A Solution to Fodder Shortage in the Dairy Sector : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Major Crops - Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country; Science and Technology- developments and their applications.

Key Phrases: ranked 1st in milk production, Animal production systems, feeding concentrate, green fodder, Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI), Bajra-Napier hybrid grass, Eco-friendly, Cost-effective, high yield potential.

Why in News?

  • India’s post-Independence achievement in transforming itself from a milk deficit country to the world’s largest milk producer has been exemplary. That said, India has the world’s largest dairy herd but the milk yield of our farm animals is miserably low.

Do you know?

  • India is ranked 1st in milk production contributing 23 percent of global milk production.
  • Milk production in the country has grown at a compound annual growth rate of about 6.2 percent to reach 209.96 million tonnes in 2020-21 from 146.31 million tonnes in 2014-15.
  • The top 5 milk-producing states are: Uttar Pradesh (14.9%, 31.4 MMT), Rajasthan (14.6%, 30.7 MMT), Madhya Pradesh (8.6%, 18.0 MMT), Gujarat (7.6%, 15.9 MMT) and Andhra Pradesh (7.0%, 14.7 MMT).

Problems of Dairy farmers:

  • Low-cost input drawn production:
    • Animal production systems in India are mostly based on low-cost inputs drawn from crop residues and Agro by-products, causing nutritional deprivation to the animals and thus impeding their productivity potential.
  • High concentrate diet:
    • Farmers often resort to feeding concentrate to lactating animals for exploiting maximum milk, but a high concentrate diet not only accentuates production costs but also sometimes induces rumen metabolic disorders in the animals.
  • feed ingredients price volatility:
    • Volatility in prices of the feed ingredients is another area of concern, as it destabilizes the cash inflows of the farmers. The current spike in cattle feed prices has thrown dairy farmers into distress.

Green fodder:

  • Many studies have empirically established that green fodder is crucial in balancing ration for livestock and sustaining milk yield growth in the long run.
  • But, as per the recent report, ‘Revisiting National Forage Demand and Availability Scenario’, released by the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI), for every 100 kg of green fodder required, India is short of 11.24 kg.
  • The situation is especially bad in 15 States, where the deficit is above 25 percent.
  • With burgeoning livestock population and government focus on genetic upgradation of cattle by cross-breeding programs, the demand-supply gap of green fodder will widen considerably.
  • Reportedly, earmarking 14-17 percent of the land for fodder cultivation will help in meeting shortages.
  • Sparing more area for fodder is difficult due to intense competition for additional land from commercially important crops.
  • Therefore, the policy focus on bringing more area under perennial grasses with high biomass would be imperative for meeting the green fodder needs of livestock.

Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute

  • The Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (Jhansi), established in 1962, has been instrumental in fostering research, training, and extension programs on all aspects of forage production and utilization through an inter-disciplinary approach.
  • On 1st April 1966, it became a part of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Bajra-Napier hybrid grass:

  • Among the cultivated perennial grasses, Bajra-Napier hybrid grass, popularly known as BN hybrid, has been acclaimed as the highest forage yielder.
  • Bajra or pearl millets is grown for grain as well as for fodder purposes whereas Napier or elephant grass is mainly cultivated as a forage crop. Napier-bajra is a hybridization between bajra and elephant grass.


  • The grass is endowed with several unique characteristics in terms of biomass, nutrition quality as well as palatability.
  • Yield potential:
    • The green fodder yield potential of the grass is reported to be 200-450 t/ha depending upon varieties, management practices, and agro-ecological regions. Notably, the grass maintains its productivity for 4-5 years.
    • Farmers are advised to take the first cut at 60-65 days after planting and subsequent cuts at 25–30-day intervals.
    • Scientific studies show that with proper management, at least six to eight cuts can be taken annually.
  • Nutrition:
    • On the nutritional front, the grass is rich in water-soluble carbohydrates and possesses a high crude fibre (28-30 percent) and protein (8-10 percent) aggregate.
  • Adaptability:
    • The BN hybrid is well adapted to diverse agro-climatic conditions and can withstand drought conditions for fairly long spells.
  • Livelihood:
    • It can thus provide an excellent alternative livelihood opportunity for farmers experiencing crop failures every year in semi-arid areas.
  • Soil suitability:
    • Research institutes have also developed cultivars that are suitable for acidic soils (for example, IGFRI-7) and well tolerant to saline soils (IGFRI-10).
  • Eco-friendly:
    • Also, the grass is eco-friendly, improves soil fertility, prevents pests attack on crops, and even serves as an effective wind/fire break to the farm when intercropped and planted on field bunds.
  • Cost-effective:
    • Economic studies have also attested its cost-effectiveness on small farms. Therefore, by wedding dairy farms with BN hybrid grass, farmers can enjoy a steadier income with healthy, well-fed cattle.

Way forward:

  • For bridging the demand-supply gap of green fodder for our livestock, the government should help by strengthening extension agencies to help promote the adoption of BN hybrid grass across the country.
  • The grass can be promoted among small landholders on bunds without affecting their cropped area while for large and medium size landholders the year fodder production system intercropped with legume fodder for a balanced ration.
  • Awareness needs to be generated among farmers to take up high-density planting of this grass for an assured year-round supply of green fodder.
  • Parallel development of a supporting market environment for surplus green fodder, encompassing backward and forward market linkages, have to be ensured.
  • Moreover, the investment must be tailored for further research to accentuate the potential of such perennial grasses.

Source: The Hindu BL

Mains Question:

Q. How can Napier Bajra hybrid grass fulfil the nutritive fodder requirements of the livestock and help improve their productivity potential? Discuss.