THE ROLE of livestock sector in Pakistan’s agrarian economy is historic. In addition to meat, milk and other such products, livestock also provides the industrial raw material like wool, hair and skin. The economy of this sector contributes approximately 51.8 per cent of the agriculture value added and 12 per cent to national GDP during 2008-09.
Pakistan is the fourth largest producer of milk in the world after India, China and the United States. It has been estimated that contribution of milk from cattle and buffaloes is 13.33 billion litters and 25.05 billion litters, respectively and share of buffalo’s milk is about 66 per cent. Despite having a good production, it’s an astonishing fact that milk and meat prices are increasing and out of access for many people. Even pure milk seems to be a dream and quality of meat is not being standardized. The feed of poultry and cattle is not up to the mark and farmers are using conventional methods of breeding, without considering its harmful effects on animal’s health.
In our country, the livestock sector is facing many problems including inadequate feed resources,epidemics of infectious diseases, poor medication & marketing infrastructure, customer service problems for farmers and low investment in research. The livestock economy is dwindling regularly due to these problems. Unfortunately the medicines are not properly being registered and became a marketable commodity without laboratory testing. Resultantly these take away the lives of many animals and effects human health too.
Many efforts were being put in at federal, provincial and district level to combat these challenges of livestock sector including national policies, establishment of livestock markets, research through international collaboration, livestock and agriculture extension wings and disease reporting centers etc. Despite these, a lot of improvement is still needed to be done in this regard. The Punjab Government has taken good initiatives, including new slaughtering houses in order to ensure quality of milk and meat for consumers.
The Punjab Agricultural Research Board (PARB) is funding output oriented research projects in crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries sectors. Out of 53 projects, 11 are for livestock sector and it is expected that their outcome would be very beneficial for livestock economy of Punjab province. Chief Executive PARB, Dr. Mubarik Ali, at presentation said that most of the research projects have been initiated in collaboration with international organizations and private sector is actively involved during the commercialization stage. Within a span of just two and a half years, 7 of the research projects have successfully completed their research phase and now are in commercialization process. Due to efficient monitoring, the projects are in process of achieving their objectives.
Some of the research projects include “Economics of Livestock production & its marketing in Punjab”, “Enhancing performance of buffalo through improved feeding management at different physiological stages up to Ist lactation”, “Development, evaluation and promotion of milk replacer for buffalo calves”, “Development of vaccine for the control of buffalo and cattle calf diarrhea”, “Development of meat type Japanese Quail with higher body weight acclimatized to indigenous managemental conditions through 6 generations of selective breeding programme”, “Enhancement of cost effective mutton production through genetically enhanced prolificacy management”, “Development evaluation & promotion of Distillery Yeast sludge based cost effective feed and prebiotic agent for poultry”, “Development evaluation and promotion of Herbal Anticoccidial for the control of coccidiosis in Poultry”, “Preparation and field evaluation of thermo stable Newcastle disease vaccine” and “Development of egg-type chicken lines for backyard poultry production”.
Scientists are also studying the effects of climatic changes on animals and poultry as well. The recent floods in Pakistan have adversely affected the livestock sector. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in an update on the flood situation in Pakistan said that nearly 92,000 livestock have perished and at least 5 million surviving animals were at risk in 2011 floods in Sindh.
According to Livestock and Climate Change by International Funds for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the possible effects of climate change on food production are not limited to crops and agricultural production but it will have far-reaching consequences for dairy, meat and wool production”. Heat distress suffered by animals will reduce the rate of animal feed intake and growth performance. Lack of water and increased frequency of drought in certain countries will lead to a loss of resources.
The time is about to change, so changing patterns needs a different effective strategies for coping future challenges. Need based agricultural research policies, implementation and adoption should be the key focus. Livestock, a sector having multiple productions is on risk, needs practically scratch out strategies through research and development. PARB is doing a commendable job for Livestock sector but a lot is to be done by funding more projects on urgent basis without any delay. The government of Punjab should join hands with PARB and other research institutes to play an effective role for livestock production and especially focused on research and development plans to secure its future.
–The writer is Research Publication Officer in PARB