"India is the World's largest producer of milk. We account for around 17% of all the milk produced in the World. However, the demand for milk is rising faster than production growth. If both demand and supply continue to grow at the current rate, India will become a net importer of milk by 2021."
We encountered the above statistics while exploring the economic feasibility of setting up a Hydroponic fodder unit. In a couple of weeks, we will share with you the details from our first experiment with fodder production. But before we do that, let us address the twin questions of need and demand.
- Need - How much of green fodder does India need?
- Demand - Is there enough demand for Green fodder to justify setting up a fodder unit?
Need for Hydroponic Unit
To answer the question of need, we need first to acknowledge the basic fact that the quality of feed determines the quality (nutritional content) and output (yield) of milk produced by cattle. Even the best breed of cattle would not give high yield if not fed properly. As per the recommendation by NDDB (National Dairy Development Board), between 70% - 75% of a cow's feed should come from green fodder. Considering NDBB recommendations for cattle, the current shortfall in the availability of green fodder stands at a staggering 64% (Source - Handbook of Agriculture, ICAR 2012). That amounts to a deficit of 728 million tonnes per annum.
Since there is a massive shortfall of green fodder, it means that the cattle in India is not getting the nutrition it needs. Shouldn't that mean that the yield per cattle in India should be lesser than that of the countries that can provide a better feed?
Yes. The Govt. statistics validate that. Further, the yield per cattle in India lags not only behind the developed (60% - 80% lesser yield) nations but even far behind the overall world average (less than 50%) taken as a whole. Interested readers can go through this study to validate the facts and know more about dairy business in India.
Demand for Hydroponic Fodder
We have settled the question of need, but is there enough demand? Shouldn't the need itself result in demand? This question is a tricky one. For demand to be there, the dairy farmers need to know the statistics and get educated on the right feed mix and its impact on yield. In our country, around 88% of livestock is owned by small and marginal farmers. Disseminating information becomes a challenge at that level. Further, spending upfront on green fodder, when they cannot command the right price for the milk (as per some field reports, net realization at farmer level hovers at around 50% of the market selling price) may be a challenge for them.
It's no surprise then that the average yield per cattle in India is way lower than the animal's capacity. This data is as per the annual report 2014-15 published by the ministry of agriculture.
That probably paves the way for mini Grameen entrepreneurs or small groups of farmers/cooperatives to set-up small scale Hydroponic fodder units to cater to the needs of a small collective of farmers. The case is laid out well in this report by the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD).
To validate the figures and to ascertain the cost-economics of a Hydroponic Fodder unit, we decided to do a little experiment of our own. In a couple of weeks from now, we will share the results and indicative economics of managing a Hydroponic fodder unit with you. Till then,