Thursday, November 25, 2010

Increasing the Nation’s Milk Production

I have read so many recent articles about the effort to increase Milk production in SL and if one were to believe what is published one would be very optimistic about its future. The reality however yet again is somewhat different. Why is it that we in SL have so many schemes and so much talk, with very little action. There was an article about the NLDB doubling their milk production within 3 months (the three months are long gone since the article was published) with the import of higher yielding milk cows and assistance from Israel. Then there was the article about a prominent politician who had set up a company to increase milk production, while engaging in giving skills to the youth to obtain self employment by giving them loans to get the cows and get them to produce the milk. This was headed by a Managing Director who had previously worked in the largest dairy farm in Saudi. None of these have come to fruition or even commenced. There is no shame in lying!!!

It is no surprise then that private sector ventures, ‘petro lanka’ in Mirigama, by a Sri Lankan who returned from overseas and set up his own dairy, and then the multinational Nestle which has expanded in the North and East by setting up new chilling centers are the ones making real positive contributions in this regard. Additionally LMF a company quoted in the CSE (Colombo Stock Exchange) raised Rs700M by way of a rights issue to expand their already huge dairy business. It goes to show that all these government initiatives just seem to be hot air to get some airtime or press time, with no real teeth to it.

The poor milk farmer, and I count myself as one them is left to struggle through the mire literally with little real help to improve productivity and revenue in this genuinely honorable goal of becoming less dependent on imported milk products.
Rich countries use the implantation of female embryos to produce good quality female calves, and this is justifiable bearing in mind their high yielding cows. In our small way we must get the sexing machines that are now available and used in other countries to sex the sperm, so that when AI is used (artificial insemination) we have a greater chance of a female calf, so as to increase the population of milk producing animals as compared with the male calves that end up being killed.

Without just making statements, the Govt should guarantee a minimum price for milk, like Rs50/kg so as to encourage new and existing farmers to expand and improve, rather than close down and give up as it is not cost effective. Most of all, the quality of the animals to suit the climate, and targeted education of the farmer in proper methods of fodder, feeding, milking and care are desperately needed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rice and Milk, perception, production, consumption, storage and waste

I rarely email or use my Facebook, so the longest absence from any web entries was just an unplanned occurrence. I hope I will have the time to keep up. Life goes on from one eventful day to the next, where there is never a dull moment. The unexpected always happens that is the certainty of life, especially down on the farm and fields.

It rained almost all day here on the farm in Godagama, while I desperately need the rain in Hingurakgoda, where I am preparing the paddy fields for sowing, and there has only been a few droplets there. It was a misery plucking the king coconuts in the rain as one has to climb the trees, there being no other way to cut the bunches, and bring them safely down. Fortunately the coconuts were plucked yesterday, though as it is out of season the number on the trees are less than half the usual, so with even prices around 75% higher than average, the total revenue is still lower.

A cow gave birth to a male calf in the early hours of the morning; Sagara only said yesterday, that one would be born today, on Poya. The mother is not a great milker, and so a few more bottles is not something to crow about when I get Rs29 per kg which is less than the cost (that is the way the milk is measured and amounts to about a liter) However hard we try to wish otherwise, the fact is 98% of male calves born in SL end up eventually as food. This brings me to another related point, where I was associated in a project to implant female embryos in cattle to ensure that female calves dominate.

Despite my having a shop on the farm, it is like pulling teeth to convince the locals to buy fresh milk, when they prefer the NZ dried powdered milks, which are better marketed. Sometimes it is an effort to take the milk to the collecting center in the mornings, so I prefer to give the unsold milk to the dogs, as a protein supplement.

The end result of the persistent rain is that weeds take over the area faster than we know how to control it, and the practical problems of weed control surface when one does not wish to use any weed killers.

Wherever I go I see the paddy lands being prepared or sown, this is the season which expects the bumper harvest if all conditions are right, and many a livelihood depends on it, though more and more have determined that they cannot survive merely by being rice farmers, and have to either supplement their incomes or actually pursue other vocations, merely allowing a friend or relative to cultivate their tiny plots to provide a portion of their rice consumption. The price of rice that had fallen to unheard of levels lately have begun to climb, but I suspect that this is just a ploy by the millers to control the market after they have purchased all the paddy. The government stores in the meantime are full of paddy, which they have yet to release to the millers, but which are also in the meantime rotting due to the bad practices of purchase and storing paddy with higher than recommended moisture content. This results in the paddy getting spoilt and not fit for human consumption. Despite the bumper harvest this waste will create a shortage, bump up the price and the millers who hold the keys to the price, yet again call the shots. The state in the meantime loses, when they could theoretically have profited.