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January - March 2013

The livestock population is expected to grow at the rate of 0.55% in the coming years, and the population is likely to be around 781 million by 2050. Though India is among the leading producers of milk, meat and eggs; productivity of our animals is 20-60% lower than the global average due to improper nutrition, inadequate health-care and management, and also due to the lack of scientific breeding of animals. Half of the total losses in livestock productivity are contributed to by the inadequacy in supply of feed and fodder.

Forage-based economical feeding strategies are required to reduce cost of quality livestock products; as feed alone constitutes 60-70% of milk-production cost. At present, the country faces a net deficit of 35.6% of green fodder, 26% of dry-crop residues and 41% of concentrate feed ingredients.

India has nearly 4.9% of the total cropped area under cultivated forages. Among the kharif forage crops, sorghum, maize, pearl millet, cowpea and guinea- grass are popular, and in rabi season, cultivated forages are oat, lucerne and berseem. Intricate technologies have been developed for increasing fodder production in different situations with stability and sustainability of cultivated and non- cultivated fodder crops. This includes intensive forage production in different agroclimatic situations (75-255 tonnes of green fodder/ha/year), sustainable forage production from rainfed lands (50-80 tonnes of green fodder/ha/year), integration of the forages in the existing cropping systems, forage-production technology for the customized situations like under plantation crops, rice fallows and non-competitive land-use, and forages from acidic, salino-sodic and waterlogged pedoforms.

For management of pastures also, certain approaches such as protection for vegetation recovery, soil-and-water conservation, reseeding, improved range expression and grazing management techniques have been developed. Introduction of pasture legumes, such as Stylosanthes, Macroptilium atropurpureum, Cajanus scarabaeoides syn. Atylosia scarabaeoides, has improved pasture productivity and quality (crude protein) by 2-7 %. In addition, agroforestry systems have been designed and developed on the degraded lands for optimizing land productivity and production of forage, timber and firewood on a sustainable basis.

To meet current level of livestock production and their annual population growth, strategies are needed to include measures that improve availability of quality fodder as well as for designing suitable models for fodder-based economic milk production. Better genetic resources of fodder crops, including grasses, have to be collected and conserved. And at a large- scale, food-fodder cropping systems need to be encouraged to provide balanced nutrition to livestock in the mixed farming situations. To diversify basket of feed resources, nonconventional/underutilized feed resources like azolla (humid and sub humid conditions), turnip, fodder beets, and cactus need to be evaluated for their inclusion and effective utilization in livestock diets. Concerted efforts by plant breeders’ concomitant with animal nutritionists are vital to recalibrate plant composition for traits like higher nutrition concordance and digestibility for meeting requirement of animals with moderate production level. Popularization and adoption of fodder- and feed-enrichment technologies to increase nutritive value of fodders at the farmers’ doorstep is another option for increasing livestock production. There is impelling exigency to promote ’fodder bank’ concept for preserving surplus from rangelands during rainy season to be used during lean periods in post-monsoon and summer months.

The ICAR is addressing feed and fodder issue in a mission-mode way to cater to the challenges of fodder-seed production, of area expansion under green fodder, fodder conservation and of establishment of fodder-seed bank in different locations, besides capacity-building and extension. The Government is administering convergence of policies with the developmental and livelihood supporting projects such as Horti-Mission, MNREGA and the National Rural Livelihoods Mission, together with credit and market linkages. All these efforts are to support forage-based livestock production, and to make animal husbandry per se a remunerative venture for livestock-keepers.