Milk production is strategically important to Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it is the most common type of agricultural activity in the country. More than 80 percent of the land is suitable for raising livestock, and by extension, producing milk. However, most production is traditional, non-commercial micro-production, so each farmer produces in small quantities. Milk producers are therefore challenged in increasing milk production in a cost-effective way.
Several issues affect production costs, including milk quality. The Milk Quality Decree as of January 2010 provides subsidies for dairy processors based on quality of their milk. Therefore, dairy farmers' ability to increase their income is directly linked to implementation of good hygiene practices and applicable standards. This ensures only the highest quality product is delivered to the consumer.
To help farmers increase milk quality and production, USAID’s Fostering Agricultural Markets Activity engaged regional experts to train dairy farmers and processors to improve their animal feed. Rather than using traditional feed products that are dried and stored as hay, farmers were trained to use nutrient-enriched alfalfa silage, which leads to higher-quality milk.
After one month, farmers using the improved silage reported an increase in milk production per milking cow from 1 to 1.5 liters per day. Additionally, the new animal feed techniques reduced the per unit cost of animal feed by as much as 97 percent, significantly reducing overall milk production costs and raising farmers’ incomes.
The costs for producing hay silage are 0.16 Bosnia-Herzegovina convertible marks/kilogram, while the alfalfa silage production cost is 0.04 marks/kilogram. This resulted in a reduction of the total daily feeding cost per cow of 17 percent, while increasing the protein and fat content. This increased farmers’ income, because they were able to get higher prices for their milk. The milk rating was improved.
In the first months of the changed “diet,” dairy cows increased their output by 1 liter to 1.5 liters. Since October 2010, these increases stabilized at 3 liters per cow. Hence, production of milk per cow amounts to 23 liters, or a 15-percent increase over production levels attained by pure hay silage feed (20 liters). Expressed in monetary terms, per-cow income increased an average or 1.60 marks per day.