Gloomy forecast: Fall in fodder availability hurts milk production

Amid a delayed monsoon forecast and severe drought predictions in certain parts of the country, the availability of green and dry fodder for cattle could fall further, thereby impacting milk procurement this season. The production of milk has already fallen during this season.

According to co-operative and private dairies, adverse weather conditions could affect fodder availability in the near future. Compared to last year, cattle feed prices have already risen 18-20 per cent, even as milk producers turn to manufactured feed following the reduced availability of green and dry fodder.

"At 21 million litres per day, our milk procurement is down 5-6 per cent as compared to the same period last year and 20 per cent down as compared to the last winter season. Lack of green and dry fodder could definitely impact milk procurement in the near term," said R S Sodhi, managing director of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, which markets milk and milk products under the brand Amul.

According to Sodhi, the average milk productivity of cow in India is 4 litre and that for buffalo is 5-6 litre; for cross-bred cow, it is 8-9 litre. In a bid to offset the impact, he said that the federation has already equipped to up the cattle feed production at its facilities. Currently, the GCMMF has the capacity to manufacture 9,000 tonne of cattle feed per day.

Devendra Shah, chairman and managing director of Parag Milk Foods, said the true impact of lack of cattle feed would be known only after the arrival of the monsoon. “Usually in the summer, the availability of cattle feed takes a hit. It now needs to be seen how worse will be the impact during the monsoon. Pre-monsoon rains have, however, started in parts of south India," Shah told Business Standard.

It now needs to be seen whether the impact of weather could firm up cattle feed prices, which are already up by over 15 per cent in recent times. 

In a bid to offset the same and pass on the benefit to milk producers, the GCMMF recently hiked retail milk prices by Rs 2 per litre across its six brands.

According to the GCMMF, over the last one year, there has been a significant increase in prices of major cattle feed ingredients, such as de-oiled rice bran by 61 per cent, rice polish fine by 22 per cent, molasses by 82 per cent, and maize by 63 per cent, resulting in an increase in cattle feed prices by over 15 per cent.

"Similarly, the rate of green fodder has seen an increase of more than 100 per cent this summer. For milk producers, milk purchase prices paid must cover various input costs such as feed and fodder cost, labourer cost, and cost of veterinary treatment, and some profits. Considering the increase in the cost of milk production, all member milk unions of Gujarat have increased milk purchase prices by a minimum of Rs 30-50 per kg fat (5-8 per cent) over the last few months," the federation stated.

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