Smallholder Forage Based Dairy Production
In Tonga milk
production has largely been confined to a small number of farms run
by various religious organizations and several larger landowners (on
Tongatapu). The Government of Tonga now wishes to broaden the base
of the industry and develop smallholder dairying with a particular
focus on women farmers. There is an urgent need for technical assistance
to provide the farmers with appropriate skills and technology packages.
Through training and extension and focus on a number of key progressive
smallholders (particularly rural women) and extension agents, while
at the same time including as many farmers as possible in field days
and other forms of training, it is anticipated that the foundations
can be laid for a fairly rapid expansion of smallholder dairying.
Training opportunities and resource support should enable farmers
and extensionists to more confidently and effectively play their role
in developing the small holder dairy sector and in so doing increase
the incomes of smallholder farming families.
This project aimed to provide training and essential equipment and
supplies needed to allow training benefits to be fully capitalized
upon. Pasture and forage technologies proven in other Pacific Island
Countries were introduced and demonstrated. It also aimed to
improve farmer and extensionist planning, problem-solving and management
skills, establish a number of on-farm demonstrations, which would
illustrate to the farming community an appropriate set of technologies
for integrating dairy production into the 'api farming system and
suitable for adoption by novice dairy farmers. It also provided urgently
needed equipment for the Livestock Division to allow Livestock Officers
and consultants to visit farms, carry out the project workplan and
provide much needed support to farmers.
The design recognised the varying levels of dairy development in
the different island groups: on Eua assistance concentrated on developing
current production towards a town supply system using micro-processing;
on Haapai and Vavau smallholder home supply and the sale
of boiled milk were developed; while in Tongatapu assistance was based
on increasing smallholder milk supplies to the milk treatment facility
(provided under project TCP/TON/4556 which mainly focused on providing
a processing facility for the main island of Tongatapu).
Additional potential benefits should accrue from improving the nutritional,
economic and food security status of rural families headed by women
and those living in remote islands. In particular the project aimed
to: (i) decrease the need for internal migration to urban areas by
increasing rural family incomes (particularly those headed by women);
(ii) promote food security in remote areas by diversifying production,
and decreasing reliance on imports; (iii) facilitate more intensive
and profitable land use by integrating forage production into the
smallholder cropping rotation, and in doing so simplify land preparation
for crops, improve nutrient cycling and decrease risk factors by broadening
the enterprise base of the farming system. Nationally the project
will have a positive effect on the stagnating areas of crop production
(squash, watermelon and coconut exports are all areas which have suffered
downturns in the recent past) and promote improvements in Tongas
trade by way of import substitution.
The project had the following objectives: (i) to create a
core group of smallholder dairy farmers (particularly women) as well
as livestock and women extensionists covering all the main
island groups of Tongatapu, Eua, Haapai, and Vavau, trained
in dairy husbandry, particularly cut and carry and grazed forage production,
animal feeding and management, and milk production and handling, (ii)
increase awareness and utilization of non-forage feed resources for
dairy cattle, (iii) strengthen the capacity of MAF Livestock Division
and Women in Development Section, Extension Division to support
smallholder dairy development.
III. PROJECT OUTPUTS
The anticipated project outputs were:
- a core group of trained smallholder dairy farmers (8) Livestock
Extensionists (4) and Women in Development Extensionists (2)
in selected island groups and production areas, able to provide
industry leadership and share their expertise with other farmers;
- 300 farmers exposed to new technologies through a series of training
courses and field days;
- dairy farmers more conversant with feeding of dairy animals and
in particular the use of both forage and non-forage feed resources;
- an increased Government capacity to support smallholder dairy
farmers through improved extension and breeding services.
- increased local milk production through improved cut and carry,
grazed pasture production and management, and the
use of locally available feed resources.
Project staff and farmers discuss pasture establishment
during a Farmers Field Day on Ha'apai
Elephant grass nursery on farmers 'api
The project had links to GCP/SAM/007/FRA
under which a regional dairy training workshop was held in Fiji, Samoa
and Tonga and under which a CD-ROM entitled "Dairying in the
Southwest Pacific" is being produced for distribution in the
- farmers steadily developed areas of improved pasture for grazing
- farmers increased their use of supplementary feed resources and
improved their dairying skills over the project period;
- a core group of fourteen smallholder dairy farmers, extensionists
and women in development extensionists was trained;
- several hundred farmers were exposed to new technologies through
a series of training courses and field days;
- over a two year period the project worked closely with some 40
to 50 dairy farmers on Eua, Haapai, Vavau and
- quantities of fresh, pasteurized milk are now available for home
consumption and sale on all four main island groups;
- foundations have been laid on which future developments can take
place and a work plan has been prepared for future follow up with
farmers by Government extension workers.
Forages and Feeds
- an appropriate suite of pasture varieties [grasses and legumes]
was identified as being suitable for the production needs, local
management styles, soils, and climatic variations common in Tonga.
For grazing, Signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens) or Koronivia
grass (B. humidicola) with the legumes Siratro (Macroptilium
atropurpureum), Centro (Centrosema pubescens) and Glycine
(Neonotonia wightii) were recommended. A hybrid napier or
elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum Hawaiian hybrid) recently
imported from Samoa was identified as highly appropriate for cut
and carry feeding as were locally occurring types of Leucaena
leucocephala and Gliricidia sepium;
National project Director To'ifalefehi
Moala emphasizing the importance of the establishment phase
for a B. decumbens, P. maximum + legume pasture.
- an extensive network of forage based dairy production demonstrations
was established and maintained in co-operation between MAF officers
and farmer members of the core group;
- training was given to farmers and MAF staff in pasture establishment
& management, weed control, farm management and dairy husbandry.
Much of the training was done on-farm using the most progressive
farmers as models;
- the area and utilization of improved pastures and cut and carry
forages has increased very significantly. This is most apparent
on private farms and in the island groups away from Tongatapu where
previously very little had been done in the way of training or demonstration
in pasture improvement. Forage development still has considerable
potential for improvement in the Tongan dairy (and beef) subsectors.
Pastures and forages represent the lowest cost and simplest feeding
- a rapid assessment of animal feeding practices and the availability
of locally made and imported feedstuffs for dairy cattle was made;
this included a survey of potentially useful locally available feed
resources, mainly agro-industrial by-products was also made. Many
of these feed resources are unutilized and are consequently pollutants.
Their feed values were assessed and ration formulations prepared.
A chopped Napier grass, copra meal
and molasses mixture for feeding at milking time on the
Kings dairy farm, Tongatapu.
- training material for use by Livestock Extensionists was prepared
including a very practical manual on feed preparation from feed
resources available in Tonga.
- the main types of farming system used by co-operating farmers
were identified. These included:
A. the single 'api system a highly integrated,
basically subsistence system concentrating on rootcrops, coconuts,
and very limited livestock and small areas of cash cropping [usually
B. the multi-'api system involving commercial cropping
[both traditional and export], subsistence rootcrops, coconuts and
varying levels of livestock production.
National project Director
To'ifalefehi Moala and project consultant Steve Lee discussing
pasture status with Tongatapu dairy farmer Isope Fonua.
- the opportunities and potential benefits to farmers of improved
and increased forage based livestock production in the different
farming systems were identified. The training and demonstration
programme was designed to focus on this potential.
- appropriate systems of forage establishment and management were
formulated which integrate well into the farming system. These give
considerable benefits in the form of: improved overall farm income,
ease of crop establishment, better nutrient cycling and maintenance
of the soils productive capacity. Farmers and MAF staff were also
given training in problem solving, planning techniques and practical
infrastructure development for small dairy farms.
- a demonstration plot was established on Tongatapu to demonstrate
the role of pastures and livestock within the 'api system and crop/pasture/livestock
rotations with extension messages such as "cattle control guinea
grass regrowth", "cattle provide additional income",
"cattle (and the pasture legumes) enrich the soil", and
"cattle make future crop establishment easier (by controlling
A demonstration of the role
of pasture and cattle in the cropping rotation.
- training and demonstration was given in the particular needs of
dairy cattle if good levels of production are to be achieved. This
included animal training and feeding, record keeping, milk procedure
and milking facility requirements. The management requirements of
different classes of dairy animal was also included.
- training was also given in dairy animal breeds and breeding. This
included selection of cows and bulls. Potential sources of breeding
stock were identified and advised to farmers.
Milk Handling and Processing
- training was given in both 'Eua and Tongatapu on improved dairy
cleaning and maintenance programmes. This was done in a class room
setting [theory] as well as in the field. It included training in
dairy shed inspection for regulatory purposes.
- technical support for smallscale milk processing was provided.
Using simple equipment purchased by the project, farmers were trained
in the hygienic handling, pasteurization, packing and transportation
of fresh milk. Training and demonstration was also given in very
simple "milk pasteurization in the milk can" technique.
Some training was also given in the production of other milk products
such as frozen milk pops.
- training emphasised the maintenance of hygiene standards at all
stages of milk handling and processing. Good milking technique was
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