Dr MR Garg, an Animal Nutrition expert, during his tenure in NDDB has successfully translated different aspects of the dairy nutritional research into commercial production, in the process, narrowing the yawning gap between research and commercialization. In an e-interview with Think Grain Think Feed he shared various projects accomplished in NDDB, present scenario of dairy industry in India and much more. Read the experts below.
How the focus of ‘Doubling the farmer’s income by 2022’ is progressing from dairy farmers perspective?
For doubling dairy farmers’ income, it was expected that the programs related to breed improvement and feed & fodder enhancement and their efficient utilization would take place at a much faster pace, including the disease control program. The work on these important aspects has not been progressing at the desired pace. This appears to be a very ambitious target.
How are you envisaging the availability of green and dry fodder for dairy farmers in India at present and 5 years from now?
Dry fodder availability is dependent on the production of food crops, to feed the growing human population. As the availability of cereal grains in the country increases to feed the growing human population, availability of by-products for livestock feeding will also increase. As far as green fodder production is concerned, we should not expect that the land availability for green fodder production is going to increase. Work on the green fodder production enhancement from the available land should take place at a much faster pace, by producing certified fodder seeds by various responsible agencies, including their marketing through the channels currently used for the marketing of cereal crop seeds.
The most important aspect is that along with the enhanced availability of dry and green fodder, their judicious utilization is equally important. Despite shortage, huge quantity of dry fodder, grasses, agro-industrial by-products, fruits and vegetable by-products are being wasted. Let us make efforts for their enhancement, efficient utilization and conservation in the form of densified feed blocks (dry fodder), hay and silage (Green fodder).
The inventory of SMP is quite low at present in India and in the lean period ahead during summer, are you foreseeing the scarcity in milk availability in India?
The flush season this year has started late due to extended rainy season. In some of the states, milk procurement has already started reaching peak and in some other States it is likely to reach by the middle of March. I don’t see a significant shortage of milk during the summer months. However, I strongly feel that the import of SMP and butter oil will not at all be in the interest of Indian milk producers.
Are you seeing an increase in milk procurement price as a positive sign for dairy farmers? Will it not impact the milk consumption pattern adversely?
If we recall, during the last season feed and fodder prices were unexpectedly higher and milk procurement price was as low as Rs. 20-22 per litre (cow’s milk). As a result, milk producers started questioning whether dairying was a profitable business, which is a matter of serious concern for all the agencies associated with the dairy sector, as several dairy farms incurred heavy losses and were forced to close down. But now the milk procurement prices are favorable, much to the relief of milk producers. The milk prices have not increased if we look at the price hike of other food commodities. If the domestic milk production is adversely affected and the demand is met from the imports then certainly milk price is going to shoot up which may also affect the consumption pattern.
Govt is mooting the idea of allowing relaxed importation of Cheese and certain milk products in India at reduced tariff. What’s your take on this and will it impact the domestic dairy business?
As I have already mentioned that the Government of India should not consider import of milk and milk products in the best interest of Indian milk producers. For small and marginal producers, dairying is the livelihood, through which they are able to meet their day to day needs.
Imports will severely impact the domestic dairy business, like edible oils. Somewhere in the nineties we were almost self-sufficient in edible oils, but now more than half of the edible oils are being imported in the country.
If lower animal productivity and smaller holder subsistence farming create a considerably higher burden on the environment what can be the fate of Indian dairy sector? Are you foreseeing that there will be more of organized dairy farmers in India and why?
When we talk about milk production in India in relation to the environment, it has to be seen holistically. If we look at low production as the weaknesses of Indian dairy sector, it has many strengths also. For example, about 50% of the milk produced in India is consumed within the villages. No energy spent on processing, packaging and transportation. Majority of the remaining milk is consumed in the liquid form. Comparatively small amount of milk is converted to dairy products, which need further processing, packaging and cold chain maintenance. If we look at milk production system in India, by and large India’s milk is produced by feeding food crop residues to milk producing animals. Water, fertilizers and energy for production of grains, fodder, oil seeds etc. is bare minimum. After having said that I would also like to emphasize that the milk production efficiency of our animals has been increasing over the years but it needs to be enhanced further, keeping in mind the environment and the available resources.
Let us not forget that about two third of India’s milk is produced by the landless and marginal farmers for whom income from the sale of milk is the main source of disposable income. Under such production system, cost of milk production is much lower as compared to intensive production system. There may be more organized dairy farms in India to meet the urban demand, but not at the cost of small holders. I firmly believe that the small and organized dairy production systems will continue to coexist in India.
NDDB being the initiator to commercialize ‘By-pass protein technology’ which was done under your leadership, can you please comment on the success of the technology in India?
Commercialization of bypass protein technology was a great initiative of NDDB under the leadership of Dr. Amrita Patel, former Chairman of NDDB, who herself is a nutritionist. Before its commercialization, we set up a pilot plant and conducted various field trials on a large number of animals. Its feeding was found to improve the quality and quantity of milk, including reduction in enhancement of aflatoxin B1 on storage. Under the dairy cooperatives, more than twenty commercial plants have been set up, most of which are now operational. And many more are in the process of setting up. As we know, extension system in the dairy sector in India is very poor, technology adoption at farmers’ level takes a bit longer time. But I am very glad to mention that many private players in the feed sector have set up bypass protein feed production facility and many more are in the process of doing so. I often get phone calls from various entrepreneurs in the private sector who want to set up bypass protein plants.
What are your views on by-pass fat technology – another area in which NDDB took the lead to propagate the technology in the country?
Yes, it has been another great initiative of NDDB, again under the leadership of Dr. Amrita Patel. If we see the ration of our milch animals, it is often energy deficient. About 50% of fat secreted through milk needs to be supplemented through diet. In absence of that, animals mobilize their body reserves. The resultant negative energy balance affects milk and reproduction efficiency of animals.
This was felt long back by the experts in NDDB. I was sent for training in the early nineties at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia, to study various aspects of bypass fat including its production. After my return, NDDB started propagating the use of bypass fat in the ration of milch animals, especially during the early lactation. I am glad that now the significance of bypass fat is fully understood by one and all in the dairy sector, including the feed millers.
NDDB was also involved in the survey of trace minerals in several states, on the basis of which you formulated ‘area specific mineral mixture’, kindly comment on the impact of this technology on the reproductive health and milk production of dairy animals.
May I say once again that this has been another great initiative of NDDB? In the early nineties, it was felt that very few feed plants were using good quality mineral mixture in cattle feed. In addition, most of them were not aware about its quality. Even mineral testing laboratories were very-very limited and the existing one not fully equipped to test all the necessary parameters of mineral mixture. To begin with, NDDB set up a state-of-the-art facility for mineral mixture testing. All concerned officials from the dairy cooperatives were trained in NDDB’s lab. and were also explained how to formulate a mineral mixture, using higher bio-available mineral salts. Since most of the stakeholders were following BIS specifications for mineral mixture production, BIS standard of mineral mixture was revised with the support of NDDB. Following this, a simple mineral mixture plant was designed and various plants were set up in the dairy cooperative sector. Following this, it was felt that the mineral mapping program should be taken up for developing area specific mineral mixture formulations. This took about ten years. Also, I would like to mention here that the information generated by various institutes of the ICAR under their networking program, was also utilized.
At the end, I wish to request to all concerned that the adoption of mineral mixture feeding to field animals is very-very less and often inadequate. All efforts need to be put forth in this direction so that all the breedable animals are fed with mineral mixture, in desirable quantity. Secondly, mineral mapping work needs to be repeated since the mineral profile may change after a gap of ten years and this work was undertaken more than ten years ago. Let’s do it once again.
What are the top three nutritional suggestions you find it relevant for dairy animals in India, which can improve the milk production?
To begin with, I would like to emphasize that the breedable animals should be fed good quality mineral mixture. It will help improving the milk and reproduction efficiency of animals. Secondly, animals at all stages of life should be fed a balanced ration, which will not only reduce the cost of feeding but will also improve milk production and the net profitability of milk producers. Green fodder production enhancement and conservation from the limited land available for this purpose should be another important intervention.
Under National Dairy Plan (NDP), NDDB initiated the supplier of ration computation at farmers’ level. How far has this been successful at national level and what can be done further to involve a greater number of dairy farmers?
As a young researcher, I used to see a lot of discussions taking place amongst scientists, teachers, academicians etc. on the nutrient requirements of animals and there was much focus on this aspect in all the meetings and conferences. But I always thought that all the information generated by the researchers of this country, what relevance it had to more than 100 million breedable animals in India, under field conditions. Nobody fed field animals in accordance with their nutrient requirements. We in NDDB conducted field survey on more than two lakh milch animals and found that based on the regional feeding practices, field animals were either overfed or underfed for various nutrients. Invariably, all animals were deficient in minerals. This reduced milk production, led to shorter lactation length, poor reproduction, higher cost of milk production, shorter productive life and less return to the milk producers. In view of this, an urgent need for balanced ration advisory services at field level was felt and a user-friendly software in this regard was developed and implemented under the NDP in various states. The results were extremely encouraging in terms of reduction in cost of feeding and increase in milk production.
It was expected that the program will sustain after the funding support from the World Bank is over. Unfortunately, implementing agencies didn’t take adequate interest in making it self-sustainable and propagating to other areas.
But I strongly feel that this aspect should be taken very-very seriously by all the agencies and stakeholders. It will help in not only improving the milk production and reproduction but will also help in judicious utilization of limited feed resources.
Private Industry has major role in dairy extension and R&D, so how you foresee its collaboration with Govt. agencies and Institutes to evolve practical deployable technologies?
I fully agree with this. If we look at organized dairy sector in India, more than half of the milk processed by the organized dairy sector is by the private sector and remaining by the dairy cooperative sector. Dairy cooperative sector reached this level in more than five decades, whereas, private sector reached in less than two decades. Same is true about the feed industry. To cover very large uncovered areas, dairy cooperatives, producer companies and the private sector should get equal support from the center and the States.
Feed and fodder safety is much in focus these days. What’s your take on this matter and how will it impact the cost of production for the dairy farmers?
Although, India is the largest milk producer in the world, unfortunately there is hardly any focus on the regulation of feed and fodder quality, which ultimately has an adverse impact on the quantity and quality of milk. All stakeholders and agencies at the center and the states need to put their thoughts together and finalize a legislation on feeds and fodder safety. Simultaneously, its compliance at various levels would also need to be ensured and necessary infrastructure for supervision and quality monitoring would need to be developed.
I think the other way, feed safety legislation will help improve the productivity and the productive life of dairy animals that will eventually help reduce the cost of milk production. In the absence of legislation, several unscrupulous feed producers are engaged in the production of feed which contains very high level of urea, common salt, calcite powder, husks etc., very little grains, protein meals, vitamins etc. As mentioned earlier, mineral mixture which is the most important component of the compound feed, is often missing. If all these irregularities are controlled, it will certainly help improve milk production and reduce the cost of milk production.