With the Veterinary Faculty of Dinajpur University in Bangladesh PUM developed a training of trainers program for a period of three years. The training is about dairy animal husbandry: management and good practices, feed and feeding and animal health. I was the first one to train 15 farmers about feed and feeding to improve dairy farming and have more milk to feed the people of the country. Farmers were eager to learn and, after getting to know each other, there was a very interactive and participating atmosphere. Farmers were sharing their own experiences with the group and discussed challenges in groupwork. During the farm visits lunch was served by the host farmer and questions about the different parts of the farm vividly discussed amongst the future trainers. Some farmers were more comfortable with Bangla than with English, so teachers or students from the faculty took care of the translation. I learned a lot and the farmers ensured they did too in the 8 days we were together.
The average farm in Bangladesh has one or two local or crossbreed cows and some youngstock. The milk is used in the household and the remaining sold to neighbours. Milk yield is low, lactation periods short and the dry period of the cow and the calving interval long. Some larger farms have crossbreed cows and a stable (tethered system on rubber mats) and sell milk (and manure) on the more formal market. The main feed is local grass, rice straw and some by-products from maize and rice. The majority of the farmers in the Saidpur area have a mixed farm with rice, maize, mango and litchi or have income from other business and have small areas of land for crops, not for grass. In the training in March the focus was on feeding and how to get more milk from the cows. Try to get as high quality grass, improve the quality of high crude fibre feeds as (good quality) rice straw of maize stover and use the available by-products of human consumption. Due to a huge human population residuals from maize and rice, sesame, lentils and sunflower seed, but also banana, mango and cotton are available bit not yet used in dairy farming to a large extend. In the training all farmers provided the ration of their cows and we calculated and discussed and commented them all: how much feed a cow really gets (nobody weights the feed), the intake capacity of cows, the balance between energy and protein, how to balance and how to have a more energy and protein rich ration by adding by-products. It was difficult to convince them that all feed contain also minerals and trace-elements Groupwork provided the prices of roughage and from the different by-products, so we could calculate the price of the ration and compare it with the price of the milk they got (that was surprisingly high 40 BDT (40 eurocent) compared with the price of other food and wages of 2 – 4 euros per day).
Self-supporting and caring
In the Netherlands it is quite normal to have handouts available and have information about the topics on paper for the attendants. In Bangladesh (and other southern countries) everything is relatively expensive so it is not common that everybody gets information in that way. Some farmers could upload the info on their phone an few got it on a flash for the computer. On the other hand, the better off farmers took care of the others, by paying water and snacks during the workshops and supply photo-copies. Very friendly, hospitable and caring people. And after closing the workshops the participants had a personal question: can you tell us about your family, who they are and how they are.