Palm oil operations offer significant commercial potential because the land is already purchased and in use for palm oil production. Cattle breeding under palm can provide owners with an additional income stream, and may reduce production costs and increase productivity.
IACCB is testing these propositions in four locations:
The selection of 4 projects with quite different operating environments is allowing IACCB to identify the key challenges and solutions to commercial sustainability within the Integrated Oil Palm and Cattle Production model.
All four SISKA-partners have successfully passed their Commercial Viability Assessments and finished their two-year implementation period. This provided IACCB with an opportunity to comprehensively analyse the performance and the commercial potential of integrating cattle in oil palm plantations.
SISKA is, as expected, proving to be a great success with a high level of performance, at low cost. Cows, weaners and growers under the palms are in good condition and are maintaining an excellent Body Condition Score (BCS).
Following initial attention to removing unpalatable plant species, the native pasture under the oil palms have become more productive with each grazing cycle. In combination with a small amount of supplementation from palm kernel cake, the pasture is sufficient to maintain cows in reasonable condition at low cost – around Rp6,000 per cow per day. Additional protein supplements are however required for lactating cows. This finding is common across all four SISKA partners even though they have different levels of integration of plantation and herd processes, and differing levels of management and financial capabilities.
We are now confident that other palm plantations could achieve similar results if they follow the IACCB tested SISKA Model.
Calf mortalities in the second year increased significantly in three out of four projects, which was directly linked to calving in the peak of the wet season.
Some of our partners, who now conduct controlled mating, are enjoying lower calf mortalities as calving now occurs outside of the peak wet season. Lower mortalities are also occurring due to separating highly pregnant cows from the herd for close supervision and protection. We will report again on calf mortalities towards the end of 2019 at the peak of the rainy season.