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Intensive Cultivation of Medicago sativa for Sustainable Milk Production – An Action Oriented Approach

Kantha Raju M. K. V. Jagadeeswary K. Satyanarayan K. C. Veeranna Y. B. Rajeshwari C. S. Nagaraj J. Shilpa Shree
Vol 8(4), 101-108

Livestock population in India are highly depend on accessibility of feed and fodder, but there exists an extensive crevice between the necessity and genuine accessibility of feed and fodder at national level including green fodder. The green fodder shortage can be partially met out by intensively cultivating green fodder trees. A participatory action approach was designed to promote intensive cultivation of lucerne (Medicago sativa), a perennial fodder legume, for sustainable milk production in Chikkaballapur district, Karnataka. Three villages in Gowribidanur taluk were selected. Twenty dairy farmers from each village were sensitized and mobilized through meetings, group discussions, exposure visits, demonstrations, farmers’ field schools and field tours with the help of key persons and village leaders. Lucerne seeds supplied to the farmers and cultivation practices were monitored. On-farm demonstrations were conducted to demonstrate the effect of supplementation of wilted lucerne forage on milk yield in crossbred lactating cows at the rate of 5 kg/day/cow. Constraints and perceptions of farmers in adopting intensive cultivation of lucerne were identified through personal interview using structured interview schedule. The milk yield with feeding lucerne increased significantly (P<0.05) by 32.5 per cent over the milk yield without feeding lucerne in the same cows. Lack of assured irrigation and electricity was ranked as the major constraint. Most of the farmers had high perception level about the lucerne cultivation and feeding to cows. The results of the study indicated that intensive cultivation of Medicago sativa can be successfully adopted at the farm level except in water logged soil. Quality green leguminous fodder can be supplemented to reduce the cost spent for concentrate feed purchase on grass based feeding diet. Hence, the farmers can be made to realize the economic gains in terms of increased milk yield.

Keywords : Constraints Intensive Cultivation Medicago sativa Milk Yield Participatory


Livestock is the most economically important sector of agriculture as it provides livelihood support to millions of people having little access to land. Improvement and development of huge livestock populace in India are reliant on accessibility of feed and fodder. But there exists an extensive crevice between the necessity and genuine accessibility of feed and fodder at national level including green fodder. The adequate supply of nutritive fodder and feed is a crucial factor impacting the productivity and performance of the animals. The deficit of green fodder is expected to move up further from 62.76 % (666 million MT.) in year 2010 to 64.21 % (759 million MT.) in year 2020 (Planning Commission, 2012). Karnataka needs to follow the systematic fodder planning as it is the second most drought affected state, next only to Rajasthan in the country comprising of 20 drought prone districts out of the 30 districts. The mean dry matter (DM) availability for the state was 54.46 %. The total contribution of crop residues, greens and concentrates to DM in the state was 72.59 %, 23.6 % and 3.81% respectively (Biradar and Vinod, 2013). Despite the fact that crop residues are high in fibre and are associated with a low voluntary intake, they could provide a valuable source of energy for ruminant livestock if supplemented with protein rich feeds. The use of fodder trees can overcome the protein deficiency in the basal diet, complement crop production and stabilize the ecosystem to maximize food and feed from the same land. Investment costs, land and labour use and risk of failure are relatively low, which is essential for widespread adoption and use (Batz et al., 2003).

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is well known as “queen of the forages” as it is a long-lived perennial legume and animals prefer to eat alfalfa more compared to all other types of fodder (Ahmed, 2010). Lucerne is relished by all kinds of livestock, because it yields nutritious and palatable green fodder which possesses about 16-25 per cent crude protein and 20-30 per cent fibre. Therefore, it is important to put more emphasis on fodder development programmes for augmenting feed and fodder supply, while formulating livestock development strategy. The inclusion of local individuals in the design, implementation and evaluation of new technology and innovations would facilitate capacity building and awareness to the farmers. Thus, participatory approaches are mandatory for the development of forage options (Peters et al., 2003). With this background, the present study was undertaken with the following objectives; to sensitize and mobilize dairy farmers for intensive cultivation of Medicago sativa, on-farm demonstration of effect of feeding Medicago sativa on milk production and to identify the constraints in adoption and assess their perception towards intensive cultivation of Medicago sativa.

Materials and Methods

A participatory action oriented approach, which attempts to solve the real problems in real world situations involving the local people, was adopted for promoting intensive cultivation of Medicago sativa. Three villages namely Chikkakurugodu, Ramchandrapura and Huduti were purposefully selected as all these villages had good number of high yielding crossbred cows, MPCS and also irrigation facilities. Twenty dairy farmers were selected from respective Milk Producer’s Co-operative Societies of three selected villages based on the criteria that they should have bore well irrigation facility and should have minimum one crossbred cow, either in advanced pregnancy or in early lactation, so that the cow would have passed off peak lactation (>8 weeks) during the period of demonstration of effect of supplementation of Medicago sativa forage on milk yield. Thus 60 dairy farmers were selected in total for the study.

The farmers were sensitized through extension methods and mobilized to take up intensive cultivation of Medicago sativa. In Chikkakurugodu and Ramachandrapura villages, four informal group discussions were held and in Huduti, six informal meetings were held with the farmers. In all the villages, two formal sensitization meetings were conducted to explain the primary benefits like nutritive value, economic importance and secondary benefits of intensive cultivation of a fodder legume Medicago sativa. All the selected farmers were taken on an exposure visit to the demonstration plot in their village. Each Farmer was given 250g of Lucerne seed. About 5 kg of sand was used to mix 250g of lucerne seeds before sowing to avoid the sticking of soaked seeds to the hands and to carry out the proper sowing method.Care was taken so that seeds should not go more than one cm deep into the soil as the seed size of Lucerne was very small and to ensure that the seeds are covered with only 1-2 cm layer of soil. Farmers were taken to the demonstration plot at every stage of technology from preparation of land to harvesting of lucerne, feeding to cows, till knowing the effects on milk yield after supplementation.

To demonstrate effect of Medicago sativa supplementation on milk yield, ‘before-and-after’ design was employed. Before feeding lucerne, it was shade dried for 8 hrs and fed. The feeding trial lasted for a total of eight weeks comprising of two weeks without feeding lucerne forage followed by two weeks of feeding wilted lucerne @ 5 kg /day/ cow in first trial and switched back to two weeks without feeding lucerne forage followed by 2 weeks of feeding lucerne forage in second trial. Storing was not carried out as excess production was not planned. Fodder required for two animals was alone grown in the experiment. Dodder (Cuscuta campestris), an obligatory weed was noticed in some farmer’s fields after one week of sowing. Combination of Imazethapyr (100g/ha) and Pendimethalin (750g/ha) on 14th day after sowing was sprayed for the effective control of weed. The roughage component of the diet (crop residues like finger millet straw mixed with dried sorghum stover and hybrid Napier) and the quantity of concentrate feed fed to the cows under study prior to feeding trial were maintained uniform throughout the feeding trial. The cows were hand- milked twice a day and milk yield of individual cows were recorded. The mean milk yield without and with lucerne forage supplementation for both the trials was calculated and paired t-test was employed for analyzing the difference in mean milk yield. To identify the constraints and perception towards intensive cultivation of lucerne, personal interview of the respondents was carried out with the help of a structured interview schedule and ranked according to percentage.

Results and Discussion

Sensitization and Mobilization of Farmers

Through extension methods and consultation with village leaders and key persons, rapport was established with the villagers and their confidence was gained. It was observed by Rogers (2003) that the village leaders will assist the farmers in seeking social sanction for development through their influence and skills in bringing people together and also to empower them to take action. Similar type of approach was reported by Peters et al. (2003) who argued that the key elements in the approaches linking on-station research to farmer participation for forage development with farmers include assessment of farmers priorities, enhancement of farmer’s knowledge of the secondary benefits of forage legumes, definition of niches and entry points for forages in smallholder systems and farmer inclusion. Mekoya et al. (2008) reported that build up of a farmer-to-farmer information exchange system through participatory approaches will help to develop trust among farmers to adopt an innovation.

One farmer from each village was selected and a demonstration plot was established to demonstrate agronomic practices of intensive cultivation of lucerne to the other interested farmers groups. The farm fields of all the three innovative farmers were visited along with farmers during the first week of September 2014. The plot meant for lucerne cultivation, irrigation facility and possession of crossbred cows were inspected. The innovative farmers were explained about the research project, the purpose and expected outcome of study and the idea behind the selection of a particular plot. Twenty interested farmers from each village were selected for taking up intensive cultivation of lucerne. Farmers were provided with approximately 250 grams of lucerne seeds for one gunta land. Site preparation for sowing lucerne was done by the farmers according to agricultural standards. Farm yard manure (FYM) was applied at the rate of 10 tonnes/ha or 100 kg/gunta, four weeks before the sowing time. The sowing was done in line spacing method (30 cm apart between rows on ridges) in approximately one gunta (1/40th of an acre) of land. Watering was done immediately after sowing. Initial dosage of (N: P: K=10:26:26 at 2 kg/gunta) was applied to the soil immediately after sowing. First harvesting was done at 50-55 days and subsequent harvestings were made between 15-20 days. To assess the green fodder yield, one fifth of one gunta area was harvested and weighed randomly from different fields. The sample of Medicago sativa fodder was analyzed and its chemical composition was presented in Table 1.




Table 1: Chemical composition of Medicago sativa harvested at 20 days intervals (% DM basis)

S. No. Parameters Percentage (%)
1 Carbohydrates 66.32
2 Metabolizable Energy 375 Kcal/100g
3 CP 19.77
4 Crude fat 3.41
5 Total ash 9.03
6 CF 12.15
7 Calcium 1.05
8 Phosphorous 0.35

On-Farm Demonstrations

On-farm feeding trials were conducted to demonstrate the effect of supplementation of Medicago sativa @ 5 kg/day/cow on milk yield. Nirmala et al. (2012) reported that technology demonstration through farmer inclusion has wider implications on empowerment of farmers. The overall milk yield (lit/day) for without and with feeding (Trial 1and 2) was 10.6±0.17 and 14.04±0.22, respectively (Table 2). Mean daily milk yield was higher in cows supplemented with Medicago sativa forage, by 31.33% in first trial and by 33.67% in second trial and 32.50% in overall for both the trails. The difference between milk yield without lucerne and with lucerne feeding periods were statistically significant (P<0.005) for two trails and overall. The increased milk yield after feeding lucerne could be due to the increased DMI as lucerne contained low NDF which leads to more CP intake by the cows and was responsible for increased microbial protein and metabolized protein synthesis. Havard (2010) argued that the cows when offered legume silage had higher feed intake and milk production than cows on grass silage. Similar results were noticed by Dewhurst et al. (2003), Kuoppala et al. (2009) and Chingala et al. (2013).

Table 2: Mean milk yield (lit/day) in lactating crossbred cows without and with feeding lucerne forage

Trial no. Without Lucerne With Lucerne Mean Difference Percent Increase
TRIAL 1 11.14 ± 0.25a 14.63 ± 0.32b 3.49 ± 0.13 31.33
RIAL 2 10.07 ± 0.22a 13.46 ± 0.29b 3.39 ± 0.08 33.67
POOLED 10.6 ± 0.17a 14.04 ± 0.22b 3.44 ± 0.10 32.5

Means bearing different superscripts differ significantly (P < 0.05).

Identification of Constraints in Intensive Cultivation of Medicago Sativa

Lack of assured irrigation and electricity was ranked as the major constraint (Table 3). In the study area, annual rainfall for 2014 recorded was 525 mm and 99% of the total irrigated area was irrigated by bore-wells. The ground water in the study area was over exploited resulting in total dryness of the bore-wells during pre monsoon (Mar-May) season (Anonymous, 2012). Further, ground water was accessible at 500-800 ft depth which required three-phase electricity to pump water. But due to load shedding, water availability for irrigation was a serious problem. Similar constraint was reported as major by Khadda et al. (2015) and Pramila (2015) in adoption of improved production practices by small farmers.

Table 3: Constraints in adopting intensive cultivation of Medicago sativa

S. No. Constraints Frequency


Per cent Rank
1 Lack of irrigation and electricity 47 78.30 1
2 Lack of awareness about cultivation and feeding lucerne 40 66.70 2
3 Good quality seeds are not available 35 58.30 3
4 Lack of extension service/ technical guidance 30 50.00 4
5 Non availability of labor for fodder growing and weeding 25 41.70 5
6 Inadequate  skills  for  seed  treatment  before sowing 20 33.30 6
7 Problem of grazing by some other animals/wild animals ( Rats, Hare ) 18 30.00 7
8 Lack of financial support from Govt. and Banks 15 25.00 8
9 No spare land for fodder production 10 16.70 9
10 Incidence of tympany/bloat in cattle. 5 8.30 10

The farmers ranked lack of awareness about cultivation and feeding lucerne to cows as second major problem. Non-availability of good quality lucerne seeds was ranked as the third major problem. Similar constraint was reported by Shah et al. (2011) and Shashekala et al. (2012). Though there were regional stations and central fodder seed production farms engaged in production and distribution of fodder seeds, high yielding variety seeds were rarely available. Lack of extension service/technical guidance was ranked fourth constraint. The effective farmer – extension personnel contacts need to be improved by the authority concerned. Non availability of labour was the fifth constraint. Due to urbanization and industrialization, working class people were moving towards cities to earn rather than working in the villages. Inadequate skill for seed treatment before sowing was the sixth constraint. An exposure to proper technical guidance and learning by doing method, farmers can effectively overcome this constraint. Problem of grazing by some other’s animals, wild Rats and Hares was the seventh constraint. Similar constraint was reported by Rajat Rashmi et al. (1997), Pramila (2015) and Khadda et al. (2015).

Lack of financial support from Government and Banks was the eighth constraint. The lower rank could be attributed to fewer inputs required in cultivating Medicago sativa intensively except for seeds and water. Similar concept was reported by Pramila (2014). Whereas, Shah et al. (2011) and Shashekala et al. (2012) reported that no easy access to credit and higher expenditure for production, inadequate resources for cultivation of fodder crops round the year and lack of credit, respectively, as the major constraints.

No spare land for fodder production was the next constraint which may be due to their perception on quick economic benefits from livestock husbandry than from agriculture. Similar results were reported by Shah et al. (2011). Incidence of bloat/tympany was the least constraint, as all the farmers were following grass based diet in the area and feeding small quantities of lucerne. The results of the perception of livestock farmers towards intensive cultivation of lucerne were presented in Table 4.

Table 4: Distribution of livestock farmers according to their perception on lucerne cultivation

S. No. Category Livestock Farmers
Frequency (N=60) Percentage (%)
1 Low Perception (46-50) 3 5
2 Medium Perception (51-55) 13 21.7
3 High Perception (>55) 44 73.3

It indicated that majority of the livestock farmers had high perception (73.3%) followed by medium (21.7%) and low perception (5%) towards cultivation and usage of lucerne. The medium to higher level of perceptions with respect to services rendered, linkage with farmers and technologies demonstrated, indicated stronger conviction, physical and mental involvement in transfer of technology which in turn would lead to higher adoption. This showed the relevance of on -farm demonstrations. The results of the present study are in partial conformity with those reported by Muhammad et al. (2013) and Khadda et al. (2015).


Participatory extension approaches can be effectively utilized for identifying the opportunities and constraints associated with the forage technology and thereby refining the technology for enhancing forage security and thus sustained development of livestock sector. On-farm demonstrations can be successfully used for scaling-up the forage technology. Intensive cultivation of Medicago sativa can be successfully adopted at the farm level and the farmers can be made to realize the economic gains in relatively short time in terms of increased milk yield by supplementing lucerne fodder. Small holder dairy farmers can reduce unit cost of milk production and sustain milk production by intensively cultivating Medicago sativa (250g seeds) in one gunta of land and supplementing the lucerne forage which can reduce the quantity of concentrate feed requirement effectively. There is a scope for greater use of lucerne species in ruminant feeding systems, particularly as a high quality legume which will supplement the low quality roughages. Hence, determination of appropriate management systems to maximize yields of fodder and the extent of inclusion (maximum 30% level per day) in ruminant diet deserves further attention. Combination of different Participatory extension approaches like exposure visits, demonstrations, farmers field schools and field days, has lot of scope and potential in motivating farmers and enhancement of successful adoption of technology to improve the livelihoods of rural population.


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