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How to cite this article: Madhu S. Organic Dairy Farming as a Tool to Ensure Sustainable Rural Livelihood - A Grassroot Perspective. Dairy and Vet Sci
J. 2018; 7(1): 555705. DOI: 10.19080/JDVS.2018.07.555705
Organic milk can help avoid risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes like health problems associated with modern lifestyle. The increasing awareness among consumers about health benefits of organic milk and the increased purchasing power of new generation have increased the prospects of organic dairy production. Organic livestock production requires that animals are fed organic feed, have access to pasture or outside with restricted use of antibiotics and hormones. Organic feed is produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides for at least three years prior to harvest. Some feed additives such as vitamins, minerals and probiotics can be added to feed if they are approved by a certifying organic authority. A proper herd health program should include strategies for disease prevention, parasitic control and disease treatment. All vaccines for endemic disease are approved. Herbal, naturopathic and homeopathic treatments are approved for use on organic animals. Producers of organic animal products need to maintain full records (which can be checked by a certifying authority at any time) and must only market healthy animals and animal products.
Changing to organic dairy production requires commitment and awareness of what’s involved. Becoming organic can lower cost of production for grassroot people (smallholder dairy farmers) while at the same time raise their profits. However financial returns shall depend greatly on the demand generated. Due to rich heritage of dairy farming traditions suitable for organic production systems with good returns, India is in a unique position to utilize this opportunity. However, for this purpose, several policy issues require immediate attention. Creating awareness among farmers and their training through dairy field functionaries, capacity building through participatory research network and incentives for interested farmers (like subsidized inputs and supply of market information) shall be the priorities. Therefore, the following study was conducted to judge awareness of dairy farmers about organic milk production and their concerns about transition to organic dairy farming.
Organic dairy farming means raising animals on organic feed (i.e. pastures cultivated without the use of fertilizers or pesticides), have access to pasture or outside along with the restricted usage of antibiotics and hormones . Also, milk should be piped from the udders to the chilling and pasteurization units directly by automated systems. This ensures no hand contact that might lead to contamination.
Organic dairy farming offers a plethora of health benefits for livestock and humans. This results in a positive impact on environment, benefitting the community. It therefore involves the integration of animal-pasture-crop production to yield wholesome milk and milk products free from ill effects of pesticides, fertilizers and hormones. A recent research has pointed out that organic milk contains 62 percent more omega-3 fats than conventional milk and it has less of the damaging omega-6 fats. A higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is required in body to avoid health problems like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis and
diabetes. The organic milk also contains greater amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a cancer fighting fatty acid. CLA also helps boost the immune system and reduce the growth of tumours.
Other benefits associated with organic milk (website of organic facts) are its rich antioxidant properties (due to lutein and zeaxanthin), protection against macular degeneration and cataracts, its ability to aid in reduction of abdominal fat, cholesterol and allergic reactions and boosting metabolism in body. Since cow’s graze on grass in natural pastures, therefore organic milk acquires many nutrients, including vitamin E, beta carotene and the healthy fats (omega -3 and CLA). Moreover, feeding a grass silage-based diet supplemented with commodity concentrates has a definite economic advantage for dairy producers under organic system of production .
High quality organic raw milk is loaded with healthy bacteria good for digestive system, more than 55 different digestive enzymes, growth factors and immunoglobulins, amino acids and proteins in highly bio available forms (also 100 percent
digestible), rich in vitamins (A, B, C, D, E and K) in highly bio
available forms and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium,
magnesium, phosphorus and iron) whose absorption is
enhanced by live lactobacilli. In fact, this nutrient composition
fights everything from allergies to digestive problems to eczema.
Somatic cell count is significantly lower in organic milk (79455
+ 53101) as compared to conventional milk (90152 + 50097)
reported by Francia et al. .
The excessive use of the chemicals and hormones in
conventional milk production and the harmful effects that they
create, have resulted in an increased demand for organic milk
from health-conscious consumers. Organic dairy does not allow
the use of any slaughter by-products, urea, manure or genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) . In addition, organic dairy
farming promotes animal as well as consumer welfare. Certain
procedures like tail docking are not allowed. Dehorning must
be done to minimize stress on the animals. The farmer claiming
his dairy products to be organic must keep enough records to
verify his compliance with the standards. Moreover, each farm
must be inspected and audited each year, and this can be done
unannounced at any time.
The organic dairy market however is hard to cultivate and
maintain. And maintaining organic farmland and ensuring wholly
organic feed for the cattle is an expensive proposition given the
low awareness coupled with low demand for this milk. The cost
of production on conventional dairy farm is close to zero with
the man looking after fields and wife cares for the cows. And
the feed for the cows comes from the leftover parts of the crops
grown in the fields. Also, the consumer in India will take time to
adjust with the new taste and increased cost.
The present study was conducted with the twin objectives of:
i. Judging the awareness of dairy farmers about organic
dairy farming practices and;
ii. to evaluate the prospects of organic dairy farming in
India with its package of opportunities and threats.
A small sample size of twenty farmers was randomly chosen
from five villages of Muktsar district in Punjab. The herd size
with these farmers varied from 5-40 animals. The number of
animals in milk was approximately 30 percent in all the herds.
The awareness of farmers was judges through a structured
questionnaire. Further their views regarding the present
market structure for organic milk and its popularisation was
also evaluated. Data was analysed using simple frequency and
Organic dairy farming as a general concept is taken as an
eco-friendly venture wherein there is no usage of hormones or
antibiotics in animals to increase milk production. However,
there are many associated conditions and parameters to be met
for organic dairy enterprise. A perusal of Table 1 shows quite low
awareness level among farmers for different parameters (for a
dairy to be certified as organic). Although 50 percent knew that
a certificate from a government body is mandatory for a product
to be labelled as organic, the time involved was known only to
10 percent farmers. It was also noticed that those farmers who
regularly visited dairy exhibitions and attended seminars were
more aware as compared to others.
A study of Table 2 reveals numerous concerns among farmers
regarding lack of guidance and marketing of organic dairy
products. However, India does have some inherent contributing
factors to organic movement which can help us take advantage of
the opportunities involved: -
a. India has rich heritage of farming traditions that are
suitable to design organic production systems capable of yielding
returns comparable to conventional farming and in some cases
b. Some resource poor farmers in remote rainfed areas of
the country are practicing organic farming by default.
c. Organic dairy products have big and growing market
potential, so a developing country like India can get high export
earnings in international market provided proper quality control
is maintained during production and processing.
d. Demand for organic products and consequently the
ensuing profits do fluctuate but growing health concerns among
the new generation coupled with increased purchasing power
can provide the required buffer for producers.
And there are certain steps which shall require our immediate
a. Creating awareness through trained extension
b. Development of protocols for organic production
through farmers participatory network research.
c. Capacity building of different stakeholders on different
aspects of organic production and,
d. Development of preferential policy instruments for
interested farmers particularly in terms of providing market
information and subsidized supply of inputs.
To realize the full potential of organic dairy farming, a
number of researches, development and policy issues need to
be addressed. This calls for a clear-cut strategy for redefining
priorities, channelizing the investment in research and
development of organic dairy products with field demonstrations
to validate scientific findings, joint effort of producers, processors,
traders and streamlining the supply and distribution chains for
organic agripreneurship. This shall help India in achieving the
three main objectives of sustainable farming: environmental
health, economic profitability and socio-economic equity.
Organic dairy farming offers numerous opportunities for a
developing country like India to increase the income of farmers
and earn valuable foreign exchange through quality organic
products. Government policies should provide support by
linking farmers with domestic as well as export markets and
by providing minimum support prices to their products. The
process of organic certification needs to be clearly defined (with
adjustments for local requirements wherever possible) and
made simpler so as to reach many small and marginal farmers
in the country.