Two ways with cattle feed, one objective

An 'improved' breed

Between two and three million farmers in Nepal are involved in the dairy sector in Nepal. That means people who own cows or buffaloes and produce milk that they trade for income, or people who are involved in producing the feed, looking out for the health of the animals, or collecting, transporting, processing and selling dairy products. It is estimated that every 10 to 20 litres of milk marketed a day creates one additional job for someone not farming themselves, but earning a living from supporting the chain that produces milk and takes it to those who drink and eat milk-based products.

Many of the people working in the dairy sector are poor, and at the same time big dairy companies in Nepal expect large growth of the industry in the coming years, so Practical Action’s Market and Livelihoods programme in Nepal has targeted the dairy sector and works to improve its efficiency, and all importantly the ability of poor people to participate in it and pull themselves out of poverty.

By mapping the market for dairy in four districts of Nepal – Chitwan, Gorkha, Tanaha and Dhading – Practical Action, together with farmers themselves, cooperatives, businessess and the government, identified basic health of cattle as one of the big problems in the sector. Nutritional deficiencies in cattle have meant that poor farmers have not been able to produce high quality milk in large enough quantities to attract the interest of cooperatives and companies to buy their milk, and has generally limited the growth of the industry nation-wide. Of course, that’s just one of the problems in the market system, but one that can be solved!

So Practical Action’s Market Access for Smallholder Farmers project, in partnerships with others, have designed two ways to help poor farmers improve the nutrition of their cattle, and in turn increase the quantity and solids content of their milk.

For those farmers who have been able to invest in ‘improved’ breeds of cows, Practical Action has partnered with Nimbus – a leading feed manufacturer in Asia, famous in Nepal for its poultry feed – to research and test high nutrient, low cost feed for cows. Through September 2010, Practical Action helped Nimbus understand more about the needs of those poor farmers who have one or two cows of high-yielding breeds. Nimbus went away to their labs and came up with something special! Trialing of the new feed amongst poor farmers showed that without increasing their costs, farmers could increase the milk produced by their cows by around 20 % and the quality of this milk substantially, resulting in big gains in income. Since then Nimbus has rolled out this new high nutrient, low cost feed across Nepal, the first of its kind in the country. This partnership has enabled Practical Action to reach, with extraordinarily small amounts of funds, hundreds of thousands of farmers across Nepal, many of them poor.

Nimbus presents their nationally distributed Shakti brand, through which the new cattle feed is marketed, Chitwan, Nepal

Of course, the big question here is: what about the really poor farmers without improved breeds? For them this new feed is less useful, as the improvements in milk quality and quantity is slighter for local breeds of cows and buffaloes. And for these farmers, switching to this commercial feed will cost them more money. That’s why Practical Action has worked with those farmers and forest users to come up with another strategy as well. By spending lots of time with the farmers, Practical Action realised that many feed their cows straw or bran that has practically no nutritional content. It just fills up the cows’ stomachs – not good for milk quality! Much better would be to feed cattle different types of green grasses. So Practical Action encouraged farmers to change the diets of their cows and start feeding them grasses.

But it’s not as simple as that. In Nepal, land is scarse, with steep hills and lots of good land covered with protected forests. So there’s not much space to cultivate grass. That’s why Practical Action teamed up with Community Forest Committees and User Groups – local people tasked by the government to use forests responsibly – to explore careful cultivation of grasses within segments of the forest, at once protecting the forests and delivering this much needed input for healthy cows. On top of that, Practical Action also works with ‘forest nurseries’ – small entrepreneurs who cultivate local plants that are used by the government and local people to regenerate the forests and local biodiversity – to cultivate some high-nutrient, foreign grasses that local farmers can buy. In these controlled ‘forest nurseries’, cultivation of valiable non-indigenous grasses can be  carried out safely, without harming the environment, and bring great benefit to poor farmers hoping to improve their milk quality so that they can link up to commercial buyers, and transform their lives.

Keshav, the dairy project manager speaks to a forage nursery owner, Dhading, Nepal

7 responses to “Two ways with cattle feed, one objective”

  1. Practical Action Blogs - Blog Archive » Lollipops for cows| Practical Action Says:

    […] Read my recent blog about why Practical Action Nepal is working in the dairy sector and what it is doing to help farmers […]

  2. Prof. A. David Weaver Says:

    With Roger Blowey, we have just produced the third edition of “Color Atlas of Diseases and Disorders of Cattle” (Elsevier, about £99 sterling) with color illustrations of all common diseases, including tropical conditions, aetiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Considerable emphasis is placed on animal welfare. The book is directed to veterinarians and livestock keepers worldwide. Is there a place for this color atlas in Nepal where it could be accessed by those understanding English and directly involved with cattle ?
    It would be completely wasted if placed on the bookshelf of the manager of a big dairy unit in Nepal !
    I welcome comments from anyone interested in improving the husbandry of dairy cattle.

  3. Deepak Says:

    Dear Prof. Weaver,

    I am the head of programme for Markets and Livelihoods at Practical Action Nepal Office. Thank you so much for your interesting input and offer. If we can get a hold of one or two copies of this book, we can place this at our Dairy Facilitation offices at the local Chamber of Commerce and Industries where we provide smallholder dairy farmer in Nepal a space to discuss, interact and learn more on methods and ways to become semi-commercial dairy farmers.


  4. Rupendra Chaulagain Says:

    Dear Prof. Weaver,
    I am working as a Livestock Officer at MASF Project at Dhading district, Nepal. As I am a veterinarian, color atlas book of diseases of cattle is very obvious in Nepal as our profession is lacking behind on this. This book will be very beneficial if it comes to Nepal and will be very grateful if some copies can be get by some organizations working in the field of dairy development like our organization.


  5. Tara Nath Gaire Says:

    Dairy is important subsector of livestock of Nepal.Currently percapita of milk is 52 liter per head but this is very low in comparison to other country.Various inputs such as breed improvement,diseases surveillance,fodder and pasture based nutritional scheme and well market channel of milk should be maintained to meet the demand of milk in Nepal.

  6. Rameshwar Singh Pande Says:

    Interesting article, but I think the real cause lies on negative supply of quality fodder/pastures. In absence of green biomass, which is must for ruminants , the dairy farmers depends on straw supplemented with high dose of grain by-products which neither healthier nor cost efficient for both entrepreneurs as well as animals. So, forage based dairy is the only options for sustainability and comppitetive dairy market growth. It is high time to initiate intensive forage cultivation both in crops/agricultural field as well as community lands.

  7. Dharma Prasad pande Says:

    Cultivation of nutritious forage in arable land is possible by small holder dairy farmers having small land holding . Farmers could use catch crop between two cereals like wheat and paddy. Wheat is harvested in March and transplanting of paddy start from mid June to July. Some of the short duration forage like rice bean could cultivation as forage crop which increase soil fertility and also provide green forage to cattle. Commercial dairy farming is profitable in forage based production. In dairy MASF project there was activities of forage production not only in CFUGs but also in arable land. Area of forage cultivation in Chitwan district only was increase from 91 ha in base line to 900 ha at end line survey with in 43 dairy cooperative command area covered by dairy MASF project in Chitwan. This indicates possibility of forage cultivation if the farmers aware.

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