Tuesday, February 26, 2013

ATMA gives increased income

It is an update of the earlier blog - Poor farmers getting benefitted through Govt. schemes

That was soon after the programme initiated and this blog is actually an update (after an year)

Sinnappa Pillai, son of Thambusamy Pillai is 65 years old. He is a father of three daughters and a son. Two daughters are married and settled. The third daughter, Hemalatha, is deaf and dumb, a widow. His son is a LIC agent. Sinnappa Pillai and his daughter Hemalatha work together to raise the cattle.

He and Komatha ATMA group:
He is a member of Komatha ATMA group, Surakudy pertaining to Uzhavar Udhaviyagam, Surakudy since June 2010. The group was formed by bringing like-minded farmers who are having milch animals and interested in doing cattle-based income generating activities. All members of this group are economically poor farmers; depend on milk production to meet their needs.

ATMA group asked to pay a premium of Rs. 25 per month but the members decided to pay Rs. 100. The members of this group meet regularly in cattle grazing place daily since all take their cattle to graze in a common place. Meeting happens naturally and informally. Monthly payment and discussions are done at the grazing ground itself. Issues are discussed then and there and come out with collective decision.

Failed first group venture:
After six months of group formation the members felt their major expense is to buy concentrate feed for their cattle. They discussed the issue with Agricultural Officer cum ATMA Block Technical Team (BTT) convener and Veterinary doctor, Thirunallar, BTT member. A trail was made to purchase concentrate feed as a group at bulk and distribute among members. It was profitable. The success was short lived. Due to price hike and increased loading and unloading charges the business was not economically viable. Hence the group discontinued feed business.

Training on fodder grass feeding to increase milk production:
The group members discussed about the failed venture with Agricultural Officer. As an alternative option, Agricultural Officer arranged a training programme on “Fodder feeding for increased milk production” on 27.12.2011 at PAJANCOA&RI. The resource persons were Dr. George Paradis and Dr. Prasanna. The lecture by Dr. George was an eye opening one. Dr. George took the farmers to the college cattle farm and showed how the cattle are maintained and fed. He gave a detailed note on various green manures and its uses and how to feed the cattle and showed the fodder field. As a part of the training programme, hundred rooted slips and needed fertilizers for fodder cultivation were distributed as inputs at free of cost to each group member.

Experience of Sinnappa Pillai:

Though hundred rooted slips and needed fertilizers were distributed free of cost to fifteen farmers, after one year, Sinnappa Pillai have maintained the slips well and increased the area of fodder cultivation. Sinnappa Pillai says, “I planted the rooted slip on the next day of the training itself in my backyard. I adopted a spacing of 45 cm between ridges and 45 cm between plants. In fifteen days there was green flush to a height of 6 feet. The maiden harvest was done after a month from planting. Being the first harvest, the leaves and tender shoots were just enough to feed my five cows for a day. The animals had initial reluctance and then they started relishing it and finishes in few minutes.”

He continues to narrate his excitement, “From the next day I could realize gradual increase in milk yield and the consistency improved. In a week time, there was an increase of one litre in the morning and one litre in the evening and the milk is thicker than before. The animals are healthier. So I decided to reduce the amount of concentrate feed and replace it with fresh fodder grass. This considerably reduces the expense on cattle rearing. During second harvest, I could see many tillers. From then onwards, I fed the cattle with leaves and tender shoots. I used the sturdier shoots as rooting material. As the tillers per plant ranged from five to seven during initial months and now there are a minimum of ten tillers per plant. I extended the fodder cropped area gradually. As per the guidance of Agricultural Officer I harvest 10 - 15 plants per day then harvest adjacent rows accordingly every day. It takes 15 days to complete harvesting all plants in routine. On 16th day I could harvest from the plants I harvested on the first day. These days, I am giving rooted slips whoever asks from me and I am sharing my experience. I gave two of my cows to my married daughters as I could not manage four cows and a calf along with fodder cultivation and field works.”

Benefits realized from fodder grass:
  1. The cattle are healthier than before. Inter-calving period is reduced.
  2. Fodder had replaced concentrate feed so expense is reduced.
  3. Milk is increased to an extent of 2 litres per day so there is an increased income.
  4. Consistency of milk has improved.
  5. Saves time to get good quality grass as he is getting in the backyard itself which paves way for him to spend more time to work in private fields to get additional income for his family.
  6. The time spent for harvesting grass from outside area and head loading the same to his house is completely avoided as grass is available in the backyard itself.
  7. His daughter takes care the feeding as she could not work outside.