Millets – A game changer for Indian livestock sector

The deepening climate crisis and environmental stresses have heightened the need for crop diversification by promoting climate-smart crops. Acknowledging the role of millets in responding to nutritional, agrarian, and climate challenges, the UN declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYoM).
Notably, India produces 80% of Asia’s and 20% of the world’s millet, the exports touched USD 26 million in 2020. However, there is a long way to go to incentivize the farmers, the creation of additional demand for millets in the livestock sector would be a balanced way to make this crop popular among farmers. This is particularly important for a country like India where feed and fodder deficit has been identified as a major constraint. As per a recent report, the shortage in green fodder, dry fodder, and concentrates is 11.24%, 23.4%, and 28.9%, respectively.
Studies show that sorghum is an excellent dual-purpose crop; all plant parts have economic use due to ‘whole plant’ utilisation. Pearl millet is another promising crop for green fodder supply (up to 40-50 tonnes/hectare), especially during the lean period (summer months) of May to July.
Finger millet is nutritionally rich in terms of minerals, proteins, and digestible fibers as compared to corn (maize) and hence could be fed to dairy cattle as a supplement to corn. The crop is also a good choice for making hay or silage. Likewise, proso millet has a nutritive value similar to that of other grains used for livestock feed and therefore can be used for calves, dairy cows, and small ruminants without compromising on milk production.
Studies have indicated that the replacement of corn with pearl millet in a broiler diet results in significant enhancement of the bird’s growth and feed efficiency, and in layers, it shows additional benefits of eggs containing higher omega-3 fatty acids and lower omega-6. Likewise, the use of millets as a feed ingredient in the preparation of Total Mixed Ration (TMR) economizes nutrition management in small ruminant husbandry.
Focus on improving crop-livestock integration through millet product systems, particularly in ecologically fragile rainfed areas, would be crucial for bridging the fodder deficit, and enhancing animal nutrition and performance while ensuring our food and nutritional security.
Source: Tribune India