Mugali and Kamatenatti villages in Belagavi district, which were once poverty-stricken due to recurring drought, have made a mark in the dairy sector of Karnataka with a daily milk production of 8,000 litres. Unlike other places where farmers consider dairy as a subsidiary activity, here it is treated on par with farming. In fact, dairy has emerged as a viable livelihood option for these farmers. While Mugali village produces 6,000 litres of milk, Kamatenatti produces 2,000 litres every day. The milk is supplied to brands like Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) and Aditya Milk (both in Karnataka) and Warana (Maharashtra). The dedicated efforts of educated youth of the village has paid off and dairy has grown to be an industry.

The seeds of positive growth were sown when Tammanna Bambalavadi, a graduate from Mugali village, failed to get a suitable job two decades ago. He decided to return to the village and set up a dairy with two cows. Now his dairy has 110 cattle. Many others realised that a farm-based activity like this would be more remunerative than getting employed in the city and followed his example. Subsequently, over 20 educated youth have settled in the village and taken up dairy successfully. There are about 35 dairy farms in these two villages while others have also increased the number of their cattle. About 142 farmers in two villages are into dairy farming. Tammanna Bambalavadi, who is the Gram Panchayat president now, recalls his plight as an unemployed, “I had lost hope when academic qualifications could not fetch me a good job. Poor economic condition of the family added to the agony. It was then that I came across some dairy efforts in the region and made up my mind to tread the same path. It has helped improve our living condition and even buy more land for cultivation.”

H F breed (Holstein-Friesian breed) is the preferred cow breed here as it yields more milk and farmers initially took bank loans to buy cows. The cost of a H F breed cow is around 50,000. Since there is a steady income, they are able to repay the loan without any problem. Dairy has also helped them improve soil fertility through the application of cow dung manure.

Dairy Farm
                                   Dairy Farm

Soybean, sugarcane, maize, sorghum and groundnut are some of the major crops. Borewell is the main source of water. Farmers mix dry and green fodder to ensure increased productivity. A mix of grains and pulses is bought as cattle feed. Villagers feel that one person can manage 10 cows. While most of the farmers manage the cattle on their own, people who own big dairy farms have hired labour from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

They have been selling milk for the last eight years and at present get around Rs 25 per litre. “The quality of milk procured from Mugali and Kamatenatti is good and we haven’t faced any problems so far,” opines R C Tharkar, assistant procurement officer at Aditya Milk. Karnataka Vikas Grameen Bank (KVGB), which has been supporting these efforts, is happy about 100 per cent loan repayment recorded in these villages. “Educated youth have set a positive trend in these two villages. The bank intends to support the setting up of a dairy products unit in one of the villages,” says Prakash Nadugeri, manager of Yadaguda branch of KVGB.