LIVESTOCK IS an important sector in agriculture. It represents 52.2 per cent of agricultural value added and contributes 11 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Some 30-35 million rural people depend directly or indirectly on livestock for their livelihood. It has potential to absorb more rural labour to reduce rural poverty if proper attention is given to this sector. Pakistan is proud to be the fifth largest milk producer in the world. In addition to food products, livestock sector also provides food, milk, meat, eggs, manure (used as fuel or fertilizer), feathers, fibre, hides, and horns. In todays world, their role in food security cannot be overstated. In order to achieve sustainable development of agriculture, it is important for the Government to give more attention to livestock and dairy sector. Realizing its significance to poverty alleviation, the government has started giving some attention to this sector but no big national or international investment have been seen in dairy, beef, mutton or carpet wool production sub-sectors of livestock.
It is pre-requisite to the sustainable economy of the country to increase the animal production. Most of the livestock production system is still orthodox and rural subsistence oriented. Some investment in this sector is appreciable but still there is a lot which needs to be done. There are many issues in the animal production which should be addressed properly. Constraints and problems to increase livestock or animal production are almost similar in Asian countries. The most substantial constraints in Pakistan are nutrition, animal health, animal productivity/genetic make-up of the animals, the provision of finance to livestock farmers, livestock extension and marketing. These factors are briefly discussed below.
Adequate nutrition is a major problem in livestock production in Pakistan. Without providing the required nutrition for the animal the genetic potential cannot be exploited. It is yet to be decided that how much nutrients our animals need to express their full genetic potential of productivity. To develop feeding standards of buffaloes, cattle, sheep and goat, no serious effort have been made. It is difficult for extension workers to recommend accurately to livestock farmers that what standard he has to follow to feed his cow for cost-effective milk and meat production. Some advancement has been made in this regard however there is a lot need to do for revolution in animal nutrition. The availability of green fodder is not sufficient.
Livestock health is a limiting factor to productivity. A major problem is the lack of proper knowledge and awareness about the productive benefits of disease control. Those farmers, who are aware of the benefits, have limited access to appropriate vaccines and therapeutic drugs. Animal production systems are affected by different types of diseases with varying capacity like mastitis, foot and mouth, helminthosis, parasites and tick-borne are most important regarding animal productivity. In short the diseases seriously affect productivity and profitability. Vaccination and treatment for the animals was usually ignored by farmers which fallout to huge losses regarding productivity and the number of heads. Farmers use to practise traditional methods for animal care which exacerbate the problems for animal health. Lack of diagnosis of diseases is a major factor in low productivity. In Pakistan, quacks are very active in curing animals in the rural areas. These non-technical persons often treat animals with hit and trial methods which some time cause even death of the animal.
Animal Productivity/Genetic Potential:
Pakistan has bred with low genetic potential Sire (bull). The breed with best potential such as Sahiwal cow and Nili-Ravi buffalo are rarely found on the farms of small and medium farmers who contribute a bigger share of heads. These pure breeds are in fact in danger. There is need to save and exploit the genetic potential of the high yielding breeds. It is common observation that there is a tendency among farmers to cross the animals by imported semen. This practice is a big threat to our local and potential breeds. It is interesting to say that Australia had demanded the 100 pure Sahiwal breed and Pakistan could not provide. It shows that the country is being lost to the breed.
Lack of Livestock Credit:
To establish the modern livestock farms, it needs huge capital. Unlike crop sector, livestock sector required more investment. The absence of credit disbursement to small and medium-scale farmers the involvement of poor farmers in the commercialization of livestock production is restricted.
Deprived livestock extension activities:
Livestock extension wing in the country is inadequately performing and partial toward large farmers tending to neglect poor rural livestock-keepers. Public sector follows a top-down transfer of technology approach. It is now universally accepted that this approach is not result oriented instead bottom up approach should be adopted in which the participation of the livestock farmers should be ensured. In extension programs, only large ruminants are focused and the other species are almost excluded which need to be addressed. The extension services are concentrated in the areas where potential for livestock is high. The services should be evenly provided to the farmers, and neglected areas in fact deserve more. The extension messages are not frequently disseminated through print and electronic media. There is a dire need to educate the farmers as without educating there the dream of high productivity cannot be realized.
Poor Marketing System
Proper marketing system encourages the animal productivity. Poor marketing system is also a noteworthy limitation in the animal productivity. The private sector has organized the farmers association for their own interest. These associations collect milk for the organizations. Regarding marketing farmers are at the mercy of milkmen and commission agents (middle man). These market players utilize the poor farmers. There should be a systematic marketing system which could ensure the profit share of the farmers.
Following are the measures to improve the livestock sector:
• Improving the genetic potential of native livestock through selection, crossbreeding and Artificial insemination.
• Quality of poor fodders and straws can be improved with treatment of urea and molasses. The urea is an economical source of nitrogen while molasses offer ample energy to the ruminants.
• Good, economical, efficient and flexible housing strategies should be developed through animal production experts or any other feasible and sustainable sources.
• Enforcement of vaccination schedules beside proper and timely veterinary cover.
• Control of ecto and endo-parasites through proper dipping and drenching with suitable chemicals. Response of proper feeding and improved nutritional management is much lower if animals are infested with the parasites.
• Upgrading of breed potential and high-quality management will increase conception rate, growth rate, and milk yield and diminish calving interval.
• Price stability in livestock production is a must for avoiding great seasonal fluctuations. Implementation of sound policies can bring the livestock economy to a great assurance.
• Preservation of spare milk in winter by converting it into powder and saving massive amounts of foreign exchange being spent on the import of dry milk.
• Replacing draught animals to beef route through fattening and finishing programs. A feedlot system for cattle, male buffalo calves, sheep, goats and other culled animals should be encouraged.
• Proper pricing system is also the need of the hour. Meat grading, preservation and suitable marketing are required.
• Commercial producers should be encouraged by providing incentives and services.
• Manure should be handled properly along with its preservation, timely application for increasing soil fertility and keeping pollution under control.
The authors are associated with the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.