Smallholder dairy farming is increasingly seen as a viable option for both increasing food security and effectively alleviating rural poverty. As a result basic training and monitoring animal health in dairy farming is much requested throughout the world. Dutch Farm Experience is promoting a dairy training and monitoring with the Wheel of Animal Production and Wellbeing at the basis of the animal health and marketing aspects. This is successfully being implemented within the dairy program of SaFaL (Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages) of Solidaridad in Bangladesh.

Training and monitoring  smallholder dairy farming

Most dairy training manuals in the world have the objective of transforming a low-input integrated livestock producers into a market-oriented and specialized dairy farmers.  Dutch Farm Experience consciously differentiates between low-input systems – in which animals are kept with minimal input in terms of labour and feeding costs – and more specialized smallholder dairy systems.

CABI has published a practical learning guide:  Sustainable Livestock Management for Poverty Alleviation and Food Security – by Katrien van’t Hooft, Terry Wollen, and Dilip Bhandari (April 2012, book 208 pages, can be ordered at CABI website)

This book provides practical ways to understand and improve smallholder animal husbandry under a variety of agri-cultural and ecological conditions. It is based on the Endogenous Livestock Development (ELD) approach – that puts livestock keepers’ own strategies, culture and worldviews at the centre of development efforts.

Wheel 1: Recommendations for reducing mortality in low-input systems

Most livestock keepers, including dairy farmers in the world can be found in the low-input & diversified smallholder farmer and pastoralist systems. Within this system it is not possible to increase income by reducing production costs, just because these costs are already minimal. Neither can per-animal productivity be substantially increased because this implies an increased investment of labour and capital, which would change this system into a more specialized system.

Therefore, the best way of stimulating low-input & diversified husbandry within its own logic is to reduce the animal mortality. In order to improve low-input & diversified animal keeping, one needs to understand the main reasons for mortality. Generally speaking,  the eight main issues to address in order to reduce mortality in low input livestock keeping are reflected in the Wheel of Animal Production and Wellbeing – low input:

  1. Nutritional deficiencies, especially during dry periods
  2. Pasture management
  3. Water quality and quantity
  4. Infectious diseases
  5. Internal and external parasites
  6. Breeding strategy
  7. Protection and housing
  8. Special care during crucial moments (birth, illness)

Please find the recommendations for improving each of these 8 items, plus marketing:  Low-input recommendations (CABI 2012)

Wheel 2: Recommendations for improving farm efficiency and livestock productivity in more specialized dairy 

Only when the basic requirements of the low-input wheel are satisfied, it is possible to introduce further changes towards a more specialized dairy system. This can be done according to the Wheel of Animal Production and Wellbeing – more specialized.

Please find the recommendations of each of the 8 items, plus marketing: More specialized recommendations (CABI 2012)