Experts question logic of importing costly foreign cows

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The government has spent a large sum of money to import and maintain Australian cows, according to the National Livestock Development Board (NLDB), but they are producing only about 22 litres of milk per day while the local cows produced about five litres of milk at little cost.

About 2,000 Jersey and Friesian cows have been imported from Australia for farms in the hill country at a cost of Rs. 300,000 each. The total cost was Rs. 150 million. Another set of 2,000 cows are scheduled to be imported by March next year. 

However, livestock experts said that the reason for low yields from cows was the poor quality grass they ate.

According to experts, importing cows bred in other countries, to uplift the local dairy industry was not a solution. 

They said there were good breeds of cows in Sri Lanka that had the capability to produce around 20 litres of milk per day.  

Currently, the annual domestic milk production stands at 299 million litres while the national requirement is 740 million litres.

NLDB Chairman Ranjith Ellage yesterday (28) confirmed that another 2,000 cows would have been imported from Australia by March next year.  

He told The Island that the Australian cows imported this year and last year were producing milk and they had high yields compared to local cows.  

The imported cows had the capacity to produce around 22 litres of milk per day on average while the local cows produced only around five litres, he added.    

Meanwhile, Livestock and Rural Community Development Ministry Secretary Dr. K. M. T. Kendaragama told The Island that the government had also taken steps towards increasing production to top 350 million litres per year.   "In order to achieve self-sufficiency in milk production, we intend to modernise the local farms."

He also noted that the country would meet the local demand within the next two years.

The Ministry Secretary noted that in 2011 milk production in Sri Lanka was only two percent of the national requirement but in 2012 it had increased to 16 percent. 

He explained that the dearth of hybrid cattle varieties was one of the key obstacles to the development of the dairy industry. Sri Lanka spent around USD 400 million a year on the importation of milk powder, he added.

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