A common question from small livestock farmers at my village is about management of fodder. Especially In winter season they have shortage of fodder and lack proper substitute to fulfil the deficiency of fodder. They have not enough resources to buy modern resources.
It is a fact that Pakistan is an agriculture based country where major share to country’s economy is provided by agriculture and livestock sector. Agriculture shares up to 22% in national GDP out of which major share (up to 55.9% of agriculture sector and 11.8% in national GDP) is provided by livestock.
Pakistan is third largest livestock rearing country having population of 176.4 million domestic animals. Small livestock holders can’t be negotiated as there is negligible amount of livestock being farmed on modern basis. Most of national livestock is being reared by small animal holders.
Livestock holders having 1 to 4 animals have 70% of total livestock population. While farmers having 5-10 animals share 23% of total livestock population and farmers with 11-50 animals have 6% of total livestock population. Just 1% animals are being reared as a herd of more than 50 animals.
The data suggests that 93% of livestock population is being reared/managed on loose farming basis, thus most of the farmers can’t afford modern facilities for their animals. Hence, animal producers face various problems and out of them availability of fodder is the most important, particularly during winter season.
Non-availability of fodder in winter season
Non-availability of fodder in winter season leads to a drastic reduction in production performance of livestock sector in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, domestic fodders are usually divide into two major groups; Rabi and khareef. Rabi fodders are sown in October and November and harvested in March and April, while Khareef fodders are sown in April and May and harvested in September and October.
Thus, between two seasons, switch or gap of production is visible. In Pakistan, cash crops and cereals are more important than fodders for animals. It is due to economic concerns of poor rural farmers. This is the reason that most of the cultivable land remains occupied by cash crops or cereals which induces gap of production for production of fodder.
While discussing availability of cultivable lands for production of fodder, land assets of farmers possess great importance. Mostly livestock holders have negligible cultivable land available for fodder production. Up to 65% of livestock holders have no land availability for fodder cultivation. And 20% population has less than 12 acres of land. While only 15% livestock farmers have more than 12 acres land assets.
During wheat cultivation season (October and November), there is severe shortage of fodder. This situation becomes serious as there are no modern techniques of preserving fodder and most of the farmers have no resources to use these techniques. However, farmers use various domestic preparations to manage this problem.
Fodder shortage problems
Small livestock owners use some local feed substituents to maintain fodder shortage problems. These substituents comprise of grains, cottonseed cakes, wheat straw, dry bread loafs, spontaneously growing wild herbs and wild grasses.
These ingredients are usually of low quality and have toxic substances in them. Uncultivated wild and spontaneously growing grasses may have toxic substances. Most of them have phyto-estrogens causing abortions and disturbed heat cycles. Gossypols and other feed toxins may cause indigestion, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea in animals.
Cyanides containing herbs may lead to cardiac arrest, hemolysis and death. Although there are very rare cases of too high intoxication which may lead to death of animals. The small quantities of these toxins may cause digestive problems, less production and loss in reproductive efficiencies.
Cottonseed cake and bread pieces usually have fungi and molds on them. Fungi produce mycotoxins which are dangerous for animals and these toxins lead to reduced production, indigestion, dietary and metabolic issues. Some mycotoxins are very toxic and may cause hemorrhages, cardiac arrest and may lead to death.
Over feeding of grains may result in acidosis causing indigestibility and other digestive disorders. While in this type of formulation there is no fix proportion of ingredients and nutrients. Since they are not fix, thus, they don’t fulfill need of animal.
Animals have excess of certain nutrients while lack other nutrients, especially, they remain deprived of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies lead to loss of normal metabolic, reproductive and immune functions.
Shortage of fodder is a major issue causing reduced production performance and increased mortalities. It needs serious attention of the officials and animal scientists to make attempts to resolve it. There is need to launch an awareness campaign for the farmers about modern fodder preservation techniques. This include silage and hay, because they are practicing in all first world countries as well as at corporate farms in Pakistan.
There are cost effective methods and need no special instruments for their preparations. Extension workers should teach farmers about preparation of concentrates or fodder replacers that can be helpful during the shortage of fodder.
We have to import or develop seeds of rapid and multi cut fodder types for quick and in time fodder production to meet fodder deficiencies.
In short, there is an urgent need to address the winter related feed shortage problems. This include lack of fodder, toxic materials in certain available fodders and ungraded feed items. This posing a major threat for livestock population of Pakistan. This sector needs attention of livestock officials and research institutes for the improving and resolving this problem.
This article is collectively authored by Zohaib Saeed*, Muhammad Usman Naseer, Rao Zahid Abbas, Muhammad Rashid Fayyaz Department of Parasitology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.