imagesThe milk crisis of Kerala created furor, but the action taken is likely to perpetuate more trouble. The Hon’ble minister Mr. C. Divakaran had initially (rightly) expressed his opposition to hike the procurement price as it neither enhances the local procurement nor helps producers of Kerala. But price rise provided an opportunity for private milk marketers and feed traders to exploit producers and consumers.

The co-operative milk supplies established in a small tile roofed building opposite the YMCA Trivandrum was perhaps the forerunner of co-operative milk marketing in Kerala. This was taken over by TRIMS and then by KLD Board/ MILMA. The primary objective was to help the unorganized cattle owners to sell their surplus milk “at will”.

images (14)Verghese-KurienMilk unions of India started under the stewardship of Padma Bhushan (Dr.) Verghese Kurien who adopted a novel way of buying milk from small holders at a reasonable cost, extracting its fat or solid Non-fat (SNF) and reconstituting it to meet the growing urban consumer demand. Excess milk collected in flush season was processed and stored.

This assured a regular market to small holders and milk to consumers. The profit helped manage Milk unions and tide crisis if any. In India dairy co-operatives handle less than 15% of the total milk produced. By this process they controlled market as they have a steady demand and the trust of consumers. To meet the demand for milk and to optimize the images (2) (1)capacity of its plants MILMA buys (cheap) milk from other states. In this process the focus of MILMA and KLD Board shifted from dairy development of Kerala to profit. When conditions forced many in Kerala to leave dairy farming reducing the cattle population drastically by 2001-2002 KLD Board or MILMA did not realize the impact of their policies. But soon suppliers from out side state curtailed supply of milk and raised its cost to the disadvantage of both producers and consumers of Kerala.

Private operators, who followed the market, exploited the market of neighboring states for marketing milk in Kerala.  Had MILMA/ KLD Board studied the unorganized milk marketing system, (handling 85% of market), it could have foreseen the trend and avoided some loss. Milk unions did not uniformly enjoy the trust of dairy cattle owners. Before hike, the difference between sale price and procurement price of MILMA was high ie. > Rs.7/- per litre. Both producers and consumers 100% feel that a overhead of nearly is high.

Milk producer 17The price that milk unions give to local producers is far less than what meets the eye. Though milk unions claim to provide a procurement price of Rs. 14.50 per litre to producers, in reality most farmers in Kerala end up receiving between Rs. 10-12 per litre as  the milk is presumed to be priced and procured on the basis of fat content and other solids (SNF or solid non-fat). MILMA reconstitutes the procured milk at 3.00% and 1.5% fats and sells them at Rs.20/- per litre. In many cases the margin may go up to 100% if not more.

Some actions of MILMA/ govt. still baffle logic. For example:

  • All MILMA units increased the price, though only one local (Trivandrum) unit was making loss. Writing off the loss (as done in the case of sick mills or state transport corporation) or a temporary loan was an option in public interest.
  • MILMA reported a loss of Rs. 9 crores. By selling 7-10 lakh litres of milk daily at a hike of Rs.6-7/- per liter, MILMA could level loss of one crore rupees in two days and Rs.8-10 crores in a fortnight. MILMA did not reduce the price or improve local collection.
  • The proposal to make-up the loss by marketing “MILMA rich”, was a better option as it affected limited users, provided the consumer a choice, and did not disturb the price line.
  • Co-operatives increased the price of “products” which were never a “loss making”. Globally sale of liquid milk is considered uneconomic and profit lies in product making. To make liquid milk available to consumers, developed countries provided subsidy to those who sell liquid milk.
  • KLDB/ MILMA’s procurement of milk from other states (a “ship to Mouth” policy) could at best be a temporary relief measure in times of crises. Its failure to address unfavorable conditions of small holders in Kerala culminated in present crisis.
  • Livestock Development Board (KLD Board) is established under the aegis of National Dairy Developmentdownload (3) Board (NDDB) an institution of national importance, for holistic development of live-stock. In 1982 KLD Board separated milk marketing from its activity. It mainly focused on import of high yielding animals or breeding materials. But in Kerala the superior genetic material born out of imported bulls was wasted as most of the new born calves (especially males) are slaughtered for meat soon after their birth. The reason behind this cruel act is the expense involved in raising calves. A good heifer calf can be bought from Tamil Nadu or Karnataka for Rs. 2000/-, while raising a good calf for 10 months in Kerala could cost Rs 5000/-
  • KLD Board should have made a matter of fact impact assessment and evaluation of its breeding policy from time to time. In 80’s expert panel of FAO/ UNEP observed that cross breeding over 3-4 decades (now >6 decades) did not result in a wide spread improvement in performance. In many cases cross-breeding has been carried out without initial characterization or evaluation of indigenous breeds and with no effort to conserve local strains. Uncharacterized breeds are disappearing in some rapidly developing regions of the world where climatic, parasitic or disease pressures could have produced important genetically adapted breeds. Pre-independence records reveal that the then Animal husbandry commissioner of India Sir Arthur Oliver had advised the then British rulers of India against introducing British breeds into India. Similar was the view of Sir Kothewala, an Animal Husbandry commissioner who succeeded him later.
  • With the reports of “Mad cow disease” in England and Europe, government of India banned the import of biomaterial. Now import can be done only from countries that are declared “free of disease” by the international agency “Office Internationale Epizootie” (O.I.E) for the past 5 years. It is in public interest to verify how central government permits import by Kerala?

The debacle in the milk front could be an early symptom of misconceptions, long negligence, poor management, lack of scientific approach and wrong prioritization. If stake holder institutions of animal resource sector are roped in as associated institutes of the proposed veterinary university, one can work out a synergy that dovetails research with service for a sustainable and holistic development.



24705_8156_cowTime has proved that materials or technology lifted from elsewhere may not solve Kerala’s problems. The land, water and energy in Kerala is limited and vary widely even among micro-regions. The governance of animal husbandry and veterinary service of Kerala is shared by a number of independent agencies that can identify their role and compliment each others work. Devolution of power following the 73rd amendment of constitution was limited to dept., of Animal husbandry, which need coordinate the action of various agencies


4168804996_f98bc7355eIn developed countries natural resources like land, energy and water are available.They initiated major thrust live-stock production after eradicating most contagious and infectious diseases by stamping out.In India where resources are limited and bio-safety is poor, a number of new diseases of livestock and poultry have already been introduced through import. Exotic diseases such as Rift Valley fever, avian influenza (Bird flu) or Bovine spongiform encephalitis (mad cow disease) may pose even greater threat as they affect both livestock and human beings. Since these can be studied only in highly sophisticated laboratories of P3-P5 levels, high security animal disease laboratory etc. they are unlikely to be identified till mass deaths precipitate.


images (2)Countries like Israel who maintain their cattle on a “high input high output” has very high bio-safety. They grow animals on succulent grass of good digestibility and high energy food grains (mainly maze). Adopting it in India may make animals to compete with man for food. The high input systems involve need for large land, water, safe waste disposal and sensitive market management along with cutting edge technology. USA, consumes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1lb beef and 15,000 litres of water to produce a gallon of milk. Despite possessing thirty times grassland than India” [*see table], the U.S.A. is finding it difficult to dispose animal waste. Large nitrogen rich patches in ranches and dung particles in drinking water are identified in some states where animal waste is ranked among the top pollutants and is implicated for causing memory loss, confusion, skin burning etc.. Animal waste dumped to the sea in 10 states alone, killed more than 13 million fish in a year.


Brazil   18.5 Million HA
S.Africa   81.3 Million HA
UK   11.0 Million HA
USA 239.0 Million HA
China 400.0 Million HA
India   11.3 Million HA

images (3)India on the contrary, became the highest milk producer in the world through the endeavor of millions of small holders who rear animals essentially on Crop residues (CR) and common property resources (CPR). A steady market by NDDB to the unorganized farmers ushered in White revolution in India. We are among the producers of cheapest milk in the world.

Indian cattle and buffaloes produce more than 800 MT (million tons) of fiber rich dung every year of which 300 MT’s are burned as dung cakes for cooking energy. Nearly 90% of cooking energy of rural India comes from crop residues and cow dung (78%+11.5% respectively). Disposal waste through the cow dung gas plants (human solid waste can be added to it) is low in “water use” need be seriously considered.

keralaLAND, WATER AND ENERGY IN KERALA: The per capita land availability of Kerala is low at 0.13 hectare and cultivable land is 0.1 hectare. The cropping percentage of Kerala is 125 (%). Water during monsoon is wasted into the sea and washes off minerals. Concrete drains, sand mining and land filling have reduced water retention. During the dry spell (January to May) even a blade of grass is difficult in parts of Kerala like Trivandrum district, where symptoms of milk crisis was first observed. In Kerala as cost of feed is higher than food grains (the BPL rice costs only a fraction of that of cattle feed), one can not over-rule the misuse of ration.

According to a nutritionist late Dr. Kuruvilla Verghese, as the type of grass available here is of poor quality it would be difficult to (economically) maintain animals yielding more than 15 Kg milk daily. Feeding poor quality grass decreases the efficacy of digestion (digestibility) by 63% to 50%. Wrong feeding by increasing concentrates can exhaust the rumen, reduce pH, impair digestion and papillae formation. Rumen functions optimally when pH is maintained between 6.27 and 6.3. Studies reveal that 80% of the dairy cattle in Kerala have rumen pH of 6.2 or less. Individual exceptions that exist may not be generalized.

Energy available from roughage is expressed as Qm ie. Metabolizable energy/ Gross energy (ME/ GE); normally this has to be <1. Materials with Qm =>0.9 is good and is used as human food. Materials with Qm = 0.2 is poor. Grass generally available in Kerala has Qm value is less than 0.2.

Care of dam during pregnancy and using calf starters help early growth and expression of the genetic qualities in calves. Giving small quantities of grass from second week of birth enhance papillae formation that provides additional area for micro flora to lodge. Poor management reduces production by 30%

Getting one calf a year is essential for economic dairy farming. Infertility is frequent in Kerala.  50% of the infertility is due to energy deficiency; and 25-30% is caused by mineral deficiency. (of manganese, cobalt and zinc) Nearly 28% of the infertility may be traced to wrong Artificial Insemination (A.I.).



It is unfair to close without proposing possible remedies. The role of MILMA as a pioneer organization of public importance can not be underestimated. The Kudumbashree systems in Kerala had taken the cue from milk unions and “Grameen bank’ of Bangladesh. But Kudumbashree has obligation to the farmer and not to the cunsumer. They normally do not handle storage and processing. Their over head stays within 2-5% and the cost is given to the producer.  But MILMA does processing and has a unique role of controlling milk market. Kudumbashree being in its early phase could learn from MILMA’s (crisis) experience. It is possible to work out a combination (synergy) for a sustainable mission mode (turn key) program using good management tools like PERT, CPM or Gantt chart. Success of a dairy depends on,-

  • Economic and dependable feed like oil cakes, grains and compounded feed
  • Regular dry fodder and green grass especially from December to June
  • Protection from Foot and mouth disease (FMD) and mastitis
  • Ensure one calf per year (freedom from infertility or delayed maturity)
  • Transparent function of milk unions for fair marketing opportunity and moderate income.

images (2) (1)Following can be possible actions:

  1. Roughly Kerala has 70 lakh (L) families of which 30 lakhs keep animals (16 L keep poultry; 8L goats; 8L cows; 2L cattle and goats). Instead of chasing elite strains, if each dairy owning family produces 10-15 Litres of milk per day, Kerala may get 1 to 1.5 Litres milk per family. This is possible within constraints of our resources.
  2. Individual (private) efforts generating situations congenial for “High input high output regimen” should not be discouraged. MILMA does not collect milk from such private dairy farmers; NDDB advocates privatization.
  3. MILMA can be self sufficient and raise reserve funds to tackle crises, if milk unions can be transparent. MILMA can diversify, producing purified water, advertising on pouches, producing new products. Try new methods/ products during flush season to minimize road blocks.
  4. Review of the composition of milk unions and co-operatives to ensure that members and executive bodies are from among actual animal owners. Public men are prone to criticism of political favoritism and subjective actions.
  5. To make the milk collection transparent, the evaluation and pricing be done before producer who must take turns to attend the collection, evaluation of milk, pricing and distribution of inputs/ money. Transparency would allay the fear of pricing being used against whistle blowers or being used by leaders to perpetuate their position in union.
  6. The determinants of economic dairy farming like feeding and health care be addressed by supply of all the feeds including green and dry fodder to farmer as per need (not just compounded feed). A system for the regular supply can evolve after a discussion among members and reviewed from time to time. The department of Animal husbandry must review the current campaign against Foot & Mouth Disease and ensure public service and development activities do not suffer during campaign.
  7. To enhance collection, dairy owners must receive total payment as cash or as feed material of her/ his choice. (Paddy straw, green fodder, oil cake, rice bran, mineral mixture, calf starter etc.). Use data base to estimate producers’ requirement and verify regular supply
  8. Aflatoxicosis or poor feed reduces milk yield. A regular lab accessible to the common man be established in each district veterinary centre for primary testing (proximate analysis) of any feed material (government or private) on a chargeable basis.
  9. Feed and fodder including scarcity fodder of different regions of Kerala be identified and suitable fodder be supplied to dairy owners. Napier grass cultivation used to be grown on mud walls, contour bunds and between coconut plantations. Land owners who do not keep live-stock can be encouraged to intercrop fodder and sell to dairy owners.
  10. Panchayats or milk unions must identify common property, water and energy (&man power) for the green fodder in their command area through Ayalkoottam, Kudumbashree, Janashree etc. Technically one should not cultivate land on either side of the irrigation canals to prevent silting. One can use Fodder/ grass to prevent soil erosion and silting. Rejuvenate depleted rubber and tea estates by rearing low yielding animals and using their manure.
  11. The proposed veterinary University of Kerala can be organized by pooling all the stake holder institutions KVASU Faculty Recruitment 2014 Kerela 117 Teaching & Non Teaching Vacanciesand corporations for a synergy of service. Departments of the veterinary university address the problems of farmers in animal rearing, animal health, marketing, feed production, product collection, safety and processing. For pedagogic training and post graduate (PG) program they can Organize their research base in farms or institutions of each region and pursue problems of community need in Livestock Production and management, breeding, nutrition, epidemiology, extension. Besides government farms, veterinary universities must study family life style in Kerala holistically, their food needs, special needs of animal owning families, man power availability, techniques they use, sustainable animal Housing and hygienic disposal of wastes using local methods and material. Students and scholars must study milk markets, collection, sale of animals and their bye-products, Live-stock market trends and the role of intermediaries. They may also study the Milk requirement in each district of Kerala (normal, season-wise, during festivities or in crisis like flood, draught and landslides).
  12. During seasons of short supply, there could be a ban on sale of milk based sweets. Gradually in place of milk from out side Kerala, MILMA can save on transport if they collect milk from private dairy farms of Kerala

1MILMA may support University to study the current use of land, water and energy for animal husbandry, and evolve (observe, select or adopt) methods to ensure their optimal use. New, products for marketing, low energy implements can also be tried (e.g.: non-electric milking machine presented in Kerala science congress).

It is high time that management skill and technical knowledge are merged at decision making forums. The role identification of each service unit of animal resource development is essential to prevent duplication and overlapping and for the optimal use of resources.

The author can be reached at:

Phone: 0471-2320773  Mobile: 9847443086

[email protected];  [email protected]