Introduction to Growing Fodder Crops for Dairy Cattle:
The following content is about Fodder Crops For Dairy Cattle.
Cultivation of green grass within the Dairy farm area is extremely important for a successful business and also considered economical. Generally, dairy farm owners do not pay much attention to the cultivation of fodder and focus mainly on feeding the cattle with concentrated feed, which incurs great investment. Feeding the dairy cattle with green fodder reduces the expenses for concentrate feeds and improves profitability of the farms. There are different varieties of fodder suitable for dairy cattle and are categorised into 5 different types such as legume fodder, cereal fodder, grass fodder, tree fodder and Azolla. Each category has many different varieties that are listed below for easy understanding. These categories are:
Cereal fodder varieties (grass)
- Is cultivated on any variety of soils under well drained and fertile conditions.
- This is grown mostly as a kharif crop during the month of June-July, but in South India maize fodder is grown as Rabi crop.
- Types of maize fodder cultivated are African tall, Vijay composite, Moti composite, Ganga-5 and Jawahar.
- The seed rate per hectare is 40 kgs and each seed is dibbled at a distance of 15 cm in a row with 30 cm as spacing between the rows.
- The average yield of green fodder per hectare is 40-50 tonnes and the yield of dry matter is 10-15 tonnes.
- To obtain the supply of green fodder for a long period, staggered sowing is done.
- The crop is mostly harvested when the cob turns milky.
Read: Maize Farming Project Report.
- This grass is cultivated for two things: grains and fodder.
- The crop is drought resistant.
- Varieties suitable for Jan-Feb and April-May under irrigated conditions are Co.11, Co.27 and Co.F.S. 29.
- Varieties suitable for Sep-Oct as rain-fed crops are K7, Co.27, Co.F.S. 29 and K10.
- The seed rate of this fodder is 40 kgs per hectare.
- The grass can be harvested for fodder after the flowering stage.
- The sorghum grass needs a tropical climate with temperature range 25-35˚C, annual rainfall of 300-350 mm and an elevation of 1200 m above sea level.
- Any type of soils is suitable for sorghum except very sandy soil.
- If the grass is a single cut variety it should be harvested after 60-65 days of sowing and for a multi cut variety, the crop is harvested after 60 days of sowing (first cut) and after 40 days from the first cut.
Read: Sorghum Farming.
- It is produced from the cross of Napier grass and Bajra cereal.
- Considered as high yielding variety; produces 150 tonnes per year from one acre of land.
- The average protein content is 8 to 11%.
- The planting rate is 17,000 slips per acre.
Grass fodder varieties
- This type has more number of leaves and is considered to be more vigorous.
- Crude protein from these leaves is 8 to 11%.
- CN4 is one type of hybrid Napier produced from the cross of cumbu Co.8 and Napier grass F.T.461. The average yield of the variety is 380-400 tonnes per hectare.
- Another hybrid grass KKM-1 cumbu Napier has an average yield of 288 tonnes per hectare each year and is considered to be rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and small amount of oxalate.
- The planting rate is 40,000 slips per hectare.
- The crop is first harvested during the 75-80 days of sowing and the subsequent harvests are done with a 45 days interval after the first harvest.
- This is a short creeping rhizome.
- It is propagated easily by seeds or by slips.
- Crude protein content is 4 to 14%.
- Some varieties of this grass are hamil, PPG-14, makuni, rivers-dale, Co₁ and Co₂.
- Grows well in regions with any type of soil having good draining properties.
- The seed rate is 2.5 kgs per hectare and slips needed for one hectare of land are 66,000.
- Spacing between crops is 50 x 30 cm.
- The first harvest is done after 45 days of planting the slips or after 75 to 80 days after germination of seeds. The subsequent harvest is done with an interval of 45 days after the first cut.
- The average yield is 175 tonnes per hectare in 8 cuts.
- This is cultivated in humid areas where the region is seasonally flooded.
- This grass is also suitable for cultivation in arid and semi arid regions.
- The crop is sensitive to winter weather conditions.
- The crop is propagated through stem cuttings because seed setting is very poor in this type.
- Stems with 2 to 3 nodes are used as planting material. The width of the rows is 45 to 60 cm and the spacing between stems is 20 cm.
- Planting rate is 800-1000 kgs of stems per hectare of land.
- The yield from the crop is 80 to 100 tonnes per hectare with an average of about 6 to 9 cuts each year.
- The first harvest is done after 75-80 days from planting and the subsequent harvests are done with an interval of 45 days from the first harvest.
Blue Buffalo grass
- This grass grows well in dry lands under rain-fed conditions.
- Two major varieties of this grass are Cenchrus cilliaris and C. setigerus.
- The crop needs well drained soil with rich calcium content.
- Seed rate is 6-8 kg per hectare.
- The first harvest is done after 70-75 days of sowing.
- Each year an average of 4-6 cuts are done with a yield of 40 tonnes per hectare.
Tree fodder varieties
- This crop has seasonal varieties like Ivory coast, Co.1 (June-July); K 8, ipil-ipil, Co.1 are rain-fed varieties (Sep-Oct).
- The first harvest is done only after the tree attains a trunk diameter of 3 cm and has completed one seed production cycle.
- Subsequent harvests are done after 40-80 days of the first harvest, mostly depending on the growth and season.
- The green fodder produced from the crop is about 80 to 100 tonnes (irrigated conditions) per hectare.
- Under rain-fed conditions the average yield of the crop is 40 tonnes per hectare.
- This crop can tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions such as average rainfall above 900 mm etc.
- Heavy clay soil, sandy soil or rocky eroded soil are suitable for these crops, but should have proper draining facilities.
- These trees are grown mostly as ornamental trees or as shade trees in coffee gardens.
- The Green leaf manure produced from the G. Maculata variety is very popular because it helps in fixing nitrogen in the soil.
- The protein content in the leaves is about 25%.
- Can be grown throughout the year under irrigated conditions.
- Any type of soil is considered suitable for this tree type, but should have god drainage facilities.
- The seed rate used for this variety is 7.5 kg/ ha ad the seeds are sown at a spacing of 100 x 100 cm.
- The first harvest is done after 8 months of sowing with subsequent harvests after 60-80 days interval from the first cut.
- One hectare of Sesbania cultivation can produce an average of 100 tonnes per hectare of green fodder.
Legume fodder varieties
Cow pea or lobia
- This plant is native to tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions.
- Can be cultivated in any season.
- Major varieties include Co₅, Russian giant, EC4216, UPC-287 and locals.
- Seed rate is 40 kgs per hectare.
- The first harvest is done after 50-55 days from sowing.
- The Co₅ variety is suitable for growing under irrigated conditions, mostly during the months of June-July. The yield of this variety is 18-20 tonnes per hectare with crude protein content of 20%.
- This variety is used for open grazing.
- This plant is grown throughout the year as an irrigated crop, but is grown during June-October as rain-fed crop.
- The seed rate is 20 kgs per hectare.
- The first harvest or cut is done after 90 days of sowing at a height of 50 cm. Subsequent cuts are done after an interval of 40 days from the first cut.
- This variety is also called as Alfa Alfa and is considered to be a rich leguminous crop.
- This is termed as the ‘Queen of Forages’.
- The crude protein content in the grass is about 15-20%.
- This grass helps to add nitrogen to the soil and improves the fertility of the land.
- Mostly it is cultivated for green fodder, hay, silage etc.
- The varieties of Lucerne are Anand 2, Sirsa-9, IGFRI S-244 and Co.1.
- The normal recommended seed rate is 20 kg per hectare.
- The first harvest of the crop is done after 75-80 days of sowing and subsequent harvests are done at an interval of 25-30 days from the first harvest.
- The Co-1 variety is exclusively grown during the period of June-December; average seed rate is 200-250 kg/ha; yield per year is 70-80 tonnes in 10 harvests and crude protein content is 20-24%.
- This variety is not suitable for open grazing, but is highly digestible and helps in better yield of milk.
- This is plant native to Brazil that grows to a height of 0.6 to 1.8 m.
- It is found suitable for cultivation in tropical regions and also in regions or lands with low fertility, drought, acidic soils and poor drainage conditions.
- These are drought resistant legumes, which can probably grow in areas with a minimum annual rainfall of 450-840 mm.
- Any type of soil is considered good for stylo cultivation.
- Crude protein present in the leaves is 15 to 18%.
- The season for cultivation is from June-July to September –October.
- The seed rate is 30 x 15 cm for line sowing and 6 kg/ha for broadcasting.
- The first harvest is done after 75 days of sowing.
- During the initial years, growth is slow and after the 3rd year, yield increases to 30-35 tonnes per hectare.
Read: Raising Emu Birds for Profit.