HARNESSING UNTAPPED POTENTIAL IN DAIRY FARMING
AROOJ ASGHAR (Arooj.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Aug 31 - Sep 06, 2009
Dairy farming and livestock are important sectors of the Pakistan's agriculture economy. They contribute substantially to the national economy and play a dominant role in the development of agriculture by providing major food items (milks, meat, and egg) and other products including power and manure.
According to the World Bank's World Development Report 2008, GDP growth, originating in agriculture (inclusive of Dairy Farming, Live Stock), can be four times more effective for increasing income levels than in other sectors of economy. Pakistan is the fourth largest milk producing country with an annual production of 13 billion litres.
There are many snags being faced by the dairy farming sector in Pakistan. Some of them are highlighted below:
1. The main problems include lack of specific area required for animal's proper growth, lack of market information, medical treatment for animals, least know-how about latest techniques of raising production (milk and meat) etc. All these factors lead to low productivity, affecting adversely disposable income level and small savings of farmers.
2. The farmers are in a deplorable condition and 97% of them are not linked to formal markets and rely on archaic dairy farming practices.
3. Input suppliers often exploit farmers for their own profit as they are the only source of necessary inputs for animals like Khal, Wanda fertiliser, fodder etc.
4. The main reason for low productivity of the livestock is sheer neglect and poor management of the sector. Despite good genetic potential among animals, low production is due to lack of proper marketing of livestock products. Most of the country's farming community is unaware of modern techniques in dairy farming. They usually lack information about cattle management and their feed. The idea of balanced diet and intercropping to grow forage crops with main crops is completely missing.
5. The little or no collaboration of researchers and those dealing with agricultural extension services also contribute to low production. Presently, Pakistan has only a few scholars in prime principles of dairy science including animal breeding and genetics, dairy nutrition, dairy management, and dairy technology to support and develop dairy sector.
6. Another major challenge facing local dairy is quality. Milk marketing is dominated by the informal private sector, consisting of agents such as collectors, middlemen, and traders. Alarming rates of adulteration have been witnessed in the last few years especially in the central Punjab region. There is no quality check at any stage along this chain. For example, those who handle milk right from the beginning till it reaches the final consumer are not conscious of hygiene. As a result, the average TPC- bacteria count -is at least 60 times higher than that in the Middle East, thereby making the issue of poor quality the biggest hurdle for dairy exports.
7. Our dairy breeds have wide phenotypic and genetic variation that could help in rapid genetic gain for milk yield through selection. It is important to differentiate that the professionals working in animal reproduction have no capacity to give input in dairy breeding (breed improvement) although they can contribute to dairy breeding schemes as a secondary partners by providing aids like artificial insemination and embryo transfer technologies.
Development and implementation of milk standards is also essential to define milk price based on quality.
1. There is a dire need to introduce more modern and productive management practices at dairy farms throughout the country.
2. We need to improve research facilities, training and capacity building of farmers, training veterinaries, improving the cold chain through milk chillers, promoting healthy pasteurized milk, developing model commercial dairy farms, breeds, facilitation of credit financing to dairy farmers and linking the rural area based farmers to markets.
3. Farmers should also be provided with short and intermediate easy-term credit through one window operation for investment in livestock. The existing cumbersome process of loan disbursement needs to be simplified.
4. Provision of clean drinking water and fodder with enhanced nutrition for dairy animals, mastitis prevention and control, temperature mitigation and improved calf rearing is imperative. Subsidy is normally given to farmers on inputs needed to boost output; such subsidies should also be given on animals and farmers should be provided with specialized concessionary loans. Moreover, animals should be provided with insurance cover to minimize farmers' losses.
5. It is important to ensure provision of nutrition to dairy cows and buffaloes so that they have a calf every year.
6. There is a need to focus on agricultural policy especially on increasing livestock outputs by utilizing farmer's potential. It is only possible by solving problems confronted by farmers
7. There is a need to provide farmers with simple techniques to prepare balanced and cheap fodder with the available materials in the village like molasses, bread crams, peals of vegetables and fruits, floor, wheat, rice and sugarcane.
8. Buffalos and cows are a major source of milk and meat. But goat and sheep can be more income-generating source which remains ignored.
There is a need to promote farming of these animals as they produce two to four offspring twice a year, whereas cows and buffalo give birth mostly to a calf once a year.
9. The government was interested in importing live animals like Holstein Friesian or some other breeds from Australia and other countries to increase milk production and supply. Our own breeds of cows should be promoted instead of importing animal. The best dairy animals of the tropical areas like Nili Ravi and Kundi buffaloes and Sahiwal, Cholistani and Red Sindhi cattle are available in the country with a good genetic potential for dairy development.
10. An immediate ban on export and slaughter of female breeding stock should be imposed. Similarly, a regulatory framework establishing a milk procurement standard is a quick remedy and supported by the industry. Regulation regarding the efficacy of animal health medicine can also be passed by our government in the short-term.
11. Animal health, parasite control, breeding and training services should be provided free of charge, whereas other services should be provided on no-loss and no-profit basis.
12. Dairy science and technology education universities also need to support industry in dairy breeding, nutrition, industrial management and product quality.
Despite all the problems, dairy sector holds high promise as a dependable source of livelihood for the majority of the population. If government plays a vital role in order to direct, coordinate, and regulate the activities of various organizations engaged in dairy development, to establish and maintain a level playing field for all stakeholders and to create and maintain a congenial socio-economic, institutional and political environment, the economy of dairy farming in Pakistan would be much different from what it was today. Transformation of dairy sector, however, must not lead to commercialization dominated by multinationals, many of which are insensitive to the needs of the people.