The cattle feed industry is still at nascent stage despite India being the world’s largest milk producer. The low productivity of Indian dairy animals is attributed to many factors of which feed and feeding system is considered as one of the major ones. Awareness and knowledge about feed and feeding practices is low in majority of the dairy farmers. Rural dairy farmers who contribute over 90 per cent of the total milk production rear low yielding animals which are reared mainly on grazing of low nutritious grass and some homemade concentrates. Even farmers who use compound cattle feed use the low grade variety which mainly contains De-Oiled Rice Bran (DORB) and some other grains. The need for balanced feeding and feed balancing is not known to these farmers. Good quality compound cattle feed is mainly used by large dairy farmers and farmer-members of cooperative organisations.

The role of cattle feed industry is not well recognised either by farmers, the veterinarians, milk processors or by the Government. This is the right time for cattle feed industry to reposition themselves as an effective tool to enhance productivity. As poultry feed production has undergone major changes from mash to pellets/crumbs, the cattle feed industry also needs to further improve its manufacturing practices. Unfortunately, all over the world, Total Mixed Rations (TMR) is used to feed high yielding animals and use of compound feeds is not popular. So, the Indian feed industry will need to draw their own roadmap to better their future and contribute actively in enhancing animal productivity. This will involve education of farmers and other stakeholders.

The Indian cattle feed industry has grown at over 6 per cent per annum in the last decade. Thus, India is one of the largest and fastest growing cattle feed markets in the world. This growth is attributed to many factors such as increased awareness about the importance of compound feed, increase in crossbred cattle and buffalo population, growing popularity of commercial dairy farms and most importantly the introduction of the ‘National Dairy Plan’ wherein focus is on enhancing animal productivity. In addition, there is substantial increase in the farm gate prices of milk which, in turn, has made the farmers to look at the dairy business more seriously and invest money on good feeding and breeding practices to get better returns.

The organised dairy sector which currently handles just 25 per cent of India’s total milk production is expected to increase to 35 per cent by 2020. This, in turn, is bound to have a positive growth effect on the Indian cattle feed industry. NDDB has initiated schemes to educate dairy farmers about the importance of feeding not only the lactating dairy animals but also the young, dry and pregnant dairy animals. They are educating farmers and offering services like feed balancing and providing balanced feed from the available resources. All these activities are expected to yield better results not only in increasing milk production but also in expanding the cattle feed industry.

To meet the domestic demand for the milk in the coming years, higher growth of milk production needs to come from increasing the average milk production from each animal. This clearly drives the focus on feeding, breeding and management. These initiatives provide a great opportunity to the cattle feed industry to reposition themselves and develop new strategies to fully exploit the cattle feed potential to the maximum extent to achieve the growth targets in milk production.

There is also a strong need for clean milk production which can be achieved through better management practices and offering residue free quality feed. The feed industry also needs to make technological improvements in manufacturing practices to provide quality feed as per the cattle’s age, breed, production cycle, pregnancy stage, etc to get the maximum out of each animal as well as to utilise
the available resources in a best possible way.


Compound cattle feed is a homogenous blend of various concentrate feed ingredients, supplemented with basal diet namely the De-Oiled Rice Bran (DORB). The commonly used ingredients in the compound cattle feed include grains, bran, protein cakes/meals, chunnies, agro-industrial byproducts, minerals, vitamins and health supplements in suitable proportions. The compound cattle feed is  critical for milk production, reproduction and animal health. Usage of compound cattle feed is done primarily by farmers who maintain high yielding crossbred cows and buffaloes. The low yielding dairy animals are generally raised on grazing and homemade concentrates.

Private feed millers are selling their feed through traditional dealer network. Many feed companies are trying to reach large farmers directly, but volumes are not very big. Credit period and credit recovery are bigger challenges for them. While buying feed ingredients for direct feeding, farmers pay in cash, but they want credit and show distrust while buying scientifically made compound feed from manufacturers/dealers. How to convince farmers is the million dollar question. Large feed companies follow strict quality control while buying feed ingredients. Whereas, small feed millers quite often compromise with quality of feed ingredients used to produce cheaper feed for more profitability.

Many new feed mills now have silos to store maize and soybean meal. Both raw materials and finished feeds are stored and transported in bags (50/70 kg). All feed mills have full/part-time nutritionists and also a quality control laboratory to test raw materials as well as finished feeds. These laboratories not only do proximate analysis but few of them have mycotoxin testing facilities.

The total compound cattle feed produced in India is estimated around 7.5 million tonnes as against the requirement of around 70 million tonnes—worked out on the basis of half kg of concentrate feed needed for every one kg of milk produced. This huge gap between the requirement and the production provides enormous opportunity for the cattle feed formulators to focus and re-strategise their business model. Of the total 7.5 million tonnes feed production, the cooperative sector produces around 3.5 million tonnes and the balance is done by the private sector (Table 1).

Feed manufacturers in the private sector are of three types:

  • All India branded feed manufacturers,
  • State level or district level branded feed manufactures, and,
  • Custom feed manufacturers.

Table 1: Regionwise cattle feed production data, 2013-14.

Region States

Cattle feed production by private sector


Cattle feed production by cooperatives


Western Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Madhya Pradesh 18,00,000 17,00,000
Northern Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan 8,00,000 4,20,000
Southern Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry 12,00,000 11,09,650
Eastern Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam 2,00,000 1,01,500
Total 40,00,000 33,31,150

The branded feed manufactures produce premium feed for high yielders, medium feed for the average milk producers and a common brand for low yielding animals. The DORB is the main component in all the feeds and based on the type of feed inclusion of protein cakes and other ingredients and supplements are considered. Very few feed millers are producing milk replacers and calf starters. The cooperative organisations also produce different kinds of feeds as per the animal requirement based on the type of animal, age, lactation stage, pregnancy stage, etc.

The private sector feed mills are growing at a higher rate, especially in states like Punjab, Haryana, etc where big dairy farms are coming up at a rapid pace. In Punjab, the dairy farmers have formed the Progressive Dairy Farmers Association (PDFA) which is functioning very effectively and becoming the role model for the rest of the country. They also advocate the TMR approach for feeding the dairy animals.

To ensure regular animal feed supplies for its farmer-members, several cattle feed plants have been set up under State Cooperative Dairy Federations and Unions all over the country. Many cooperatives use third party manufacturing facilities to meet extra demand from their farmer members. Most cooperatives run feed mills at almost full capacity. Whenever feed ingredient prices go up, they face resistance to increase prices of compound feeds from their farmer members. In fodder starving states like Kerala, where 92 per cent cows are crossbred, they have to depend on compound feeds to feed their animals.

The Gujarat-based Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd has established another cattle feed factory with a capacity to manufacture 1,000 tonnes per day. With this new cattle feed plant, Amul has become Asia’s largest cattle feed manufacturer with a total installed capacity of over 2,000 tonnes per day. It presently manufactures Amuldan (bypass protein feed), calf starter, milk replacer, mineral mixture, medicated feed and urea mineral molasses block. Similarly, the Banaskantha District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd at Palanpur in Gujarat has also built a cattle feed factory with a capacity of 1,000 tonnes per day.

For production of better quality feed at competitive price, all new cattle feed plants being executed by the NDDB are incorporating the following features:

  • Adopting latest technology available.
  • Incorporating energy efficient and hygienic designed equipment.
  • Changing the process flow.
  • Providing mechanical conveying system for material handling in place of suction pneumatic system.
  • Providing localised aspiration system in all dust generation areas for dust free operation.
  • Increasing automation level to reduce labour cost and dependence on labour.
  • Facilitate for easy handling of raw materials in the warehouse and finished feed.


Dairy animals mainly depend on crop residues as their staple diet and any intervention for bringing about changes in feeding system of dairy animal has to essentially look into this aspect. Cattle feed consists of three components namely the greens, dry fodder/roughages and the concentrate feed. There is huge deficit in terms of requirement versus availability of feed resources for dairy cattle (Table 2).

Table 2: Feed and fodder requirement v/s availability.

Feed Requirement (million tonnes) Availability (million tonnes) Shortfall (percentage)
Concentrates 123 45 63.41
Green Fodder 1025 390 61.95
Dry Fodder 570 443 22.28


Apart from the shortage of resources in quantity, there is a huge gap in terms of quality of feed resources relating to requirement v/s availability. The shortage with regard to quantity and quality necessitates the need for ration balancing by way of incorporating the locally available non-conventional feed resources including industry by-products, horticulture and vegetable wastes, local grasses, tree leaves, weeds, etc. Crop residues are abundantly available and there is apparently no competition for these resources between other species and dairy animals. The feed manufacturers primarily provide concentrate feed and the farmers manage green fodder by grazing/cut grass and the dry fodder from nearby sources.

As per the Government of India’s directive, cattle feed manufacturers are prohibited from using any animal origin ingredients in compound feed and mineral mixtures.

In the recent past, silage feeding is practiced by majority of dairy farmers in Punjab and this is being followed all over the country. Green fodder is not available widely due to lack of land availability. Dry fodder availability is also not evenly spread—surplus in some states and deficit in others. Transport of dry fodder increases the cost of the same and hence people, especially in states like Punjab, prefer to burn it.

Table 3: Sources of fodder in India.




Crop Residues 54
Cultivated Fodder 28
Grass Lands 18

The major fodder crops cultivated in India are sorghum, maize, bajra, oats, hybrid Napier, Guinea grass, paragrass, lucerne, berseem, cowpea, velvet bean and others. Among these crops, sorghum, maize, oats, lucerne and berseem are more popular because of easy availability of seeds of improved varieties and well developed technology to increase the forage yield and quality. However, these crops require good quality land, assured source of water, higher doses of fertilisers and regular care, apart from good quality seeds from reliable sources. Cultivation of forage and regular harvesting, almost on a daily basis, demands a large number of workforce which is expensive. So, average farmers are reluctant to cultivate fodder crops. Hence, the focus is on concentrate feed or compound cattle feed.


Table 4. Cattle feed raw materials used in compound cattle feed and their level of incorporation.

Main cattle feed ingredient Level of incorporation (percentage)
Grains: Maize, sorghum, wheat, rice, oats, barley, ragi, millets etc. 10-15
Brans: De-oiled rice bran, rice polish, wheat bran, maize bran etc. 35-45
Protein meals/cakes: Rapeseed meal/cake, soybean meal, cottonseed meal/cake (decorticated and un-decorticated), groundnut meal/cake, coconut meal/cake, palm kernel meal/cake, sesame cake, linseed cake, maize germ oil cake, maize gluten meal, sunflower meal, kardi (safflower) meal, guar meal etc. 25-35
Chunnies: Guar, tur, urd, moong, gram & chunnies of other locally available pulses. 4-6
Molasses 8-10
Agro-industrial by-products: Babul chunni, tamarind seed powder, mango kernel extraction, Prosopis juliflora pods, tapioca waste etc. 5-7
Minerals and vitamins: Mineral mixture, calcite powder, common salt, di-calcium phosphate, vitamins A, D3 & E. 1-2



Feeding systems in smallholder dairying are primarily based on grazing of native pastures of low nutritive value. Dairy animals are usually fed on wheat, paddy, millet, sugarcane tops and other straws and stovers. Little amount of concentrate is fed to the growing, working, pregnant and dry animals. Only lactating animals are given better feeding through supplementation of concentrates containing oil cakes, brans, and milled pulses. The farmers need to be educated about the need of providing concentrate feed to the growing animals, pregnant animals and dry animals for enhancing productivity. Even though there is a difference in the rumen micro flora of buffalo v/s crossbred cow v/s indigenous cow, there is not much difference in the feed and feeding system of these animals.

Based on data available with National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), the livestock feeding systems in India are categorised into six major types:

  1. Dry fodder + Compound feed + Concentrate feed
  2. Dry fodder + Green fodder + Compound feed + Concentrate feed
  3. Dry fodder + Homemade concentrate mix + Grazing
  4. Green fodder + Compound feed + Concentrate feed
  5. Silage + Dry fodder + Concentrate feed
  6. Silage + Compound feed + Concentrate feed

This data indicates that there is a need for specific feed, especially compound cattle feed, particularly for the increased number of crossbred animals and buffaloes whose number and productivity have to increase substantially to meet the future milk demand. There is also a need for specific feed as per the age, lactation cycle, pregnancy cycle, dry period, etc.

Innovation and application of new technologies

Keeping in line with the advancements of dairy farming, innovation and application of new technologies is taking place in feed, feeding systems as well as in feed manufacturing systems.

Calf Starter, Calf Grower and Special Feed for dry and pregnant animals: Both dairy cooperatives and private sector feed manufacturers have developed specific feeds for the newly born calf, growing calf, pregnant animals at the first trimester, second trimester and the last (third) trimester based on the special needs of the animal for individual growth, foetus growth as well as to avoid the post-parturient disorders.

Total Mixed Rations: This is a new concept practiced widely in the developed countries wherein the greens, roughages and the concentrates are combined and fed together to the animal as Total Mixed Ration. This is practiced in majority of dairy farms, especially in Punjab.

Feed Blocks: Feed blocks is a novel concept wherein the roughages, green fodder and the concentrate grains are combined and bound in to form a block. Few private players have developed the technology and implemented the same in our country.

Globalisation and the export of milk and milk products require following specific international standards and to achieve them, the cattle feed industry needs to upgrade itself with scientific laboratories and raw material selection, testing, etc. The cattle feed industry is in the age of upswing as it happened to the poultry feed sector in the ’nineties and its future looks both challenging and bright.