Practical Demonstrations boost farmers’ understanding and improved performance

Originally published on December 19, 2016.

For generations, Bangladesh dairy farmers have been following traditional dairy farming practices built upon the origins of livestock rearing as a source of draught power and dung, with any milk for the farmer and family a bonus. These traditional practices result in very poor animal welfare and poor profitability. The overall dairy sector was tied in a chain of poor productivity and performance. Land O’Lakes Bangladesh Dairy Enhancement Project (BDEP) has identified a significant gap between the needs of farmers and the capabilities of advisory services to support farmers with enhanced animal and farm management practices.
 
BDEP has introduced innovative whole-farm management and a new approach of on-farm training as opposed to traditional class room training. The whole farm management philosophy recognizes that for a dairy farmer to achieve productivity gains, competence across a broad range of factors is necessary.

BDEP has collaborated with local farmers, ones prepared to be bold and consider significant change away from traditional practices, and has established Demonstration Farms where both Training of Trainers and direct farmer training are occurring, with the goal of instilling practical dairy farming skills within advisory services and among farmers.
 
This is a remarkable step for Bangladesh as it represents the for the first time the establishment of highly practical and low cost dairy darms, founded on modern dairy farm management principles at the individual farmer level. Al Amin Dairy Farm, one of the newly established demonstration farms, adopts many improved husbandry and dairy farming practices including ventilated cow shed, keeping cows untied, free access to adequate quantities of clean water, sandy leisure zones, twice daily showering for temperature mitigation, proper shed cleaning, timely heat detection, breeding and culling strategies,  feeding of nutritious balanced concentrate, separate calf pen and weaning strategies, use of calf milk replacer, maize fodder cultivation and chopping, mastititis testing and prevention, regular deworming and vaccination, use of rocksalt for the supply of minerals, milking machines and hygiene, ear tags for herd and health recording, and in a word, entire elements of “cow-comfort.”

From almost all parts of the country, interested farmers, NGOs and private organizations are coming to visit Al-Amin’s farm and gaining improved understanding and knowledge for establishing more new farms in a similar manner. Already, there are good instances of other small scale farm establishments in the locality. Most importantly, surrounding villages farmer are coming to see, questioning and leaving with accurate knowledge, and greater confidence, in order that change away from traditional practices is supported.
 
Geoff Walker, Chief of Party for BDEP, considers these new demonstration farms as the expression of the broad knowledge gained by BDEP staff over the three years of the project, and notes “it is fantastic to see development of our people and our farmers leading to better outcomes for cows, milk production and the dairy sector as a whole”.

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