Dairy farming is a reliable source of livelihood for small and marginal farmers, who are unable to earn substantial income from agriculture. India has the largest cattle population in the world, but the average milk yield is less than 900kg per lactation. This is due to severe genetic erosion, resulting in poor quality animals, poor health care and acute shortage of feed. Such low quality cattle and buffaloes are uneconomical for their owners. To transform this problem into an opportunity, BAIF provides breeding and critical support services at the doorstep of poor farmers to produce high quality animals.
Objective: Dairy farming is a traditional practice and it has proven potential to provide food and nutritional security to the rural poor. As it is an opportunity to convert liabilities into assets, rural families are motivated to cross breed their low yielding, decrepit cattle with genetically superior exotic or native breeds, while conserving elite native breeds. The new born high yielding cows and buffaloes are a reliable source of livelihood, even in drought-prone areas.
Coverage: This is a flagship programme of BAIF, which was started in the early 70’s. Presently, the programme is benefiting over 4.4 million families through a network of over 2,600 cattle development centres spread over 69,000 villages in 12 states. Each centre covering 10-12 villages in a radius of 10kms is operated by a local youth, who holds a Diploma in Agriculture or Animal Husbandry and is trained to provide services such as artificial insemination, vaccination, minor veterinary care, as well as training in forage production and good feeding practices. BAIF’s Central Research Station at Urulikanchan maintains elite bulls of improved exotic and Indian native breeds of cattle and buffaloes to produce frozen semen, which is then supplied to these centres. Farmers are also advised on good management practices through a series of training programmes. The milk produced is collected by the local farmer organisations and sold to dairies.
Funding: Initial capital cost for establishing a livestock development centre is around Rs1.5lakhs and the annual recurring cost is around Rs1.25lakhs. The programme is sponsored by the Ministry of Rural Development, Farmers’ Cooperatives, corporate houses and even self-funded by collecting the entire service charge from farmers availing breeding services.
These centres are generally sponsored for a period of 5-10 years. Subsequently, BAIF continues the services, either with the support of the donors or by collecting service charges from the farmers.
• Over 50% of the rural families are benefitted in the operational areas;
• The programme enables farmers to produce high yielding cows and buffaloes using inferior quality livestock already owned by the farmers without any additional capital investment;
• Each home-born cow and buffalo is valued at Rs30,000-Rs35,000, and when it comes into milk production at the age of three years, it yields 2,200-2,800kg milk per lactation and generates a surplus of Rs9,000-Rs10,000 per year. A family can earn over Rs30,000 per year with three crossbred cows and remain above poverty;
• With high yielding animals, the farmers tend to reduce the herd size and adopt stall feeding, which in turn reduces the pressure on fodder supply and global warming. With increase in dung collection, farmers are encouraged to install biogas plants and take up organic farming;
• This provides an excellent opportunity for women to earn their livelihood and ensures a nutritional supplement, particularly for their children;
• The crossbred males are ready for tillage operations and transportation, by the age of 24 to 30 months. Door-to-door services have ensured closer mentoring of the backward farmers.
• Presently, 0.8 million cows and buffaloes are under milk production, producing milk worth Rs2800 crores per annum. As the demand for milk in India is expected to rise from 98 million tons to 180 million tons by 2022, there is good scope to expand the programme across the country, while ensuring gainful self-employment and food security for small farmers.