Pakistan is among the world’s top milk producers. According to one estimate, 80% of the milk, which is the largest and single most important commodity in livestock sector, is produced in Pakistan’s rural areas. The country needs to make efforts to enhance dairy production and moving from subsistence to market-oriented dairy farming, which would be the harbinger of a ‘white revolution’ in the country for its main focus on milk sector. The country needs to tap the enormous potential in milk sector both for domestic consumption and export to foreign markets.
The country’s small dairy farmers are facing major problems including low productivity due to poor breeding and non-existence of proper veterinary services, lack of an organized marketing system, market exploitation, lack of access to appropriate financial services, and a lack of infrastructure. These problems hamper their production and profitability. Approximately, 20 percent of the total milk produced is lost due to non-availability of cold storage facilities in some areas. Milk produced in the rural areas is mostly marketed through a complex marketing chain consisting of multiple layers of intermediaries. Over 50 percent of the 8.4 million reported dairying households own a herd size of only 1-4 animals, and 28% a herd of 5-10.
Small dairy farmers in country’s rural areas generally keep animals as a part of tradition for meeting household milk needs. They consider dairy a side income, as commercial dairy farming is still non-existent. The animals are not properly fed, as majority of the households keeping the livestock are landless. They sell only morning milk and remaining is lost due to lack of mechanization, automation and refrigeration. This causes loss in their income. Moreover unhygienic handling leads to poor quality milk well below international standards. No production recording is practiced because of the illiteracy and lack of awareness at farmer level.
The milk marketing channels are not organized on scientific lines in the country. The marketing is done through middleman. The farmers have a fragmented distribution system in which majority of dairying households maintain herds of one to two animals, while others maintain herds of 3 to 4 animals. There is a dire need for strengthening of livestock markets in the country.
Dairy farmers lack knowledge on animal husbandry and are unaware of modern techniques of dairy farming. Due to low fodder and water availability in summer causes seasonality in milk supply. Presently, the local farmers do not follow breeding through artificial insemination due to low conception rate and non-accessibility. Except, the public sector organization, the veterinary service delivery network is not available in the province, and hence the coverage is meager.
In the past, some efforts were made to transform the economy of dairy farming in Pakistan. For instance, Pakistan Dairy Development Company modernized hundreds farms across the country under its Model Dairy Farm Programme. The company executed the Community Farms Programme for small farmers owning three to 10 dairy animals. The programme was designed to introduce more modern and productive management practices at dairy farms throughout the country. The focus of the programme had been provision of clean drinking water and fodder with enhanced nutrition for dairy animals, mastitis prevention and control, temperature mitigation and improved calf rearing. The farmers setting up model dairy farms earned more money and they also increased investment in their business.
The experts are of the view that proper milk let-down is only possible through milking machines, as hand-milking by dairy farmers is also causing different diseases in the animals. Generally, mastitis is caused by hand-milking. Mastitis is the inflammation of animal’s udder, which is caused by the infected hands of the dairy farmers. The hand-milking should completely be replaced by milking machines in all the dairy farms of the country. The animals are kept under unhygienic conditions and the rough surface cause hooves injury in cattle and buffaloes. The other diseases which are caused by mismanagement in dairy farms include metritis, abscess and wounds. Similarly the foot & mouth disease and piroplasmosis are also common in dairy farms of the country.
The experts stress the need for establishing milk pasteurization plants in various districts of the country. There is an urgent need to improve extension services to increase dairy production across the country. Small dairy farmers should be provided overall technical support including automated milking machines and herd management. They should also be given feeding recipes for the animals in different seasons.
— A well orchestrated strategy needs to be formulated to effectively transform the dairy sector in the country. It should include all aspects of dairy development, which means improving milk collection network, increasing the quantity of available cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats and enhancing milk processing and marketing. The government should fix an annual target of milk production each year and should make concerted efforts to achieve it.
— Dairy farmers’ associations should be formed to provide subsidized veterinary/breading cover and balanced feed and assistance for fodder production and its preservation and marketing of milk and animals to the registered farmers.
— Local farmers should be provided short-term training on different aspects of profitable dairy farming in the country. Modern techniques of milk preservation should be adopted and more chilling units for collection of milk from rural areas be established.
— The government should provide the enabling environment for the subsistence farming community in the country to join the commercial farmers club to harvest the benefits of corporate livestock farming.
— Steps need to be taken for establishing forward linkages with processing industry and the consumers’ market. Similarly, steps should also be taken for backward integration through provision of milk cooling tanks, credit facilities, reliable and cost effective service delivery system and active participation of the local dairy farmers. Steps must be taken to ensure entry of rural subsistence dairy farmers in the milk marketing chain in the country.
— The government should provide land and facilities for setting up goat milk cheese processing units in order to motivate the private sector.