MOST OF the land area of Pakistan is classified as arid (lack of available water) to semi-arid as rainfall is not sufficient to grow agricultural crops and in the rain fed (farming practices that rely only on rainfall) areas of Pakistan. The rainfall varies from less than 100 mm to over 1000 mm annually with an average of about 400 mm/year. In such areas, the important sector for source of revenue is livestock which plays a vital role as a substitute during drought years when crop gets poor quality/quantity yield. Almost two third (69 per cent) of the cultivated area of projected area is arid and one third (31 per cent) is irrigated. The agriculture of the area is predominately rain-fed where only 24 per cent of the area is under cultivation.
In the arid zone of Pakistan, an average family has 2-3 cattle and 4-5 sheep and obtained their 30-40 per cent income from livestock and their products such as milk, meat, leather and wool (Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2012). With the inflection of the population, their demands for milk, meat, and food products in which milk and meat are basic ingredients are increasing with the passage of time. Livestock and their products have a significant contribution in the Pakistan economy and it contributes 11.5 per cent and 55.5 per cent to GDP and agriculture sector respectively. To overcome the problem of increasing demand of milk and meat products, the authorities must emphasize on the livestock business and to increase the production of fodder forage, being the cheaper sources of feeding animals.
Developed countries have one third of their total cattle of the world and contribute to milk production for about 80 per cent and beef production for 66 per cent while developing countries (including Pakistan) have two third of cattle but contribute the minimal share of only 20 per cent in milk production. This lower production in developing countries clearly indicates that the inadequate (quality and quantity) fodder and forage production in a hurdle to enhance the livestock productivity and storage of fodder production is a major limiting factor for livestock production in country.
The average production of fodder is 22.5 t ha-1 which is very low and it is not sufficient even half of the requirement of feed for livestock in Pakistan (agric statistic of Pak). High yielding potential fodder varieties must be introduced to meet the increasing demand of fodder and forage for livestock but unfortunately those areas are more problematic and mostly ignored in government policies also. In rain-fed areas of Pakistan, farmer community have small land holding, low economic status along with less resources while they are moving toward other profession and leaving this beneficial business due to scarcity of water because all the agriculture farming depends on rainfall.
Due to global warming, the climatic change causes adverse change in precipitation and drought always reduces the net yield while produces poor quality feed for animals. Water stress promotes production of different types of lethal chemicals (hydrocyanic acid) which are harmful for livestock and soil fertility and soil nutritional value are also major problems. Deficiency of essential nutrients reduces the crop yield and also causes deficiency of nutrients in animal body which directly affects the milk and meat nutrition value and indirectly deficiency of nutrients in farmers while they do not apply any organic matter or inorganic fertilizer to balance or enhanced the soil nutrition level. Salinity also affects the soil behaviour for crop growth and production and these bad conditions compelled the farmers to purchase fodder, hay and straw or other processed animal feeds that have very low nutritional value. Lack of technology advancement in arid areas also a big hurdle in to improve the farming practices. Fodder crops are neglected therefore inputs are not provided adequately.
Arid zone agriculture researchers of Pakistan provided the certified quality seeds which have resistance against pest and diseases and suggest those fodder verities/cultivars which have highly drought tolerance. For the improvements in soil texture and fertility organic animal waste (farm yard manure) is used which can easily be obtained from farm animals and organic matter is also helpful to reduce the synthetic infestation in soil. Soil water conservation (SWC) techniques are mainly adopted to conserve the in-situ rain water and mulching is also a good option for SWC. Store feed for adverse drought days save the feed of livestock which is processed after the fermented process called as silage.
We need to promote this profession as an honourable business in arid zone of Pakistan as it is only a net payment return profit at the time when farmers need money. They can also sale their animals to fulfil his needs. Awareness and training along with special loans should have to be fixed for those farmers facing the crop failure due to moisture stress or any other natural disaster. Our government always spends a big share of national budget on the development of irrigated areas, instead of rain-fed regions. Fodder crops are the main and cheapest source of food for livestock which can enhance the economy of arid zone farmers in Pakistan. The fodder crop should be grown following the recommendations for the use input to harvest batter yield. Fodder crop should be inter-cropped, grass type fodder crop should be inter-cropped with legume fodder crop. Farm machinery and new technology also need to be introduced in agriculture business of that area. These practices provide more quantity of fodder and also improve the nutritive value of fodder and soil also. Remote sensing and crop modeling have also proved fruitful for the success of crops. Young scientists should have to play their role in the improvement of fodder value for livestock in arid zone of Pakistan.
The author is B.Sc (Honours) Agronomy, Agriculture, PMAS-AAUR