Aug 31 - Sep 06, 2009

Balochistan needs to move from subsistence to market-oriented dairy farming in order to enhance dairy production. With focus on milk sector, a market-oriented dairy farming can be the harbinger of a 'white revolution' in the province. Government should devise a strategy to tap the province's enormous potential in milk sector for both domestic consumption and export to foreign markets.

The province has 15 dairy and cattle farms and three sheep and goat farms. Milk contributes 35 percent of the total earning from livestock. [0]Quetta dairy farm has 176 animals of two breed- Frisians and Achi.

The farm has 87 Frisians, which is a foreign breed and it produces 1400Kg of milk per day. Achi breed is a local breed, which is particularly used for meat purpose, as it produces less milk. Frisian hardly survives in summer, hence it is kept under special sheds during summer. For non-availability of green fodder in Quetta during winter, the fodder for animals is brought from central Balochistan. Presently, Halal feed containing food supplements and concentrates, is being used to increase milk production in the dairy farms.

Proper milk letdown is only possible through milking machines, as hand-milking by dairy farmers is also causing different diseases in the animals, according to the experts.

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. Milking machines in all the dairy farms of the province should completely replace hand-milking. The animals are kept under unhygienic conditions and the rough surface causes hooves' injury in cattle and buffaloes. The other diseases, which are caused by mismanagement in dairy farms, include matritis, abscess, and wounds. Similarly, the foot & mouth disease and piroplasmosis are also common in dairy farms of the province.

Small dairy farmers in Balochistan generally keep animals as a part of tradition for meeting household milk needs. They consider dairy a side income, as commercial dairy farming is non-existent in the province. 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 Balochistan. The marketing is done through middleman, as the average milk sold per household is less than 5 litres a day. 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 province.

Local 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.

Former government had launched white revolution project. The components of the project included milk collection from small and landless farmers, supporting market-oriented rural dairy farmers and production of quality breeding animals.

The provincial livestock department has taken steps for setting up milk collecting plants on modern lines and is also introducing proper milk preservation techniques in the province. Steps taken toward white revolution in Balochistan include extensive use of artificial insemination, import of semen of high performance animals, use of biotechnology in livestock sector, controlling of diseases, quarantine measures, proper management and study of climate in arid and semi-arid regions, enhancing fodder production and its management and culling of local breeds with low performance and exclusive amelioration of genetic characters in local breeds with high performance.

The experts stress the need for establishing milk pasteurization plants in various districts of the province. There is an urgent need to improve extension services to increase dairy production in the province. The local 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 province. 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 provincial 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 province. 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 province 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 province.