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:
Fodder and feed development is therefore required to develop intensified livestock production:
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:
The major project outputs were expected to be:
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.
5. RESULTS and CONCLUSIONS
The project was implemented with simultaneous applied research, demonstration and training activities on three main themes:
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.
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.
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.