Livestock industry continues to demonstrate a beneficial impact on rural people in India by improving their income, employment and consumption thereby acting as a potential tool in alleviating rural poverty. As in any part of the world the health and productivity of livestock are closely linked with the quantum and quality of forage production. Forages are the strong hold of our livestock industry. Feeding green forage to productive animals is much cheaper than feeding concentrates with crop residues. India supports 15 per cent (540 million) of the world’s livestock population and is having 16 per cent of human population to be sustained on approximately two per cent of total geographical areas of the world. While any increase in the acreage under forage crop is limited due to competition with grain and cash crops.
Dairying is one of the important subsistence activities in several States adding to agricultural income irrespective of the land holdings. The ownership of the livestock is more evenly distributed with landless labourers and marginal farmers owning bulk of livestock. The gap between the supply and demand of good quality forage continues to enlarge owing to constraints viz., land and resource inputs. By and large, the farm animals are forced to subsist on low quality crop residues and byproducts such as straws, fry stalks, stubbles and sparse vegetation from wastelands or commercial grazing lands. Growing of low yielding and locally available forage crops and non-adoption of improved production techniques in the state are the reasons for reduced milk production as compared to the production potential besides quality of the milk. Apart from these, farmers are investing 40% of their returns from livestock towards purchase of concentrate feeds. The requirement of green and dry fodder for the state’s livestock population of over 28.36 million (Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary) at its optimum plane of nutrition has been estimated at 47,504 million tones indicating a huge deficit of more than 50 per cent as compared to the requirement. The superior breeds, cross-breeds and upgraded animals require adequate and balanced nutrition for realizing their optimum potential.
Fodder shortage and the poor quality of available fodder are major constraints to increase livestock productivity in India. Sowing a new fodder area requires a reliable source of seed or vegetative propagules. Seed quality is very crucial and essential for fodder production and productivity. With the advancement of agriculture, the role of quality fodder seed is increasing. The miracle fodder seeds of improved varieties and hybrids have played a key role in livestock transformation in India. It is not enough, if a desirable cultivar or hybrid is released, unless otherwise sufficient quantities of quality seeds are made available to the farming community in time.
India having different types of agro-climatic conditions and soil types facilitating cultivation of various fodder crops. The important fodder crops in India are Maize, Bajra, Sorghum, Napier Grass, Genie Grass, and Cowpea. Hence, there is a need for quality seeds to cover these crops. Since, most the fodder crops are breed for forage purpose, and these are shy seed bearer. The availability of fodder seeds is scanty and required to enhance quality seed production with adoption of superior seed production practices. The objective of fodder seed programme is to make available quality seed or vegetative material that is suited to farmer’s need for livestock production.
Thus, there is an urgent need to improve upon the present forage supply position in quantitative and qualitative terms through supplying of high yielding varieties of various forage crops with enhanced palatability and other quality traits, adaptability to different agro-ecological zones, suitability to diverse farming situations, improved production techniques and demonstration of these technologies on farmer’s field are present key factors for successful and profitable livestock rearing and also to achieve the desired growth rate in agriculture.