Livestock rearing extends its helping hand when a farmer fails to gain from crop cultivation. That is the primary intention for any farmer to continue livestock rearing so that it fetches considerable economic returns as a cushioning when there is a crop failure. One such farmer is Mr. Prakash from Vilupuram district who had witnessed dwindling returns from crop cultivation has been gaining good returns from livestock rearing though.
His farm is in Reddikuppam village, near Vikravandi. We met him at his farm while he was engaged in supervising deep bore well work happening at his premises. “We are traditional farmers. We are having our own jewelry shop at Vikravandi, running it along with my brother. Our family owns about 50 acres of land in which coconut trees occupy 10 acres, guava in 25 acres, mango in 10 acres and casuarinas in 5 acres. Coconut trees were planted four years ago and we sell them as tender coconuts in the market. Guava is kept as intercrop to coconut trees. Within the coconut grove, there are sheds to rear Tellicherry, Boer and sheep varieties of 200 in numbers”. While sharing his farming ventures he took us around the farm.
“There is a fence around the whole farm and therefore even if they are let out they cannot go out of the farm. We send them out of the shed in the morning and they will return only in the evening. As they roam around the entire stretch of the farm they shed off their dung all over it, which become manure to the soil. With the expanse of 50 acres of a farm they are able to get green fodder naturally. In addition, there is Ko-5 variety of fodder grass cultivated in the farm for them. We get income only from this livestock rearing.
At the beginning, I bought only 10 Tellicherry, 15 Boer and 10 sheep varieties as parent colonies for rearing. From that stock, we have bred the remaining. They are fed only with green fodder. They return to the shed at night, grazing around the farm during the day. So the shed will not have much waste around.
We clean the shed once in two days. A veterinary doctor from the neighboring village will check their health every week and will provide vaccination shots as per the need”. He then continued to share about the maintenance of the stock with us.
“Female goats (doe) will sexually mature after six months. During estrous they will be restless, not standing in a particular place, and wag their tails nonstop. That is the right time to introduce the male goats (buck) and we should ensure they have completed two years to attain adulthood. The gestation period is 8 months and they could breed thrice in two years. If the young ones are nurtured properly they could easily gain 10 kg weight in 3 months. The young ones should be allowed to remain with their mothers for 20 days.
Then they should be weaned and trained to eat fodder. After three months they should be segregated gender-wise. While feeding them it should be ensured to provide them a right proportion of green and dry fodders. Dense fodder should be given to feeding mothers and male breeders.
They should be vaccinated every year against pox virus (Thullumari) and twice in a year against foot and mouth disease and Q fever. Young ones should be dewormed in the first three months from birth for every 20 days and it can be done once in every quarter. It is important to separate the sick ones from the rest of the herd”. He continued to share the details of returns with us.
“There is a continuous demand for goats, especially for the males than the females. We sell them after nurturing them for 8 months. By the time they will reach a body weight of about 20 – 25 kg. Sheep and Tellicherry varieties are sold @ Rs 250 per kg of live weight. Considering a minimum weight of 20 kg it will amount to Rs 5000. About 60 of both the varieties are sold per year. By that calculation, we can get more than Rs 3 lakhs in a year.
Boer varieties are sold @ Rs 500 per kg of live weight. By 8 months they will reach more than 30 kg of body weight. Therefore, at the minimum, a goat can be sold for Rs 15,000, with a body weight of 30 kg. We sell about 80 Boer goats in a year and that will fetch us more than Rs 12 lakhs in a year.
Therefore, on the whole, there is an income of Rs 15 lakhs through goat rearing. Considering 5 lakhs of expenditure towards maintenance, medicines and treatments, electricity and labor charges, there is a net profit of Rs 10 lakhs. With this income, we are able to cope with the expenses related to crop cultivation”. Thus he concluded gladly.
Prakash has been using chemical fertilizers at his coconut farm. However, he showed interest in learning about the natural options for farm inputs and so we approached Mr. Manoharan from Karur, a progressing organic farmer, to share more details about it. Below is the recommendation from him.
“Once in three months, the coconut trees should be provided with goat manure and farmyard manure mixed together. If they are attacked by beetles, keep a handful of sieved sand or husk above the young sheaths. Monthly once 300 ml of Panchakavya mixed with 10 liters of water should be poured around the root. Rhinoceros beetles can be controlled using light traps and pheromone traps. As coconuts are sold as tender one's urea or any other toxic chemicals should not be used. In my experience even using neem oil cake itself will spoil its taste. Therefore we should be cautious about using them. Each coconut tree should be irrigated with 120 liters every day”. Listening to him Prakash wished to try his recommendations.
Moisture containing mulch
Convincingly Prakash said, “Our farm remains green only because of the mulching technique we follow. Whatever waste generated at my farm will be added to the soil to allow them to become natural manure. The fibers and dry sheaths of coconut are used as mulch. We have bought a machine to grind those wastes from the coconut tree. The ground waste is used as mulch for the coconut and guava farms.
Even the leaves of guava are also mixed along with the mulch. At present, we are adding a small amount of chemical fertilizer along with goat manure and mulching.
There is always moisture remaining in the soil due to mulching. That reduces water requirement for irrigation. The whole farm remains cool due to high moisture content in the premises. There are more earthworms in the soil due to high moisture content. The agriculture waste used as mulch gets transformed into manure gradually. One kg of mulch could save nearly up to 4 liters of water. That also leads to a better growth of fodder grass”.
Caution with new goats
“The new goats procured from the market should not be allowed to mix immediately with the existing population of goats. They should be kept separately in the farm, as a practice of quarantine, to ensure their health status, and also to examine them for the presence of any diseases. They should be treated accordingly if anything abnormal is found. Besides, they should be given thorough body bath and also required vaccinations before being mixed with the existing population. It is also important to keep the sheds clean all the time”.
Free fertilizer for coconut trees
In Tamil Nadu, there is about 4500 hectare of land area being cultivated with coconut trees and the required amount of fertilizer for them can be procured free of cost from the Coconut Development Board. Alongside the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu there will be Southwest monsoon during the month of June. But till now there is no adequate rain in those areas. With an aim to support those farmers growing coconut trees the Central Coconut Development Board has planned to supply fertilizers freely, striving to bring down the expenditure and at the same time encourage the growers. With this programme, the farmers, especially in the districts of Coimbatore and Thirupur will be benefitted.
(This article written in Tamil by Durai Nagarajan for Pasumai Vikatan issue dt 10/9/17 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)