Pravati is the secretary of the Kapila Muni women Milk Society under local government cooperative society (Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation (OMFED)) in Barandua village. She is also the only trained artificial insemination expert providing services to farmers under the ILRI portion of the Cereal System Initiatives for South Asia (CSISA) Project in that village. As the secretary, she is responsible for maintenance of the straw chopping machine in the village, making sure it is in usable condition. She is the community mobiliser and was recently awarded excellence in a training programmed organized by ILRI with collaboration of OUAT as a resource person for the project.
Pravati owns 7 cows that produce 15 liters of milk per day. Three of these are crossbred. A local cow produces 1-2 litres of milk per day while a cross breed produces 5-10 litres. The village milk cooperative society has 150 registered members and of these, 60-70 members actively sell milk at any time.
Feeding livestock is often a challenge here. The plots of land are small and mostly devoted to growth of paddy during the rainy season and to some extent vegetables during winter. The cattle are fed at home until after harvesting when they are allowed to feed on the remaining straw in the rice fields. They are also fed on the broken rice and bran from the market or they do home based feeding. Gradually, Pravati and her village mates are learning to plant napier and find other green fodder for the livestock.
ILRI started the project ‘Crop Residue-Based Feeding Strategies to Improve Milk Production of Dairy Animals’, with 22 farmers and provided the initial chopping machine. Prior to this, farmers used a home based hand cutter that was labour intensive for chopping the straw. Now they have to go the village trading square where the machine is, but they get more chopped straw in a lesser time than they did with the hand cutter.
The milk society pays for the maintenance costs of the machine. They have learnt how to organize their day around the machine – often cutting the straw two to three times in a week and storing it in gunny bags. Neighbouring villagers are also adopting the technology after seeing the benefits.
For Pravati, ILRIs intervention through this project is a godsend. They are saving straw by half through chopping and soaking, they are using less concentrate than previously and they are realizing more milk. They feed the chopped straw to the animal in a bowl and that means there is less contamination and the animal’s health is improving. The saved rice straw can be fed for four to five months in a year to cattle. The economic benefits are now visible.
“The animals are also adapting to the new taste of soaked fodder” she observes. Once they have tasted the green fodder and the chopped and soaked straw, they no longer want to eat the dray straw”.
Pravati is in a sense the heartbeat of this society. She keeps the key to the store where the machine is and she knows every member of the milk society by name. As she juggles between her private life and personal life, she constantly has to make decisions, delegating tasks to other people so she can get more done.
Like a mother, she has food security close to her heart and is the educator reminding especially mothers to feed their children on milk before they sell it.
“Milk is a fall back to crop failure and it improves our nutrition. Every day, we have milk to drink even when it is too little to sell”.
This article is cross-posted on the CSISA website at http://csisa.org/livestock-feeding-made-easy-for-women-farmers-in-odisha/