The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) started with two villages and 250 litres of milk a day in the 1940s is now a Rs. 20,730 crore dairy major. This has been achieved through continuous efforts in designing programmes for greater welfare of the milk producer and giving value for money to our consumers.

Since establishment of the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited (Amul) in 1946, it has been inculcated in our culture to constantly innovate so that our farmer-members get remunerative price for their milk. Amul initiated veterinary services (1950) for farmers to improve animal health, established compound cattle feed factory (1965) to improve feeding and started artificial insemination services (1965) to improve breeding activities.

To enhance knowledge of the milk producers, increase awareness of scientific animal husbandry practices and take Total Quality Management to the village dairy cooperative society level, programmes like Cooperative Development (1990) and Internal Consultant Development (1999) were initiated. The member Unions of GCMMF are implementing Internal Consultant Development (ICD) programme since then for developing self leadership among member producers and thereby enabling them to manage their dairy business efficiently, leading to their overall development.

To identify gaps and meet the milk producer members’ needs, a door-to-door animal census is conducted every five years across our 3.5 million farmer-members in Gujarat. Such a survey helps us to analyse the problem areas of the dairy husbandry practices being followed. Based on the feedback received, various programmes on fertility improvement and strategic productivity enhancement have been initiated to improve the overall productivity of animals.

After implementing these programmes over the years, it was felt that subsistence approach of animal husbandry needs to be replaced by a commercial and professional approach. An innovative programme was initiated to facilitate the existing and next generation of farmers to become dairy entrepreneurs as wellas redefine dairying from the present conventional animal keeping activity to professionally managed dairy farming business.

To meet this challenge, our core committee after extensive surveys, feedbacks and brain storming sessions introduced a training programme which requires the member milk producers to move up the ladder from traditional subsistence dairy farming to commercial dairy farming. The main objective of this initiative is to increase milk productivity per animal and reduce cost per litre of milk produced by implementing scientific animal husbandry practices and using modern technology.

What is commercial dairy farming?

Commercial dairy farms typically have over 30 cows or buffaloes where effective mechanisation is used to increase profitability and reduce the time, cost per litre of milk and avoid drudgery involved in dairy farming. They are feasible only when the balance is maintained among its three main components, namely:

  • Proper and balanced nutrition/feeding
  • Breeding/maintaining the inter-calving period
  • Management

Figure 1: Plan for starting a commercial dairy farm.

The plan (as indicated in Figure 1) highlights the fact that dairying must be linked with agriculture as land and green fodder availability are essential factors in determining the viability of any dairy farm. Further, for getting higher returns, effective mechanisation and breed management becomes a requisite. The business model shows that a farmer, who is a breeder and can make efficient and effective utilisation of resources, increases his chances of sustaining a dairy enterprise.

The pre-feasibility study also indicates that the project (with certain degree of mechanisation) is viable for the herd size (HF crossbred) equal to or more than 30 animals. The average herd yield should be minimum 13 litres per day. In a nutshell, if farmers own the land and follow the suggested scientific animal husbandry practices, they can earn more than `40,000 a month after meeting all expenses in a commercial dairy farm with 30 animals. While calculating this profit, assumptions have been made for factors like:

Type/breed of animal (HF crossbreed cow was considered)

  • Conception rate
  • Weight of animal
  • Productivity of animals
  • Herd mix:
    • Dry: Milking animals
    • Adult animal: Calves
    • Male/female calves
    • Mortality rate
    • Herd replacement policy
    • Inter-calving interval
    • Age at first calving
  • Subsidies on different machinery like milking machines, chaff cutters, etc.

Major cost heads

  • Feed and fodder cost (65-70% of total cost)
  • Labour cost (7-10% of total cost)
  • Medicine and veterinary services cost (3-5% of total cost)
  • Utilities (electricity, water and fuel) (1-2% of total cost)
  • Other administrative cost (insurance, interest, depreciation and rent, if any) (13%- 25% of total cost).

 Major revenue heads

  • Sale of milk (>95%)
  • Miscellaneous income (≈5%)
    • Sale of gunny bags (mineral mixture, cattle feed, etc)
    • Sale of cow dung
    • Sale of animals 

Resource availability

  • Trained manpower.
  • Adequate area for fodder cultivation with needed irrigation facilities and mechanisation.
  • In-house facilities for routine animal welfare activities with 24 hours water availability to all animals.
  • Low cost proper housing facilities for adults and calves.
  • Facilities for shed routine activities like feeding, milking and cleaning.
  • Meeting other dairy overheads, insurance, bank interest, etc. 

Essentials of dairy farming

  • Utmost caution in the purchase of animals.
  • Feed cost forms about 60-70 per cent of the total cost and is also directly proportional to productivity (adopt balanced diet for animals in accordance with their type and weight).
  • Timely heat detection and transition period management of animals.
  • Animal comfort and hygiene are highly neglected but equally important and critical factors for the increase or decrease in productivity.
  • The owner’s commitment and maintenance of economics of dairy farm.

 Programme design and implementation

Under the ‘Entrepreneurship Development Programme on Commercial Dairy Farming’, an awareness programme is conducted at the village dairy cooperative societies level to identify potential progressive milk producers. Consultants assist these producers in identifying the gap between their existing and desired management practices. Based on the gap, improvement areas are identified and resource requirements are estimated.

At the district cooperative milk union level, trainers for commercial dairy farming have been specifically identified and have been trained under comprehensive training programme of “Train the Trainers Programme for Commercial Dairy Farming” by different subject experts.

The farmers are given knowledge of various aspects like animal housing, feeding, breeding and management. They also learn about various schemes operated by district milk unions and by government which facilitate their purchase of animals, equipment, etc. They are also given training for financial planning, resource planning, and management. Farmers’ interaction among themselves enriches their knowledge of various better practices followed by their peers. Their exposure visits are conducted to modern dairy farms and other progressive milk producers’ farms for practical learning.

Thus, trained progressive milk producers prepare an action plan for implementation of various improved practices. This action plan is monitored by milk producers and it is quarterly, half yearly and yearly reviewed by consultants of district milk unions. The district milk unions provide various technical inputs under calf rearing, pure breeding and total mixed ration (TMR) scheme for support and progress of commercial dairy farmers.

Benefits observed

More than 5,000 dairy farms have come up in Gujarat in the last three years due to these initiatives. Through the implementation of this entrepreneurship development programme, it was observed that farmers earn higher returns and were thus highly motivated to continue with dairy farming.