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Down To Earth Magazine June 2022, Part 2: ”Fodder Crisis”

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  • Farmers across north Indian states has faced a shortage of dry fodder due to the wheat crisis this year.
  • The shortage of wheat yield has led to a crisis of cattle feed in many northern states.
  • Several of them, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, have imposed a complete or indefinite ban on sending straw to other states.


Fodder Crisis: Key Points

  • India has the world’s largest number of farmers and livestock. It has 535 million livestock animals according to the 20th Livestock Census conducted in 2019, most of them cattle, followed by water buffaloes.
  • These are also the animals that eat the most fodder, especially straw because it can be stored for a long time.
  • According to agricultural and livestock scientists, a cow and a buffalo need an average of 4-8 kg of straw. This quantity can increase in the absence of green fodder.


Fodder Crisis: Why Rajasthan was the worst affcted?

  • Even as India witnessed the hottest March in 122 years, Rajasthan was one of the worst affected states with 25 heat waves and the highest number of heat wave days, with temperatures soaring past 40 degrees.
  • This extreme climate adversely affected the crop, with grains being rendered very light and small. Thus, yields dropped from an average of 12 to 16 quintal per bigha to 6 to 9 quintals per bigha this year, which in turn affected tudi production, too.


Fodder Crisis: Key Reasons

  • The biggest reason for the shortage of fodder is mechanisation. Farmers cannot get straw if they thresh wheat with a machine. Farmers, instead, have to burn their fields. Thus, animals can’t graze.
  • Many farmers chose to plant mustard instead of wheat this rabi season in north India. This is not just because mustard requires less water than wheat but also because the crop was getting better prices.
  • Due to declining land holdings, farmers now prefer to grow cereals or fruits and vegetables. Also, the village commons that were used for grazing, have been heavily encroached upon.
  • In the long run, water scarcity and weather are responsible.


Fodder Crisis: Importance Of Straw

Straw is the major source of fodder for livestock in India. A buffalo giving 10 litres of milk needs an average of 30 kg of fodder a day. This should consist of four kg of grain, 4-5 kg of straw and the rest of green fodder. But in the absence of green fodder, farmers become dependent on straw.


Fodder Crisis: Possible Solutions

  • The use of straw in the paper industry, as well as brick kilns, needs to be stopped.
  • Farmers should also sow green fodder. There are many varieties that give up to 4-6 harvests once planted.
  • Sugar mills can make bricks from straw, molasses and bagasse. This will not only be useful and nutritious for livestock but sugar mills will also get work all year round

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