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    Corn Silage business opportunities in India

    India is the largest producer of milk in the world. Despite being the largest producer, the cattle productivity is very less than global average. The average yield is about 1600 Kg/animal whereas world average is about 2700 kg/animal. Israel and USA are the leading countries with average yield of about 13000 and 10500 Kg/animal respectively. Poor nutrition and improper feed management are the reasons for low yield with prime reasons being low genetic potential, poor farm management i.e. low input/ low output system results in low income of dairy farmers and other reason is high cost of livestock feed which is roughly 60-70% of their daily income. On the other hand India is facing deficit of 36% in green fodder and 11% in dry fodder. Non-availability is much more severe during summer season and when monsoon is deficit.

    In order to bridge the gap between demand and supply of cattle feed, alternatives for green and dry fodder need to be discovered. One such solution to the challenge is the use of good quality silage (Silage is fermented, high-moisture stored fodder which can be fed to cattle, sheep and other such ruminants or used as a biofuel feedstock for anaerobic digesters) which also helps to reduce the volume of feed and thereby decreasing the overall cost of feed along with meeting the nutritional requirement. Long term preservation of fodder in terms of silage becomes the option to overcome the challenge of green fodder. Silage ensures availability of cattle feed during dry-season. Silage also helps in improving the digestibility of animals and in continuing milk production throughout the year.Corn silage is a digestible and edible forage with consistent quality, higher yields and more energy content as compared to other forage. Corn silage once prepared can be stored for around two years due to increased shelf life. It is more nutritious than other feed options and also improves the farm productivity by substantially reducing the production costs. Further inoculants containing lactic acid-producing bacteria helps in improving fermentation process, retain valuable nutrients, reduce losses, increase milk production and also improves quality of milk by increasing fat percentage and protein in milk.

    In India, generally manual methods are followed for silage preparation which involves fermentation and storage in a process called ensilage, ensiling or silaging. It is usually prepared from grass, maize, sorghum or other cereals using the entire green plant (not the grain alone) which preserves nutritional value for longer duration. In two weeks’ time fodder is fermented and silage is ready to use. Mechanization for corn based silage preparation is still at very nascent stage. Keeping in mind the nutritional value of the crop, some farmers in Punjab have started end-to-end mechanized silage preparation. These farmers are using machinery for corn based silage preparation. Government also provide incentives for promotion of these machinery for silage preparation. Seed companies also provide trainings on package of practice for silage preparation. Hence end-to-end mechanization for silage making units can further be promoted for overall improving the dairy sector and in turn corn industry will boom.

    For silage preparation, high-yielding biomass corn hybrids with better digestibility and quality nutrients are required. It opens up the opportunity for many seed companies to cater to this market. DuPont Pioneer, leading global company is leader in the market for high-yielding corn varieties specifically suitable for livestock feed. There are only few companies involved in the seed business especially for corn silage which clearly indicates huge opportunity for seed companies to enter the market.
    Still there are some challenges with fodder crops industry in India as land under cultivated fodder crops is almost static and there is little scope of expansion due to reducing availability of per capita land.Largely non-commercial status of forage crops and unorganized small market for fodder crops without any government policy back up like minimum support price (MSP), is putting forage production as a low priority agricultural activity.

    Growing corn silage industry is a better choice in reducing the huge gap between the Indian productivity of milk and the world average productivity. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in 5th edition of India Maize Summit, 2018, has proposed PPP opportunities for establishment of maize-based silage making units, as a prospective avenues for investment. Going forward, corn silage sector needs impetus and support from various stakeholders for better growth and increasing yields for milk.

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