India has a population of 13.64 million humans and of 20 billion animals. Availability of green and dry fodder per animal per year is far less than requirement. At present the green fodder available in the country is 462MT and dry fodder 394 MT, a net deficit of 35.6% green fodder, 11% dry crop residue, and 44% concentrate feed ingredients. When we face the hunger of human beings, we import food grains, but to mitigate hunger of animals we have not yet found a solution.
When we look at the statistics of Kashmir, we have 4.5% arable land under fodder cultivation and there is 67.5% deficit in green production and 27.3% deficit in dry fodder production, as per the population of animals in Kashmir. When we look at distribution of fodder among animals, it comes to less than requirement, about 2 kg of fodder per animal. When humans feel hungry, they raise hue and cry, but when animal are hungry, in silence they die.
Hunger and food security are inter-related. For example, when two armies are in opposition, the first strategy is to stop the food supply of the enemy. Conversely, an indicator of success is the availability of stock of food with an army.
We do not consider as to why the production of food for animals is low. It must be very strongly kept in mind that our animals are hungry. Most of the animals in the countryside are either half-fed or totally hungry. How do they express their hunger? They can’t speak, they just sit down and do not stand, they show drastic decrease in production, lose body weight and stop producing offspring; their owners have no option except to sell them to butchers. We only look at our successful farmers and good livestock. Currently the summer season is here and farmers are in the phase of sowing. To mitigate hunger in animals, they can still sow seeds for crops that make for green fodder.
In order to ensure food security of animals, a livestock owner has to make an estimate of fodder requirement. Say, for example, he has 10 animals. He must know the per-day requirement of the animal as per body weight, multiply it with ten, then multiply with 365 days and to it 10 percent more, to ensure that if for some reason the fodder is spoiled, the animals do not go hungry.
The irony is that our landlord farmer desires to rear milk-giving animals or sheep, but intends to cultivate a cash crop on the major chunk of available land. No doubt, nowadays in the markets two things are available, though still scarcely: preserved green grass or “silage” and dried chopped grass bails or the “hay”. When we see the cost of these items they are no way less costly than cash crops, and will fetch the farmer more money besides providing food security to his livestock.
The grasses that can be cultivated include Lucern, Berseem, Napier hybrid grass, Alfa Alfa or grasses under name Shalimar produced and released by SKUAST, which can be harvested up to late September. Whatsoever the forage we desire to cultivate, a few points must be seriously considered. What is the yield per hector? Is that suited to our environment, location and climatic condition? Does it contain the protein and energy that is required by our animals? What is the digestibility of the particular grass? For example, Napier has a wonderful produce per hectare but its digestibility is 50%, when it should be minimum 60% and better if it ranges between 70% and 72%. Lastly, if we have a grass that can give us 3 to 4 cuts, the surplus cuts we can use for making silage or hay for future use.
As for a SWOT analysis of the forage crops in Kashmir, we have lush green low-altitude, mid-hill sub-alpine, and alpine pastures. But land under fodder crops is static and per capita yield is declining. Rising input costs, changing land use, tourism and migration from rural to urban areas is a problem. However, we have opportunity: climate variability and growing demand for organic livestock products. To overcome the gap between demand and supply, we need to lay emphasis on augmenting fodder production.
The writer is Director Sameti, SKUAST Kashmir