Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Chapter VII - Fodder oats in the Himalayas

7.1 Experiences with oats (Avena sativa) at temperate and high elevations in Bhutan

Tsering Gyeltshen


Traditionally, after harvesting high altitude paddy, farmers grow wheat to feed their livestock during the dry winter. Oats (Avena sativa) were introduced to Bhutan in the early 1970s, but adoption by farmers was limited, except in Dopshari. Recently, oats have become popular in the rice system, after trials and field demonstrations. During 2001-02, a total of 550 farmers brought 59 ha under fodder oats in Thimphu and Paro districts. Oats are more palatable than wheat and yield more than double the amount of green fodder, and are a multicut crop. Oats have the potential to be an important winter fodder in Bhutan, also allowing important land use intensification. Farmers still grow substantial amounts of wheat to provide flour for religious ceremonies and brewing local alcoholic beverages. The demand for oat seed is also increasing among yak herders, who grow oats in summer to make hay. The Bhutan extension programme has released one oat cultivar, cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan. A few other lines and exotic cultivars have been tested and are under observation in farmers’ fields. Promising cultivars are Stampede and Naked.


Oats are a recent crop in Bhutan; the variety commonly used was probably introduced in the 1970s from Japan or India. According to a progressive farmer (who has been an oats promoter in Dopshari for more than 20 years), oats were introduced following a flood in Paro valley in 1969. There was nothing left for the livestock to graze and when he approached the late Dasho Nishoka, who was the Colombo Plan Expert there, he was given oat seed. From that small package, the farmer produced more seed, but oats remained confined to his farm for quite some time. Slowly neighbours showed interest and began to grow oats. In the 1970s, many oat cultivars were introduced and tested for grain, but farmers did not take up oats for grain (RNR RC, 2002). The cultivar currently in use (cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan) originated from the early introduction to Paro. Until a few years ago, oats were only popular with the few farmers of Dopshari. Some farmers are reluctant to grow oats because they resemble wild oats (Avena fatua), a major weed in winter cereals.

All farmers at high altitude grow winter cereals (wheat and barley) to feed livestock during lean periods. These cereals are sown after the high altitude rice harvest, when paddy fields lie fallow for five to six months. Fodder is mainly cut and stall-fed. Yak herders grow wheat and barley in summer in yak night pens, and this is made into hay.

Research on oats

On-farm tests in 1996 compared oats with the traditional fodder, local wheat. The trial was sown in the first week of November at an altitude of 2 200 m. Surface irrigation was provided at intervals of three weeks. Urea (20 kg ha-1) was applied at sowing and again after first harvest. Both broadcast and linesown oats gave three cuts and yielded 1 772 kg ha-1 and 1 990 kg ha-1 of dry matter (DM), respectively; broadcast wheat gave two cuts and 1 227 kg ha-1 DM. Oats were also tested under relay seeding of forage species in a rice system at Mebari, Chukha (1 820 m), during 1997-98. They were broadcast into the rice crop a few weeks before rice harvest, with no tillage, and the results were very poor: the green yield recorded was 2.7 t ha-1 (Roder et al., 2001).

At Soe Yaksa (4 000 m) in 2001 (May to September), a replicated trial was carried out in winter yak pens to evaluate cereal fodders. Wheat was the lowest yielder; oat cvs Stampede and Naked had much higher yields than cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan. The fresh yields are shown in Table 7.1.

Before harvest, herders were asked to assess what they would select as a hay crop. Their preferences are shown in Table 7.2.

A similar study was undertaken in the Research Centre’s adopted village at Khasadrapchu in Thimphu. It was sown on 20 November 2001, after the rice harvest. A field day was conducted subsequently, involving all 21 farmers from the adopted village. The group was taken to farmer’s oat fields and research plots. Crop cuts were demonstrated and differences in fodder production between farmer-managed and researcher-managed plots were presented to the group (see Table 7.3). Farmers were also asked to assess the selection of preferred forages. The scores given by the farmers were exactly the same as the scores given by the yak herders.

Green yields from cereals at Soe Yaksa


Green yield (t ha-1)



Triticale 2


Oats cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan




Triticale 1


Triticale cv. Double Take


Oats cv. Stampede


Oats cv. Naked


Herders’ forage preference for hay




Oats cv. Stampede


Oats cv. Naked


Oats cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan, and triticale cv. Double take

The differences in yield are mainly attributed to sowing date, frequency of irrigation and nitrogen application.

In 2003, 22 cultivars were introduced with support from the Temperate Asia Fodder and Pasture Working Group. These were tested at four sites: Yusipang, Paro, Khasadrapchu and Dala (Table 7.4). At Khasadrapchu and Drala, the trial was established in a rice-based system; the seed was sown after rice harvest. At Yusipang and Paro (Khangku), the trial was on dry land in summer. The trials were laid out as randomized blocks with cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan as control. The cultivars tested (along with wheat and rye) were AC Juniper, AC Morgan, AC Mustang Canadian, Caravelle, Cascade, Fodder Oat Bhutan, Foothill, Hebei Province No. 3, Inner Mongolia No. 1, Jasper, Murphy, NZ 0034, NZ 1001 NZ 9217604, NZ Stampede, PD2-LV 65, TaikoWaldern, rye S-2000 and wheat (cv. Bajoka).

At Yupisang, the trial was damaged by frost before seed could be properly set. At the other sites, Fodder Oat Bhutan and Stampede gave similar yields and were well ahead of the introductions. Further testing (Figure 7.1) will continue and it may be important to identify oat cultivars that are suitable for summer cultivation and to identify cultivars resistant to rust and lodging. It further confirms the performance of oat cultivar Stampede, which has now been released for extension.

Difference in oat fodder production between farmer- and researcher-managed plots


Height (cm)

Oat yield Fresh green yield (kg ha-1)




2 068

Sown 16 Feb. 2002. Irrigated twice, and urea top-dressed once. Crop at early booting stage.



7 132

Sown 12 Dec. 2001. Irrigated 3 times and urea top-dressed once. Crop at flowering stage.

Rama - 1(2)


8 333

Sown during 9th Bhutanese month. Irrigated twice. Crop at flowering stage. No urea applied, only FYM.

Rama - 2(2)


12 000

Management same as Rama - 1, except urea top-dressed once. Crop at flowering stage.



20 000

Sown 20 Nov. 2001. Irrigated 4 times. Urea top-dressed once.

Notes: (1) Researcher-managed trials. (2) Farmer-managed trials. Cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan was used for all trials.

Sowing dates and site details


Date of sowing

Land type

Altitude (m.a.s.l.)


19 November 2002


2 300


3 December 2002

Wetland after rice

1 200

Paro (Khangkhu)

7 June 2003

Dry land

2 200


24 July 2003

Dry land

2 600


Under the Feed and Fodder Development Programme, farmers are given perennial pasture seed, fodder tree seedlings and technical guidance on enrichment of crop residues, particularly paddy straw. Land is the greatest limitation for pasture development: farmers give priority to food crops, which is understandable.

The livestock research programme has looked for alternatives, such as growing fodders under trees in orchards, or fodders that can be grown in the fallow period. Originally, oats were not eligible for free inputs supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture, but now that oats are identified as an important winter fodder in the rice system, oat seed is distributed free to farmers.

Depending on the altitude, oats can be grown in summer or winter.

(i) Summer-grown fodder above 2 600-4 000 m. Sown in April-May and made into hay in October for feeding yak in winter. Only small plots are planted by the yak community in Soe Yaksa in Paro district, using the winter night yak-pens.

(ii) Winter-grown fodder below 2 600 m. Sown in November-December after rice harvest. At present, this mainly occurs in the districts of Paro, Thimphu and Trongsa. Fodder harvest is March to early May on a cut-andcarry system.

Figure 7.1
Oat seed multiplication (cv. Stampede) for on-farm trials, RNR Research Centre, Bhutan

Uptake of oats use by farmers

About 80 percent of farmers in Dopshari in Paro grow oats on at least 1-2 langdos (10 langdos = 1 hectare), whereas in the rest of the blocks the adoption rate is low to almost nil (RNR RC Yuispang, 1998-2000). During 1999-2000, RC Yusipang distributed 150 kg of oat and 100 kg of rye (Secale cereale) seed each to Paro and Thimphu farmers for extension-led onfarm farmer-designed and farmer-managed trials. A total of 51 farmers participated. One hundred and five dairy farmers attended field days. Those growing oats reported milk increases of 1-2 bottles by feeding oats. From the subsequent year, the demand from farmers in both districts for oat seed rose; demand is higher from the semi-commercial milk production areas.

The total of oat seed supplied to farmers through the District Livestock Extension Programme in Thimphu and Paro for the last two years is presented in Table 7.5.

Oat seed production

Progressive farmers produce oat (cv. Forage Oat Bhutan) seed in Dopshari village in Paro, on rice fields in the off season, and have been selling it for quite some time to both government farms and private entrepreneurs. In 2001, three farmers sold a total of 5 582 kg at the rate of Nu[4] 20 per kilogram.

Oat seed supplied to farmers through the extension programme


Seed supplied (kg)



3 500

370 farmers participated; 43.2 ha under oats.


2 715

180 farmers participated;16 ha under oats.

Note: (1) Administrative District.


In Dopshari village in Paro, farmers have been managing oats for over 20 years. Oat seed can easily be produced in the ricebased system, but it may be necessary to supply oat seed to villages where it is a new crop. What the farmers then need to do is retain one oat terrace for seed for their own use. However, seed production at around 4 000 m is a problem, and to make cereal growing sustainable at such elevations it is crucial to carry out seed production trials.

Oats are becoming a very popular fodder after rice in Thimphu and Paro. Traditional fodders, such as wheat, are declining due to poor yields and low palatability compared with oats. Substantial areas of wheat are grown for flour and brewing. Demand for oat seed from yak herders has also increased recently.

Constraints to growing oats

At high altitudes, oats are grown in yak night pens, which are poorly fenced due to a lack of materials. At present, juniper shingles are used, which is desirable from neither the ecological nor the solidity points of view. It is important to work with farmers to find alternatives, such as logmashing (a native shrub), which is not browsed by yaks, and can be used as live fences. At lower elevations, some farmers have a problem with irrigation.

Scope for introduction of cultivars

Oat cultivars cv. Stampede and cv. Naked have proven superior, at experimental sites, to the currently recommended cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan. Dost (1995) reported 20 t ha-1 of green fodder in Gilgit, Pakistan. Further exchange of oat cultivars among the Temperate Asia Pasture and Fodder Working Group member countries would be highly beneficial. Initially, only cv. Fodder Oat Bhutan was used in extension work, but, since 2003, both cv. Stampede and cv. Naked have been included. However if cv. Naked is planted during summer, it has rust problems. As a winter or early spring fodder, it is excellent under Bhutanese conditions.


Fodder scarcity is severe from January through to April. Production is at its lowest during these months and in the case of yaks, milk production is low to nil. Yak herders also report high mortality due to fodder scarcity. It is therefore very important that research addresses solving fodder shortages through introduction of promising fodders so that the herders are not at the losing end.

7.2 Fodder oats in the Indian Himalaya

Bimal Misri


Although oats have been grown as forage on the Indian plains for a long time, their introduction to smallholder farming in the Himalayan areas really started with the establishment of a research programme in the late 1970s. Acceptance has varied between regions, and it is in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir that oats have found an important place in the farming system; the climate makes growing of winter cereals for grain unreliable but oat fodder can be grown, rotated with summer crops. Removal of seed subsidies only slowed down the expansion of oat area in Kashmir for one season; thereafter farmers and traders developed sources outside government stations. The testing and development of cultivars adapted to Kashmir is described.


The exact time and place of the introduction of oats as a crop to India cannot be ascertained with certainty but there are references to oat cultivation in Ain-I-Akbari written by Abul Fazal, the court historian of Mughal king Akbar, in 1590. Large-scale oat growing started in the early nineteenth century, when the British established remount depots for the Indian Army. Oats have developed as an important winter forage in the irrigated plains of northern India, but extension of oat growing in the Himalaya is comparatively recent. Oats were first introduced in the Jammu and Kashmir State by the then King, Maharaja Hari Singh (1925-1947) on his stud farms, with seed imported from Europe. During this period, oat growing was confined to the King’s farms; local farmers did not use oats. Its introduction in general in the Himalayan region started in earnest in the late 1970s, with the the establishment of an Agrostology wing of Jammu and Kashmir Department of Agriculture, Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University at Palampur and G. B. Pant Agricultural University at Pantnagar, and organized research on oats in the Himalayan region also started.

These activities were strengthened by extensive research on production technology and varietal development of oats at the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI) and Indian agricultural universities in the plains. In these areas, berseem (Egyptian clover; Trifolium alexandrinum) is very popular but can only be grown under irrigation. To find an alternative forage for rainfed areas, research on oats began and is continuing. A number of productive and nutritious oat cultivars have been released in India. The release of a cultivar is preceded by multilocation trials throughout the country under the aegis of the All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Forage Crops. Some testing centres are Himalayan sites, like Palampur (Figure 7.2), Srinagar and Almora, to identify cultivars suitable for Himalayan regions.

In spite of extensive research and extension, availability of excellent cultivars and easy cultivation, oat has not become very popular in temperate Himalayan states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. Only in Jammu and Kashmir have oats become widely popular and significantly improved the economic conditions of farmers, particularly small-scale and marginal farmers.

Figure 7.2
Oat variety trials at the Palampur Regional Research Centre of the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI)

Introduction and acceptability of oats

The entire agricultural scenario in the Himalaya is typified by conflicts, paradoxes and inherent natural resource limitations. Land, the basic resource, is the greatest limitation. Continuous land fragmentation has led to an alarming proportion of small holdings. The status of land holdings in the Indian Himalaya is presented in Table 7.6. The situation is worst in the state of Himachal Pradesh, where 40 percent of farmers own only 0.65 ha or less. At the same time, all small-scale farmers rear animals to complement their earnings, but do not have enough land to produce fodder for their sustenance. The farmers’ bias to growing food crops on their smallholding is understandable.

Size distribution of land holdings (as percentage of total number and total area) in the Indian Himalayas

Holding size (ha)

Northeastern Himalaya

Western Himalaya

All India



































Three temperate Himalayan Indian States represent different altitudinal and latitudinal situations, and thus are different climatic entities. The Himachal and Uttaranchal Himalaya represent the true temperate climate above 2 400 m altitude, where arable agriculture holds no promise; up to this altitude the days are sunny and temperatures are adequate for farming during winter. Rice-wheat, rice-maize and rice-potatoes are typical crop rotations, and farmers do not easily deviate from their own sequence. Consequently, the area under forage crops has not risen above 1 percent of cultivated land in the area over the last 30 years. As far as Kashmir is concerned, true temperate conditions start in the valley basins (average altitude 1 500 m). Severe winters, absolute lack of sunlight for more than two winter months and uncertainty of winter rains compel the farmers to avoid uncertain labour- and resource-intensive food crops. They have found the best answer in oats - an easy crop that can provide some output from land that otherwise would remain fallow in winter.

Oats are also becoming a popular crop in Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal States. As a result of extensive extension, the farmers have adopted oat cultivation. The area under oats is gradually increasing, as is evident from Table 7.7.

The sale of oat seed at Palampur is representative and the situation is similar at other places. In only one year, an additional 1 270 kg seed was sold, implying an additional area of 12.7 ha brought under oats, assuming a seed rate of 100 kg ha-1. In addition, the local Agricultural University sells about 3 000 kg of oat seed annually.

Oat seed sales (kg) in Palampur during 2000-2001 and 2001- 2002




Walia Seed Store



Jain Seed Store



Deputy Director,

10 000

11 050

Agriculture Dept.

Oat cultivation in Kashmir - a success story

After its establishment, the Agrostology wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Agriculture Department offered free oat seed and fertilizer to farmers in 1976. In spite of extensive extension, the total uptake of the seed was only 200 kg. The efforts to popularize oats, however, continued unabated. The major players were the Agriculture Department, Animal Husbandry Department and IGFRI Regional Research Centre. The local agricultural university later joined these agencies.

About 80 percent of the cultivated fields in Kashmir formerly remained barren in winter because of the cold conditions. Farmers would switch to alternative professions in winter; and the making of Kashmiri handicrafts was a major winter occupation of farmers. Large-scale demonstrations of oat cultivation were laid out throughout the valley. These showed farmers that it is an easy crop, demanding almost no aftercare, once sown. Looking at very high demand for the seed, the Agriculture Department priced the seed after subsidizing it. The sale figures for oat seed during the period 1996/97 - 2001/02 are given in Table 7.8. The subsidy continued until 1997-98.

Oat seed sale figures in Kashmir, 1996/97-2001/02


Quantity (tonne)













Source: Director, Agriculture Department, Srinagar (Kashmir).

Increase in area (ha) under oats in Kashmir Valley, 1996/97-2001/02


Area under oats


12 507


15 320


14 000


15 600


17 000


18 000

Source: Director, Agriculture Department, Srinagar (Kashmir).

During 1998-99, the government withdrew the subsidy and started selling seeds at cost. This had a significant impact on the sale of seed, which was considerably reduced.

However, farmers started saving their own seed and sales by the Agriculture Department fell considerably. During the 1999-2000 season, the Department sold only 77.52 t of oat seed, despite an increase in area under oats. During the past five years the area under oats has risen from 12 507 ha to 18 000 ha. After the withdrawal of the subsidy, sales of seed fell, but the area under oats kept on registering a progressive increase, as shown in Table 7.9. During the past five years the area under oats fell only once, in 1998-99, when the subsidy for seeds was withdrawn.

Cultivation of oats on an area of 18 000 ha after only 26 years can be described as a real success story, and the credit for it, besides the research and development agencies, goes to this easy to cultivate and profitable crop.

Research on oats in the Himalaya

The initial evaluation and introduction of oats started in Kashmir valley during the early 1980s. Misri, Choubey and Gupta (1984) evaluated five cultivars developed by IGFRI at Srinagar, with cv. Kent used as a control. The results obtained are presented in Table 7.10.

Consequent upon the good performance of JHO 810, a trial using this line was laid out at three sites in the valley. In this trial, JHO 810 again was the best performer. The yield data obtained at three locations are given in Table 7.11.

This line was submitted to the state varietal evaluation committee for potential release in the Kashmir valley and, after approval, was named Bundel Sheet Jai-1.

TABLE 7.10
Performance of oat cultivars for different forage attributes under a single-cut regime in Kashmir valley

Line or cultivar

Plant height (cm)

Tillers per metre of row

Leaf: stem ratio

Forage yield (t ha-1)



JHO 801






JHO 802






JHO 810






JHO 815






JHO 819












TABLE 7.11
Green forage yield performance (t ha-1) of oat selections and cultivars in the Kashmir valley (1985-86)

Line or cultivar



Kashmir Univ.


JHO 801





JHO 802





JHO 810





JHO 815





JHO 819





cv. Kent (Control)





Besides IGFRI, Sher-I-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Srinagar, Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University, Palampur, and G.B. Pant Agricultural University, Ranichauri, are prominent institutions in the area, and actively involved in research programmes on varietal development, production technology and extension of forage oats.

7.3 Fodder oats in Nepal[5]

Dinesh Pariyar


Inadequate feed and poor nutrition during the dry winter months (December to April) are serious constraints to livestock development in Nepal. Oats had been grown in the lowlands by big landowners for over a century, but were introduced to smallholders only in the 1970s. The introduction of multicut cultivars has greatly increased the usefulness and popularity of the crop, and its cultivation is promoted. Oats are mainly grown below 1 600 m, but can grow up to much higher altitudes. With the introduction of multicut cultivars and new management technologies, the yield of fodder oats has gone up from 15-20 t ha-1 to 50-93 t ha-1. Introduction, variety testing and on-farm technology are described. The introduction and testing programme is being greatly increased by an FAO-assisted project, and cultivars are being sought to extend the altitude range (including Avena nuda), as well as to improve yields and disease resistance. Details of the positive impact of oats on milk yields and farmers’ income are given. Oat seed is a source of income in many areas; oats can produce 2 t ha-1 seed after taking one cut for fodder. The total area under oats has reached 2 172 ha, with 43 440 households growing them.


The exact year of the introduction of oats (Avena sativa L.), called jai locally, is not documented, although Pande (1997) stated that they were introduced after the Second World War. However, during a survey in Sarlahi and Rautahat districts in 1992, farmers indicated that the big landlords of the Terai, who kept elephants as a sign of prosperity, grew oats more than 100 years ago; it is believed that they brought seed from India. Although there are native oat cultivars in parts of the Terai and in high-altitude rain-shadow areas, such as Mustang, little identification or evaluation work has been done on them. Fodder oats are principally used for dairy stock; small quantities are fed to goats, poultry and bullocks.

Nepal is a land-locked country of 147 000 km2. Of the total land area, 27.5 percent is cropland (20.7 percent of the land is cultivated, 6.8 percent is "noncultivated inclusions" (NCI), 11.8 percent grassland, 37.4 percent forest (with more than 10 percent tree cover), 4.8 percent shrubland, and 18.5 percent is other land, covered by ice or rocks, and urban areas. See Table 7.12).

The human population is 24 000 000 and the number of livestock is estimated at 7 020 000 cattle (including yak and hybrids), 3 520 000 buffaloes, 850 000 sheep and 6 320 000 goats. About 8 680 000 livestock units [a livestock unit is equivalent to a female adult buffalo of 300 kg liveweight] are reared on 14 700 000 ha, a density of 0.59 livestock units per hectare, which may be among the highest national stocking rates in the world (Pariyar, 1993).

TABLE 7.12
Land use in Nepal, 1985-86 (‘000 ha)





Forest land


Other land


High hills



1 393

1 794


2 479

6 310

Mid hills

1 223



1 811



4 442


1 577



1 913



3 996


3 052


1 745

5 518


2 729

14 748

Note: NCI = non-cultivated inclusions.
Source: HMGN/ADB/FINNIDA, 1988.

TABLE 7.13
Feed Balance Sheet (TDN) for ruminants (‘000 t)

High hills

Mid hills



Requirement for



1 760


2 588



2 698

2 349

5 733





1 111






Total [1]

1 239

5 176

3 204


Available TDN from:

Grazing land





Crop by-products



1 783

2 870





1 831






Non-cultivated inclusion





Total [2]


2 580

2 642

6 133

Balance [2] - [1]


-2 596


-3 486

(as percentage of requirement)





Key: TDN = total digestible nutrients.
Sources: CBS, 1993; DFAMS, 1992; HMGN/ADB/FINNIDA, 1988; Pariyar, 1993.

Livestock is very important, both nationally and to the individual farming family, but productivity is constrained by lack of fodder. The estimated annual total fodder production in Nepal is 6 100 000 t total digestible nutrients (TDN), only 64 percent of livestock needs. The malnutrition is not, of course, evenly spread; commercial dairy stock are generally reasonably fed, while many rural cattle may be starved and stunted.

Fodder is collected from all land use systems, the major sources being crop residues, forest, grazing, shrubland and NCI. Fodder from cropland contributes 47 percent of the total available TDN. Fodder from forests contributes 30 percent; shrubland produces 7 percent; grassland produce 5 percent; and NCI contribute 11 percent of the available TDN (Table 7.13).

The great demand for food, fodder and firewood imposed by increasing human and animal populations causes continuous deforestation, overgrazing and intensive cultivation of steep slopes, and has led to severe soil erosion and environmental degradation. The average area of arable land farmed by a family has dropped from over a hectare in the 1960s to less than 0.25 ha today. Many (almost half) rural households have less than 0.18 ha from which they can barely find half of their staple food. Impoverished families are increasingly dependent on the government as well as on communal forests and grazing land (FAO, 1992; Pariyar, 1992; HLFFDP, 1996, 1996-2001).

Role of livestock and production systems

Nepal, because of its great altitude range, has a wide range of agro-ecological zones; these may be grouped roughly according to the main physiographic regions, which define the temperature regimes, and are thereafter subdivided according to local conditions of rainfall, aspect, etc. Livestock are kept from the plains of the Terai to the rain-shadow areas of the Himalaya, and in all regions there is a strong integration of crops with livestock, forestry and marketing.

High hills (above 2 500 m)

In the high hills, people are influenced by Tibetan culture: Thakalis, Sherpas and Bhotias live in separate mono-ethnic settlements. Climate varies from warm temperate to alpine. Livestock production is based primarily on crops and grazing. Rainfed and irrigated, annual and perennial crops are grown. Plant growth is limited by low temperatures and a short growing season. Barley, buckwheat and potato are the major crops. Crop production is less efficient due to the longer time required for crops to mature.

Grazing management includes the seasonal movement of ruminants to use natural vegetation. Herds are made up of yaks, chauries (yak-cattle crosses), cattle, sheep, goats and horses, reared in semi-pastoral or transhumant systems. Livestock move in an annual cycle according to their specific requirements and the grazing available at different altitudes. Yaks occupy a high altitude ecological niche (3 000-5 000 m), chauries move between 1 500 and 4 000 m, and cattle move between 2 000 and 3 000 m. Sheep, goats and horses are more adaptable as to altitude and move between 1 200 and 4 000 m. Vegetation at high altitudes is only accessible in summer (July-September); herds move to lower areas in winter (December-March); yaks are seldom taken below 2 500 m.

Livestock provide milk and fibre and dried manure, which is a major fuel for cooking. Crossbred males (dzopas) are used for transport and meat for local use. Goats and sheep supply meat and fibre. The use of mules, sheep and goats for trading and transport of basic inputs (grain, salt, building materials, etc.) is an important source of income.

Mid-hills (500-2 500 m)

In the mid-hills, people are influenced by the predominant Hindu culture; Brahman, Chhetri, Newars, Magars, Tamang, Gurung, etc., live in multiethnic settlements. Livestock, although an integral part of agriculture, is secondary to crop growing. Climate varies from subtropical to warm-temperate, and the major cereals are paddy rice, wheat, maize and millets (especially Eleusine coracana).

Cattle, buffaloes and goats are the main grazing livestock; stock rearing is sedentary and the animals make daily grazing forays from their villages, returning in the evening. Forages include grazing in the forest, on cultivated land after harvest, and on fallows; residues from paddy, maize, millet, wheat, mustard, soybean and vegetables are fed; grass is gathered from terraces and forests; and tree fodder gathered from farmer-owned and forest trees.

Local cattle graze; only lactating buffaloes and improved cattle, i.e. Jersey and Holstein crossbreds, are stall-fed, with the associated labour required. Female calves are reared as herd replacements but males are either reared for draught oxen or neglected. The disposal of surplus cattle, both male calves and cull females at the end of their reproductive life, is a problem because of religious beliefs inhibiting their sale for slaughter and use for meat.

There is potential to increase the total feed production from cultivated land by growing winter fodders such as oats, oat+vetch, and oat+pea mixtures. Concentrates include home-produced rice bran and maize flour, with barley and oats used in Surkhet, Illam, Sindhupalchok, Kavre, etc. Common salt is provided as a supplement. Compound feeds are rarely bought, unless justified by access to an urban milk market. Cattle and buffaloes provide milk, manure and draught. Sheep and goats are used for meat and fibre. Cultivation of land and transport usually rely on animal power.

Terai (<500 m)

The Terai is also characterized by multi-ethnic settlements predominantly influenced by Hindu culture. Cattle and buffaloes are kept for milk, manure and draught. Oxen are used for transport and cultivation. Although chemical fertilizers have become increasingly important in intensive cropping systems, manure is still the main source of nutrient replenishment and soil fertility maintenance. In many areas, where massive deforestation has reduced the supply of firewood, dung has become an important fuel.

Cattle, buffaloes and goats are the main grazing livestock. Stock rearing is sedentary; compared with the mid-hill region, there is less grazing land and forest, so more crop residues are fed and the amount of stall-feeding relative to grazing is greater. Although there is a similar feed shortage in winter and before the onset of the monsoon, productive and draught livestock are well looked after, while others are simply kept on rough grazing.

Feed sources in the Terai include grazing on roadsides, uncultivated land, forest (near the Siwalik), on cultivated land after harvest, and on fallow land, and crop residues (paddy, wheat, maize, millet, cotton, sugar cane tops, lentil, etc.). Growing fodder oats, berseem and oat+vetch mixtures have become popular in dairy pocket areas. Home-produced rice bran, wheat bran, maize, gur (evaporated sugar cane juice), broken pigeon pea, plus salt, are the major feed ingredients, fed alone or with rice and wheat straw. Cattle generally graze, but are also fed crop residues and forage crops. Lactating buffaloes and improved cattle receive supplementary concentrates.

Female calves are kept as herd replacements; male calves are either reared as draught oxen, or neglected, slaughtered, or sold to buyers from India. Buffaloes, which are also used for ploughing in the Terai, are rarely used for draught in the mid-hills.

Importance of oats

Inadequate feed during the dry winter (December-April) is one of the biggest constraints to livestock development. Although Rajbhandary and Shah (1981) reported that "livestock get the most green matter from June to September and the quality of forage available during this period could be regarded as more or less adequate", it is different in winter, when rice straw, maize stover and other fibrous crop by-products are important foods (Gatenby, Neopane and Chemjong, 1989), because crop residues are of very poor quality. In the hills and the Terai, animals are semi-starved for seven months. Malnutrition over two-thirds of the year drastically reduces their condition and adversely affects production. There has always been a need to find a source of green forage for winter (Kshatri, Chejong and Rai, 1993).

Oat adaptation

Oats and vetch (Vicia villosa var. dasycarpa) can be grown on all soils, unless they are alkaline or waterlogged, in all regions where wheat and barley are grown. They grow at low altitudes, where winter wheat and barley are cultivated, so they are summer crops at higher altitudes. Oats are quick growing, palatable, succulent, nutritious, acceptable to all categories of livestock and can be fed in many forms, such as green forage, silage, hay, straw and grain, including during the lean period (December to April). Vetch can fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 1984, as quoted by Kshatri, Chejong and Rai, 1993) reported that vetch could fix up to 110 kg N ha-1 and could also be grown in the winter as a forage.

Although two oat cultivars (Kent and Swan) had been used on Livestock Development Farms since the 1970s, oats were first introduced to Nepalese farmers on a relatively large scale during the First and Second Livestock Development Projects, from 1980 to 1994. This introduction of oats for farmers’ use had two major objectives:

Up to the mid-1980s, cvs Swan and Kent were grown over most of the country, and then 22 cultivars were brought from New Zealand. The Pasture and Fodder Division started adaptability testing with multilocation trials, particularly in Pakhribas, Lumle, Tarahara, Janakpur, Ranjitpur, Nepalganj and Khumaltar. In the 1990s, cv. Canadian was included at testing sites and two cultivars from Pakistan, Swan (PAK) and PDLV G-5 (PAK) were put into the programme. Again in the 1990s, cultivars, including Bundel 851, Bundel 810, JHO 822 and JHO 810, were received from India.

Oats are grown by farmers up to about 2 000 m, although the economic fodder production level is about 1 600 m on irrigated land. Oat growing is concentrated mainly on irrigated land in the Terai (Figure 7.3) and Low Hills and on rainfed land in the Low and Mid-hills. Oats are mainly used as green feed in winter and early spring, but some hay is made, mainly at higher elevations, and some high-altitude farmers use surplus seed as concentrate feed.

Cultivar evaluation

Detailed on-station testing is done at Khumaltar (NARC Headquarters, Kathmandu; 1 320 m) and a range of stations (Figures 7.4, 7.5 and 7.6). Agronomic characteristics, green matter yield and seed yield are studied to enable the Department of Livestock Services to prepare suitable, productive mini-kits for farmers. At Khumaltar, the tallest lines were NARC-1 (PAK), Bundel 851, PDLV G-5 (PAK), Canadian, Swan (PAK) and Awapuni. Tiller numbers varied from 5 to 6 per plant and leaf number per plant was in the range of 4 to 5. Days to Maturity ranged from 180 to 212. Early cultivars were Kent, 346/ 2, 323/02, Swan (PAK), and Swan (NEP); medium maturity were Canadian, PDLVG5 (PAK), and Bundel 851, and late cultivars were NARC-1 (PAK), 83 INC 19 G3, CDA 1001, Awapuni, Taiko, Omihi, Charisma and Caravelle.

Figure 7.3
Cutting oats for fodder in the Terai zone

Green matter and grain yields differed from station to station, and whether irrigated or rainfed. Average green matter yield ranged from 10.3 t ha-1 for Omihi to 60.9 t ha-1 for 346/2 in Khumaltar, whereas in Tarahara (Terai; 70 m) the lowest green fodder yields were from Bundel 851 (27.8 t ha-1) and 323/02 (28 t ha-1), while the highest yielder was Kent (40 t ha-1). In Pakhribas, Lumle, Rasuwa, Nepalgunj and Parwanipur, the highest yielders were Caravelle (38 t ha-1), Caravelle (17.9 t ha-1), Bundel 851 (17.1 t ha-1), PDLV-G5 (16.8 t ha-1) and Kent (20.9 t ha-1).

In Khumaltar, the highest seed yields were from Swan (NEP) (3.9 t ha-1), NARC-1 (PAK) (2.5 t ha-1) and Caravelle (2.4 t ha-1). In Tarahara, Kent produced 3.2 t ha-1 and Caravelle 2.1 t ha-1. In Pakhribas, the cultivars with the best seed production potential were Amuri (2.2 t ha-1) and Caravelle (2.0 t ha-1). In Lumle, Rasuwa and Nepalganj, the best potential grain yielders were Bundel 851 (3.36 t ha-1), Awapuni (4.4 t ha-1) and Kent (2.7 t ha-1).

Quality assessment of cultivars

Farmers’ have reacted very positively to oats because of their high forage yield; in winter, all farmers report increased milk yield from feeding green oat forage. In 1989-90, oats from eleven sites in the Koshi Hill Command Areas in Pakhribas (1 020 to 1 650 m) were analysed, as were fifteen cultivars in Khumaltar in 1996. In both cases, crude protein contents at pre-bloom were above 7 percent (except from Awapuni, PDLV (PAK) and NARC-1 (PAK)).

Figure 7.4
Oat trials at Khumaltar, Nepal

Figure 7.5
Oat cultivars from New Zealand under evaluation at Khumaltar, Nepal

Figure 7.6
Seed storage at Khumaltar Research Centre

How farmers grow fodder oats

Oats are grown in different ways in the various agro-ecological situations. The commonest situations are described below.

Oats on khetland (irrigated) in the Terai

Two ploughings are given after paddy harvest in the second week of November; rich farmers use tractors, substantial farmers use the animal-drawn desi plough (which works to a depth of 30 cm). Farmyard manure (FYM) at 7 tonne per ha and urea are then broadcast; the total amount of urea is divided into the number of cuts to be taken, and all the FYM is applied as a basal dose. If four cuts are to be taken, then 25 kg urea are applied as the basal dose along with FYM. Seed is broadcast rate at 100 kg ha-1 in the fourth week of November. The first cut is generally taken after a month; the amount cut daily depends on the number of animals. When half of the field is harvested, urea is applied, according to the size of the plot, and irrigation given. By the time the second half is cut, the first half is ready to be harvested again. Fodder oats can be harvested up to April.

Oats on khetland in the Low hills

After paddy harvest in the third week of November, one ploughing is done by local plough to about 23 cm and FYM broadcast at 5 t ha-1. After a second ploughing, 50 kg ha-1 of urea is applied, split into basal and other doses depending on the number of cuts to be taken, and 120 kg ha-1 of seed is broadcast in the first week of December, in furrows left by the local plough, followed by a heavy plank to level the land and ensure the seed has good soil and moisture contact. A first cut is taken in the second week of January (50 days after sowing); subsequent cuts are at 40-day intervals. Split doses of urea are applied after each cut and irrigation given.

Oats on bariland (rainfed) in the Low and Mid-hills

Maize is harvested in the last week of August; a ploughing is then done to eradicate weeds and maize roots; FYM is applied at a rate of 7-10 t ha-1 and a second ploughing prepares the land thoroughly, mixes in the FYM and levels the field. Seed is broadcast at 120 kg ha-1 in the first week of September and a spade is used to ensure good seed contact with soil and moisture. The first cut is generally in the first week of November (60 days after sowing), with subsequent cuts at 45- day intervals.

In all areas, if seed is to be harvested, only a single fodder cut is taken.

Oats can be grown in summer in the Mid-hills but experience with summer oat growing at high altitudes has not, however, been positive. While the crop can grow well, if clean weeded, the challenge from summer-growing weeds is so severe as to render oat growing at that season very laborious and of doubtful success.

Oat growing in different areas

Once it was well established that fodder oats produce nutritious fodder in winter, the Department of Livestock Services initiated oat cultivation in all seventyfive districts of the country through distribution of mini-kits for winter fodder: oats alone and in mixture with vetch (both Vicia benghalensis cv Popany and Vicia villosa var. dasycarpa cv Nemoi were used), pea (Pisum sativum) or berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum), depending on suitability for particular areas.

At the same time, research focused on resource-poor farmers and commercial dairying areas. There were two major farm issues to be addressed:

Resource-poor farmers in Nepal are the group who have less than 0.5 ha of land, but keep one to two milch buffaloes and whose main livelihood comes from milk sales to urban areas.

Field studies identified an additional problem: the low oat yield per unit area in farmers’ fields. Kshatri, Chejong and Rai (1993) stated that the average oat forage yield by farmers in the eastern hills was between 18 and 22 t ha-1, which is much less than the 60 t ha-1 claimed in a similar Indian context (Pathak and Jukhmola, 1983). On five sites of the Farming Systems Research Command areas, oat cultivars such as Amuri and JHO 822 produced an average fodder yield of 15.5 t ha-1, and Swan yielded 18 t ha-1. These yields were obtained by the farmers with 80:40:20 N:P2O5:K2O fertilization and a two-cut management system. Although yields differed from one location to another due to environment and manage ment, the overall production of fodder oats on farmers’ fields was unsatisfactory. The low yields were probably due to poor husbandry, including late sowing, and have since improved greatly, as described below.

In the Low Hills, production was reported to be 15-20 t ha-1 from three cuts, and in the Terai it was 20-25 t ha-1 from three cuts. Average on-farm seed production is not known, so it is difficult to estimate the seed needs of the Department of Livestock Services.

TABLE 7.14
Description of the sites involved in the farming systems research, Nepal




Pumdi Bhundi


Patan Baitadi

Rainfall (annual average)

1200 mm


4000 mm

1390 mm

1559 mm

Temperature (annual average)






Farming situation

Lowland - partially irrigated

Lowland - partially irrigated

Completely rainfed

Lowland - fully irrigated

Lowland - fully irrigated

Villages covered



Pumdi Bhundi


Patan Baitadi

Pangma Malta







Dominant cropping











Key: R = rice; W = wheat; F = fallow; n.a. = not available

Farming system research

Oats as a pure crop and in mixture with vetch was introduced to five resourcepoor farmer sites in the Mid-hills. In Pumdi Bhumadi, cvs Amuri and JHO 822 both produced an average of 15.5 t ha-1. In Kotjhari, cv. Kent+vetch produced 19.4 t ha-1 and cv. Swan+vetch yielded 20.6 t ha-1. In Khandbari, oats were tested at an altitude of 1 675 m and the yield observed from cv. Swan was 18 t ha-1. At Patan Baitadi sites, the Kent+vetch combination gave a yield of 28.7 t ha-1, whereas in Naldung, the Swan+vetch combination gave an average yield of 20 t ha-1. All trials received 80:40:20 (N: P2O5:K2O) fertilizer application under a two-cut management (Table 7.14).

Oats on leasehold group sites

A new system of management was used for leasehold[6] farmers’ group sites in both the low and transitional belts: one ploughing with a local plough was done after paddy harvest; FYM at 5 t ha-1 was broadcast uniformly; and another ploughing done. The recommended dose of fertilizer was 80:60:40 kg (N:P2O5:K2O). Nitrogen was given in three doses, after each cut, under irrigated conditions; as a single basal dose under rainfed conditions (fertilizer was applied in the furrows, covered with a thin soil layer and seed was sown immediately on the same line and smoothly covered). After sowing, a land leveller was used to ensure good seed contact with soil and moisture. Where oats were sown in mixtures with vetch or pea, the legumes were first inoculated. The first cut was taken after 45-50 days, and subsequent cuts at 30-day intervals.

In the low belt (400-1 200 m) of all leasehold districts, relatively larger amounts of green fodder were obtained from the oat+legume mixture than from pure crops of either. During 1996-98 at low altitudes, the average yields of oat+vetch, oat+pea and oat alone were 31, 27 and 25 t ha-1, respectively. There was a tremendous increase in yield in 1999-2001, due to better management by the farmers and the realization of the contribution oats could make to milk yields (Table 7.15). Comparing the two methods, i.e. recommended (with fertilizer) regime and the original farmer practice (no fertilizer use), the recommended method gave more than twice the yield in both the Low Hills and the transitional belt.

In Makawanpur, the highest yield was obtained from oats+vetch; in Kavre, from oats+berseem; in Sindhuplanchowk, from berseem; in Ramechap, from oats+peas, and in Dhading it was oats+berseem. With usual farmer practises for manure application (control), the treatments that gave the highest yields were oats+vetch, berseem, oats+vetch and oats+vetch in Makwanpur, Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, Ramechap and Dhading, respectively. This suggests that at low levels of fertility, the oats+vetch combination performs best (Table 7.15).

In the transitional belt, with recommended practices of manure and fertilizer application, oats+vetch, oats+vetch, oats+vetch, oats and oats were the highest yielders in Makawanpur, Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, Ramechap and Dhading, respectively. However, with the control treatment of only manure application, oats+vetch, oats+pea, oats+vetch, oats and oats were the highest yielders in Makawanpur, Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, Ramechap and Dhading, respectively (Table 7.16).

TABLE 7.15
Average green matter yields (t ha-1) for various crop combinations (fertilized and unfertilized) in Makwanpur, Kavre, Sindhupalchok and Ramechap (1996-98) and in Makwanpur, Kavre, Sindhupalchok, Ramechap and Dhading (1999-2001) in the low belt (400-1200 m)

With fertilizer

No fertilizer






























TABLE 7.16
Average green matter yields (t ha-1) for various crop combinations (fertilized and unfertilized) in Makwanpur, Kavre, Sindhupalchok and Ramechap (1996-98) and in Makwanpur, Kavre, Sindhupalchok, Ramechap and Dhading (1999-2001) in the transitional belt (1 200-1 800 m)


With fertilizer

Without fertilizer




















Oat seed production from Leasehold Group sites

To provide seed and generate income, seed production was organized with leasehold farmers (Figures 7.7 and 7.8). During 1996/1998, the highest average seed yields were obtained in Ramechap. In Kavre and Sindhupalchok Districts, all three treatments produced a consistent level of seed. In Makawanpur, oat as a pure crop produced as much as 3.6 t ha-1 of seed. In Ramechap, oats+vetch mixture gave 2.6 t ha-1 of oat seed.

During 1999-2001, five districts in the low altitude (400-1 000 m) and transitional belts (1 201-1 800 m) were selected for seed production of oat, vetch, pea and berseem (low altitude belt) and oat, vetch and pea in the transitional belt. In the transitional belt, yields of oat seed were 1.82-5.3 t ha-1; vetch yielded 0.12-1.1 t ha-1; pea yielded 0.02-0.5 t ha-1; in the low belt, the highest yields were: oats, 3.7 t ha-1; vetch, 1.1 t ha-1; pea, up to 0.7 t ha-1; and berseem, 1.1 t ha-1.

Oats in commercial dairy pockets

A continuous programme of dairy farmer-oriented research to upgrade the feed situation in dairy pockets has been conducted in six districts (Pariyar et al., 1996, 1999). During 1996-98, dairy pockets selected for integrated research were in Rupandehi, Kaski and Illam districts, and in Kavre (Figure 7.9), Dhading and Rautahat in 1999-2001.

Two trials were carried out (one involving eight promising oat cultivars and the other oats mixed with vetch (Vicia dasycarpa) and pea (Pisum sativum) from 1996 to 1998 in Rupendehi (500-600 m), Kaski (800-850 m) and Illam (1 500- 1 550 m), and from 1999 to 2001 in Kavre (890-1 020 m), Dhading (810-840 m) and Rautahat (500-550 m). With the recommended treatment (5 t FYM ha-1 + N: P2O5:K2O at 80:60:40 kg ha-1), all cultivars yielded more than under traditional farm practice (5 t FYM ha-1). Similarly, although environmental and management factors play a major role in fodder production, higher yields were obtained in subsequent years (Tables 7.17 and 7.18).

Figure 7.7
A good oat seed crop, Dhading

Figure 7.8
Spreading oats to dry, Dhading

Figure 7.9
Oats cut for fodder in Dhading

TABLE 7.17
Average green matter yield (t ha-1) of pure oat stands in dairy pocket areas of Rupendehi, Kaski and Illam (1996-98) and Kavre, Dhading and Rautahat (1999-2001)


With recommended fertilization(1)

With traditional farmer practice(2)










83 INC 19 G3



































Notes: (1) 5 t FYM ha-1 + N:P2O5:K2O at 80:60:40 kg ha-1. (2) ca 5 t FYM ha-1.

TABLE 7.18
Average green matter yield (t ha-1) of oats and oat+legume mixtures in dairy pocket areas of Rupendehi, Kaski, Illam (1996-1998) and Kavre, Dhading and Rautahat (1999-2001)


With recommended fertilization(1)

With traditional farmer practice(2)




















Notes: (1) 5 t FYM ha-1 + N:P2O5:K2O at 80:60:40 kg ha-1 for oats in pure stand; 5 t FYM ha-1 + N:P2O5:K2O at 20:60:40 kg ha-1 in mixtures with a legume. (2) ca 5 t FYM ha-1.

Results in farmers’ fields over the six years (1996-2001) indicate that growing oats alone was not profitable. At all sites in the six districts, oats+vetch was outstanding in terms of green fodder production under both management practices.


Since the inception of the two livestock development projects, the popularity of oats has increased very substantially, and this has been boosted by the major thrust given by government to milk production. With the increase in irrigation projects, the formation of dairy development enterprises and cooperatives at village level by the Department of Livestock Services and National Dairy Development Corporation, and with the creation of the National Dairy Development Board, there has been increased emphasis on improved milk breeds and an intensification of oat growing. More and more wheat areas have been converted into oats, oats+vetch and berseem. According to the Department of Livestock Services, the growing of oats, vetch and berseem have considerably increased. Pande (1997) states that, before the 1980s, fodder cultivation was confined to 36 ha of arable land. Because of its economic impact on the milk industry, particularly in the Terai and Low Hills, some 2 000 ha of land were under winter fodder in the 1980s.

TABLE 7.19
Estimated extent of oats+vetch and berseem cultivation in Nepal, 2001

Development Region

Oat seed(1) (kg)

Vetch seed(1) (kg)

Area(2) (ha)

No. of households

Berseem seed(1) (kg)

Area coverage (2) (ha)

No. of households


15 695



3 280





27 100

2 640


5 940

2 020




146 070

2 145

1 490

29 800

1 260




9 730



2 000





11 675



2 420





210 270

7 005

2 172

43 440

4 831


1 930

Notes: (1) Official seed distribution through District Livestock Development Offices. Home-saved seed and farmer-tofarmer seed sales are not included in this estimate. (2) Area sown derived by estimation from typical seed rates, namely oats+vetch, 100 kg ha-1; berseem, 25 kg ha-1. Berseem area per household assumed to be 0.1 ha. Oats area per household assumed to be 0.05 ha.
Source: DLS, 2001.

The Livestock Master Plan (1993) estimated that oats and berseem were grown on about 4 400 ha in the Terai and Midhills; the accuracy of this estimate is questionable, so the Department of Livestock was requested in 2001 to assess the current status of land under oats; information is summarized in Table 7.19. Data are included from five Development Regions, for oats, vetch and berseem seed distribution. Seed distribution was through the District Livestock Development Offices and the areas growing oats+vetch and berseem estimated. The cultivated land in the country is 3 052 000 ha of which 0.08 percent is under winter fodder. Oats and vetch occupy 0.07 percent (2 172 ha) of all cultivated land. However, use of homesaved seed and farmer-to-farmer seed sales are not included in this estimate, so the true area could be greater, and could exceed 3 500 ha.

Other important virtues of the oat crop are its multicut nature, green fodder availability in winter (December-April) and its direct impact on maintenance of milk production. Feeding trials on the effect of oat feeding on milk yield indicate that considerable increases could be obtained by feeding 6-8 kg of green oats daily per milking buffalo. The daily average increment ranged from 0.3 to 0.45 litres in the command area of Lumle.

A survey by the Department of Livestock Services on forage-based milk production in the peri-urban areas of Illam indicates that the production cost of one litre of milk is around rupees (Rs) 10.0[7], whereas in urban areas with concentrate+paddy straw feeding, the cost of one litre of milk was about Rs 18.0. Also, for resource-poor farmers, oat cultivation has resulted in a net profit of Rs 1 538 per animal per month per arable land area of 0.075 ha.

A study in Kavre (Pariyar, 2000) showed that oats+vetch mixtures increased milk production by 30 litres per buffalo per month, on average, while the demand for purchased concentrates was reduced by 30 kg per month and milk production was extended by 8 weeks. This resulted in an additional net profit of Rs 1 538 per month, where, on average, the cash income of families was Rs 2 000 (over a four-month period).

Better utilization of fallow is another important use of oats, as some land that used to lie bare after paddy harvest is now used to grow oats. There are therefore strong economic reasons why the area under winter fodder has increased every year.

Figure 7.10
Oat cultivars under evaluation at Dhunche Agricultural Research Station, Nepal

Further work needed

Cultivars for higher altitudes (3 000- 3 800 m)

Fodder oats are being adopted up to around 2 000 m (e.g. Khimti at 1 994 m), but large-scale cultivation is in commercial dairy pockets, and among resource-poor farmer areas of the Terai and Low Hills up to 1 600 m. Research has started in areas up to 3 250 m - based at Chandanbari sub-centre of the Agriculture Research Station, Dhunche (1 950 m) (Figure 7.10). There has been a lack of suitable oat cultivars for very high altitudes, but two varieties of Avena nuda have been imported under an FAO-assisted project; naked oats originate, and are widely grown on, the nearby Tibetan Plateau, so it is hoped that they will suit high altitude sites in Nepal.


Twenty oat cultivars were in use in Nepal in 2003. All are multicut and have become naturalized. So far, there has been no systematic breeding for better and higher fodder yields. Cultivars are identified and selected on the basis of their performance in multilocation trials, and new germplasm capable of giving high yields and good quality forage is needed for testing. There are some native fodder oat varieties in different parts of the country (Terai, Mustang, Rasuwa, etc.), which should be selected, evaluated and conserved (so that native germplasm is not overlooked). New cultivars have been acquired under the FAO project for testing in 2003-05 in different ecozones (Figure 7.11), with the main requirement being that they should need only minimum inputs for optimum production!

Figure 7.11
Riayale test site, with oat cultivars grown by a woman farmer. Cv. Awapuri in middle, with controls cv. Swan (to left) and cv. Kent (to right)

Oats in summer

Oats can be grown for green fodder as well as grain in summer in Dhunche, Rasuwa (1 950 m), but experience has shown that at lower elevations oats in summer are seriously hampered by weeds; above this altitude, more research is needed. In high areas at about 3 500-3 800 m, the aim would be to grow oats in summer for hay. More studies are needed on oats as a summer crop at high altitude sites, with new introductions to address a particular farming system.

Green oats to straw ratio

Ways of feeding green oats differ between the two main groups of farmers: resourcepoor farmers grow oats on small areas (250 m2) while commercial dairy farmers have larger areas (1 500 m2). The area grown varies with herd or flock size and market opportunities. Resource-poor farmers feed green oats with rice and wheat straw (Figure 7.12); commercial farmers chop oats, before mixing with paddy and wheat straw. Therefore, further work is needed to establish the most economical ratio for green oat+straw mixtures to reduce concentrate feed cost or to increase milk production, or both.

Proper use of oat grain

In some parts of Nepal (Illam in the extreme east), boiled oat grain is fed to milking cows. This is very useful for increasing milk yields, but the processing of oat grain for human consumption has yet to develop for feeding the poor and for increasing food security.

Figure 7.12
Buffaloes being fed a mixture of oats and straw, Kavre

Figure 7.13
Small-bag (ca 6 kg) silage - two months old and ready to feed to livestock


Oats extract, like other fodders, more soil nutrients than are currently being returned to the soil by resource-poor farmers (with manure typically applied at ca 5 t FYM ha-1); also, growing oats in winter has tended to hamper the succeeding crop (cereals, potatoes, etc.). Most fodder oats are fed green by the cut-and-carry system. Early, medium and late cultivars have been introduced and are being evaluated in high altitude areas.

Conservation as hay and silage is very rare. In the Terai, the Low Hills and part of the Mid-hills interest will mainly be for oats for green feed since other green forages are available in all seasons to supplement relatively plentiful crop residues; at higher sites, however, there is a need for conserved fodder. Haymaking is being developed, and silage making using small plastic bags (Figure 7.13) is very promising; this was widely and successfully tested under the Second Livestock Development Project (see Lane, 2000) and the technique has been modified to reduce the danger of rodent damage to filled bags.

[4] National currency unit, the ngultrum, on par with Indian Rupee. At Nu 45 = US$ 1 at the time of reporting.
[5] This chapter is based on a paper (Pariyar, 2002) presented at the Fifth Meeting of the Temperate Asia Pasture and Fodder Working Group, Thimpu, Bhutan, and updated to reflect recent developments.
[6] "Leasehold" in this context refers to the Hills Leasehold Forestry Scheme, wherein landless farmers receive degraded forest land, on a lease, and undertake to improve its management. Fodder is a major component.
[7] At the time of the study, the exchange rate was US$ 1 = Rs 76.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page