Maize harvest in the village home of Jashvir Singh Tomar, in northern India, which ILRI scientists visited during a field day held as part of a workshop to develop a tool for feed technology screening and prioritization in Dehradun, India (photo credit: ILRI/Peter Ballantyne).
New research by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) shows that, regarding the use of crop residues as livestock feed, stover from some high-yielding popular hybrids of maize (corn), globally the most widely grown crop, can outperform the best varieties of sorghum stover traded in India.
This matters because India’s dairy farmers and fodder traders both generally think that maize stover is inferior to sorghum stover as livestock feed.
ILRI and CIMMYT have been collaborating in a ‘Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia project (CSISA)’ project, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), as well as a CGIAR Research Program on Maize.
‘Sorghum stover, the above-ground biomass left after grain harvest, supports much of the urban and near-urban dairy production in peninsular India. Between 130 and 200 tons of sorghum stover are sold daily in the fodder markets of Hyderabad alone. Some of the stover is transported several hundred kilometres and costs, on a dryweight basis, about 50% of the price of sorghum grain, which is up from 20 to 30% just 15 years ago. . . .
‘To challenge the negative perceptions about maize stover, maize stover of a popular high-yielding hybrid with high stover fodder quality was provided to a commercial dairy producer in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This dairy producer had maintained his eight improved Murrah buffaloes on a diet typical of that of urban and near-urban dairy systems in peninsular India. It consisted of 60% sorghum stover and 40% a homemade concentrate mix of 15% wheat bran, 54% cotton seed cake, and 31% husks and hulls from threshed pigeon-pea. . . .
The substitution of sorghum stover with maize increased his profits [by] 3.7 Rs per kg of milk, apart from an additional 0.5kg milk per buffalo.
‘This study demonstrated the big potential benefits for India’s smallholder rainfed maize and dairy farmers of adopting dual-purpose, food-and-feed maize cultivars, which combine high grain yield with high fodder quality. . . .’
In this way, farmers can help solve the problem of fodder scarcity while increasing the benefits of their maize cropping. — ILRI feed researcher Michael Blümmel
Read the whole article, ‘Maize stover: An underutilized resource for rainfed India’, in CIMMYT’s Informa Newsletter, No. 1858, 30 August–06 September, 2013.