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Fodder cultivars to tackle fodder scarcity

Climate vulnerability: Drought in rainfed areas

Existing practice

Adequate supply of fodder, either green or dry, is crucial to the livelihoods of farmers involved in animal husbandry. Livestock producers meet their fodder requirements through a combination of crop residues, grazing on community and private property resources (CPRs& PPRs), cultivable fallows and crop lands after harvest apart from cultivation of forage crops to a limited extent. In general, livestock farmers do not make special efforts for forage and pasture management during drought years. This leads to severe fodder crisis, which ultimately forces distress sale of valuable animals for slaughter.  Early season drought reduces the area under fodder crops, whereas mid-season drought impacts fodder availability especially during lean period. Terminal drought has much less effect on fodder production but it affects the availability of seed material for the succeeding year. The most significant effect on fodder crops during drought conditions are reduced forage yields and greater extent of lignification due to low soil moisture. Further, grazing on such areas severely damages the crop stand and affects their revival even if some rains are received during later period. It is essential to assess availability of various feed resources, their supply and utilization (both quantity and quality) and nutritional requirements of animals. This is essential for targeted increase in production through feeding and to take up appropriate measures required to provide better nutrition to animals during drought period. The critical need is to build proper feed and fodder reserves to tackle the shortages in low rainfall years.

Resilient practice / technology

Short and medium duration fodder cultivars of several crops that can withstand up to 2-3 weeks of exposure to drought in rainfed areas were demonstrated in NICRA villages. These include:  sorghum (Pusa Chari Hybrid-106 (HC-106), CSH 14, CSH 23 (SPH-1290), CSV 17); Bajra (CO 8, TNSC 1, APFB 2, Avika Bajra Chari (AVKB 19); Maize (African tall, APFM 8). These cultivars can be sown immediately after the rains under rainfed conditions in arable lands during kharif season and are ready for cutting by 50-60 days. Cultivars of rabi crops like Berseem (Wardan, UPB 110) and Lucerne (CO 1, LLC 3, RL 88) were demonstrated in NICRA villages as second crop with the available moisture during winter. Perennial fodders like APBN-1, CO-3 and CO-4 were also demonstrated under limited irrigated conditions.

Impact of fodder interventions

Feed and fodder reserves increased substantially at both household and village level. Maize fodder was preserved as silage for feeding livestock during summer, whereas crop residues were stored as hay.  This resulted in increase in milk production by about 10-15% at household level and reduction in calving period by about 45-60 days in addition to birth of healthy off-spring. As the livestock received optimum nutrition though the available green and dry fodder, incidence of diseases was low and this resulted in lower cost of production of either milk or meat.

Scope for up-scaling

Short and medium duration fodder varieties were demonstrated in 276 ha covering 762 farmers. Availability of suitable varieties of fodder seed for delayed planting situation is a serious constraint for implementation of contingency plans in districts experiencing deficit rainfall. Solution lies in the promotion of seed production of short duration cultivars (cutting at 50-60 days duration) and medium duration varieties (60-75days). Effective linkages and coordination among the state animal husbandry department and state veterinary universities is highly desirable for implementation of a successful seed production plan well in advance. Strengthening of scientific storage infrastructure is warranted. Scope exists for promotion and up-scaling of short and medium duration varieties of fodder in the rainfed areas in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamilnadu.



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