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Cattle shed management for better soil health

Sujan Amgai and Salik Ram Paudel


Small interventions can have great impacts. A small support from the government for improving the cattle sheds resulted in a shift in the way farmers of Sindhuli district in Nepal practiced agriculture.


Traditionally maintained cattle sheds

Agriculture in Nepal has long been based on subsistence farming, particularly in the hilly regions where peasants derive their living from fragmented plots of land cultivated under difficult conditions. To increase agricultural production, the government interventions have been in terms of increase in irrigation, higher use of fertilizers and insecticides, the introduction of new implements and new seeds of high-yield varieties, and the provision of credit. However, overuse of chemicals, absence of practices like crop rotation, lesser use of organic manure have all resulted in soil health deterioration, further affecting the food security.

With the aim of enhancing food security by promoting organic production and reducing the dependency on imported chemical fertilizers, Soil Management Directorate (SMD) in co-ordination with District Agriculture Development Offices (DADOs) has initiated various programs like Vermicompost production, cattle shed improvement, organic fertilizer industries establishment and price subsidy to farmers purchasing organic fertilizers under Department of Agriculture (DoA).

Cattle shed improvement program 

Improved cattle shed after the program intervention

Traditionally, farmers managed large herds of cattle by allowing them to graze on pastures. With increasing trend of youth migrating for employment, there has been labour shortage to manage livestock. Consequently, rearing large herds and managing their wastes has become more challenging than before, in rural communities. There has been a gradual shift towards rearing livestock in cattle sheds.

Poor quality of cattle sheds have not only led to unhygienic conditions, but have also led to wastage of rich resources, like urine and dung. Due to the improper construction of sheds, urine and water flow towards the animals and stagnate in pools deteriorating the quality of urine and cattle manure. This further has a negative impact on the quality of compost produced. Also, the way the FYM was produced led to a lot of nutrient losses.

Realizing these facts, the Department of Agriculture initiated the cattle shed improvement, as a mission programme in 2013-14. The programme aimed at effective management of cattle manure and urine collection by improving the shed floor, thus enabling improved soil health and plant  protection  through use of good quality FYM and cattle urine.

Farmer group or co-operatives of districts in co-ordination with respective DADOs were supported to improve cattle sheds along with the construction of urine collection tank and shed for cattle dung. A subsidy of NPR 5,200 per household was provided. By 2015-16, around 33746 improved cattle sheds were constructed and 33746 households, benefited. Proper composting of animal wastes and application of compost to soil have led to better soil health and crop production.

Case of Sindhuli district

Sindhuli District, a part of Province No. 3, is one of the seventy-five districts of Nepal. The district, with Sindhulimadhi as its district headquarters covers an area of 2,491 km². In 2011 the population was 296,192. It is one of the mid hill districts of Nepal, where agriculture is the main source of income.

DADO Sindhuli launched Cattle Shed Improvement program from 2014-15 in the district with the support from SMD. Before the program, farmers were adopting traditional method of composting; collecting cattle dung in small heaps in an unmanaged way, which was then left in direct contact of sunlight and rain. Cattle urine collection was not practiced and it normally infiltrated from the shed floor, as the floor was not cemented. Farmerswere not familiar with the  benefits of improved shed management.

A village cluster was selected and farmers were oriented on improved management practices of FYM. They were taught about the loss of nutrient from the FYM due to adoption of wrong management practices. Each of the selected farmers was supported to construct urine collection tank with canal, cement the shed floor and prepare a permanent dung collection trench with shade. This simple intervention created a multiplier effect in the village with other famers adopting the improved practices.

Rearing large herds and managing their wastes has become a challenge in rural communities.

Mr. Buddhiraj Shrestha, one of the farmers of Ranichuri VDC-5 of Sindhuli district made cattleshed improvements. With increased awareness on improved practices, he started applying manure and urine to crop fields. He observed that the soil health improved and the crops started looking healthier. The yields obtained were also better.

References
DADO, Annual Progress Report – 2014-15, District Agriculture Development Office, Sindhuli, Nepal.

Jaishy, S.N., N. Mahato, R. Manandhar and K.H. Maskey, Study on use of Compost at farmers level, 1997, a report published in Annual Report 20.53154, Soil Testing and Service Section, Dept. of Agriculture.

MoAD, Annual Progress Report – 2015-16, Ministry of Agricultural Development. Singha Darbar, Kathmandu,
Nepal.

MoAD, Statistical Information on Nepalese Agriculture, 2015-16, Ministry of Agricultural Development. Agri-Business Promotion and Statistical Division. Singha Darbar, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Sherchan, D.P. and G.B. Gurung, Production and management techniques of compost to sustain the hill
agricultural production system, 1996, PAC Technical paper No. 171. Pachribas Agricultural Centre, Nepal

SMD, Annual Progress Report, 2015-16, Soil Management Directorate, Hariharbhawan, Lalitpur, Nepal.

Organic Farming: Manures, http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/org_farm/orgfarm_manure.html.

Sujan Amgai
Senior Plant Protection Officer
Department of Agriculture, Hariharbhawan,
Lalitpur, Nepal

Salik Ram Paudel
Agriculture Extension Officer
Department of Agriculture, Hariharbhawan,
Lalitpur, Nepal