How the fodder crisis in Madhya Pradesh is affecting milk production and impacting children

Fodder scarcity is one of the main reasons behind the rise in milk prices and cow deaths in the heartland of India. Rising milk prices are bound to impact the health of every citizen, especially children

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Anup Dutta
Anup Dutta
is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bhopal. He reports on people, politics, policies, health, art and culture.

Berasiya, Bhopal: It seems that gradually, Madhya Pradesh is coming into the grip of fodder shortage. Fodder scarcity has led its prices to rise many folds and many farmers are finding it difficult to take care of cattle. As a result, milk – considered to be a good source of protein is getting increased and in the long run, could affect the health of hundreds and hundreds of children.

Consider this. Since the evening of August 2, 10-year-old Harsh Singh [name changed], resident of village Mankhyaiee in Berasia tehsil, district Bhopal is unable to get milk following the death of a calf.

“A glass of milk is my everyday routine before going to CM Rise School where I am studying in Class VI. However, our cow stopped giving milk immediately after the calf died, ” Harsh told me, sitting next to his grandfather on the compound of a temple located on the outskirts of the village on August 9.

Harsh’s grandfather, Khuman Singh feels that milk in the local market is available but the price is too high for him. His two sons are the earning members of the joint family.

“Here the cost of milk is Rs 40 per litre. In the last year, the price of milk has shot up like the price of diesel and petrol,” Khuman Singh said but maintained silence about the possible reason behind the calf’s death.

With his only cow unable to produce milk, Khuman is finding it difficult to buy another cow.

“Buying cattle is very lucrative,” he said by adding “moreover, the price of dry fodder has risen many folds in the last few years. Also, charagah is a designated land for use by cattle and not agriculture because of the fine grasses] or land of commons where natural grasslands are part of the landscape is no longer available”.

Such charagahs are mainly used for agriculture purposes, he added.

Kishori Lal Ahirwar, Sarpanch of village Mankhyaiee, ignored to reply on the status of Charagahs of his village but feels that changes in farming methods and climate-induced changes could be the reason behind the disappearance and not so-proper growth of natural grasslands in his village.

fodder crisis in madhya pradesh cow milk
Kishori Lal, the Sarpanch | Credit: Anup Dutta

“All such reasons could be behind natural grasslands and dry fodder shortage,” Kishori Lal Ahirwar while accepting the fodder deficit in his village and expressing his inability to overcome the situation.

Both dry fodder and green fodder are equally important for the animals.

This year, in the month of January-February, several districts of Madhya Pradesh reported deaths of cows in gaushalas. While these were blamed on corruption in the shelters, misuse of government funds and animals kept in unhygienic conditions, the lack of accessible cattle feed cannot be ignored as a major cause.

Taking a genuine step, in March this year, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying in Madhya Pradesh sent a letter to the district collectors, asking them to ban the export and transport of straw and related materials. This was followed by the collectors by banning the movement until June 30.

Last year, the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute’s report completely touched on a different aspect. In its report, the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute estimates that by 2030, there could be a drop of 65.45 per cent in green fodder and 25 per cent in dry fodder, if stringent measures are not taken right away.

The idea of the report titled ‘Revisiting National Forage Demand and Availability Scenario’, released late last year by the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute points toward a shortfall of up to 29 per cent in the availability of feed, including fodder.

There is a deficit of 23.4 per cent in the availability of dry fodder, 11.24 per cent in that of green fodder, and 28.9 per cent for concentrates, says the report.

All this means that for every 100 kg required, India is short of 23.4 kg of dry fodder, 11.24 kg of green fodder, and 28.9 kg of concentrates.

Giving a graphical account, Deo Narayan Singh who currently works at the Department of Agronomy, Banaras Hindu University in his review paper titled A review of India’s fodder production status and opportunities gives a graphical account towards a new phenomenon.

Sketching an in-depth analysis of the challenges, opportunities, and status of fodder production in India, the research paper says India caters to approximately 20% of the world’s livestock population and about 17.5% of the human population on just 2.3% of the world’s land area. The human population is increasing at a pace of 1.6% per annum, while the livestock population is increasing at a rate of 0.66% per year. These increasing human and animal populations are fighting tooth and nail for land resources for food and fodder production, respectively. As a result, cultivated fodders occupy only 4% of the entire cultivable land in the country. Presently, the country faces a net shortfall of 35.6% green fodder, 10.5% dry crop leftovers, and 44% concentrated feed ingredients, maintains the research paper.

The option for increasing the land area under fodder cultivation is very limited, says the paper.

Hence, it is a big challenge in front of us to utilize the available meagre land wisely with its fullest potential to produce the fodders for the animals. This could be achieved by adopting suitable cropping systems, incorporation of fodder crops in food and other cash crop-based cropping systems on a rotational basis, production of fodder on degraded lands by adopting fodder-based agroforestry systems and exploring other options of green fodder like Azolla, says the research paper of Deo Narayan Singh.

The cropping system with forage crops provides a potential alternative to overcome the fodder problem as it utilizes the resources more efficiently, Singh added. Several other experts hint at several challenges, opportunities, and how wise use of land to its fullest potential could produce fodder for the animals.

India has the world’s largest number of farmers and livestock and Madhya Pradesh is no exception. The total number of animals has spiked and so is milk production. According to the Economic Survey of Madhya Pradesh, milk production rose from 13,445 thousand metric tons in 2016-17 to 17,999 thousand metric tons in 2019-20.

However, in the last six months, the Sanchi Milk Co-operative Federation has twice increased a hike in the prices of milk in the state.

First, it increased its price in March. The price of milk in different categories was raised from Rs 3 per litre to Rs 5 per litre. Again in August when Amul and Mother Dairy announced a hike of Rs 2/litre on fresh milk, Sanchi again increased its price by two rupees per liter.

Experts think that fodder scarcity is one of the main reasons behind the rise in milk prices. They feel that rising milk prices are bound to leave an impact on the health of every citizen, especially children.

“Due to increase in milk prices, the commodity is becoming out of reach from the hands of children in the State that has a high stunting rate of 42 per cent. Here, 3.3 million, under-five children are stunted and 2.7 million are wasted,” says State’s eminent writer on human trafficking, environmental and social issues Amitabh Pandey.

Having not received proper nutrition, they are either stunted or short for their age, he feels. Meanwhile, for Harsh, daily life is now even more hectic than ever before. After his school, Harsh has to search for or arrange fodder for the cow.

Anup Dutta
Anup Dutta
is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bhopal. He reports on people, politics, policies, health, art and culture.

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