On April 14 and 15 an international meeting will be held at I-AIM in Bangalore, as a joint initiative from 4 organizations: Dutch Farm Experience, I-AIM, TANUVAS and ANTHRA. During this 2-day exchange program we get to know the experience available from India as well as the Netherlands in the field of sustainable dairy production. (see Invitation)
The topic of this exchange meeting is healthy milk production, free of antibiotics and other chemicals, through an integrated cattle management approach and the use of medicinal plants. More specifically we will engage in a need assessment and options for training in smallholder dairy farming.
Participants for this two-dayevent are expected from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and China – and possibly Nigeria and New Zealand. We will discuss the challenges and training needs a for smallholder dairy production and healthy dairy products in various countries, and look at the training options of combining expertise from India and the Netherlands.
Why a new dairy training initiative?
Governments, universities and NGO’s from all over the world are interested in modern dairy production practices. Modern dairy farming is spreading fast over the globe – driven by an increased need for milk and milk products due to population growth, increased incomes and urbanization.
The most common modern dairy farming approaches are based on exotic breeds, artificial insemination, concentrated feed and artificial fertilizer. Besides increasing milk production the side effects of this strategy have also become clear. These side effects include effects on animal health, milk quality, soil quality, environment, employment, indebtedness and marketing. In some cases these long-term negative effects outweigh the short-term positive effects in terms of farmer income and productivity. Another problem is the high antibiotic use in smallholder dairy farming, leading to animal loss, high costs and low milk quality – as well as threats to human health due to multi-resistant microbes.
Traditional and modern combined
There is a need for another approach in dairy farming, which effectively combines traditional and modern practices. To obtain healthy food the whole production chain should be healthy. Only when the total system is in balance – based on healthy soils and healthy animal feed – the animals can thrive and produce healthy food for the consumers.
This balance can be improved by integrated cattle management, based on traditional practices effectively combined with modern inputs. The proposed training is based on these principles.
India and Netherlands combined
Important experiences from India include Institute of Ayurveda and Integrated Medicine (I-AIM) in Bangalore. Over the past 30 years I-Aim has developed important expertise in documenting, validating and propagating the use of medicinal plants, both in the field of human and veterinary medicine.
Since the start of the work in veterinary medicine in 2008, I-AIM has closely cooperated with TANUVAS (Tamil Nadu Veterinary Animal Science University ). Together they have developed a PhD program as well as a post-graduate e-learning course on ethno-veterinary practices for veterinarians – the first of its kind in the world. Moreover, I-Aim and TANUVAS are currently implementing a two-year ‘training of trainers course on popularising ethnoveterinary practices in smallholder dairy farming’. This program includes the training of 150 veterinarians of 4 major dairy associations in three South Indian statesKarnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The other valuable Indian expertise comes from ANTHRA – the veterinary organization with 20 years experience in livestock production and dairy farming systems, including crops and fodder varieties, livestock and plant genetic resources, medicinal plants and health care traditions, land and water use, and the protection of indigenous knowledge related to these.
Together with these Indian partners Dutch Farm Experience aims to contribute to this training by sharing experiences of innovative and sustainable farmers within the Netherlands. One the one hand to learn from their methodologies, such as group-farmer learning and integrated farm management.
On the other to learn how many of these farmers have re-introduced ‘old’ practices in their farming enterprise. Examples are soil fertility measures, on-farm cheese making, direct marketing, care farms, local dual-purpose breeds, and the use of medicinal plants to reduce antibiotics. This history is largely unknown beyond the Netherlands.