Authors: Chandan Kumar Rai1, Arti2 and Sanjeev Kumar1
1Ph.D. Scholar, Dairy Extension Division, NDRI, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India
2Ph.D. Scholar, DES&M, NDRI, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India

The various institutions engaged in livestock extension services are state level animal husbandry departments, producer co-operatives, feed and pharma companies, contract firms, print and television media and non-governmental organizations. Of the various actors offering extension services to livestock farmers in India, the dairy cooperative movement appears to be the strongest player, although the area they serve is limited to their operations in high potential area. Currently one in eight dairy cattle and buffalo owners is members of dairy cooperatives. And as the entire formal milk sector (comprised of cooperatives and private dairies) handles less than a quarter of all milk produced. The majority of dairy farming community who produces three-fourth milk, which are handled by informal sector, are not addressed by the producers co-operatives extension system. While the extension services provided by state agricultural and animal husbandry departments are severely limited by limited budgetary and lack of adequate infrastructure and human resources. The ICT will help to overcome the constraints of poor access to appropriate information for a range of stakeholders namely government departments staffs, NGOs, producer groups, farmers and various other extension delivery agents. In past the extension service delivery staffs were suffered with limitations of extension materials, which are often focussed on technology, and these materials did not assist either delivery agents or the clients to consider whether particular practices are appropriate for their own circumstances. In this context ICT has greater potential to address the above said issues. In addition it can be tuned to consider whether the technology is appropriate as defined by the farmer’s own objectives, management system, resource endowment or agro-climatic conditions. In these directions few attempts has been made. The following section discusses recent ICT based tools developed specifically for livestock sector.

Dairy Toolbox:
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) developed dairy Toolbox. It is an ICT based application with plenty of tools to carry out a job. It contain simple decision support tools as well as a broad range of modular information that can be easily accessed and compiled to form customized fact-sheets, or other extension materials, on a wide range of dairy related topics. The Dairy Toolbox was constructed with both web and CD interfaces so that it can be modified, expanded and updated. CDs allow distribution of updated information for those without access to the Internet. Many of the electronic tools of the toolbox can be used by the target institutions (extension workers, NGOs, producer groups, etc.) to produce customised paper-based tools for farmers /local extension workers where there is no access to either computers or the Internet. The Toolbox helps to overcome the constraints of poor access to appropriate information for a range of stakeholders including small-scale dairy farmers and extension delivery agents. In addition it supports the extension delivery agents or their clients to take a decision on whether particular practices are appropriate for their own circumstances (client’s own objectives, management system, resource endowment or agro-climatic conditions).

Dairy Rationing System for the Tropics (DRASTIC): This was developed with the objective of producing a genuinely usable, decision support tool for planning dairy feeding under tropical conditions. A major problem of rationing cows under these conditions is the lack of information on the nutritional quality of available feeds - particularly of the basal ration. This is compounded by a high degree of variation in feed quality that makes routine chemical analysis or reliance on "book values" for composition of little practical use. The following key requirements were addressed during the development of DRASTIC:

  • It has a user-friendly design
  • No expert knowledge of nutrition is needed to use it.
  • Nutritional variables in the underlying model are assessed from simple indicators of feed quality allowing DRASTIC to cope with variable feed compositions in the absence of quantitative data. Adopted from:

    Talking Pictures: It is a dynamic pictorial system used to represent the nutritional management of dairy cows in smallholder farming systems. This computer-based tool builds on the principles used in the development of DRASTIC, using the DRASTIC software to generate pictorial guides in hard copy. The hard copies consist of several separate pictorial layers that incorporate genotype, condition, stage of lactation and physiological status, calf rearing system, and quantity and quality of feed inputs (basal and supplements), which are dynamically linked and provide pictorial answers for the expected production outputs, costs and income. The A4 hard-copy guides are produced in such a way that users can choose one of three options, appropriate to each specific animal, for each of five pictorial input layers viz.,
  • Lactational and physiological status;
  • Health condition;
  • Calf rearing system;
  • Quality of the basal diet; and
  • Quantity of the basal diet.
Each option is either colour- or pattern-coded, depending on whether colour or black-and-white printers are used to generate the hard-copy guides. The pattern or colour for each of the chosen input layer options is transferred with dry-wipe markers to a reusable laminated "credit card", leading to a unique sequence of five colours or patterns. This sequence is matched to the appropriate sequence out of 243 possibilities, supplied on three pages and linked to a pictorial representation of the expected production level for the animal in question. Based on this, users turn to the appropriate supplementation page, indicated by the picture of the expected production level. On these pages, users can select from different pictorial representations of supplementary feeds and different levels of supplementation, which are connected to a picture of the total milk production expected. Each of the supplementation choices also supplies pictorial data on the ratio between milk and concentrate prices at which supplementation of the chosen quantity becomes profitable.

Adopted from:

RAGACOVAS touch screen based Information Kiosk

The Rajiv Gandhi college of veterinary and animal sciences has developed Touch screen based Information kiosk which has 17 inch Touch screen monitor and installed learning modules on dairy and goat farming made up of text, pictures, graphics and audio files. The learning modules can be accessed from kiosk through user-friendly interface. These touch screen based information kiosks was installed in various livestock related service centres (dispensaries, insemination centres and milk cooperative societies). In general when a farmer comes with animal for treatment or other services he / she need to wait for while for his / her turn. During this waiting time staffs of the service centres directs and helps the farmers to check what is available in Information Kiosk. Here the waiting time is converted to value added time. Once the farmers are familiarised with usage of interactive touch screen he helps his fellow colleagues to learn.

Dairy Information system Kiosk (DISK) developed by Amul, Anand
Dairy information system kiosk has been developed by Anand milk union ltd, Gujarat with support of Indian Institute of Management, Aheamabad. This DISK facilitates horizontal networking of all milk produces cooperative societies and vertical networking with district level milk union and state level federations with internet connectivity. Dairy Information system Kiosk (DISK) has dairy portal at district level serving transactional and information needs of co-operative staffs, members (farmers), and other stakeholders. Farmers have facilities to place orders for goods and services offered by different agencies in the co-operative sector and seek information on subjects of interest. Above said are the attempts by various stakeholders in development of ICT applications for livestock extension. Various ICT tools are listed below with their target groups, developers and source of availability for easy reference.

Table 1– ICT tools developed by various institutes and their target groups

Sl.No Name of the ICT tool Developers End users / target groups
1 Dairy tool box ILRI-ICRISAT – Available as free download from Front line extension agents of public sector, NGO workers and progressive farmers
2 Drastic Available on cost basis from Front line extension agents, NGO workers
3 Talking Pictures Available as a part of dairy toolbox\ Separately available on cost basis from the web Front line extension agents, NGO workers
4 Information kiosk RAGACOVAS, Pondicherry Farmers
5 Poultry expert system College of veterinary sciences, Hyderabad Organised Poultry farmers
6 DISK NDDB-Amul-IIMA Operates across the dairy chain (Farmers, Societies, unions and federations)
7 AHPC CABI International Various stakeholders ranging from Professionals to farmers

Conclusion: The spread of ICT based information centres and the quality of rural connectivity is increasing. Indian and multinational corporate houses such as Indian Tobacco Company, HLL, Tata Chemicals and developmental agencies such as NGOs, producer cooperatives and government departments, are all promoting the reach of ICT to rural areas for consolidating rural market, facilitating contract farming and other services. Currently the policies of central and state governments are in favour of usage of ICT as a tool for agriculture extension activities. Indian government has been working to coordinate various stakeholders involved in rural ICT initiatives through its Vision 2007 Policy (Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre), under which it aims to reach 600,000 villages with ICT based village information centres. The on going computerization of government departments, establishment of IT based village information centres by public and private sectors, penetration of mobile technology are likely to provide a platform for IT enabled extension delivery system which can be complement to the existing extension delivery system. Therefore ICT shows considerable promise as a channel for the delivery extension services

About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing PhD (Agricultural Extension Education) at ICAR-NATIONAL DAIRY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, Karnal-132001, Haryana (INDIA).