Forest is nothing but a conglomeration of grass, shrub, plants, climbers, trees, worms, insects and animals, a complete biodiversity. Without all these members but only with trees it cannot be a forest at all. Similarly it is with farming. Cultivating a monocrop is not farming at all. Our traditional farming includes varieties of plants, animals, pigeon, fishes, all integrated together, one organism consuming another’s waste and with less input cost but gaining much profit. Only this kind of ‘integrated farming’ system will make support the livelihood of our farming communities.
This is what is emphasized by Nammazhvar Ayya, the great organic agriculture scientist, ‘Zero budget’ promulgator Subhash Palekar and other agricultural activists and agro-economic experts.
Though the principle of ‘integrated farming’ system followed for ages by our ancestors has been diluted by ‘green revolution’ in the recent past, it is getting much attention of late. The number of farmers gaining profit through the system is increasing day by day. One among them is Mr Vairakannu, from Sivikkadu-Athivetti village, Pattukottai, Tanjore district.
“From my childhood I have been nurturing much interest in farming and animal rearing. I entered into farming after completing my high school. With much difficulties and loss I earned considerable experience in integrated farming with a spread of eight acres. There are coconuts in two acres, Ko-4 in two acres and fodder corn in one acre of land. With the remaining three acres I grow paddy for two seasons followed by corn, groundnut, sesame and black gram during summer.
Within the coconut grove, there are separate sheds having 500 country hens, 15 goats, 50 pairs of pigeon, 10 rabbits and 9 cows, besides having 15 ducks. Along the fence there are Subabul, Glyricidia, Kalyanamurungai (Erythrina), neem, Odhian and Nuna trees. In the two ponds in my neighborhood that I took for lease I grow fishes”. With a preamble he started describing us about the farming activities, taking us around the farm.
Animals that facilitate weeding
“I do not plough the land to weed out the coconut grove. Once in ten days I irrigate the land with precise water supply. By providing precision water the secondary roots of coconut will not decay and the soil will also remain intact. The weeds of grass and small plants will be eaten by hens, ducks, goats and cows. These plants will also be cut and provided to rabbits as feed. While grazing, the animals fertilize the soil by their dung. This will help grow earthworms in the soil and therefore the coconut trees remain fertile without providing any nutrients.
Manure from waste
From the wastes generated by animals, and also the plant wastes we could generate 3 tons of vermicompost in a year. There was a coconut tree that remained dormant for many years. Incidentally, we made a vermicompost bed nearby the tree and to our surprise the tree started growing and yielding. Therefore we supply vermicompost for all the crops that we grow here in my farm. Along with that we also use Panchakavya and no other nutrients are used in my farm.
Cost reducing bullock cart
There are two bulls and seven hybrid cows available in my farm. To each one we provide seven kg of subabul, fodder corn, glyricidia, Ko-4 and corn mixed together as green fodder. There is no transport cost as we have carts. At any point of time there will be three cows providing milk. Daily we get not less than 20 liters of milk”. He took us to his chicken farm.
“There are 90 gravid hens and ten cocks. Besides, we have 400 country chicklings bought from outside. We procure one day old chicklings from the market and grow them for three months before selling them. The young ones will be provided with company fodder for a month and then with our own feed. For the three months of growth we need to provide 2 ½ kg of feed to each one. Every year I procure 1,400 chicklings and sell them after three months. Besides, I am also selling the chicklings from my own stock of hens. The eggs are also sold separately from country hens. They graze within the farm itself. But we too provide them feed such as rice, broken rice, husk and only then they will come to you”. He started throwing feed to them and then started briefing us about other animals in his farm.
Goats in the attic and rabbits in cages
“There are two male and 6 female goats of Jamunabari strains and also 3 female and 4 calves of country goats. When country goats are bred with Jamunabari strains we get robust calves. They are grown in the attic. They are provided with fodder from our own farm. The calves from the goats will be reared for 8 months and then will be sold. Jamunabari strains are also sold exclusively without breeding with country goats.
Through cage system, 8 female and 2 male rabbits are reared. They are provided with the green fodder available in the farm. After gestation the females are separated along with the pups for a month. Then only the rabbits will be healthy. In a year I get a total of 240 pups. They are grown for three months before selling.
There are 3 male and 12 female ducks. One duck will yield 270 eggs in a year. After loss due to breakage, there will be 200 eggs remaining. With that calculation I get 2,400 eggs in a year. I could sell an egg for Rs 5. During day time, the ducks are allowed to swim in the pond so that they will eat the worms and mosses. The wastes from ducks will be a feed for fishes. Therefore there are no fodder expenses for rabbits and ducks and whatever we get out of these two is only a profit.
There are 50 pairs of country pigeons. I get 1000 hatchlings in a year and about 800 will survive at the end. They will be reared for three months before selling. They will be given broken grams, maize and green grams as mixed feed”. He then took us to the fish pond.
“There are two ponds, one in an acre and the other in two acres spread. One lakh of one day old fingerlings should be introduced to one of the ponds and allowed to grow for 2 months. When they reached the size of the finger they will be transferred to the other pond. For the first fifteen days half a kg of groundnut oil cake should be given daily to the one lakh fingerlings. For the next 45 days, daily one kg of groundnut oil cake and one kg of oil extracted paddy husk, mixed together should be given. After two months there will be 20,000 in the pond, of which 9000 will be retained in the ponds and the other will be sold.
The fish growing in the pond are fed daily with the boiled mix of flour from soya, wheat, corn and Bengal gram. In an acre of pond, during the first one month, 1 kg, from 2nd month, it is 2 kg, 3rd month, 3 kg and from 4th to 8th it is daily 4 kg fodder to be provided. The feed is kept in a nylon sac and tied as a bag. Three holes are made on the bag and it is hung touching the surface of the water. Along with that 2 kg of chicken waste is also hung in a bag.
After eight month, foregoing all the losses due to predation by frogs and turtles, natural death and poor growth, there will be a total of 5000 fishes in three acres of pond. They will weigh from ¾ kg to 1 ¼ kg and an average weight of 5000 kg of fish will be harvested. Sellers will visit the pond, catch the fish and weigh them and buy them for Rs 100 per kg”.
Agriculture and animals, keeping one dependent on another will reduce the cost of production. The waste of an organism becomes the feed for another. The fodder cost also becomes lesser due to green fodder. Especially, we get continuous returns from ducks and rabbits as there is no feed cost at all. From the eight acre of land where I do integrated farming I could earn 13 lakhs”. He happily concluded.
“If you make little effort, you can surely gain considerable profit. I am the perfect example for the same”. He smiled.
Considering straw, groundnut crop and green fodder it will go beyond Rs 13 lakhs
(This article written in Tamil by Ramakrishnan for Pasumai Vikatan Jan 2014 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)