Field projects

TCP/MON/3103 (D)
Improving fodder production, conservation and processing for intensified milk and
meat production in the central region of Mongolia


Mongolia is a landlocked developing country (LLDC) in central Asia bordered by the Russian Federation to the north, China to the south and Kazakhstan to the west. It has a low population of 2.6 million people in a country of 1.5 million km2. The short summers are dry and hot, but during the long, freezing winters, temperatures can drop below -30 degrees centigrade with strong winds. Around 40 percent of the population lives in sparsely populated rural areas, leading a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Mongolia’s livestock graze for about two thirds of the year on natural pastures. Starting from October, pasture grasses and vegetation are frozen and dried out, and lose their feeding potential. Livestock then face a shortage of protein. During the winter and spring seasons, yield of pasture declines by 33-73 percent which affects the availability of fodder as well as protein. At this time livestock only have 40-50 percent of the required nutrient intake, and lose 28-36 percent of their live weight.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Mongolia lost its subsidies and its markets and the economy collapsed. Gross domestic product (GDP) fell sharply from US$1 645 per capita in 1989 to US$393 in 2003, taking Mongolia from the status of a second world country to that of a third world country. A process of de-industrialization has left the Mongolian economy dependent mainly on services, mining and agriculture (especially cashmere); although agriculture is vulnerable to drought, land degradation and severe winters. During the transition of the 1990s livestock were privatized, and many industrial workers turned to herding to earn a living. Head of livestock increased sharply during several years of moderate climatic conditions from the 26 million maintained under the soviet system to 33 million, despite the collapse of centralized fodder production and distribution. However, between 1999 and 2001, Mongolia suffered from two harsh winters and dzuds (any condition that stops livestock from grazing grass). Millions of animals, already weakened from poor pastures due to summer droughts and locusts, died from starvation. More than 3.5 million animals died in 2000 and another 4.7 million in 2001. Over 10 000 herders were left with no livestock and thousands more families lost most of their herd. Many people new to herding concentrated around water sources and soum (county) and aimag (province) centres, which led to problems of overgrazing and land degradation in areas close to population centres.

Mongolia's official statistics show that fodder production fell by two thirds during the transition period, due especially to closure of state farms that cultivated fodder crops under irrigation for feeding green and for conservation as hay and silage. In 1986-1990 fodder was cultivated on 117 thousand ha, and silage was made from 26 thousand ha. Compared to this period production of hay from natural pastures fell from 1 154 to 689 thousand tons in 2004; straw from 114 to 22 thousand tons; green fodder from 256 to 4 thousand tons; perennial grasses from 22 thousand tons to nil; other fodders from 160 to 16 thousand tons, silage from 278 to 1 thousand tons; and total "fodder units" from 994 to 357 thousand tons. Since the transition hay harvested from mature natural pastures by herders and contractors has been the mainstay of fodder available to both herders and intensified livestock producers.

During the soviet era Mongolia exported both livestock products and cereals from collectives and state farms to other parts of the union. During the transition these markets collapsed, and only half of the previous 1.2 million ha of croplands is currently cultivated. State marketing organizations are similarly closed, so that whereas Mongolia was previously self-sufficient in milk and meat, 80 percent of the urban market is now supplied from imported products.

Since 1999-2001 livestock production within 200 km of Ulaanbaatar and other cities is being intensified, compared to traditional semi-nomadic herding, supported by the Government of Mongolia:

  • Integrated crop and livestock farms are encouraged in Selenge, Tov and Bulgan aimags for commercial animal production. These include farms for milk production (121 farms with an average of 27 cows); meat production (beef) (10 farms with an average of 60 cattle); and wool and fibre production (8 farms with an average of 500 sheep and goats).  These farms graze livestock on natural and improved pastures in summer, and have started to conserve specially grown fodder crops as silage or hay for winter feeding.
  • Many herders have settled as commercial milk producers in the peri-urban districts of Ulaanbaatar and Darhan (82 farms with an average of 20 cows). These milk producers graze improved cows locally and purchase all fodder as hay from pastures.
  • Semi-nomadic herders, whose seasonal camps are adjacent to soum and aimag centres, and are interested to sell milk to these centres in order to sustain their livelihoods.
  • 29 pig and 23 poultry units in the 3 aimags and 2 peri-urban areas.

Fodder and feed development is therefore required to develop intensified livestock production:

  • Integrated crop and livestock farms to grow new selected varieties of annual and perennial fodder crops under rainfed and irrigated conditions respectively, for conservation by modern methods as hay and silage to feed their own animals - and to sell improved fodder conserved as hay to herders with camps adjacent to aimag and soum centres to raise their winter animal production, with transport of surplus fodder for sale to peri-urban producers;
  • Crop farmers to adopt a new cropping strategy that includes use of new annual fodder crops including legumes as break crops in rainfed rotations, and 3-4 years alfalfa plus annual fodder crops as break crops in irrigated rotations. This fodder to be conserved using modern methods as hay, or processed as dried fodder cubes and pellets, for sale to peri-urban milk and meat producers;
  • Rations for milk and meat production based on the new conserved fodder crops need to be developed, for feeding to crossbred and pure Simmental and Black & White cows;
  • Improved compound animal feeds need to be formulated and produced by feed mills for feeding by commercial milk and meat producers as supplements to conserved fodder crops.

These fodder and feed development programmes meet the requirements of the Government Regional Development Concept, the Food and Agriculture Policy and the Intensified Livestock Production Development Support Programme of State Ih Hural of Mongolia. Expected results include "...increase in productivity with growth of the incomes and living standards of the intensified livestock farmers, and improvement of the population food supply in regional and local development centres and settlements".

This TCP request was given high priority by Government and the TCP liaised closely with other projects in Mongolia that supported fodder development by herders and farmers.


The objective of the project was to increase the quantity and quality of fodder available to market oriented livestock farmers in the Central region through the introduction of modern fodder production technologies, the establishment of demonstration farms for producing and conserving fodder, and the setting up of a sustainable fodder supply in Mongolia.

Specifically the project aimed to:

  • Improve, through capacity building, farmers' fodder production and conservation technology and to introduce advanced methods so as to increase fodder output as well as to improve livestock feeding practices;
  • Establish, through institutional building, appropriate sized fodder systems and supporting facilities, including the setting up of small and medium sized fodder production and conservation units for demonstration;
  • Introduce new improved fodder crops and varieties suited to both the local dry and harsh rainfed environment and refurbished irrigated farms, for seed multiplication and extension of the most suitable fodder crops and varieties.


The major project outputs were expected to be:

  • Farmer, herder and feed manufacturer groups formed as focal points for training and demonstration for the project - through the Agricultural Extension Centres; 
  • New fodder crops and varieties introduced, and evaluated under rainfed and irrigated conditions, through contracts with international and national institutions and farmers' groups;
  • Seed multiplication of selected varieties of fodder crops established under contract on registered seed multiplication farms within seed certification schemes for each crop - through contracts with farmers and the Crop Promotion Fund and supervised by the Plant Science and Agricultural Research and Training Institute (PSARTI);
  • Modern techniques for fodder conservation from fodder crops as hay and as silage demonstrated on integrated crop and livestock farms and on crop farms through farmers' groups;
  • Plans for a demonstration unit for processing alfalfa to dried pellets with facilities to compare three production methods prepared for funding by a third party donor;
  • Plans for a project on modern methods for processing straw into improved animal feeds prepared for funding by a third party donor;
  • Improved rations for milk cows and growing cattle formulated through a contract with AHRI, and evaluated and demonstrated with herder, farmer and peri-urban livestock producer groups;
  • Improved compound animal feeds for ruminants formulated with the animal feed producers group through a contract with AHRI, and evaluated and demonstrated with herder, farmer and peri-urban livestock producer groups; and
  • 140 public and private technicians and 600 farmers and herders trained in the production, conservation and feeding of improved fodders and animal feeds.


The international Fodder Production and Conservation consultant undertook 6 missions between October/November 2007 (when with project staff and national consultants the project workplan was drafted) and December 2009. Various national consultants undertook a number of missions over the same period and an oat breeder visited from New Zealand. During the final visit by the lead consultant a Final Workshop was held in Ulaanbaatar preceeded by a number of local workshops at aimag level during which discussions focused on future activities required to continue the initiatives started under the project culminating in the Final Workshop in the preparation and discussion of a document entitled Contributions Towards a Medium Term Plan.


The project was implemented with simultaneous applied research, demonstration and training activities on three main themes:

  • introduction, evaluation and demonstration of new and improved fodder crops
  • introduction and demonstration of improved methods of hay and silage making
  • introduction, demonstration and extension of improved feed rationing and animal feeds.

Through capacity building improve farmers' fodder production and conservation technology and livestock feeding practices

Lead farmers in seven soums (districts) in three aimags (provinces) were selected for fodder crop production demonstrations in spring 2008. They attended a training demonstration on fodder crop establishment, and grew 2 hectares (ha) annual fodder crops on their own farms. In 2009 lead farmers from ten soums in four aimags held demonstrations on production of annual fodder crops, attended by support farmers and herders who each received seeds for 1 ha. Major constraints experienced by farmers and herders included: difficulty to obtain land and permission to cultivate fodder crops, damage to growing crops by animals of other herders, lack of working equipment to cultivate land and sow fodder crops of various seed sizes, no irrigation, a general lack of inputs and finance, and for herders lack of experience in crop production. Farmers and herders require further assistance to overcome these constraints.
Mid-summer rainfall constrains conservation of high quality fodder. The project introduced "quick" hay making and efficient ensiling techniques in 2009. Sets of mower-conditioner plus universal haymaker were allocated to lead farmers in four soums, and forage harvesters to lead farmers in four different soums. Farmers were trained to assemble, operate and maintain their machines. Hay and silage making were demonstrated in the four aimags, and lead farmers assisted support farmers and herders to harvest their fodder crops. Small scale silage making was introduced to two clusters. There remains a lack of machinery for silage making, especially for small and medium scale producers, and the means to obtain harvesters and choppers. Other constraints include: permission to reserve and fence pasture land for hay, availability of balers, and hay spoilage due to rain and snow.
The major constraint to winter nutrition was lack of conserved fodder. A training workshop on feed rationing and animal feeds was held in October 2008. Demonstrations on mineral supplementation were established with farmers, herders and livestock producers in 23 clusters in December 2008-April 2009. Participants reported much improved animal performance. Livestock producers now want to feed mineral supplements, provided supplies are available or they are taught to make their own with local materials.
Urea/molasses blocks and high protein pellets made for the project were evaluated as protein supplements in six soums from December 2009. One local feed mill made balanced compound feeds for ruminants, but adoption by producers was low: feeds were expensive as few ingredients were grown locally, transport costs were high, and storage facilities for concentrate feeds were lacking in the soums. Despite training, livestock producers still lack knowledge on nutritive value of feeds, and feeding cows and cattle for milk and meat production.
Livestock producers had settled their livestock and adopted more intensive practices, but higher costs were not covered by increased economic returns. Producers continued calving cows in spring with low summer milk prices instead of calving in autumn with high winter milk prices, and had little concept of milk and meat production as commercial systems. Producers need help to accept changes to their traditional systems, when fodder and feed development will have most impact.

Through institutional building establish appropriate sized fodder systems and supporting facilities

Farmers, herders and intensified livestock producers, and local government officials and technicians joined project staff, ministry officials, and staff from institutes and development projects at an Inception Workshop in November 2007 to learn about and contribute to the project. At the close, everyone who had taken part in the project attended Local Workshops held in four aimags in November / December 2009. Participants reported and discussed their own achievements in fodder development, and proposed actions to be undertaken over the next three years. These actions were presented at the Final Workshop held in December 2009 when attendees were briefed on achievements of the project, then helped develop a Medium Term Plan on actions required by livestock producers and to be taken by government at local and national levels over the next five years.
The project team involved local government staff in all project activities, including training workshops and on-farm demonstrations. Training was led by project staff and included farmer to farmer knowledge transfer, and training materials were distributed to all participants. Knowledge on theory and practice of fodder development was lacking at the start of the project, and continued training is needed at all levels.
As MoFALI had no farms, all fodder development was with the farmers, herders and livestock producers. Rather than form official farmers’ or herders’ “groups” or “cooperatives”, the project worked with "clusters". These comprised a "lead" farmer, herder or intensified livestock producer and up to 10 "support" participants. However, the scale of interventions - for example hay or silage making - was more oriented to large scale lead producers, and more actions were required to assist fodder development by small – medium scale “support” producers. These included changes to the legal environment, increased availability of small and medium scale fodder technology, supply of equipment and inputs, provision of short and long term finance on favourable terms, market information, and availability of and storage facilities for hay and concentrate feeds.
Support given to research institutes and departments of MSUA included guidance on experimental methods for plant introduction and evaluation, and new methods of laboratory analysis for long fodder and concentrate feeds. Physical support included equipment for harvest and preservation of fodder seeds, glassware, and a mixer for making feed blocks. Ruminant nutrition software was provided for ration and feed formulation; and analyses of pastures, long fodders and concentrate feeds were compiled as a database. Despite recent acquisitions and study tours, research institutes still require re-equipping and staff training for fodder development.
2 technical manuals (one in English and one in Mongolian) are being prepared (but may not be ready until the end of 2010 as additional data will be collected during 2010). The title of the English manual is likely to be: Improving fodder production, conservation and feeding for intensified milk and meat production in the Central region of Mongolia (TCP/MON/3103 (D) – FODDER): Training Manual.

Introduce new improved fodder crops and varieties for seed multiplication and extension of the most suitable fodder crops and varieties

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) Beijing supplied seed of various breeders' lines of cereals from China in 2009. Similarly, NZ CFR/PFR supplied breeders' lines of fodder oats in 2009. They also supplied seeds of released varieties of annuals and perennials for on-station evaluation in 2009, and sufficient seed of some selected varieties for on-farm evaluation in 2010. Seeds were received by National Genebank at PSARTI, catalogued, and distributed for trials, with small quantities preserved at the Genebank.
CIMMYT lines were grown in introduction trials in 2009 with irrigation at PSARTI Orhon field station, and rainfed at RTPC (Research, Training and Production Centre of the Mongolian State University of Agriculture – MSUA), Bornuur field station. NZ oat lines were grown with and without irrigation at PSARTI Orhon field station. Released NZ fodder varieties were grown in various evaluation trials in 2009 at PSARTI Orhon and RTPC Bornuur. Outstanding new fodder crops were: annuals - lupins, annual ryegrasses, and leafy and root brassicas; perennials - ryegrasses, lucerne, and red and Persian clovers. Excellent results in 2009 warrant continuation of introduction and evaluation trials on-station, and extension of selected varieties to on-farm evaluation in 2010.
Seeds of annual fodder crops were multiplied on PSARTI field stations, and under contract with PSARTI by commercial farmers. However, the seed multiplication and certification system in Mongolia is not well defined, even for wheat, while standards for each fodder crop have to be set.