Most people are fed up with the cubicle jobs and want to get out and do something more productive and enjoyable. Dairy farming seems to be a lucrative and enjoyable business, at least that’s how it is featured. Most people respect Verghese Kurien (Milkman of India - father of white revolution in India / operation flood) for alleviating many poor families. People will cry foul on Thomas Kurien after a few years, mark my words. They are the ones who destroyed the milk culture in India.
Currently the poor cannot afford to keep a cow nor can they buy milk since it is expensive. Even if people can buy it is not milk. I would say white poison. Getting back to the topic, here are some tips for successful dairy farming.
- If you consider cows holy, then modern dairy farming is not meant for you.
- Cows or for that matter any animals including humans are never designed in a way to live in shed or house though out their life time. This aspect is intentionally ignored by most who propagate modern dairy farm projects because of scarcity of land and ease of managing the herd. Even loose housing cows will not work, as cows need to freely stroll graze, have mud bath and much more.
- Some western and exotic breed cattle are freely left on pasture in other parts of the world, yet they fall sick. So there is no doubt if you keep them always tied in shed they are going to fall sick.
- Rubber mats are required for exotic breeds, because they have tender skin and flesh. Where as Indian cows can spend their time on rock beds.
- Land Holding
- If you have 2 acres of land, dedicate 50 cents or at least 25 cents for cows to freely relax and mingle with other cows - they will be more healthier. When cows lick each other or if you massage them, this produces more estrogen and other hormones which result in happier cows, so more milk.
- Don’t spend too much on making cow shed hi-tech, think wise. But make sure shed is always clean. I see a day when Indian government banning people who sell fresh milk without sterilizing it.
- If there isn’t plenty of fresh water available please drop the plan. Same goes with electricity. Water plays a very important role.
- In some parts of India farmers are mining for water to maintain exotic breeds. Suppose a Cow gives 10 liters of milk its water requirement is approx 40 liters. So a cow with 30 liter milk production will consume more water than an average sized elephant.
- Waste Management
- When there is too much of water and other waste, over a period of few days it accumulates and the whole place becomes filthy breeding ground for germs. If you are based in a place like Kerala, you will have pollution control board and other people running after you during raining season. So be extremely careful.
- Look for alternate cheap feed. This is where most entrepreneurs fall prey. If you spend 100 to 200 or more rupees per day for feeding single cow. It is not going to work. Grow fodder as per requirement.
- Generate your own feed to the core and also look for cheap feed. This expense should be covered by selling cow dung. Milk should be used for other expenses and profit or else dairying becomes non viable.
- As per folklore you cannot feed cows from your own land. They have the ability to consume large volumes of food. So traditionally they were left in the open to graze.
- Calf Management
- You also have to realise that even in Organic dairy farms calves are immediately separated from mother cow. This creates a lot of stress on cows. I don’t consider this milk good for consumption.
- Milk from a sick stall fed cow is no day good. But there is a twist here that modern dairy cows are anyway dumb and have no problem if there is no calf around while milking. They are trained in this fashion.
- Cow Selection
- Under Indian climatic condition. Jersey breed and certain hybrid cow have delivered decent milk production without much health problem. Provided they are 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation born to native cows.
- Cows producing 30+ liters of milk per day lose a lot of body mineral after every calving. No supplements can replace lost health. So after 2nd or 3rd calving they have to be send to slaughter houses. You have to decide whether you want to keep a cow for 3 years or 10 years.
- Time Management
- At least 10 to 12 hours have to be spent with cows in a day if you have to run a successful dairy farm - and trust me - you cannot rely on labor. For most people life becomes too hectic with no time for anything else (farming was never like this).
* Dairy farming is no one man show; you need trusted family members or dedicated labor.
- Health Concerns
* Because a dairy cow's udder is huge, it some times gets stuck and torn apart partially or gets damaged by its own hooves while getting up. It is essential to not pick cows with massive udder. Foot and Mouth disease, Mastitis and many other issues keep occurring.
- Medical Support
* Treat and understand animals if you want to run a smooth dairy farm. If you are lucky you may be able to get a good vet or else you may run into huge losses.
- Dry Period
* Always keep half your herd ready for milking when the existing ones go dry, so there is a steady flow of milk.
- Value added Products
* If you have to churn more money, start making value added products from milk. This has a much wider scope and shelf life also increases. Again lot of other expenses come in to picture.
* Building sheds, buying cows, machinery and equipments is a one time investment. Recurring expenses are many (actually depends how much you can spend, there are hundreds of things and services) like feed, vet fees, dairy equipment, electricity, wages to labor, feeding cows during dry period. * If you don't have backup of funds then please rethink about getting into dairying. Even after looking at all these aspects farmers face problems. Most dairy farms close down in few years. Only few knowledgeable people catch on and some use black money to smoothly run their dairy or Goshala.
If you are looking to switching to start a dairy, I would suggest stick to your job, make some money, buy 2 to 5 acres of land and get Indian cows and a bull. If you have additional funds then barricade 1 acre for them to freely graze and cultivate paddy or maize in an acre. You will have fodder for the whole year with surplus.
I am not against dairy farming, but this is a reality check for new entrepreneurs.