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close this bookSPORE Bulletin of the CTA No. 24 (CTA Spore, 1989, 16 p.)
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Small-scale dairying, stimulus for improving farm livelihoods

The adoption of dairy farming can be the stimulus for a direct increase in farm earnings and a general improvement in farm productivity. Milk sales can provide a regular income throughout much of the year and with dual-purpose breeds the calf will fatten readily for beef; manure applied to land will raise soil fertility, and otherwise wasted crop by-products can be used as feed; and the training that is required for farmers to become successful producers of quality milk usually results in an overall improvement in management skills, literacy and numeracy. In addition, the development of dairying requires refrigeration of milk, and this can accelerate the spread of electrification into rural areas.

In most tropical countries dairying has not been deemed important or even desirable, even where milkproducing livestock have been kept. While many farming families have taken milk for their own use from cattle and buffaloes kept for meat and as draft animals and from sheep, goats - even camels and horses - they have seldom used it to sell. The reasons are clear: milk is a highly perishable product and cannot be kept fresh for more than a day or two without refrigerating or subjecting it to pasteurisation or sterilisation processes. As a result it has been beyond the scope of small farmers to develop a milk collection and distribution chain. Only if milk is converted to butter or ghee, cheese, yoghurt or fermented milk has it been possible to trade and get income from dairying and this has been more typical of the sub-Tropics - North Africa, Arabia and the Indian sub-continent - than the Tropics. Culturally, milk has also had a low priority in diets in many ACP countries, partly because of low avai lability and partly, perhaps, because of fears that milk can cause illness. It is an almost perfect culture medium for bacteria, which multiply rapidly in warm milk. If milking is done without attention to cleanliness (of the cow's udder, the milker's hands and the collecting vessel) and if it is left unfiltered, uncooled and uncovered the rate of spoilage is very high.

But the situation has changed in the past two decades or so. The availability of imported milk as powder, in cans and most recently as UHT (Ultra High Temperature) treated whole milk has led to the development of a taste for milk in tea, coffee, food and as a beverage itself. Tourist and expatriate personnel from temperate regions have increased demand and consequently many ACP countries have seen a significant increase in imports for dairy products, all to be paid for in foreign exchange.

Kenya is a notable exception in Africa, as is Jamaica in the Caribbean. In Kenya, European settlers developed a well-organized dairy industry including processing plants for butter and cheese. Following independence, Kenya Co-operative Creameries have continued to take milk from large and small herds of specialised dairy breeds mainly in the higher, more temperate country west and north of Nairobi. Shops, hotels and airlines serve Kenya butter and cheese, and milk is plentifully available. With tourism now the country's largest industry, much foreign exchange is saved by Kenya's dairy farmers, large and small.

Jamaica also developed an embryo dairy industry prior to independence and also has its own dairy breed, the Jamaica Hope. However, the proximity of the United States and readily available year-round supplies of milk and milk products have made for competition for the local industry. In Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, when bauxite and oil prices were high it was possible to pay for many food imports with earnings from exports; the need now, as in most ACP countries, is for import substitution.

Milk from multi-purpose cattle

In most ACP countries it will not be possible to achieve self-sufficiency in dairy products without careful planning, thorough training and investment in dairy processing facilities.

T.R. Preston, in his book "The Development of Milk Production Systems in the Tropics" (see box), is insistent that, because so many failures have been caused by trying to develop milk production systems on European models, methods more appropriate to tropical conditions must be found. Milk production should be based where cattle are reared traditionally rather than in specialised new dairy sites round areas of high population. "Multi-purpose" rearing of cattle for both meat and milk must replace milk production alone. The decentralisation of milk-processing to the place of production or to agro-pastoral zones will help bring this about.

In an attempt to achieve self-sufficiency in dairy products, planners are now seeking to identify those areas which are suitable to an intensification of rearing systems. What suits the cattle also suits the butcher and the dairyman, in general. The criteria for collection and transportation of milk are much the same as for slaughtering and conserving meat, and both require a reasonable proximity to the large centres of consumption.

Few small farmers will have sufficient land for any to be devoted to pasture and in some countries, where the terrain is very hilly, the land may not be suited to grazing of cattle. Despite these constraints, milk production can fit into smallholder farming, although it may require that cattle are kept in stalls or on tethers and fed on a "cut and-carry" or zero grazing system.

A very wide range of feeds can be utilized. Grass may form the bulk of the daily ration, cut from field boundaries, from under trees and even from roadsides. This can be supplemented by fast-growing forages such as birseem (Egyphan clover) sown as a catchcrop or in rotation between arable crops. Also, since most smallholders grow a variety of crops to reduce risk, cereal straw, pea and beanstovers, vegetable trimmings, and the by-products of agro-processing industries can provide good nutrition, although some may need supplementary minerals.

In Kenya and Zambia, brewery grains are fed to herds close to Nairobi and Lusaka; molasses is available in many ACP countries and, with urea and chopped straw, makes an excellent feed for milch animals; dried citrus peel is being fed by smallholder dairy farmers in the Caribbean while the potential for feeding citrus, pineapple and tomato pulp has been proved in Florida, Hawaii and Israel. Even waterweeds that have invaded lakes and canals have been harvested, wilted and fed either alone or chopped and mixed with straw and molasses.

The confinement of cattle in stalls or on tethers will have further advantages. Costly fencing and herding will not be necessary, and damage to crops, trees, drainage channels and soil conservation terraces will be avoided. Furthermore the manure produced will be easily collected for selective use on those fields or vegetable plots deemed most in need. The great disadvantage of confinement is that there is an inevitable build-up of flies, parasites and other disease-causing organisms and it may be necessary to move stalls and tethers to a fresh location as frequently as is practicable, given the space available. It also becomes vitally important that utmost care is taken to minimize contamination of milk during and after milking.

Milk that is wholesome

Farmers who have used milk from their animals only for family consumption need training in order to appreciate the much higher standards of hygiene required if milk is to be sold. Fresh milk for the home is usually consumed quickly and rural people may be unconcerned to see flies, hair and even flakes of dried dung in their milk. They may not understand that urban consumers are more particular. Also, whereas milk that is to be consumed within a few hours can be left at ambient temperature, cooling is essential if milk is to remain wholesome during two or three days of transportation and distribution. Even absolutely clean milk will sour naturally within a day or two if it is not cooled soon after milking and kept cool.

The need to wash thoroughly and sterilize all utensils used in collecting and storing milk must be impressed on newcomers to dairying as well as washing hands and cleaning udders before milking. After milking, milk should be filtered through a clean muslin cloth. If possible this should be sterilized after each milking by boiling. Then the milk should be cooled as much as possible. If cool spring water is available in highland areas it will provide a simple lowcost method but in most parts of the tropics water and air temperatures are too high and the best that can be done is to place milk containers in deep shade until they are transported as soon as possible to a bulk collection centre.

Collection centres must have cooling facilities and these require mains or generator electricity. Where well-managed collection centres are not available, producers may be tempted to adulterate milk with ice, formalin or even antibiotics in an effort to delay souring. All these practices are dangerous to the health of the consumer: even the use of ice, which may have come from dubious and unhygienic sources.

Governments will also have to be involved through their extension and veterinary services in teaching farmers the risks from milch animals infected with diseases transferable to humans - tuberculosis and brucellosis - diseases that will need control and eventual eradication.

Worthwhile challenge

Despite the substantial need for training, financial investment and trained extension and veterinary manpower, many ACP and non-ACP developing countries are committed to developing a dairy industry. India has a highly developed industry that has been expanded under "Operation Flood" to provide milk for the major cities. But while India's industry - and Kenya's - are well documented, successes achieved in such countries as Nepal are less well known. Here the Gosaikind Cheese Factory at Singompha provides a model: some 40 families supply milk from yaks and yak/cow cross-brads for making into cheese. The season is only six months because snow and low temperatures reduce feed availability and curtail mobility and access, but production has steadily increased from 5000 kilos of cheese produced in 1984 to 10,000 kilos in 1989. The factory provides local employment and the milk sales income for farming families in a remote part of the country. Furthermore, porters gain income by headloading cheeses (up to 90 kilos per load at two rupees per kilo) to the nearest road half a day's walk away.

In Pakistan IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) is providing credit for farmers in the Punjab to take up dairying and so to improve the generally poor living conditions in the area. Most of the rural families have at best two hectares, some no land at all. Funding will help farmers purchase stock, organize delivery, provide chilling units and develop processing factories. The farmers are being shown how to maximize forage from their own crop by-products, from neighbours without cattle, from roadsides and by sowing birseem.

In Dominica (see SPORE 21) the Government is committed to a major diversification programme to reduce dependence on bananas, limes and coconut, and smallscale dairying production is being developed based on grass grown under tree crops (limes) which is cut and carried to stalled animals, grazing under coconuts and feeding by-products such as dried lime peel. The first phase is for 15-20 farms each of three to five cows serving the capital, Roseau, and other main towns. There are to be five collection points and a central dairy plant to pasteurise, homogenise and package milk for distribution. Again, IFAD is contributing funds for start-up loans. The Ministry of Agriculture is mounting a major training and education programme to stress to farmers that they can expect to sell only milk of a consistently high hygienic quality and to inform them how to achieve this

The development of dairy farming in Europe and the US, and the consequent improvement of livestock output, led rapidly to an upward spiral in the general productivity and income of small mixed farms and to the generation of greater employment opportunities in the rural areas. The same potential and opportunities exist today many ACP countries.


· Milk and dairy products: production and processing costs - FAO Animal Production and Health - paper n° 62

· Village milk processing - FAO Animal Production and Health - paper no 45

· Le point sur "les petites laiteries " - Petites unites industrielles de transformation du fait - GRET n° 9