Dairy farming : A means of sustainable income under integrated farming

M Norjit Singh, Th Ranadhir Singh, Chongtham Sonia, Blessa Sail *

Livestock is an integral component of agriculture. It makes multifaceted contributions to the growth and development of the agriculture sector. Livestock helps to improve food production and provide nutritional security. It generates income, employment and acts as a cushion against crop failure. It provides draught power and manure inputs to raise the crop. It also contributes to foreign exchange through the export of animal products.

Out of total land holding 30 per cent is held by small and marginal farmers. They manage 80 per cent of total livestock in the country. Livestock production is more impressive than food grain production. The activity of livestock production is largely confined to the rural sector.

Land, labour, capital and organization are the basic resources available in the rural sector. These four factors of livestock production are roped-in proportionately to augment the production of finished goods; namely milk, meat, pork, wool and multifarious products of commercial importance.

Nutritional deficiencies problem is common among the poor. Protein deficient diet based on cereals and pulses needs to be supplemented by animal-based protein sources for which dairy based products are well known. Dairying plays a vital role in the country’s agricultural economy, which being the second largest contributor to the gross agricultural produce and leading milk producer with 18.5% of world production.

The age-old format of conventional dairy management is being transformed into a more meaningful and scientific form, based on improved breeding, feeding, housing and health cover practices. India has the largest cattle population in the world (210million). In India, the average size of the farm has been declining and over 80 million out of 105 million operational holdings are below the size of one hectare and pose a serious problem in general.

The farmers particularly the small farmers are unable to meet both ends with the income from cropping alone. The situation is further weakened due to repeated failure of monsoon on one side and on the other side, due to ever increasing population and decline in per capita availability of land.

Further, there is hardly any scope for horizontal expansion of land and only vertical expansion is possible by integrating various farm enterprises Dairy enterprise when combined with other enterprises on scientific lines offers great opportunities for increasing farm income and employment, particularly to the weaker sections of the rural community.

Conventional agriculture is known to cause soil and pasture degradation because it involves intensive tillage, in particular if practised in areas of marginal productivity. An integrated crop-livestock farming system represents a key solution for enhancing livestock production and safeguarding the environment through prudent and efficient resource.

The increasing pressure on land and the growing demand for livestock products makes it more and more important to ensure the effective use of feed resources, including crop residues. An integrated farming system consists of a range of resource-saving practices that aim to achieve acceptable profits and high and sustained production levels, while minimizing the negative effects of intensive farming and preserving the environment.

According to Pillay (1990), the basic principles involved in integrated farming are the utilization of the synergetic effects of interrelated farm activities, and the conservation, including the full utilization, of farm wastes. It is based on the concept that “there is no waste”, and “waste is only a misplaced resource which can become a valuable ma terial for another product”.

The rationale behind integrated farming is to minimize wastes from the various subsystems on the farm: wastes or by-products from each subsystem are used as inputs to other subsystems to improve the productivity and lower the cost of production of the outputs of the various subsystems.

Livestock based integrated farming system is one of the rising agriculture systems for the north-eastern region. The practice of this type of farming system has been continued in this region in a traditional way from time immemorial. Fish-Livestock along with Livestock-Crop farming is the major concept in Livestock based integrated farming system.


Fish farming can become more production-oriented if integrated with cattle farming. Cattle are allowed to graze on pond banks and grassy areas in the vicinity and dung is either collected or washed directly from the cattle sheds into the ponds. The mam potential linkages between livestock and fish production concern use of nutrients, particularly reuse of livestock manures for fish production.

The term nutrients mainly refer to elements such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) functions as fertilizers to stimulate natural food webs rather than conventional livestock nutrition usage such as feed ingredients. Both production and processing of livestock gen erate by-products that can be used for aquaculture.

A healthy cow excretes over 4,000-5,000 kg dung, 3,500-4,000 litre urine on annual basis. Cow dung particles sink slower (6 cm/ min) than any other livestock. This provides sufficient time for fish to consume edible portions available in dung. A unit of 5-6 cows can provide adequate manure for 1 ha of pond.

In addition to 9,000 kg of milk, about 3,000-4,000 kg-1 ha-lY-1 fish can also be harvested with such integration. Cow requires about 7,000-8,000 kg of green grass annually. Grass carp utilizes the leftover gasses, which are about 2,500 kg. fish also utilizes the fine feed wasted by cows, which consist of grains. In place of raw cow dung, biogas slurry is recycled in 1 ha water area to get over 4000 kg of fish without feed or any fertilizer application.


Cattle shed
The cow shed should be constructed at a stable and elevated site allowing direct sunlight to the platform, gutters and managers of the cattle shed. The floor should be concrete and should be slightly inclined leading a drain which is connected to a soak pit. A covered pit may be constructed nearby to store cow dung. For the cattle shed, thatch is the best roofing material but asbestos can also be used.

For 0.1 ha water area, one cow with a calf is sufficient. The cow should be brought about two months earlier to introducing fish into the pond.

Green fodder 30-40 kg-1 day-1 cow
Straw 3-4 kg-1 day-1 cow
Concentrated feed
(Wheat bran + rice bran + GOC+ mineral mixture +salt) 2 kg-1 day-1 cow Health Management Maintenance of hygiene in the cow shed is most important. Adopt preventive measures by consulting veterinary expert against coccidiosis, parasitic infection, etc.

Immunization FMD vaccine, anthrax spore vaccine, haemorrhagic septicaemia vaccine and black quarter vaccine should be given in time. Consult veterinary expert for time schedule and vaccination.


Size of pond: 0.4 to 1.0 ha area is sufficient to make profit from this integration.

Prestocking: Clearance of unwanted fished, de-weed-ing and liming as in the case of composite fish culture system is done prior to stocking of pond with fish seed.

Stocking and Post stocking: In direct integration system, stocking is done after 20 days of introduction of piglets in the pigsty. In indirect integration, 1000 kg ha-1 pig wastes is applied in single instalment. Pond becomes ready for stocking after 20 days. Rate of stocking of fish seed is 9000 No. ha-1 preferably with advanced fingerlings:

Stock is replenished after partial harvesting with a same number of fingerlings of harvested species. After one-year, complete harvesting is done. Pond is dewatered partially to expose the silt to sunlight. These are to be taken out with the help of bamboo basket. New stock of fish is introduced after proper liming. In second year too, partial dewatering followed by desilting is to be done.

At the end of third year, complete dewatering is done to expose the bottom. Complete desilting is done, followed by liming. Thereafter. fish culture is started, after 20 days of introduction of the cattle into cattle shed.

Lime application In this integration except basal manure there is no need to apply inorganic and organic manure from the outside during the culture period. Only lime is applied at the rate of 250-300 kg-1 ha-1 y-1 at suitable intervals.


An integrated crop-live-stock system is a form of mixed production that utilizes crops and livestock in a way that they can complement one another through space and time The backbone of an integrated system is the herd of ruminants (animals like sheep, goats or cattle), which graze a pasture to build up the soil.

Eventually, sufficient soil organic matter builds up to the point where crops can be supported. Animal can also be used for farm operations and transport. While crop residues provide fodder for livestock and grain provides supplementary feed for production animals.

Dairy animals play key and multiple roles in the functioning of the farm, and not only because they provide livestock products (milk and hides) or can be converted into prompt cash in times of need. It also provides manure and other types of animal waste. Animal excreta have two crucial roles in the overall sustainability of the system:

Improving nutrient cycling

Excreta contains several nutrients (including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and organic matter, which are important for maintaining soil structure and fertility. Through its use, production is increased while the risk of soil degradation reduced.

Providing energy

Excreta is the basis for the production of biogas and energy for household use (e.g. cooking, lighting) or for rural industries (e.g. powering mills and water pumps). Fuel in the form of biogas or dung cakes can replace charcoal and wood.

One key advantage of crop-dairy production system is that animals can be fed on crop residues and other products that would otherwise pose a major waste disposal problem. For example, animal can be fed on straw, damaged fruits, grains and household wastes. Integration of livestock and crop allows nutrients to be recycled more effectively on the farm.

Manure itself is a valuable fertilizer containing 8 kg of nitrogen, 4 kg of phosphorus and 16 kg of potassium per ton. Adding manure to the soil not only fertilizes it but also improves its structures and' water retention capacity.


Food security, livelihood security, water security as well as natural resources conservation and environment protection have emerged as major issues worldwide. Developing countries like India struggling to deal with these issues and also have to contend with the dual burden of climate change and globalization.

It has been accepted by everyone across the globe that sustainable development is the only way to promote rational utilization of resources and environmental protection without hampering economic growth. Within the broad concept of sustainable agriculture “Integrated Farmin Systems’* hold special position as in this system nothing is wasted, the byproduct of one system becomes the input for other.

This system helps poor small farmers, who have very small land holding for crop production and a few heads of livestock to diversify farm production, increase cash income, improve quality and quantity of food produced and exploitation of unutilized resources.

The role of dairy cattle in integrated farming systems is easily overlooked when dairying is examined through western eyes. Nevertheless, smallholders may not consider becoming specialist dairy producers until an assured market and the reliability of income is clear, and most appear to prefer to integrate the enterprise with other agricultural activities.

This creates efficiencies in family labour usage, use of residues and farm nutrient recycling. Dairying in integrated farming systems is a complex enterprise.

Potential improvements and increased productivity from this enterprise can only come from a better understanding of the nature and extent of the interactions with the other sub-sectors, like crops and natural resources, economic benefits, as well as the impact on the livelihoods of small farmers and the environment.

* M Norjit Singh, Th Ranadhir Singh, Chongtham Sonia, Blessa Sail wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writers are with Department of Animal Sciences, College of Agriculture, CAU, Imphal, Manipur, ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region, Manipur Centre, Imphal, Manipur
This article was posted on July 27, 2022.

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