a magazine on ecological agriculture
a one stop treasure of practical field experiences

Mani Kottekad: Sustainable dairy farming with local breeds

Mani Kottekkad with his Panchagavya preparation

Mr. Mani Kottekkad is a progressive dairy farmer from Kottekkad village of Palakkad district in Kerala. Till 2012, he was doing dairying with crossbred cattle. Spiralling costs of maintenance, especially the cattle feed, motivated him to change his production system. Lower production and maintenance cost of local breeds and increasing demand for milk of local breeds from urban consumers, made him to switch over to indigenous breeds.

From some of his farmer friends, Mr. Mani came to know about the Umblachery breed (See Box 1). In 2012, he replaced two animals with the local breed and presently has 16 of them on his farm. Also, he switched over to low input organic farming system for rearing these cattle on an experimental basis.

Mani cultivates some of the unique paddy varieties (Njavara, Sreyas etc.) on his farm. The straw from paddy field meets the hay requirement for the animals. Also, open grazing is allowed for the animals on his farm. With no dependence on the external readymade feed supplements, the unit cost of milk production dropped. Artificial insemination is strictly done away with, on his farm. For this purpose, he maintains two bulls, which are a cross between Umblachery and Vechoor cow, the native breeds of Kerala.

Though the milk yield from the animal is comparatively very low with 3 litres per day,  it fetches a good price (Rs. 100 per litre) from the urban consumers. Milk is directly supplied to the consumers by the farmer himself, eliminating intermediaries. Apart from milk, he also sells other value added products like ghee, curd and butter milk, regularly to the local customers and hotels. For this, a small scale production unit is maintained with necessary equipment.

Box 1: Umblachery breedThis native breed of Tamil Nadu, also known locally as Jathi madu, Mottai madu, Southern Tanjore and Therkuthi madu, is an excellent draught cattle, known for its strength and sturdiness. Average recorded milk yield is 494 kg per lactation, with average milk fat of 4.94 per cent and SNF of 8 per cent. When compared to cross bred animals, the animals are more resistant to infectious diseases. There is a registered association, in the wetland tract of Tamil Nadu, to conserve this cattle species and support its rearers.

Also, this innovative farmer prepares a range of products from the cattle waste (cow dung and cow urine) like Panchagavya (a bio insecticide), bathing soap, tooth powder (for both these products cow dung extract is used) and Arakk (a distilled product from cow urine, used as an ingredient in ayurvedic medicines).  All these products are sold by the farmer, under the brand name, Karma. Also he sells packed dried cow dung to the needy farmers (Rs. 40/Kg) as well as nearby housing colonies, who are engaged in terrace farming. From this dairy waste based value added products, he earns around Rs.35,000 per month.

Though the farmer follows all the standards set for the organic dairying by default, he never realized the need for organic certification for his produce. If he could market his products with the organic labelling, surely the farmer could earn better remuneration for his produce. Today, Mani stands unique with his distinctive system of organic dairy farming.

The story has been compiled by

Sreeram V and Archana Bhatt and Smitha S., Ph.D. scholars, Division of Dairy Extension, ICAR-NDRI, Karnal, Haryana. Email: srieeram@gmail.com