CHITRADURGA: Cattle form an integral, sacred bond with the Indian farmer. Apart from their role in tilling the soil, bovines also provide milk as a source of both sustenance and income. Considering that dairy farming constitutes an important aspect of the country’s agro-oriented economy, a lot of time and energy goes into milking cows and buffaloes, which is a tedious task, especially when done manually. Farmers often spend hours every day, early in the morning and late in the evening, to draw milk, which they hand over to cooperatives or supply at doorsteps.
To make milking of cows and buffaloes a quicker, hassle-free, and cost-effective process, several farmers in Chitradurga district have adopted solar-powered milking machines. Thanks to abundant sunlight in these parts, these sustainable technological wonders have not only eased the milking process, but also reduced the time to milk each animal. Unlike 30 minutes usually needed to milk one cow, apart from the excess labour required, a machine like this with its two milk-drawing points draws milk in 8-12 minutes, and can be operated by a single person. With this machine, milk can be drawn from as many as 20-30 cows within an hour.
The solar-powered milking machine was introduced by ‘SELCO’, a pioneer in spreading awareness about solar energy. The machine runs on a DC motor, making it financially viable for the farmer and comfortable for the animal. Sharing his experience of using this innovation, Devaraj – a dairy farmer from Hariyabbe village of Hiriyur taluk – says, “Solar-powered milking machines have helped us get a good milk yield. We have also been able to sail over erratic power supply, thanks to solar energy, while the cattle’s health is also maintained.”
He continues, “I needed about four labourers each day for milking, cleaning, supplying fodder, and so on. Now with this machine, all these tasks are accomplished by just me and my brother.”Shivakumar, who once worked as a college lecturer, was relieved from service amid the pandemic. He took to dairy farming, and every day, has been drawing about 180 litres of milk using the solar-powered milking machine, which has revived his fortunes.“We are monitoring the functioning of these machines. If the feedback is positive, we will try to replicate these in other dairy farms across the country,” Manjunath Bhagwath, Project Manager at SELCO, says.
India is the world’s largest milk producer, where 80 per cent of milk is produced by small and marginal farmers. Also, dairy farming provides secondary income to 80-90 million farmers in the country, and is also a good source of manure. But the quality of milk yield in India is inferior compared to other dairy-producing countries, in large part due to a lack of skilled workforce and investment in technology.
As farmers often rely on electricity, which can be erratic, solar power is being promoted as a reliable replacement for the future, which will also help power the machines, resulting in good yield and improved livelihoods. With farmers being involved in varied agricultural activities, it is important that milking of cattle be carried out with minimal effort, for which these solar-powered milking machines are essential. Apart from speeding up milking process, these machines also provide back-up during power cuts, which spares them time for other productive activities, says Bhagwath.
Also, the solar-powered milking machine is reasonably priced. In fact, the cost of solar panels, two lights and the milking machines costs Rs 70,000, and a farmer can milk up to 20 cows. Banks and self-help groups provide suitable financial aid to procure these machines, he adds.
In all, 331 solar-powered milking machines have been distributed to farmers by SELCO, not only in Karnataka, but also in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. The aim is to promote the usage of devices driven by non-conventional and renewable sources of energy to intervene in agricultural and allied activities. The demand for these devices is picking up significantly, since the animals are also not harmed by their use, unlike from conventional electric-operated milking machines.The adoption of this innovation has assured good health – of the milk, the animal, and us.
Presently, solar-powered milking machines are being used in several states, including Karnataka. There are 37 such machines in use in Belthangady and Mandya, followed by Kundapura (35), Hassan (25), and Chitradurga (15). This device is also in use at far-off Munger (Bihar), Tirupati, Madurai, Anantapur, Sholapur and Erode, outside Karnataka.