Market-oriented dairy project promotes commercial fodder cultivation | Sunday Observer

Market-oriented dairy project promotes commercial fodder cultivation

The exchange of the agreement
The exchange of the agreement

* Addresses critical gap in nutritional needs of dairy cows

* Government aims at self-sufficiency in milk by 2022

A buyer-seller agreement between Lanka Forages (Pvt) Ltd and fodder cultivators in the North was signed under the Market-Oriented Dairy (MOD) Project, recently.

The primary objective is to strengthen and grow the country’s dairy sector.

Considered the first of its kind in the North, the project will facilitate several other such agreements between fodder buyers and cultivators around the island.

The main purpose is to ensure year-round availability of good quality fodder and silage at a competitive price, which is essential for dairy farmers to maintain a healthy, high-yield dairy herd and year-round milk production.

The Government aims to achieve self-sufficiency in milk production by 2022, and dairy is the most important sub-sector in the Sri Lankan livestock industry. Yet, the country currently meets only about 40 percent of fresh milk demand locally and, therefore, enhancing dairy farmer productivity and overall dairy sector competitiveness is critical in fulfilling the national agenda.

To increase milk yield and assure year-round milking for dairy farmers, feed is identified as the most indispensable and basic input with fodder being a major component. At present, very few farmers grow quality pasture and fodder to feed their animals, instead depending mostly on natural grasses growing on road sides and uncultivated public and private lands, which is a highly inadequate means of meeting the nutritional needs of dairy cows.

Only a very small percentage of dairy farmers adopt fodder conservation methods such as making silage for better yields. This limited availability of quality pasture and fodder, shortage of land in some areas for grass cultivation and managed cultivation, lack of knowledge on use of silage, together with the seasonal variations in supply, creates a significant bottleneck in dairy production impacting all types of farms, such as small and large-scale farms including Mega Farms. The scarcity of feed increases the feed costs for dairy farmers.

MOD Project Director Matthew Krause said, “The interventions are designed in a holistic manner by educating farmers on the need for quality feed year-round to increase yield and creating awareness among stakeholders on the business opportunities around growing, conserving and selling fodder to potential cultivators, to assure a year-round supply of feed.”

“Essentially we encourage both the dairy farmers and the fodder cultivators to think as entrepreneurs by providing training, enhancing technical knowledge on the latest techniques and quality planting material and methodologies which are adaptable to local conditions as well as business planning,” he said.

Managing Director, Lanka Forages, Lionel Dharmasiri said, “This is a unique business model for Sri Lanka. The agreement today fulfills a great need for the country to be able to supply fodder and silage at a competitive price.

The other signatories and I sensed the growing market opportunity and have confidence that there is a guaranteed market for commercial fodder cultivation assured with an agreed rate and time period.”

This linkage was carried out with the guidance and support of the Deputy Director, Department of Animal Production and Health (DAPH) in Mullaitivu, Dr Gowrithilan. Ceylon Agro Industries and Wheel Master (Pvt) Limited presented new techniques in commercial fodder cultivation on the invitation of the MOD Project.

MOD Business and Value Chain Director, Asoka Kuruppu, overall in charge of development of the inputs for the dairy sector said, “We will facilitate similar such partnerships around the island in areas where there is a significant presence of dairy farmers. Entrepreneurs interested in becoming commercial fodder cultivators to sell to dairy farmers, who have a minimum land extent of two acres (or a cluster of smaller acreages) with road access and water available throughout the year, are welcome to contact us,” he said.