Dairy Feed Innovations Improve the Livelihoods of Smallholder Dairy Farmers
Nutrition is the basis of an animal’s reproduction and health, and it is crucial to attaining long-term livestock production. As a result, in livestock husbandry, animal feeding with the most efficient use of available feed sources is fundamental.
Most of the smallholder farmers in the program areas practice integrated farming, which includes raising livestock, growing crops, and managing fruit orchards. However, dairy farming is the most popular livestock farming in eastern Bhutan, and smallholder farmers rely on it for food, nutrition, and income. Farmers in the program areas perceive an opportunity to increase their production through feed innovation and Value Chain Development Approaches as demand for dairy products rises.
Benefits of Chaff Cutter to Dairy Farmers
It has become a routine for dairy farmers to get up at 5 a.m, cleans and disinfects the dairy shed, wash the dairy cow, clean the udder, wash the milking bucket, milk, and feed the dairy cattle. For a decade, dairy farmers have struggled to manage their herds, cutting fodder with a knife for at least an hour.
Previously, fodder grass was chopped by hand, which was labor-intensive and time-consuming, negatively affecting farmers’ health and conditions. Since most males go for off-farm activities, agricultural operations are primarily handled by women. Given the drudgery that women face, the promotion of the power-driven chaff cutter was imperative to address the labor scarcity and drudgery associated with manual cutting of fodder. Accordingly, CARLEP supported the purchase and supply of a chopping machine to dairy farmers and potential dairy farmers who produce at least 5 to 10 liters of milk daily on a cost-sharing basis, with the project covering 60% of the total cost and the farmers covering 40%.
The purpose of providing chaff cutter machines is to enhance the amount of high-quality fodder available for dairy management. Besides, it is to address winter fodder shortages and improve fodder conservation, particularly for winter. Likewise, cutting the crop into little pieces and then giving it to the cattle enhances feed intake and palatability, resulting in less waste. Moreover, chaff is an excellent fodder that is neatly and evenly cut, dust-free, of great color and has a pleasant aroma for livestock feeding.
Before the introduction of livestock equipment such as the chaff cutter, rearing 1 to 2 dairy cows was tough. According to Kandaza, 72, from Samkhar Gewog under Trashigang Dzongkhag, cutting fodder with a knife is more difficult than cutting and chopping using a chaff cutter. He states that cutting with a knife for an hour is the same as cutting with a chaff cutter for 5 minutes.
The chaff cutter has made labor easier and the feeding procedure faster, according to Norjey and Tashi Tobgay from Bainang. As a result, the region’s pasture development has expanded, and barren land has been turned to pastureland for stall feeding.
Most dairy farmers today utilize chaff cutters for cutting grass to a palatable size and creating silage. It’s mostly preferred for its good operating characteristics, such as the capacity to chop a variety of crops, straws, and herbage, as well as crush and enhance palatability with minimal waste. According to Tshering Dorji, chairman of Bikhar-Domkhar, it is highly effective in uniformly cutting green and dry feed.
As per the Livestock Extension Supervisor, Pema Matshok, dairy farmers used to have to stop working between 3 and 4 PM a decade ago and rush to chop the feed for their dairy animals. But today, farmers are much relaxed as cutting for 5 minutes in the morning has been adequate for feeding 5-10 dairy cows for the entire day. He attributes the positive changes in farmers’ lifestyles to reduced time spent cutting fodder and easy access to the technology. Moreover, the Dzongkhag Livestock Sector has supplied 148 numbers of chaff cutters to smallholder dairy farmers since 2008.
Article by: Pema Matshok, Livestock Extension Supervisor, Samkhar Gewog, Trashigang, and Sheda Wangchuk, DVH, Trashigang
Edited by: Chhimi Lhamo, GKMO,OPM