Milch animals with improved genetics having greater feed conversion efficiency would need to be fed on a balanced ration, so that their genetic potential for milk production is fully exploited. Further, as feed contributes about 70 per cent of the total cost of milk production, reducing the cost of feeding would significantly improve the incomes of milk producers. The Group constituted by the Planning Commission, Government of India, on matters related to feed and fodder has indicated that adequate feed and fodder is not available even today.

Unless sustained efforts are made to implement strategies and programmes to augment the availability of feeds and fodder resources and to improve their efficiency of utilisation, it may not be possible to sustain the required growth in milk production.

The looming impact of climate change is likely to exacerbate the shortage of feed resources even further as dairy animals are mainly dependent on food crop residues. In view of this, it is necessary to improve the efficiency of utilisation of existing feed resources by adoption of available field tested technologies to improve their nutritive value substantially and by feeding milch animals a balanced ration.

 Productivity of dairy animals in India

There has not been significant increase in the productivity of indigenous cows, crossbreds and buffaloes over the years. The average daily milk production data of various categories of animals at 7.02 kg for crossbreds, 2.36 kg for indigenous cattle and 4.80 kg for buffaloes, suggests that the productivity of animals is far below their genetic potential. Even the per cent in-milk animals of the total breedable population, is also very low. About 44 per cent animals of the total breedable population are dry. Low productivity of milch animals could be attributed mainly to improper utilisation of the available feed resources, imbalanced feeding and shortage of feed resources for feeding growing and non-milking breedable animals. In the order of priority, best of the feed resources available with the milk producers are first allocated to lactating animals, followed by dry-pregnant animals, dry animals, heifers, growing calves and non-producing animals. Data generated from different states indicate that while energy and protein are in excess in the ration, minerals are deficient in the ration of more than 80 per cent of animals. Thus, even with the available feed resources, there is ample a scope to improve productivity of milch animals by way of providing ration balancing advisory services to milk producers at their doorstep. This will also help reducing the cost of feeding per litre of milk.


Ration Balancing: Improving Productivity and Conserving Feed Resources

The breed improvement programmes need to be supported by feeding the animals a balanced ration to produce milk commensurate with their genetic potential. Presently, milch animals are usually fed one or two locally available concentrate feed ingredients, grasses and crop residues. This often leads to an imbalanced ration. Imbalanced ration impairs productivity and is uneconomical. If milk producers are advised to balance the ration of animals with the locally available feed resources and area specific mineral mixtures, it can help in increasing milk production and reducing the cost of production.

In India, most of the farmers feed their animals with crop residues based basal diet with one or two locally available feed ingredients like brans, cakes, chunnies etc and limited quantity of green fodder without regular supplementation of desired quantity of mineral mixture. Such a ration invariably results in over or underfeeding of nutrients. In addition, animals fed on imbalanced rations produce more methane per unit of feed intake, which has 25 times more global warming potential than carbon-dioxide. In this direction, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has made a dent through its ration balancing programme (RBP) under field conditions.

NDDB’s National Dairy Plan (NDP-I) aims at increasing productivity of milch animals by implementing ration balancing advisory services in about 40,000 villages spread over 14 major milk producing states, covering about 2.7 million milch animals by 2016-17. The multi-state ration balancing programme will be implemented on a larger scale through various implementing agencies such as dairy cooperatives, service providing organisations, State Animal Husbandry Departments, Producer Companies and NGOs.

Considering the prevailing feeding practices for dairy animals in India, there is a need to implement ration balancing programme on a large-scale, across the country. Various implementing agencies having suitable infrastructure and desired manpower need to be identified to adopt the programme and educate dairy farmers on balanced feeding. Identified technical officers and trainers of selected implementing agencies can be trained on RBP, who in turn can identify and train village based local resource persons (LRPs), well versed with the dairy husbandry practices, to implement the programme at milk producers’ doorstep.

Ration balancing is the process to balance the level of various nutrients for an animal from the available feed resources in order to meet its nutrient requirements for maintenance and production. NDDB, with the help of a software company, developed an Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH), a Windows-based internet linked application to assess the present nutrient status of animals against the requirements and to work out a least cost formulation with the available resources and area specific mineral mixture. The software is compatible with tablets, laptops, desktops, etc. The application can also be used on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) for areas devoid of internet connectivity.

The programme comprises creating a feed data library and various nutrition masters. To create the feed data library, wide range of feed ingredients like green and dry fodders, tree leaves, grains, oil cakes, agro-industrial by-products were collected from different agro-ecological zones of the country and were analysed for chemical composition (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Commonly available feed and fodder resources

Simultaneously, existing national and international feeding standards for nutrient requirement of growing, lactating and pregnant animals were referred to create various nutrition masters of nutrient requirement.


Steps for working out least cost rations for different categories of animals using ration balancing software 

Registration of animals: Animals are identified and first ear tagged with a unique 12-digits ear tag. Details of the animal like species, breed, age, milking status (lactating/dry), number of calving, last calving date and pregnancy status etc, is captured. Along with the animal’s details, owner’s profile like name, father’s name, age, village, village institution, tehsil, district, state etc, is also captured. After filling all the information, the animal is registered on the NDDB’s INAPH server. Animal registration is an one time activity. 

Assessing nutrient status of animals: After registration, animal’s daily milk yield and milk fat per cent, pregnancy status are recorded along with measurement of its body weight. Based on this information, the software calculates the daily nutrient requirement of the animal. Considering the prevailing feeding practices (feed intake), nutrient status of the animal for dry matter, energy (TDN), protein, calcium and phosphorus is assessed. This information helps in understanding the deficiencies/excesses of various nutrients in the ration and the cost of milk production per kg of milk.

Formulating least cost ration using locally available feed resources: Based on the chemical composition of available feed resources and in accordance with the nutrient requirement of the animal, the software computes the least cost balanced ration within the given constraints. The least cost balanced ration with suggested feed ingredients in proportion as indicated by the software can help in reducing the cost of feeding and/or increase in milk production.

 Implementation of ration balancing programme (RBP) requires local resource persons (LRPs) to be trained in the basic concepts of animal feeding and in using a-simple user-friendly computerised software (Figure 2). This software is utilised by the LRPs to advise milk producers on the most optimum mix of ingredients i.e. balanced ration for each animal.

Figure 2: Implementation of RBP at farmers’ doorstep

Along with the ration balancing advisory services, LRPs would also educate the milk producers about the importance of drinking water, proper mangers for feeding the animals, significance of colostrum feeding to newly born calves, chaffing of fodder, de-worming, vaccination, timely insemination etc. The work carried out by the LRPs need to be monitored closely for successful implementation of the programme. The LRPs involved in the implementation need to be monetarily supported adequately so that he/she remains motivated to provide the services efficiently. Feeding balanced ration to dairy animals helps in prevention of several metabolic disorders, which contribute significantly to lower milk output, such as milk fever, ketosis, mastitis, acidosis. It is also well established that undernourished animals are more prone to worm infestation and other infectious diseases. Even the antibody titre in well fed vaccinated animals is higher as compared to animals maintained on a poor plane of nutrition.

 The degree of response to increase in milk production as a result of ration balancing advisory services mainly depends on type of animal breed and stage of lactation and farmer compliance. Breeds with higher genetic potential are expected to respond better, in terms of increase in daily milk yield, to ration balancing. Similarly, responses in milk production are dependent on stage of lactation – animals in early lactation responding better than those in mid and late lactations. Effect of balanced feeding on different parameters related to production and metabolic profile was studied and described briefly in this paper.

Effect of balanced feeding on milk production

The RBP tested under field conditions showed a significant improvement in milk production efficiency (MPE) in lactating animals. The milk production efficiency (Fat Corrected Milk in kg/kg dry matter intake) of cows before and after ration balancing was 0.58 and 0.78, respectively and of buffaloes these values were 0.53 and 0.66 (Figure 3). The increase in milk production efficiency after ration balancing means higher amount of milk production from the same amount of feed, thus saving of natural resources and energy used for feed production.

Figure 3: Effect of feeding balanced ration on milk production efficiency (MPE)

On feeding balanced ration, there was reduction in cost of milk production from Rs. 0.25 to 2.00 per kg. The increase in daily milk yield was seen from 0.2 to 1.0 kg and milk fat per cent from 0.2 to 0.6. Increase in net daily income was from Rs. 8 to 26 per animal. Significant improvement in milk production and reduction in cost of feeding was mainly due to balancing of nutrients, which might have improved microbial protein synthesis and enhanced supply of nutrients for milk production. Balanced ration also helps in increasing daily weight gain in young calves, hence, early maturity.

 Balanced ration and its effect on fat and solids-not-fat (SNF) content of milk

Impact of balanced feeding on fat and SNF content of milk was studied. Out of 30 animals screened, 10 crossbred cows were identified with low SNF content. Prevailing feeding practices and SNF content in milk were measured right at the milk producers’ doorstep for three consecutive days. Ration of animals was balanced using locally available feed resources, area specific mineral mixture and a buffer. It was found that animals were fed excess of crushed grains and there was severe deficiency of protein and minerals in the ration. After balanced feeding, milk yield and fat per cent were recorded daily, whereas, SNF content in milk was measured on weekly basis.

On feeding a balanced ration, average daily milk yield increased from 8.8 to 9.6 kg and milk fat increased from 3.8 to 4.5 per cent. There was initial improvement in SNF content but it stabilised after 1-2 weeks. The cows continued to be fed on balanced ration for 6 weeks. There was again increase in SNF content after 4th week and reached to normal i.e. 8.5 per cent (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Effect of feeding balanced ration on milk yield and SNF content

There was also reduction in daily feeding cost from Rs. 134.50 to 129.30. On an average, there was increase in milk production of about 0.8 kg per animal and increase in fat content of about 0.7 per cent was recorded. This translated into a monetary benefit of about Rs. 34 per animal per day.

Balanced ration and efficiency of feed nitrogen use in milk

The efficiency of feed nitrogen use in producing milk (g nitrogen in milk/g nitrogen consumed from feed) increased in low, medium and high yielding cows and buffaloes, before and after ration balancing. The increase in feed nitrogen to milk nitrogen secretion efficiency after ration balancing suggests that from the same amount of feed-nitrogen, higher amounts of milk protein were synthesised. This can help in saving feed resources and decrease nitrogen excretion into the environment.

Balanced ration and the microbial protein synthesis

In low to medium milk yielding animals, microbial protein synthesis in the rumen plays a vital role in meeting protein and energy requirement of animals. In such animals the aim always is to optimize rumen fermentation so that dietary fibre digestion and microbial protein production are maximised. On feeding a balanced ration, level of allantoins in urine of cows was significantly higher compared with the control group. Level of allantoins in urine is an indicator of microbial protein synthesis in the rumen, and it has been used to estimate microbial protein synthesis in the rumen and subsequently digested in the lower gut of ruminants. Microbial protein synthesis calculated from the excretion of urinary purine derivatives is presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Effect of the ration balancing programme (RBP) on efficiency of microbial protein synthesis.


Cow (n = 30) Buffalo (n = 26)
Before RBP After RBP Before RBP

After RBP

Microbial nitrogen yield

(g N/day)


± 6.32


± 10.95


± 4.21


± 10.21

Efficiency of microbial protein synthesis (g MCP/kg DOM)


± 4.83


± 6.24


± 3.39


± 6.71

MCP, microbial crude protein; DOM, digestible organic matter

a, b Values with different superscript in a row differ significantly (P<0.05)

c, d Values with different superscript in a row differ significantly (P<0.01).

Higher production of microbial protein observed after ration balancing shows better functioning of the rumen and saving of feed protein, the most expensive component of the diet.

Balanced ration and immune status of animals

Imbalances of nutrients can also affect the activity of certain enzymes, thereby, impairing the overall immune function. In view of this, the impact of feeding a balanced ration on the immune status of field animals was evaluated. On feeding a balanced ration to Gir cows for sixty days, levels of serum immunoglobulin: IgG, IgM and IgA increased from 13.10 to 22.32, 3.19 to 3.60 and 0.72 to 0.96 mg/ml, respectively (Table 2), indicating that feeding balanced ration improves the overall immune status of dairy animals.

Table 2. Effect of feeding balanced ration on different biological and economic parameters in Gir cows.



Traditional ration

(n = 9)

Balanced ration

(n = 9)


Milk yield (kg/day)



Fat (%)



Protein (%)



Blood serum

IgG (mg/ml)



IgM (mg/ml)



IgA (mg/ml)



BUN (mg/dl)




Allantoin (mmol/litre)




Eggs per gram




Average daily feeding cost per animal (Rs.)



*P <0.05


Minerals are required for the functionality of numerous structural proteins, enzymes and cellular proteins. Addition of minerals to the ration of dairy animals could be responsible for greater production of IgG thus affecting cell metabolism and resulting in a better immune status. Sub-clinical or marginal deficiencies of minerals may be a larger problem than an acute deficiency because specific signs of deficiency are not evident, however, the animal continues to grow, produce and reproduce but at a reduced rate. Feeding balance diets of energy, protein and minerals should help in improving reproduction efficiency.

Balanced ration and the parasitic load in animals

Animals fed on imbalanced diets frequently have a higher load of parasitic infestations that will utilise vital essential nutrients. Parasitic load in dairy animals affects growth, milk production and general health. With this view, rectal faecal samples were collected from each cow for estimation of eggs per gram (EPG). These eggs were of mainly Ostertagia spp., Trichostrongylus axei, Haemonchus placei, Cooperia spp., Oesophagostomum radiatum, Bunostomum spp., Fasciola hepatica, Paramphistomes spp. and Schistosoma spp. of large ruminants. During the trial period, the intensity of infection in terms of faecal egg counts ranged from 80 to 280 EPG in control (before ration balancing) and 20–120 EPG in experimental (after ration balancing) groups, respectively. By feeding a balanced ration to animals, average EPG was reduced from 184±1.73 to 77±1.59 (Table 2). The interaction between the presence of parasites in the host organism and the level of nutrition has been the subject of many studies and an inverse relation exists between the number of gastro-intestinal worms and the level of nutrition. As a thumb rule, better nutrition decreases the load of intestinal worms.

Balanced ration and enteric methane emission

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas having global warming potential 25 times that of CO2 and 11 years of half-life in atmosphere. Animals fed on imbalanced ration produce more methane per unit of dry matter intake due to lower microbial protein production and higher acetate production, the main substrate for methane production. Methane emission measurements in animals fed balanced ration under field conditions was measured using sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) tracer technique. Methane emissions from cows before and after ration balancing in the Western region were 238 and 206 g/day, respectively, which was significantly lower, without affecting dry matter intake. Methane emissions from buffaloes before and after the ration balancing programme in this region were 232 and 200 g/day, respectively. Average reduction of 12 and 15% methane emissions (g/kg dry matter intake) were observed in lactating cows and buffaloes, respectively.


Technologies for Compounding Cattle Feeds

Different type of compound cattle feeds need to be manufactured for various categories of growing and lactating animals specific to area and the season, including feed for dry pregnant animals. Milk replacer, calf starter and calf growth meal are required to be produced in large quantities for improving daily growth rate and achieving early maturity in young calves for enhancing productivity and productive life.

Compound cattle feed is a homogenous blend of various concentrate feed ingredients, supplemented with the basal diet. Commonly used ingredients in compound cattle feed include grains, brans, protein meals/cakes, chunnies, agro-industrial by-products, minerals and vitamins, in suitable proportion. Despite concerted efforts for the last four decades, total compound cattle feed produced in the country is sufficient only to feed about 7 per cent of the total breedable animals. Farmers use compound cattle feed as one of the ingredients of the ration along with several other locally available concentrate feed ingredients. Moreover, the quality of compound cattle feed available in many states is a matter of concern.

Compound cattle feed presently produced in the country often does not meet the nutrient requirement of different categories of animals like young calves, cows and buffaloes and their stage of lactation including advanced stage of pregnancy and the level of milk production. Moreover, during formulation of compound cattle feed, seasonal availability of green and/or dry fodders are not considered and it may not always complement the local feeding practices and may not supply the required minerals and vitamins. It should be possible to meet the nutrient requirement of animals if compound cattle feed is produced in accordance with their stage of lactation, animal type, physiological status, composition of the basal diet, etc. Specifications for different types of compound cattle feed are given in Table 3.

Table 3: Specifications for different types of compound feed.


Type-I Type-II


Moisture, percent by mass, maximum




Crude protein (N x 6.25), percent by mass, minimum




Crude fat, percent by mass, minimum




Crude fibre, percent by mass, maximum




Acid insoluble ash, percent by mass, maximum




Common salt (as NaCl), per cent by mass, minimum




Common salt (as NaCl), per cent by mass, maximum




Calcium (as Ca) per cent by mass, minimum




Total phosphorus, per cent by mass, minimum




Available phosphorus, per cent by mass, minimum




Urea, per cent by mass, maximum




Calcite powder, per cent by mass, maximum




Vitamin A, I.U./kg, minimum




Vitamin D3, I.U./kg, minimum




Vitamin E, I.U./kg, minimum




Aflatoxin B1 (ppb), maximum




The values for requirements (2) to (15) are on moisture-free basis.


i. Type-I feed: For high yielding animals (daily > 10 litres of milk)

ii. Type-II feed: For medium yielding animals (daily 5-10 litres of milk)

iii. Type-III feed: For low yielding animals (daily <5 litres of milk).


Milk replacer, calf starter and calf growth meal for young calves

Young calf need to be fed 2 litres of milk daily, at least for a period of two months, which should slowly be replaced with a good quality calf starter. As 2 litres of milk would fetch good return, milk producers prefer to sell this milk to meet their day to day needs, rather than feeding it to the calf. Consequently, calves are starved of milk which severely affects their growth and age at maturity. Milk replacer could be an economical alternative to milk for feeding young calves, comprising skim milk powder, soybean meal, groundnut meal, edible oils, grains, vitamins, mineral mixture, preservatives etc. Reconstituted milk from the milk replacer costs less compared to whole milk. Reconstituted milk replacer has almost all the essential nutrients, similar to the milk. If a calf is fed 2 litres of reconstituted milk daily, a farmer can save about 12-15 per cent in daily feed cost of calf.

Calves should be reared carefully to obtain optimum gain in body weight, so that they attain about 70-75 per cent of mature body weight at puberty. Poor feeding of young calves leads to stunted growth, which results in higher age at first calving and overall loss of productivity in entire life span. Therefore, milk producers need to recognize the implications of inadequate feeding to young calves. Milk replacer and calf starter need to be produced for young calves, enabling them to attain early maturity, thus contributing to the net income of the farmer from dairying. The specifications for calf starters are given in Table 4.

Table 4: Specifications for calf starter & calf growth meal for young stock


Calf starter meal

Calf growth meal

Moisture, percent by mass, maximum



Crude protein* (N x 6.25), percent by mass, minimum



Crude fat, percent by mass, minimum



Crude fibre, percent by mass, maximum



Acid insoluble ash, percent by mass, maximum



Common salt (as NaCl), per cent by mass, maximum



Calcium (as Ca) per cent by mass, minimum



Total phosphorus, per cent by mass, minimum



Available phosphorus, per cent by mass, minimum



Vitamin A, I.U./kg, minimum



Vitamin D3, I.U./kg, minimum



Vitamin E, I.U./kg, minimum



Aflatoxin B1 (ppb), maximum



Note 1: The values for requirements (2) to (13) are on moisture-free basis.

Note 2: *While analyzing for crude protein, it should be ensured that the nitrogen has not been derived from urea or other ammonium salts.


Calf starter is a balanced concentrate mixture, comprising ground cereal grains, protein supplements, minerals and vitamins. Calves should be encouraged to consume maximum amount of calf starter as that would enhance growth rate. Feeding calf starter and good quality leguminous hay from early life, stimulates early development of rumen papillae (rumen wall), essential for rumen functions, which favours digestion of larger proportion of fodder at an early age. After about six months, calf starter should be replaced with calf growth meal, which is more economical for growing calves. Calf starter should not contain any non-protein nitrogen source and contain only traditional and highly palatable ingredients such as, soybean meal, decorticated cotton seed meal, wheat bran, rice polish, crushed maize, feed additives, preservatives, anti-oxidants etc. A special calf starter containing additives like vitamins A, D3, E, essential minerals, sodium butyrate, anti-oxidants and preservatives required for growth was formulated and tested by NDDB. On feeding the calf starter, it was possible to increase daily weight gain significantly, as compared to control group and age at maturity could be reduced by up to 12 months.

 Feed quality directly affects quantity and quality of milk produced. In India, there is no such regulation to monitor quality. As a result, inferior feeds and additives are produced and sold. Animals fed on sub-standard quality of feed do not produce milk up to their genetic potential and productive life is shortened. There is a need to put in place a ‘Feed Order’ to monitor quality of feeds, and feed supplements.

Bypass protein technology

In recent years, several technologies have been developed through intensive animal nutrition research, one of them being bypass protein feed technology. The main aim of this technology is to increase the efficiency of protein utilisation in ruminants for enhanced milk production. Dairy nutritionists are trying to enhance the nitrogen utilisation through dietary manipulation to have optimum milk production. Manipulation of protein degradation or the efficiency of nitrogen utilisation in the rumen is the most effective strategy to reduce nitrogen losses in dairy animals. Losses of nitrogen can be reduced by balancing the ration with optimum ratio of rumen degradable protein (RDP) to rumen un-degradable protein (UDP) and increasing nitrogen use by ruminal microorganisms. Proper RDP: UDP optimizes post ruminal amino acid supply for productive purposes. Efficient utilisation of proteins by ruminants in any production system depends on knowledge of the underlying basic principles. However emphasis is given to the requirements for dietary proteins that escape from the rumen and are available for digestion. Thus, bypass proteins refer to the dietary proteins that escapes rumen degradation, more precisely aims at decreasing the wasteful ammonia production in rumen from highly degradable protein meals and thereby, increasing the availability of essential amino acids at the intestinal level.

Oilseeds and oilseed meals emerged during the 1990s as one of the fastest growing components of global agricultural trade. India, the world’s seventh largest producer of oil crops, is a major producer of soybean, rapeseed, groundnut, cottonseed and sunflower and their meals which are high in protein content. Although India is the world’s fifth largest exporter of these oilseed meals, their availability in the country is limited. The farmers feed limited protein supplements available in the form of cakes/meals to the milch animals without value addition. The total annual availability of oilseed meals in India is approximately 21 million tonnes, against a requirement of about 35-36 million tonnes. Out of 21 million tonnes oilseed meals produced in the country, approximately 4-5 million tonnes are exported, which further increases the gap between the requirement and the availability. This gap can be narrowed down, if the oilseed meals are used with value addition.

Usually, oilseed meals are fed as such to ruminants in India, which have varied degree of naturally rumen protected proteins. The solubility of proteins does change when subject to special treatments, and it could be exploited to protect good quality proteins from rumen degradation. Number of methods like alkali treatment, xylose treatment, heat treatment and formaldehyde treatment were tried to protect proteins. Amongst all, formaldehyde treatment of protein meals for production of bypass protein feed has the advantage of being the cost effective technology for protection of highly degradable proteins in rumen, without having any adverse effect on the animal’s health and on milk quality. This method has been extensively used because of the following advantages:

  • Desired level of protein protection can be achieved — under and over protection of proteins can be eliminated;
  • The bio-availability of the essential amino acids can be maximised;
  • It does not increase the contents of acid detergent insoluble nitrogen (ADIN) and neutral detergent insoluble nitrogen (NDIN);
  • Less expensive than heat treatment; and
  • Helps to control salmonella and reduce mould growth in feedstuffs.

Bypass protein feed supplements have been developed by screening oilseed meals for their amino acid composition and then developing suitable chemical treatment procedures. Bypass protein technology is a new generation technology, wherein bypass protein feed is produced by a special chemical treatment, developed and patented by NDDB.

Regionally available oilseed meals are treated suitably, so as to reduce degradability of the proteins in the rumen from 60-70 to 25-30 per cent, in a specially designed airtight plant (Figure 5). Protein meal identified for treatment is first ground, treated chemically at appropriate level and then stored for 9 days under airtight conditions.

Figure 5: Bypass protein manufacturing plant


After 9 days of incubation period, oilseed meal is ready for feeding to ruminants and it can be stored for more than a year, without any deterioration in quality.

 The test method used so far by the feed industry in India to measure the bypass content of oilseed meals was based on the nitrogen solubility in buffer solutions. This procedure is unreliable when phosphate solubility values are compared with the in vitro protein degradability or the in sacco nylon bag protein degradability. NDDB standardised an in vitro ammonia release method, in technical collaboration with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which gives more accurate values for protein by-passability. In this method, known quantity of protein meal is incubated anaerobically at 38oC for 24 hours in strained rumen liquor (SRL). The protein degradation is measured by analyzing ammonia nitrogen level in SRL at the end of incubation period.

Protected proteins were prepared by cross-linking the constituent protein with optimum levels of aldehyde, so as to enhance the level of constituent amino acids that by-pass the rumen by about 75 per cent. Treated oilseed meals can be either fed directly to animals as top feed @ 1-2 kg per animal per day or else, treated meals can be incorporated in cattle feed @ 25 per cent and this bypass protein feed can be fed @ 4-5 kg per animal per day, depending up on the level of milk production. Specification of bypass protein feed is given in Table 5. The cost of treating oilseed meal is between Rs. 2.50 and 3 per kg. Studies conducted on feeding one kg treated meal in comparison to untreated revealed that there is increase in daily milk production by more than 1 litre and milk fat increased by 0.3 per cent.

Table 5: Specifications of bypass protein feed.



Moisture (%), maximum


Crude protein (%), minimum


Crude fat (%),minimum


Crude fibre (%),maximum


Acid insoluble ash (%),maximum


Rumen undegradable protein (%),minimum


Common salt (%),maximum


Calcium (%),minimum


Phosphorus (%),minimum


Available phosphorus (%),minimum


Vitamin A (IU/kg), minimum


Vitamin D3 (IU/kg), minimum


Vitamin E (IU/kg), minimum


Aflatoxin B1 (ppb), maximum


Note: Values for requirements at Sl. Nos. (2) to (14) are on moisture-free basis.

Scientific studies conducted on bypass protein supplement revealed that the feeding of bypass protein to growing animals increased growth rate (25-30%). It also resulted in reduction in rearing cost and in attaining early maturity of the calves. It has also been shown that bypass protein feeding improves the reproductive efficiency of breeding bulls. Many feeding trials were conducted at different laboratories using different oilseed meals in lactating cows and buffaloes. In all the feeding trials, daily milk yield in experimental group increased by 1.0 to 1.5 litres, protein percent by 0.3-0.4 and fat by 0.2 per cent. On an average, daily net income increased by Rs. 12-15 per animal in animals yielding 8-10 litres per day and Rs. 8-10 per animal in low yielding animals (5-6 litres per day). ACIAR organised a study to assess the economic benefit of feeding bypass protein feed in Vadodara district of Gujarat. The study revealed that on feeding the bypass protein feed, average increase in net daily income was Rs. 9.20, 6.42 and 12.41 in indigenous cows, crossbred cows and buffaloes, respectively. Supplementation of the bypass protein feed was found to be economical in milch animals producing on an average 5-8 litres of milk per animal per day.

Bypass fat technology

Most of the dairy animals, especially crossbred animals suffer from energy deficiency, as they are not fed adequate grains, good quality cultivated fodders and other energy rich supplements.  There is heavy loss of body weight of high yielding animals after calving as the energy intake is less than the requirement to meet the demand for milk production. Majority of field animals thus suffer from negative energy balance (NEB), which reduces not only milk production but also the reproduction efficiency.

As a consequence of NEB, cow mobilises body nutrient reserves, particularly body fat, to meet energy demand. The negative energy balance in early lactation causes delayed post partum ovarian activity, apart from affecting peak milk yield and overall lactation yield. The high yielding crossbred animals, therefore, in early lactation should be fed either higher level of cereal grains or fed on diet supplemented with bypass nutrients to meet their energy requirement. However, since excess of cereal grains in the diet can cause rumen acidosis predisposing the animals to ill health, and drop in milk yield feeding bypass nutrients becomes better option.

Considering its energy density, fat is a logical choice for boosting ration energy density avoiding the detrimental effects of feeding high level of grain. Rumen bypass fat can be fed without affecting fermentation in the rumen, fibre digestibility and is highly digestible post-rumen. Moreover, supplemental fat in protected form has special significance in the diets of dairy animals with higher productivity, because the high energy density of fats allows greater energy intake and direct transfer of fatty acids of the supplemental fat to milk fat; thereby, increasing metabolic efficiency.


Productivity and Infertility: Importance of Specialised Mineral Mixtures

Protein meals need to be given suitable chemical treatment, so as to improve their efficiency of utilisation for various production purposes. Animals during transition period are energy deficient and need to be supplemented with bypass fat to combat early lactation stress, reduce body weight loss and enhance milk production and reproduction efficiency. As mineral deficiency in feed resources varies in different agro-climatic conditions, dairy animals in different zones need to be supplemented with area specific mineral mixtures for improved growth, milk production and reproduction efficiency.

In India, dairy animals mainly thrive on crop residues, supplemented with limited quantity of green fodder, and cattle feed and/or concentrate feed ingredients. Crop residues based basal diet is poor in essential minerals. It also contains several anti-nutritional factors like silicates, oxalates, gossypol and phytates, which further inhibit their utilisation Under such feeding regime, it has been found that a large number of dairy cattle and buffaloes suffer from reproductive disorders, which are primarily due to micro-nutrients deficiencies. Minerals deficiencies may result in delayed onset of oestrus, repeat breeding and/or infertility. Impaired reproductive performance results in an increased inter-calving period and reduces the productive life of animals, causing great economic loss to the milk producers, which is often unrealised. As animals do not synthesize minerals, their supplementation through mineral mixture is of paramount importance.

Minerals availability and requirement

Problems of mineral deficiencies and metabolic disorders in all categories of dairy animals as a result of lower content and low bio-availability of some essential minerals have been reported by many scientists. They include rickets, osteo-malacia, pica, bone, teeth and hoof abnormalities, sway back (neonatal ataxia), de-pigmentation of skin, parakeratosis, anaemia, still birth, goitre, poor growth rate, reduced milk yield and fertility. Even small imbalances or deficiencies can develop into reproductive disorder and milk production related problems. Supplementation of minerals helps in efficient utilisation of absorbed nutrients and many other ways, for improving growth, milk production and reproduction efficiency. Mineral requirements suggested by National Research Council (NRC) for lactating dairy cows are given in Table 6.

Table 6: Mineral requirement for buffaloes and cows.


Buffaloes Cows
Calcium Phosphorus Calcium


Maintenance (g)


13 16 11

Milk yield (g/kg)

4.65 2.98 3.21


Mg and S : 0.20% of DMI             Copper : 10 ppm         Manganese : 40 ppm

Na : 0.18% of DM Intake               Iron     : 50 ppm       Cobalt       : 0.50 ppm

K : 0.90% of DM Intake                 Zinc     : 80 ppm         Selenium   : 0.30 ppm

Cl : 0.25% of DM intake               Iodine : 0.60 ppm       Chromium: 0.50 ppm


The concentration of mineral elements in plants is dependent on the interaction of a number of factors including soil pH, plant species, stages of maturity, yield and climate. The shedding of the seeds is normally responsible for losses of many minerals so the material remaining (example the straw) is a poor source. Sometimes, there is a difference of mineral content in feeds and fodders between hilly and plain regions.

As mineral deficiencies in the ration of animals vary with agro-climatic conditions, mapping of such deficiencies is essential across different zones in various states to develop area specific mineral mixture (ASMM) for supplementing the ration of animals in effective and economical manner.

Mineral status of commonly used feedstuffs in different regions

Livestock feeding in India is traditional in nature and mostly depends upon the locally available feed resources. These feed ingredients are mostly agro-industrial by-products, varying widely in their minerals and vitamins composition. Availability of green fodder being less, the seasonal dry roughages like straws of rice, wheat, sorghum, bajra, maize, groundnut, soybean and local grasses etc, form bulk of the ruminant animals’ diet. Supplementation of ASMM is not practiced in most parts of the country. Hence, animals depend for their minerals requirement on feeds and fodder offered to them (Table 7).

Table 7: Traditional feeding practices for dairy animals in India.


Quantity (kg)

Green foddera

(Sorghum, maize, oats, green grasses, lucerne, berseem, cow pea etc)


Dry fodderb

(Straws of wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, bajra, soybean, local dry grasses etc)


Concentrate ingredientsc

(CS cake, mustard cake, grains of wheat, rice, bajra, barley, maize, sorghum etc)


Compound cattle feedd


aGreen fodder availability is seasonal and depends on irrigation facilities.

bDry fodder forms bulk of ruminant diet, mainly straws of rice and wheat.

cConcentrate ingredients may changes place to place, mainly locally available.

dCattle feed is fed depending upon the level of milk yield, may or may not be fortified with minerals and vitamins.


However, in most of the feed ingredients available for feeding livestock are deficient in one or other minerals, as shown in Table 8. Therefore, dairy animals in different agro-climatic regions need to be supplemented with minerals after considering levels of macro and micro-minerals in the feeds and fodders ingested by them.

Table 8: Mineral profiles of some feedstuffs offered to dairy animals

Feedstuffs                  (percentage)                (ppm)


P Na S Cu Zn Mn


Green fodder (sorghum,

maize, oat, lucerne, berseem, green grasses etc)

















Dry fodder (straws of

rice, wheat, sorghum,

maize, bajra, dry

grasses etc)

















Concentrate ingredients

(grains of wheat, maize, bajra, sorghum, barley,

CS cake, groundnut cake, sesame cake, rice bran, wheat bran & pulse chunies)

















Mean value*


0.24 0.074 0.13 6.85 26.0 48




0.34 0.18 0.20 10 80 40


*based on analysis of more than 2000 samples

**as per standard requirements given in Table 6.


Status of macro-minerals in feeds and fodder

Calcium (Ca): Average Ca deficiency in the ration of milch animals is found to be from 4 to 52 per cent, in different states. The Ca content is low in straws and stovers (0.10-0.30%), except groundnut straw (1.20-1.67%). However, leguminous fodders such as lucerne green, cow pea green, moth green and guar green are good source of Ca (1.5-2.50%). Ca content in non-leguminous green fodders such as maize, jowar, bajra, oats and hybrid napier ranges from 0.20 to 0.55 per cent. Carrot leaves, chikodi green, sweet potato creepers are subsidiary green fodder fed to milch animals seasonally and good source of Ca (1.5-2.0%) and other minerals. Tree leaves also contain substantial amount of Ca (1.90-3.10%), but availability is low due to high tannin content.

Phosphorus (P): Average P deficiency in the ration of milch animals is recorded from 4 to 68 per cent, in different agro-climatic zones. P content in straws range from 0.09 to 0.20 per cent but grains are high in P (0.25-0.35%) than Ca. P content in green fodders range from 0.15 to 0.45 per cent. Cakes (>0.50%) and brans (>1.0%) contain substantial amount of P but in brans, most of P is in phytic form, which is low bio-available for animals.

Other macro minerals: The magnesium (Mg) level in samples of feed and fodder is adequate (average level> 0.35%). Sodium (Na) level is low in concentrate ingredient (0.04-0.10%) and straws (0.10-0.20%) but high in green fodders (0.20-1.20%). Average Na deficiency in the ration of milch animals is recorded to be 20 to 55 per cent. The potassium (K) content in feeds and fodder seem to be quite rich (>1.0%), because all samples of feedstuffs are extraordinarily rich and are far exceeding the K requirement (0.90%). The sulphur (S) content in most of the feedstuffs is 0.10-0.15%, giving wider Nitrogen (N): Sulphur (S) ratio. Average S deficiency in the ration of milch animals is reported to be from 14 to 48%, in different states. S supplementation is needed for efficient utilisation of nitrogen by rumen microbes and to maintain N: S ratio of 10:1.

Status of micro-minerals in feeds and fodder

Copper (Cu): Average Cu deficiency in the ration of milch animals is found to be from 12 to 66% in different agro-climatic zones of India. Hence, Cu supplementation is necessary in the ration of milch animals. The Cu content is consistently low in straws (1.5-7 ppm) and green fodders (4-9 ppm), whereas, concentrate ingredients are better source of Cu (12-25 ppm), except grains (4-6 ppm).

Zinc (Zn): Average Zn deficiency in the ration of milch animals is found in the range of 33 to 80%, in different states (Table 8). Zn is acutely deficient in different agro-climatic zones (average level < 30 ppm) and need to be supplemented at a level of 80 ppm in the total ration for optimum metabolic functions. Cakes (45-60 ppm) and brans (60-98 ppm) are good sources of Cu and Zn.

Cobalt (Co): Co deficiency in the ration of animals ranges from 0-30%, in different states. Manganese (Mn) (45-80 ppm) and iron (Fe) (150-1500 ppm) levels in most of the feeds and fodder are found to be adequate. Cobalt is found to be marginally deficient in feedstuffs (0.09-0.6 ppm), in different agro-climatic zones.

Molybdenum (Mo) and Selenium (Se): Mo content in feeds is within the safe limit (average level<1.5 ppm) and giving Cu: Mo ratio wider than 5.0. Selenium content in most feedstuffs is adequate (average level >1.0 ppm).


Manufacturing of ASMM

Mineral elements exist in many chemical forms such as sulphates, carbonates, chlorides, oxides, etc. There is considerable difference in the bio-availability of minerals provided from different sources. The form of minerals chosen for use should depend on the biological value, cost and availability in the area, stability and type of diet used. Di-calcium phosphate (DCP) is the first choice of mineral ingredient used for blending mineral mixture for supplementing Ca and P to dairy animals. However, it is necessary that the levels of fluorine, lead and arsenic are kept as low as possible to prevent its being toxic to livestock. DCP should be of genuine and good quality and should not be of animal origin.

Mineral salts required for production of ASMM

In manufacturing mineral mixture for proper utilisation in the body tissue, it is necessary to consider their bio-availability (defined as the percentage of total nutrients in feedstuffs, which are actually utilised by the animals for various production purposes), compatibility, solubility, particle size, density and chemical stability. The different mineral salts, which could be used for mineral mixtures are DCP (Ca & P), calcite powder/limestone powder, magnesium oxide, ferrous sulphate, zinc sulphate & zinc methionate, zinc glycinate, potassium iodide and potassium iodate, sodium thio-sulphate, copper sulphate, copper methionate, copper glycinate, cobalt sulphate and cobalt chloride & manganese sulphate, manganese methionate, manganese glycinate and chromium chelate (trivalent form).

Concerned agencies in the country need to manufacture ASMM, using highly bio-available salts. Supplementing crucial trace minerals in the form of glycine and methionine-based chelates is better option for curing these deficiency problems in animals. NDDB has been providing technical assistance and technology to the dairy cooperatives, for establishment of mineral mixture plant for manufacturing ASMM.

Improvement in palatability of ASMM

If the palatability of mineral mixture is poor, the animals may not readily consume it. To make it palatable to animals, a sweetening agent “Sucram” @ 150 g and a flavouring agent “Lacto-vanilla coconut” @ 150 g per tonne of mineral mixture may be added.

Chromium (Cr) has been shown to be an active component of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which helps enhancing carbohydrate metabolism. Cr also helps in enhancing metabolism of proteins and fats and improving immune status of animals. Bio-availability of Cr from feeds, fodders and inorganic salts is negligible. Bio-availability of trivalent Cr if fed in the form of organic chelate, is very high (>80%). In view of this, many mineral mixture manufacturing units have started incorporating Cr chelate @ one kg per tonne of mineral mixture.

Use of mineral chelates in the ASMM

Traditionally, minerals are supplied to the livestock through ASMM in which minerals are present in the inorganic form. One of the major disadvantages of using such supplements is that the minerals from such sources are not fully absorbed due to antagonism and anti-nutritional factors present in the diet. Even retention is comparatively low after the absorption. Supplementing Cu, Zn, Mn and Cr in the form of chelates would be a better option to alleviate mineral deficiency in dairy animals. Mineral amino acid chelate is the product resulting from the reaction of a metal ion from a soluble metal salt with amino acid(s).

Metal amino acid chelates allow the minerals to be carried in with the amino acids during absorption. Finally, the amino acids, once released from the metal, can be used to build proteins or provide energy. For increased bio-availability of minerals, certain crucial trace minerals need to be added in the form of chelates, to a minimum level of 50% in the ASMM formulation, which would have marked effect on the reproduction efficiency of animals.

Glycine is the smallest amino acid and has low molecular weight with a high bonding capacity to the minerals, as compared to methionine, cystine and other amino acids. Glycine chelates form a homogenous dispersion in the intestinal gut inducing optimal absorption. In view of this, glycinates are preferred source of chelates for supplementing certain crucial trace minerals.

About 90 per cent of chelated minerals are retained after absorption. Growth of ovarian follicles is faster and pregnancy rates are higher in animals fed chelated minerals.

There is urgent need to produce and popularize ASMM for different regions, to combat deficiency of minerals in the ration of dairy animals. Immunity, growth and reproduction are influenced by trace minerals. Therefore, crucial trace minerals (Cu, Zn, Mn and Cr) could be supplemented in the form of glycine-based chelates for better bio-availability. Formulation strategies should account for mineral forms, levels and for possible antagonist combinations such as Ca:Zn and Cu:Mo ratios. Regular supplementation of ASMM containing bio-available mineral salts/trace mineral chelates would help in increasing productive life and productivity of dairy animals.

ASMM production and requirement in India

NDDB has standardised the process and plant design for the production of ASMM (Figure 6). Several agencies are now producing and marketing ASMM for growing and lactating animals in different states. So far, with NDDB’s assistance 28 such plants, each of 12 tonnes per day capacity, are producing about 40,000 tonnes of ASMM annually under dairy cooperatives.

Figure 6: Mineral mixture manufacturing unit designed by NDDB

It is estimated that about 40,000 tonnes of mineral mixture is produced by the private sector. However, this currently addresses the need of only 2 per cent of India’s milch animals, if calculated for crossbred cows and buffaloes @ 100 g per day and indigenous cows @ 75 g per day (Table 9).

Table 9: Animal population and mineral mixture requirement.


No. of milch animals* Requirement of mineral mixture (kg/year)

Total mineral mixture (MT/year) requirement

Crossbred cows


36.5 (@100g/d)


Indigenous cows


27.37 (@75g/d)




36.5 (@100g/d)





*Source: Livestock Census, 2012

From Waste to Wealth: Technologies for Improving Crop Residues

Crop residues are abundantly available in India and form the bulk of basal diet but they are not evenly distributed across the country. While strategic supplements help in efficient utilisation of crop residues, enrichment and densification technologies help in improving nutritive value and reduction in cost of transportation/storage. Efficiency of utilisation of crop residues can be improved, if supplemented with deficient nutrients through UMMB licks. Green fodder production from the available land need to be enhanced by using certified/truthfully labelled fodder seeds of high yielding varieties.


Crop residues form the main basal diet for cattle in India. Due to labour shortage many farmers are adopting grain harvesters intensively for managing food crops like wheat rice, maize, oil seeds, pulses, resulting in huge field loss of fodder biomass which was otherwise available to dairy animals in manual harvesting system. For reducing the fodder wastage after grain combines the farmers need to introduce fodder mowers and auto pick up devices for effective recovery of straws and stovers. Mowers are high speed fodder harvesting machines having inbuilt options for chopping, crushing, trailer loading, stem cracking and conditioning as per specific needs of the biomass. They are the most economical devices for straw recovery, silage making, hay making, mulching, composting, soil incorporation and of course daily feeding. Mowers are also known as roughage management machines used for intensive fodder production for higher protein and higher energy recovery at right stage of harvesting.

Depending on season, crop hardness, tenderness, thickness, height and moisture of different crops various types of fodder mowers are to be propagated in India fitting into future high speed and intensive farming systems being adopted by progressive farmers. Following three kinds of straw securing and fodder management devices can be used: (i) Auto pick up balers; (ii) Flail mower, chopper loader; and, (iii) Combine prevention/reversal mowers 

(i) Auto pick up baler is driven by 50-75 HP tractors. It picks up a swath width of about 1500-1800 mm. Straw or hay pick up rate with this machine is about 1 to 2 MT per hour depending on crop and swath. Size of the bales can be adjusted from 10 to 20 kg. Small bales are easy to handle and can be transported to transit storage points with ease and minimum drudgery. Loading, unloading and stacking of fodder becomes very convenient after field baling. For managing high moisture biomass, collection inversion cum liner rake can be used, so as to sun-dry the biomass before pick up and storage. The baler machine can work on almost all types of biomass. About 20 MT of straw can be secured in one day by employing 75 HP tractor driven baler.

(ii) Flail mower, chopper loader is also driven by 50-75 HP tractors. It pick up swath width of about 1300 to 1900 mm. Straw recovery rate with this machine is about 2 to 3 MT per hour depending on crop height and swath. Machine has option of blowing the fodder biomass back into field for sun drying or mulching as per specific needs of the farmer. For high moisture biomass collection, inversion cum liner rake is also required so as to sun-dry the biomass before pick up and storage. The machine can work on almost all types of biomass. The mower ensures added benefit of high speed silage and hay making due to inbuilt chopping and cracking facilities. About 20 MT of straw can be picked up in one day with this mower in loose form.

(iii) Combine prevention/reversal mowers: Under this category many kinds of smaller crop mowers are available now. Self propelled reaper binder with 10 HP diesel engine is found to be more useful in fodder as well as grain crops like wheat, rice, rain-fed sorghum, bajra, pulses, oil seeds etc. The machine harvests the crops at almost zero level — just 60 mm above the ground thus guarantees 100 per cent straw recovery. Bundles made by the reaper binders are fully automatic (labour free) and are quite handy. The mower machine can harvest about 8 acre in one day.

Enrichment and densification of crop residues

There are regional and seasonal imbalances in the availability of dry fodder. Conventional methods to transport and store dry fodder results in higher cost. Even though crop residues are sold at a premium (Rs. 6 per kg and more) in deficit and drought prone regions, they are often burnt in surplus areas.

Enrichment and densification of fodder into blocks/pellets improves nutritive value and saves transportation and storage cost. Enriched and densified fodder from surplus areas is used during lean period. Enrichment and densification plants are being set up in fodder surplus areas in different regions, for supply of biomass in perennial deficit areas (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Straw enrichment & densification plant


Straw based feed pellets

Despite shortage, lignified bio-mass such as cotton stalks, soybean and mustard straws are burnt in different parts of the country. Lignified biomass can be easily crushed and used for making feed pellets. These pellets can be transported and stored at strategic locations and used during the scarcity period or during natural calamity as a complete ration. In view of this, straw-based feed pellets using 50 per cent lignified biomass (cotton stalks, mustard or soybean straw) and 50 per cent concentrate feed ingredients were prepared on a pilot scale and tested on lactating cows. Straw-based feed pellets were found to be palatable to dairy animals and the daily feeding cost reduced significantly in animals fed on straw based feed pellets.

Alternative feed resources

While considering the availability of feed resources for livestock feeding, some unaccounted feed resources are not taken into consideration. These unaccounted feed resources mainly include local grasses, tree leaves (khejari, ber, moringa, gliricidia, subabul, banana, pipal, anjan), weeds, by-products of starch and soybean industries, brewery waste/dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) and vegetable wastes (potatoes, pea pods, carrot tops, tomato pomace, vegetable waste from mandis). Like many grain-based feed ingredients, DDGS may contain amounts of mycotoxins that can negatively affect animal performance or be produced and stored under conditions that cause mould growth and mycotoxin production. However, good quality DDGS can be included in dairy animal diets up to 20 per cent of the diet without decreasing dry matter intake, milk production, and percentage milk fat and protein. Horticulture wastes (citrus fruit, apple pomace, pineapple) and non-conventional feeds (babul pods, Prosopis pods, tamarind seed powder, mango kernel extraction, isabgol by-products etc) are also used frequently for animal feeding which are not taken into account while assessing the requirement and availability of feed and fodder resources.