Cultivating green grass within the farm is one of most important factor to be successful in dairy farming. Many of the small and medium sized dairy farmers are not focussing much on cultivating green fodder. Feeding green fodder reduces intake of concentrate feeds (dhana) which inturn increases profitability. There are various fodder varieties like Bajra Napier (Co-4), Guinea grass (Anjan grass), Fodder sorghum (CoFS-27), Multi cut fodder Sorghum (CoFS-29), African tall maize, Legumes (Lucerne, Desmanthus, Stylo, Cowpea) and tree fodder varieties (Sesbania, Subabul, Glyricidia). Some of the fodder varieties are listed below.
Lucerne is also called as alfa alfa. Lucerne is a protein rich leguminous plant. The protein content in lucerne is around 15 to 20% which is the highest in fodder varieties. Lucerne is leafy and easily digested by the cattle. The roots grow deep. You would need around 8 kgs of seed per acre. It requires proper care till it establishes. Lucerne is a legume which means it fixes nitrogen. This grass is a good fit for high milk yielding cattle because of its high protein content and highly digestible fiber. This is not suitable for very hot or very cold climates. Lucerne is not suitable for open grazing. First cutting can be done at 75th day and subsequent cuttings every 25 days.
Stylo is a perennial forage legume. Stylo is well adapted to tropical climate and drought resistant. The crude protein content of stylos ranges from 15 to 18%. You would need approximately 3 kgs of seed per acre. First cutting can be done at 80th day when the flowers show up. During the first year, the yield is usually low but after it establishes with self seeding the density increases. Stylo can also be used for open grazing.
Cow Pea is a nitrogen fixing legume which can be grown round the year. Cow Pea is also called as Bobbarlu, Alasandi, Lobia or Karamani. Approximately 18 kgs of seed is required for cultivating 1 acre. The first cutting can be done when the crop is at 50% flowering stage approximately after 50 days and subsequent cuttings can be done based on growth. Cow pea leaves are high on protein. Cow pea can be used for open grazing.
CO-4 grass is a hybrid developed by Tamil Nadu agricultural university in coimbatore. This is a cross between Napier grass and Bajra cereal. This is a very high yieding grass variety. With proper care, you would be able to harvest around 150 tonnes per year per acre. This has average protien content ranging from 8% to 11%. The cultivation of CO-4 grass is similar to sugarcane requiring around 17000 slips per acre.
Sorghum is a cereal variety fodder. This is very resistant to drought conditions. The hybrid that should be used is COFS29. Usually cereals are a single harvest crops but COFS29 is a multicut hybrid variety developed by TNAU. The protein content is approximately 8%. You would need around 7.5 kgs of COFS29 seeds per acre. The first cutting can be done after 60 days and subsequent cuttings at 40 day intervals.
Subabul is tree variety fodder. The first cutting can be done after 8 months in normal areas and in drought areas after 16 months.