forage crops, since these are scarcely available from the commercial seed companies operating in Andhra Pradesh. Young people and women's self-help groups from several villages have been trained in seed multiplication and distribution, and village seed banks have been given support in sourcing germplasm from the public sector. In 2005 over 350 farmers attended field days and seed multiplication plots to learn about forage seed production.

Including fodder in food crop development

Credit:Stevie Mann/ILRIA third focus has been in raising awareness about fodder quality in India's crop improvement programmes. Nutritional studies have shown a wide variability in digestibility in stover from different sorghum varieties. But is has also been shown that high yield in food (grain or legume pods), can be compatible with high quality and quantity in crop residue. As a result, indicators of stover quality have now been incorporated into the sorghum and millet breeding programmes of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and India's National Research Centre for Sorghum has included stover quality in its release criteria for the last two years.


There is more work to be done, with the researchers continuing to find new ways of working with partners to increase the uptake of the technologies. A particular challenge will be to involve more women and minority groups in testing and evaluating new seed varieties. Partnerships with the private sector are also being explored, to investigate employment opportunities and further broaden seed choice and variety. Private sector dairy companies are being encouraged to promote fodder seeds in locations not served by dairy co-operatives. Looking more widely, the research team are hopeful that lessons from this project can be applied internationally.

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