Sri Lankan Dairy Farmer Proves ‘Unlearning’ is Critical for Success

Market-Oriented Dairy (MOD) Project Creates a Paradigm Shift, Teaching Dairy Farmers to Unlearn and Relearn

Mr. Rohitha Edirisinghe, a dairy farmer from Naththandiya who supplies a chilling center in Kurunegala district, received his first cow as a gift from his mother-in-law eighteen years ago. When he was introduced to MOD’s Productivity Director Dr. Sivayoganathan and Regional Technical Specialist Mr. Kapila Wickramasinghe, he had a 50-animal herd with eight milking cows producing 65 to 70 liters of milk per day. Mr. Edirisinghe confessed that his strategy to increase milk production thus far has been to increase the size of the herd.

During the first visit, Dr. Sivayoganathan advised Mr. Edirisinghe on the key actions required to increase productivity by gradually working towards an ideal herd composition and by providing adequate feed for the animals based on their body condition. Mr. Edirisinghe agreed to reduce the total number of animals to 25 and improve the feed to the remaining animals. He also agreed to improve cow comfort by improving cleanliness of the shed as well as to practice better waste management.

By the second visit one month later, the MOD team found that so far Mr. Edirisinghe has managed to reduce his herd size by 10 unproductive animals, including three low-producing milk cows. In addition, he has improved the feeding regimen, ensured clean water is accessible to the animals throughout the day, carried out structural changes to the shed to improve cleanliness, and added a pit for dung disposal. For his efforts, he now gets the same quantity of milk (65-70 liters) from only five milking cows, an improvement in milk yield by over five liters per cow, resulting in a 60 percent increase in productivity.

Mr. Edirisinghe is now a firm believer in following through on the action plan proposed by the MOD team to improve his farm management practices and establish his farm as a model farm. He is appreciative of the fact that a change in mindset is required to unlearn and relearn to create a profitable business. His daughter, Chathuranga, who completed school and joined her father by taking over the daily milking routine, is also keen to learn and continue the family legacy. Their short-term goals include having the correct herd strength, growing more feed crops and making enough silage to ensure feed availability throughout the year, and improving hygienic milk practices and calf management. In the medium-term, they are looking at improving the bio-security measures of the farm and maintaining a proper record keeping system.

With these remarkable improvements, the Edirisinghe family has shown that they have the courage to develop their dairy farm into a very productive and profitable venture. They are eager to enhance their farm management practices through continued engagement with the MOD team and share these best practices by modeling the farm into a demonstration unit to support training activities in the region.

The Market-Oriented Dairy (MOD) Project, based in Sri Lanka, is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ‘Food for Progress’ initiative and implemented by IESC. The project aims to double the milk production of participating dairy farmers and enable them to obtain a higher price premium for fresh milk through interventions primarily designed to enhance their technical knowledge and create an entrepreneurial, business-oriented mindset. The project also supports enterprises along the dairy value chain to meet the demands of the country’s dairy sector to catalyze a sustainable growth.