Ajantha Dahanayaka & Mangalika Amarakoon of Kirinda Gedera, Katuwewa, Weeraketiya in Hambantota District are exemplary dairy farmers who have made it their main economic activity over the years. In 2006 Mangalika was selected as a beneficiary in the Heifer International funded dairy programme, through the NGO Ruhuna Gemi Kantha Sanvidanaya. As her children were too small then to be left alone for days she found it difficult to join the usual required training programmes and her husband Ajantha substituted for her. They had some prior experience in dairying having managed a few cows taken on “ande”, on lease from the real owner.
Now with training in dairy management under stall feeding with the Heifer project, the usual Cornerstones and technical training in theory and practice of dairying, Ajantha and Mangalika set off on an enterprising mission.
They started dairying in an earnest fashion with the Jersey hybrid cow Mangalika got under the programme. The first offspring of this cow been a male calf could not be passed on as expected under this development programme. Instead as they found it extremely difficult to feed the well grown calf it was handed over to a large herd owner to be brought up as a stud bull. By now after 7 years have passed it has helped in the production of over 20 calves.
The next calf, as it was female was passed on as a gift to Ms. K.A. Karunawathi of Katuwewa, trained in Cornerstones and technical aspects of dairy management in 2011, under the Heifer funded programme.
Today Ajantha, and Mangalika are the proud owners of a herd of 7 neat cattle, 2 of them are calves and 5 are adults, and twelve buffaloes, 4 been calves. Of these 2 cows and 4 buffaloes are been milked currently. Out of the milk produced daily a litre of liquid milk is consumed within the family and 3-4 pots of curd are consumed during a week by this family.
They all put their efforts into fruitful use in the dairying. Ajantha brings in all the supplementary fodder required by this comparatively large herd to add to what is produced on their farm, through the glyricidia live fence and the small CO3 grass plot they manage. A few litres of milk are sold daily to the local feeding programme of the village preschool at an attractive rate of Rs.60 per litre. The balance milk is sold to Milco the local State owned collector / distributor of fresh milk, again at around Rs.60 per litre, depending on the given fat rate.
Mangalika joins her son delivering the milk to Milco on his motorbike. Caring for the herd is a joint exercise of the whole family. Over the years they have been earning a stable monthly income of around Rs.30,000 – 35,000.
The first call on their new income is naturally for expenses relating to educating the children. During around 4 years of this time the eldest son, Kasun Chamara, has been ailing and some of this income was set apart to look after him. Now he is employed in a nearby shop, which arrangement has been bringing in many benefits to the family, expanding their network of ongoing relationships.
Mangalika and Ajantha have done several improvements to their housing, cemented the floor and plastered the house. They have also taken a Life Insurance Policy for the family. They also save Rs.500 for each child every month. A little money is invested in the purchase of requisites needed for the herd, mostly at subsidized rates from the local Veterinary Office. They have also started a little poultry for producing eggs.
Surprisingly they have little dealings with banks or other formal financial institutions. The family expanded their herd with what monies were left over after defraying all these usual expenses. They also used the rural mechanism of leasing cattle to good effect. Such a lease gives them the right to the first calf of such a leased cow or buffalo the second calf going to the lessor. They also purchased cattle from known parties on a promise of extended part payments.
Another achievement of this family is that they do not take their herd out of their homestead of one acre thereby keeping a close eye on the animals and preventing undue exposure to disease. This is of course excepting the buffaloes which are taken out daily to an irrigation tank nearby as they need regular immersion in water. They have been able to effectively keep the animals within the homestead thereby preventing their herd from catching on the Foot and Mouth Disease which was rampant in the district till recently.
But this practice of keeping all the animals tethered in the homestead has put Ajantha at immense pressure where he has to single handedly cut most of the fodder needed to feed the voracious herd from outside and transport it to the cattle. At present Ajantha is seriously thinking of going in for a smaller herd of higher yielding cattle by selling off some of their extraordinarily large herd, all been managed under the stall feeding system.
The original Jersey cow that started the whole enterprising process is now expecting another calf. Ajantha’s family hopes the new baby calf will bring along with it more tidings of hope for the family to further strengthen their expanding asset base.