Going organic soon will no longer be an option, but a way of life. If vegetables, fruits and pulses can go organic, then why not milk! This is one such dairy where the directors, staff, veterinary doctors and the care takers all practice Vipassana. It not only ensures a healthy mind and body for the staff, but compassion towards the animals as well. With the concept of ‘Free Housing Farms’, Govind Dairy has taken the right step towards healthier animals which in turn help produce healthier milk.
Meet 46-year-old Dhumal Ganpatrao Marutrao an M.Sc. (Agri) from Mahatma Phule Agriculture Institute, Rahuri, District in Ahamadnagar, the Managing Director of Govind Dairy, who shares valuable inputs about going organic.
How did it all begin?
After completing his post-graduation, Mr. Dhumal worked as a farmer for five years and ever since he was inspired by reading “One Straw Revolution” by the late Masanobu Fukuoka, he decided to start his own organic farm.
With little support from family, he decided to relocate to Phaltan, in Satara district of Maharashtra in 1995 and joined the farm at Dr.Sukhatme Institute of Agriculture. He opted for this place as several of his college friends were settled in Phaltan.
Mr. Dhumal recalls, “We started Govind Milk with a college friend and Chairman S.V. Naik –Nimbalkar in 1996. As the Managing Director of Govind Milk, Mr. Dhumal started with a meager 240 liters on its first day and with continuous efforts of 15 years, Govind Dairy now collects 3 Lakhs lit milk per day.
With keen interest in rural development and working with veterinary doctors like Dr. Gaikwad, his associates and the staff, Govind Dairy has indeed come a long way.
Mr. Dhumal initiated Vipassana at Govind Dairy as he was encouraged by the Chairman Mr. S.V. Naik- Nimbalkar . Since it was followed regularly by his staff, helpers and farmers, it changed the environment at the work place.
“Our dairy is unique as most of our people, directors, staff and helpers have been practicing Vipassana for the past 11 years. We have seen a change in them where they are less stressful and happier. People become more compassionate and develop gratitude towards self, others and towards the animals as well,” mentions Mr. Dhumal.
Free Housing Farms for the Cows
Mr. Dhumal says, “Since our whole industry starts from the cow, we thought the cows should be free from bondage with the Free Housing Systems.”
One of the major works undertaken at Govind Dairy is ‘Free Housing Farms,’ where farmers are encouraged to develop free housing farms for the animals. These farms help the animals to stay happy as they are free to roam about in these farms and have plenty of water to drink whenever they need. This ensures fewer diseases in the animals, which in turn result in healthier cows and healthier milk. In fact, these farms are certified by ‘ECOCERT’ and “IN-Conversion Organic Farms” as well.
The practice began with some farmers who were encouraged to have small courtyards beside the existing cow sheds approx 250-300 sq. ft. per animal.
Mr. Dhumal further adds, “Once these animals were set free, we saw that animals became healthier, happier and less stressed. Animals enjoyed both the shade and the sunlight as they wanted, so treatment on animals became less and the farmer work became easy.”
Due to its low cost and freedom of work, these farms multiplied in hundreds and eventually the quantity and quality of milk improved. The work involved in these Free Housing Farms are less as the animals usually remain clean, water is available to them 24 hours, no use of pesticides as they are biologically controlled with the help of hens who feed on ticks, and fewer illnesses among the animals.
Mr. Dhumal mentions, “After three years of this practice we met Ms. Kavita Mukhi, the eco-nutritionist who saw our presentation on free housing of animals. She was of the opinion that we should go organic and work on producing Organic Milk, because as it is, almost 50-60 % of work is already being done at our end. This encouraged us to stop chemical fertilizers and replace them with organic fodder, which made the cows and the milk healthier for consumers.”
Such kind of Free Housing Farms is found in European Countries and their advantages are not seen in the commonly practiced ‘tied cow sheds’.
Armed with a team of 40 Para Vets, along with the team at Govind Dairy, it helps Mr Dhumal to maintain a healthy atmosphere in the farm by regular vaccination and de-worming.
Mr. Dhumal feels that, “The mindset of the farmers is the main challenge for us and we are trying to take the farmers into confidence by showing them video clips and interviews of the farmers who adopted the free housing farms and have benefited in terms of money and saving time. We also show them the difference in quantity and quality of milk to reinforce our method. Another challenge was logistics to gather this milk from scattered farms, and supplying the milk to customers spread across the towns and cities. This would not have been possible without the great efforts of Dr. Gaikwad and his veterinary team.”
What makes Govind Dairy so unique?
Govind Dairy has been recently certified with ISO 9001:2008 & ISO 22000: 2005 certificates for quality and Food Safety Management Systems. Their organic farms are certified with In Conversion Organic milk by ECOCERT INDIA. They have 11 certified farms and 50 farms are in progress.
These Free Housing Farms are developed in such a way that 15-20 animals can be accommodated in one farm instead of mega farms. This involves less work, better income, income through poultry as indigenous hens are introduced in these farms and good quality organic manure.
This concept is beneficial to small farmers and to the animals in several ways. It not only helps the farmers economically, but also spreads the awareness of organic milk and care for the ecosystem in rural areas.
Since no harmful antibiotics are used on the cows as they usually remain healthy, they use organic manure instead of chemical fertilizers and use indigenous hens to take care of the ticks instead of insecticides and these practices help preserve the fragile eco-system in the area. Also, the time and effort that goes in keeping a track on each animal in mega farms is ruled out in these Free Housing Farms at Govind Dairy.
Clean Milk Production
Govind Dairy has already implemented the concept of ‘Clean Milk Production’ by supplying stainless steel cans, kettles and other utensils to milk producers, creating awareness programs for farmers for housekeeping of farms and preventive health maintenance as vaccination de-worming, providing milking machines and promoting Free Housing.
To benefit the farmers and increase the productivity in the raw milk sector, Govind Milk has excessively worked on green fodder to ensure organic feed for the animals. They have a team of 40 Para-Veterinary doctors working on extension services for preventive health maintenance of the animals.
Mr. Dhumal further adds, “Govind dairy has day to day communication with all the farmers which is not there in other dairies as they are limited to the agents supplying milk only.”
Care of the animals
Since the cows are not tied in their cowsheds, but left in the open, they have the liberty to decide whether they want to be outdoors to enjoy the sunshine or want to be in the shade. It is the animals who decide when they want to have their feeds and when they want to drink water. The choice is entirely theirs. As they have the freedom of movement, their physical activity increases which results in healthier cows. This reduces the usage of antibiotics and medicines as well. The cows are more comfortable and stress free resulting in better quality and quantity of milk.
Indigenous hens are kept which keeps the farm manure dry and they eat the insects and ticks on the animals which is a biological control instead of spraying insecticide on animals. Govind Dairy has opted for a veterinary service contract, Housing Management, Fodder Management, Good Manufacturing Practices training, and Preventive Health Care and monthly monitoring.
He further adds, “We guide our farmers in preparing and preserving green fodder (Silage) in a natural way, to avoid the intake of factory madefeed. The organic manure produced in Free Housing Farms is utilized for the organic fodder production. We supply organic seeds for fodder to the farmers with the aim to promote organic, green and dry fodder production such as greens, Lucern, Maize, Sorghum, Napier grass and legumes. We also promote the utilization of organic grains and oil seeds and homemade feed concentrate for the animals”.
Milk supply in Mumbai
Govind Dairy is mostly related to animal husbandry and welfare. They have opted for a veterinary service contract, Housing management, Fodder management, Good Manufacturing Practices training, and Preventive health care and monthly monitoring. “ Initially we are started with In conversion Organic Milk, In conversion Organic Ghee, In conversion Organic butter in salted and unsalted form. In future we will try to launch Organic Cheese, Mrs. Naik- Nimbalkar has taking keen interest in developing these products,” adds Mr. Dhumal.
Mr. Dhumal feels that, “Mumbai being a metro, is getting heavily polluted and the health of the people is of prime importance. They are now getting aware about the organic food available. We plan to launch our organic milk from Mumbai. We plan to price the milk to Rs. 50 / litre, but for the initial few days the scheme will be Rs. 40/ lit. These prices are slightly high as farmers are paid more for collecting milk from scattered farms and the distribution is also scattered as well.”
Govind Dairy plans to promote their products through organic farm markets, internet, brochures and pamphlets to spread the concept of Organic Milk.
“Since our farms are becoming Organic, we may encourage our farmers` to grow fruits and vegetables as well. If the scale grows we wish the prices should also be more reasonable for both farmers and consumers,” concludes Mr. Dhumal.
What’s your story?
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