Fonterra to transfer dairy know-how to boost Sri Lanka milk yields

ECONOMYNEXT – New Zealand’s Fonterra Brands is building a 117 million rupee demonstration farm and boosting extension staff to transfer knowledge to dairy farmers in Sri Lanka to help boost milk yields and income, officials said.

The demonstration farm will have a training centre, free stall barns, milk chilling facilities, a milk shed, and a fodder cultivation area.

Saman Perera, who helps local dairy development says even without improving the genetic stock of a herd, yields can be improved by improving farming practices and changing how the cow is cared for.

He said farmers in New Zealand got up to 25 litres per cow compared to about 4 litres in Sri Lanka. While it was not possible to bring yields up to such levels it was possible to increase yields.

A pilot program in 2013 had helped farmers in the program boost milk production by 42 percent and incomes by 55 percent, he said.

Mike Harford, head of extensions and training partnerships said during the pilot programs yields per cow had grown from 3-4 litres up to 10 litres in some cases.

Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka managing director Leon Clement says instead of simply bringing milk from New Zealand, the firm will now bring dairy farming technology and practices to the island.

While not all New Zealand farming practices can be transplanted to Sri Lanka, since the terrain, weather and genetic stock is different, the general improvement of farming practices can make a big difference, he said.

Cows have to be given different volumes of fodder based on their age to get maximum yield, Harford said.

Hartford said farmers would be trained on how to grow fodder and also how to keep fodder for lean periods, so that a steady supply of feed is available such as dry seasons.

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The demonstration farm will train 2,000 farmers each year. The farm is expected to be opened when New Zealand Prime Minister visits Sri Lanka later this year.

"Sri Lankan farmers are innovative and if you show them the best practices they are able to find ways to use them," Satish Karunakaran, operations director Fonterra Brands Sri Lanka said.

The farm will also conduct research to find best forage to grow under coconut and also how best to make use of paddy fields during fallow periods.

The farm will also demonstrate how to use supplementary feed such as poonac and paddy milling residue to best effect.

"It is happy cow that will give more milk," Hartford said.

Fonterra is also focussing on animal welfare.

"Freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from pain and fear and freedom from disease," Hartford said.

In the demonstration farm the animals are allowed to move around.

“Cows have to be prevented from going hungry, being thirsty and should be kept without fear," he said.

Sri Lanka’s government had already taken steps to import higher yielding genetic stock.

Athula Kahandaliyanage, Corporate Affairs Director said Sri Lanka’s demand for dairy products is growing at 16 percent a year and domestic production is about 40 percent. While growing demand will create a need for more imports, domestic production can also be increased he said.

Fonterra’s Anchor branded liquid milk is made with domestically collected milk.

Fonterra said it will build five milk chilling centres and also double extension officers to 40 over the next two years.

Sri Lanka dairy demand is estimated at 740 million litres and domestic production with buffalo milk is around 358 million litres, officials said. (Colombo/Jan26/2015)

 

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