CATTLE FARMING

"Women in rural areas could play a pivotal role in raising and rearing livestock, which would contribute a long way in eliminating poverty and gruesome tendencies of extremism & terrorism."

M.R. CHAUDHRY
Apr 30 - May 13, 2007

Livestock constitutes the backbone of the country's economy, especially the rural economy. Its share in value addition in agriculture sector is 50-51 percent and about 11 percent to the country's GDP.

About 30-35 million people in our rural areas earn their livelihood by cattle and dairy farming. Pakistan is the fifth largest milk producing country in the world. The value of milk is higher than the value of the country's two major crops i.e. wheat and cotton put together. We have great potential in cattle farming, milk and meat production and their value addition. Livestock products include milk, cheese, butter, ghee, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, meat, hides, skins, eggs, wool, hair and other products. Skins, hides and wool provide raw material for leather and woolen industries

According to the available information, foreign exchange earnings from livestock products and byproducts including meat, hides, skins, etc. amounted to Rs.53 billion in the year 2003-2004, which is about 11 percent of the country's total export earning. Admittedly milk is the largest and most important nourishing commodity in the livestock sector. As already mentioned, that account for 51 percent of the value addition of the sector and it has been estimated that the farm gate value of milk is over Rs.390 billion. The huge potentials of livestock need to be harnessed systemically and judiciously. This sector remained neglected for long, however, the present government seems to be serious about promoting this sector as a part of Rural Poverty Alleviation Programme.

Pakistan livestock population is enormous, an idea of which can be had from the following figures:

Cattle (bullocks, cows etc.

... 24.2 million

Buffaloes

... 26.3 million

Sheep

... 24.9 million

Goats

... 56.7 million

Poultry

... 530 million birds

These are, however, tentative figures. A census is required to arrive at the correct figures.

Cattle-farming in the country is not being carried out in an organized form. Common villager is engaged in raising 2 to 3 cattle (buffaloes/cows) and 5 to 6 sheep/goats per family, deriving 30-40 percent of their household income. In Punjab, there are small units of cattle farming consisting of 10 to 20 buffaloes/cows, which are 10 percent and only 5 percent have 20 heads each. Big farms constitute a meager number.

While inaugurating the Nestle's biggest milk plant of Asia in Khanewal, President Musharraf emphasized upon the need and importance of bringing about "White Revolution" in the country by exploiting real potential of the dairy and meat sector. He was of the opinion that rural women could play a dynamic role in bringing about this revolution. At the graduation ceremony of the 105 Lady Livestock Workers, who completed six-week veterinary course organized by the Pakistan government, United Nations Development Programme and Nestle, the President strongly felt that women in rural areas could play a pivotal role in raising and rearing livestock, which would contribute a long way in eliminating poverty and gruesome tendencies of extremism, terrorism and violence from society. In accordance with the programme, about 3500 ladies would receive training by the master trainers from the University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore, in the next 3 years. This White Revolution is expected to prove a promising venture and would hopefully brighten prospects and bring prosperity to the country. It would certainly bring a boom to our 60-70 percent of rural population.

This scribe would like to point out that ancient Pharaohs' paintings and history reveal that Egyptian women have been playing an active role in agriculture. They were part of the agricultural labor-force to grow and harvest wheat, barley and raise cattle. While women are an important factor in farm development in the existing rural society, according to FAO, rural women in developing countries hold a key to the future of the earth's agricultural system - food and livelihood. It is an established fact that women perform not less than 60 percent of the farm-work in Pakistan. There is an old Chinese saying appreciating the role of women. That is "Women hold up half the sky". We should, therefore, make the best use of our female rural force for bringing prosperity and good fortunes to our poor rural women folk.

If women are given incentives, the White Revolution for raising cattle, after imparting necessary training, credit facility and extension service to equip them with requisite skills, they would certainly work still harder to realize their value and deliver the goods. They have been raising animals in our rural areas and offering a helping hand to their male family members for centuries and centuries. The need of the hour is to give them hope, encouragement, guidance and programmes for realizing their dreams of well being and prosperity. Then they would not fail to deliver. There are of course some difficulties and obstacles, which hinder their role in livestock/dairy farming, some of which are recounted below:

Cultural boundaries restrict communication between men and women.

Therefore, training and extension service should be given to our rural females through woman trainers to enable them organize and manage cattle and dairy farms efficiently and profitably.

There is a limited number of female professionals in this sector. Female Extension workers should provide rural women cattle-farmer skills to enable them earn regular income after acquisition of these skills to run their farms with economic sustainability.

NGO's female extension workers could play a remarkable role in educating our rural women in organizing and managing cattle farming for their economic uplift, especially by providing them know-how for value addition and marketing of these products.

Female cattle farmers should be provided credit transport and marketing facilities for selling their products at reasonable rates.

Historically, there was less distinction between dairy cattle and beef cattle in the past than is the case now, when animals of the same species were often being used for both meat and milk production. Dairy cattle are now specialized animals and most of them belong to breeds, which have been specifically developed to give large quantity of milk. This milk is converted into various value-added products, including cheese, yogurt, butter, ghee, cottage cheese, ice cream, dessert, 'lassi' (our village cold drink), etc., which are consumed throughout the world.

Young buffaloes and cows are generally considered more valuable than bulls, which are meant for beef production and breeding/reproduction purposes.

Recently artificial insemination is being practiced for reproduction, however, for various reasons its success percentage is not that encouraging. Some cattle farmers prefer to possess their own bulls as it is easier to maintain a few bulls than opting for artificial insemination effectively. In our villages some skilled people also put semen of a good variety of bull into female animal's vagina manually in its heated period. In ordinary parlance it is known as 'beej rakhna', for obtaining good variety of breed both female cattle (buffalo or cow) and bull should be of good breed.

Amongst the dairy products, milk enjoys the paramount importance. Joseph O'Donell, Ph.D, Director of California Dairy Research Foundation, Davis, has rightly commended: 'Milk has been uniquely designed by nature to deliver a nearly full supplement of nutrients to consumer'. Milk was, and still is, a good choice to be included in the diet. It contains protein, fat, sugar, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins, minerals, water etc. Calcium is the basic building block of bones. A lack of calcium is linked to osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease, which affects the health of children and elderly people. It may lead to broken bones. Breaks of the spine, hip, wrist are most common.

Milk is an excellent source of calcium and the body readily accepts it. According to new research, people of all ages can benefit from the ingredients found in dairy foods. There are lots of advantages of drinking milk and eating milk-based ingredients. Maximizing the quantity and quality production of milk and its products would go a long way in providing nutritional food to the nation, particularly to our young generation and elderly people. .

Shelf life of milk is too short. Most of the milk brought in our big cities is preserved unprofessionally and unethically to prevent it from getting sour. Ordinarily, shelf life of milk is four hours after milking, under normal weather conditions. It is too short a period and a good quantity of milk is lost while being transported from outskirts to cities or consumers. Methods of preservation are refrigeration, pasteurization or ultra heating treatment. It is regrettable that there are only a few pasteurization plants in the country to save milk from being wasted. Only 3 percent of the entire milk is packed as UHT milk. Commonly and relatively harmless method is used by adding a large quantity of ice to cool down milk but it dilutes the milk and increases the quantity of water therein. Some milkmen add penicillin, a potent anti-biotic and some add formalin, which is poisonous and is injurious to health. It is difficult to prepare curd if the above two methods are used for preservation of milk. For increasing the quantity of milk, milkmen inject the animals with growth hormones before milking. This brings about early puberty among young girls and boys.

According to former SMEDA chief and agricultural expert Iqbal Mustafa the above unethical practices are unavoidable as there are no common or corporate pasteurization plants to preserve milk. Pasteurization increases shelf life of milk to 48 hours. He pointed out that Indian Government has installed a chain of pasteurization kiosks in villages for pasteurization of milk to enable farmers/milkmen a safe carriage time for transporting milk into the cities. Such facilities should invariably be provided by the Government in our villages to help out milkmen and farmers for increasing the shelf life of the milk being supplied by them to cities and towns.. The matter deserves an urgent attention of the authorities in the overall interests of suppliers and consumers both.

It has been noticed that packed milk in Pakistan is costlier by Rs.10-12 per liter, which is an extra burden on the consumers. This issue needs to be dealt with seriously to make packed milk affordable for common man. Punjab produces 63 percent of the total milk produced by the country. This province has 48 percent share in beef production, 33 percent in mutton and 68 percent in poultry production. It is imperative for the government to provide necessary logistics to cattle/dairy farmers and milkmen as a part of Poverty Alleviation Programme.

Milk yield per animal in Pakistan is 1076 liters per year as against 750 liters per year in India. The U.S. milk yield is amazingly very high being 7500 liters per animal per year and that of New Zealand is 3300 liters. The yield per animal in Pakistan can be increased provided our Animal Husbandry, Livestock & Dairy Department and Rural Development authorities come forward and make concerted efforts to educate the livestock/dairy farmers on taking care of the health of their animals, promoting high breeds of animals, suitable animal feed and fodder, providing veterinary services and advice etc. at the doorstep of farmers.

Large-scale value-addition necessitates import and installation of a good number of food processing units and allied machinery. This will open up new vistas and scope for agricultural development in Pakistan.

Chief Minister Punjab Pervaiz Elahi, speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the International Livestock and Poultry Congress-2007, told that Rs 6.5 billion would be spent on marketing, breeding and feeding livestock and protecting cattle from diseases in the next three years. He said that loans were being given to farmers to purchase buffaloes, and that Rs.4.73 billion loans had so far been provided. He also announced special incentives for veterinarians.

Punjab Health Minister Ch. Muhammad Iqbal was of the view that under the Vision-2020 Livestock Sector is being promoted, which will lead to immensely favorable effects for the economic uplift of Punjab. Farmers would be provided loans on easy terms amounting from Rs.50,000 to Rs.50,00,000. This project will generate employment opportunities for 84,000 people. Besides catering to the need of milk, meat and eggs of the country, the surplus will be exported to international market to earn substantial foreign exchange. Reportedly, Qatar is interested to collaborate with Pakistan in the livestock sector for which 9,000-acre land has been provided. According to the Punjab Chief Minister, a large project costing Rs.2.12 billion had since been started in 18 districts of the Punjab to help cattle farmers, veterinarians and dairy farmers. He stated that 1000 milk collection centers were being set up in Layyah and Sialkot districts at a cost of Rs.1.16 billion, besides setting up two milk processing units with the cooperation of the private sector under a phased programme.

The government has also started human resource development programme for producing adequate workforce for livestock sector at the Barani University in Rawalpindi, Zakarya University in Multan, Islamia University in Bahawalpur and Veterinary Science College in Jhang. Upon successful completion of these projects and programmes, we would not only become self-sufficient in the production of beef, mutton, milk and other dairy products but optimistically we will also be able to compete with other largest cattle and dairy farming countries in the international market. What is required is a sustained effort, devotion, dedication and commitment both at the public and private sector levels.