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1.4 Dairy production systems in Asia

In tropical Asia, dairy production is concentrated in the rain-fed and irrigated crop-livestock systems of India, which account for most dairy cows and buffaloes and over 90% of all Asian milk production (Table 1.4). Milk production in India increased from 17 m tonnes in 1951 to 54 m tonnes in 1991 and is expected to rise to 86 m tonnes in 2000. The urban sector (28% of the population) consumed 56%, three times as much per caput as the rural population (Table 1.9). Per caput availability has increased to 72 kg per year, in part the result of 40 years of intensive dairy cooperative development under Operation Flood (Patel, 1997), as well as the growth of the larger private and informal markets. The exceptional emphasis on milk production is at least in part explained by religious beliefs forbidding slaughter and beef consumption.

Table 1.9 People and milk consumption in India in 1995



Milk

Consumption


People, m

m tonnes

kg caput-1 yr-1

Rural

660

29.2

47

Urban

254

37.1

148

Total/mean

914

66.3

72

Source: Aneja and Puri, 1997

India is also exceptional in that - despite this vast expansion of milk output - dairying is characterized by a predominance of small-scale producers farming little or no land, and a reliance on indigenous breeds of cattle and buffaloes; in 1996-7, crossbred dairy cattle were only 8% of the total; buffaloes produced 55% of all milk.

The contribution of buffalo to dairy production in part reflects a shift from their importance as traction animals in smallholder farming systems (Table 1.10). Herd structures and their changes between 1966 and 1987 reflect the increasing emphasis on dairy production. The percentage of females >3 years remained constant, but the proportion of cows in milk increased: from 45 to 49% for cattle and 50% to 60% for buffaloes.

Table 1.10 Composition of cattle and buffalo herds in India in 1966 and 1987


Cattle

Buffalo


1966

1987

1966

1987

Total number, m

176

200

53

76

Cows> 3 yr, %

29.4

30.5

48.2

50.9

· In milk, %

11.9

14.9

24.4

31.2

· dry, %

17.5

15.6

23.8

20.4

Males > 3 yr, %

43.2

37.4

16.6

10.4

· working, %

40.0

36.6

13.8

6.8

· others, %

3.2

0.8

2.8

3.5

Young stock, %

27.3

31.5

35.2

38.7

Total, %

100

100

100

100

Source: Kurup, 1997

In 1991 59% of the farms were < 1 ha, 44% (46 m) of which were classified as landless (Table 1.11). Together, these holdings comprised 15% of land under cultivation (Aneja and Puri, 1997). Out of India's 105 m farms, 60 m (67%) were milk producers who, on average, produced 2.5 kg d-1. Whereas land is unequally distributed, dairy stock holdings are not, and neither are there large differences between milk yield per animal across the three groups of farmers (Table 1.11).

Table 1.11 Distribution of dairy animals and milk production amongst land-less, small/marginal and medium/large scale producers in India

Type of farmer

% of farmers

% of dairy animals

% of milk production

Land-less

26

22

23

Small and marginal

49

42

42

Medium and large

25

36

35

Source: de Jong, 1996

In contrast to the grass-based dairy production systems in most of the tropics, in India milk is produced mainly from crop residues. Singh et al. (1997) show that two thirds of the available feed originated from cropped land, 25% of which is irrigated and often double cropped. Four percent of the cropped land is grown to forage crops providing another 12% of the total feed, while grazing supplies only 14% of all feed. The organised animal feed industry sector is small, but developing rapidly, producing 1.5 m t of cattle feed and 1.2 m t of poultry feed in 1995.

Unlike in India, the dairy production systems in Sri Lanka and in other parts of Asia mirror those seen in sub-Saharan Africa (section 1.3), ranging from indigenous cattle communally grazing relatively dry lowlands to intensive zero-grazing enterprises with cross-bred cows producing 1500 kg of milk per year (Table 1. 12) and up to 11 tons of milk ha-1 of farmland.

Herd and farm size in Sri Lanka decline with altitude, but stocking rates per farm increase, implying an increasing use of off-farm feed sources, such as coconut plantations and forest gardens (Table 1.12). In the midlands and uplands, smallholder crop-livestock farmers are the major milk producers, many of whom added dairy to their farming enterprise mix in the late 1970s acquiring crossbred dairy cattle on credit (de Jong 1996). Herds are small (mostly 2-3 head) hut represent 3.5 TLU ha-1 of farmland, with cows comprising half of the total stock. Peak milk yields averaged 6.6 kg d-1 (2700 kg ha-1), 4.1 kg d-1 of which were sold. Most of the crop land was occupied by tree crops (tea, coconuts bananas, fruits) and vegetables, which provided 30% of the on-farm net income (but only 14% of total net income), crops and animals sales accounting for 57% and 13%, respectively.

Table 1.12 Characteristics of cattle production in smallholder farms in Sri Lanka

Grazing Systems

Kg ha-1

Milk

Farm Size

Milk/Farm

Eco-zone

Feeds

Milk

Beef

kg cow-1 yr-1

ha

Cows

kg d-1

D - L

Communal land

1580

220

170

1.3

12.1

6.7

D - I


1840

105

270

1.5

10.2

4.7

I - L

Coconut

850

45

300

1.2

3.5

2.9

W- L

Plantations

3270

60

620

0.7

3.7

6.3

I - M

Forest

2080

35

940

0.8

1.7

5.3


Gardens







Cut and Carry Systems








Ecozone

Feeds







I - U

Grasses

2040

35

1070

0.8

1.6

4.7

W- U

Browse

3130

50

1550

0.7

1.5

6.4

D - L


10970

310

1490

0.5

3.6

14.7

1) Rainfall: Dry (D): < 2000 mm; Intermediate (1): 2000-2500 mm; Wet (W): >2500 mm
2) Altitude: Lowland (L): <500 m; Mid-altitude (M): 500-1000 m; Upland (U): > 1000 m

Source: Adapted from de Jong, 1996.

Whereas dairy production is an integral part of smallholder agriculture and land-less livestock systems in south Asia, dairying is relatively unimportant in SE Asia, but is developing quickly in response to market demand. In Thailand, as with most SE Asian countries, milk was not part of the traditional diet prior to 1970. In 1954, the country was one of the poorest in the world, but between 1970 and 1990, the GNP caput-1 quadrupled, and is expected to rise by another 50% by the year 2000.

Thailand has 7.2 m cattle and 4.7 m buffaloes, and the livestock share of the agricultural GNP is about 12%, with the pig and poultry industry being the most important (Danida, 1994). Ready-to-drink milk consumption took off in the mid-1970s reaching 40,000 tons in 1984, and 350,000 tons in 1993. Local fresh milk deliveries followed the same trend, increasing seven-fold between 1980 and 1993, supplying 19% of total consumption. Fresh milk was produced by about 150 dairy farmers in 1971, increasing in 1993 to 12,500 with a total of 48,000 cows, supplying 133,000 tons of milk (equivalent to 10.6 t per dairy farmer).

Table 1.13 Characteristics of dairy production systems by farm size in Thailand


Farm size



Small

Medium

Large

Average

Farm size, ha

1.3

8.1

12.3

5.0

Total herd, head

29.0

20.6

22.7

25.1

Total cows

15.4

13.3

9.0

14.3

Cows in milk, %

74

58

64

71

Milk, kg cow-1 yr-1

2254

1845

2303

2365

Milk sales, kg d-1

95

67

88

92

Milk, t ha-1 yr-1

27.4

3.1

2.8

6.9

Source: adapted from Danida, 1994

The characteristics of this rapidly expanding dairy production are summarised in Table 1.13 for three locations with increasing farm size. Herds were relatively large, generally Friesian-Holsteins and their crosses grazing fenced pastures, producing 2,000 kg milk cow-1 yr-1. Concentrate feeding averaged 5-6 kg d-1 for cows in milk and 2 kg for dry cows. Feed costs were about 70% of total operating costs, the largest being expenditure on concentrates (65-80%). Over 30% of the sampled farmers sold more than 100 kg of milk per day and several had invested in milking machinery. Milk collection was privatised and fees amounted to 7-10% of the operating cost. In 1993, production from this high-input system was barely profitable, and it was recommended that dairy production should be better integrated with crop production, taking advantage of the benefits to whole farm productivity accruing to smallholder dairy producers in South Asia and East Africa.

In summary therefore, dairy production in Asia is dominated by the crop-based systems of India, where milk from buffaloes is increasingly important. The development of efficient dairy production in India, with substantial welfare benefits for millions of poor households, has resulted largely from the effective output/input market services provided by village-level co-operatives. Private sector (some informal) milk markets remain as important, however. As the demand for milk and dairy products increases in Asia, driven by urban consumers, especially in SE Asia, the lessons from India and Sri Lanka can play an important role in guiding the development of smallholder dairy systems in the region.


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