SHAMSUL GHANI (shams_ghani@hotmail.com)
Nov 30 - Dec 06, 2009

Livestock is the backbone of agriculture sector of Pakistan, providing support to the crops and dairy farming economies. It is a means of diversifying risks, appreciating asset value and augmenting incomes. This sub-sector of the agriculture contributes around 52 percent of the total agriculture produce during 2008-09, accounting for 11.3 percent of the GDP. Likewise, crop economy, the backbone of the livestock economy, is the neglected lot of small holders.

According to the Livestock and Dairy Development Board (LDDB), around 80 percent of the national animal stock is held by smallholders with less than 100 cattle heads, and in most of the case even less than 50.

On the dairy farming side, Pakistan boasts of being the fourth largest producer of milk with an annual net production of more than 35 billion liters of milk for human consumption.

Unfortunately, we are still a net importer of milk and other dairy products. Low productivity ensuing from substandard feeding and/or malnutrition of animals coupled with the low profitability for the small producer are the root causes of sector's underperformance.

It is the middlemen and not the small producers that benefit from the ongoing inflationary price hikes of milk and meat. The common person or the end customer has to pay more than double of what the farmer gets. The middlemen that take advantage of weak or no linkages between the producer and the consumer gobble up a major chunk of the price margin.

SOURCE OF LIVESTOCK PRODUCTS 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
Milk Total 40,872 32,996 42,199 34,064 43,562 35,160
Cow 13,913 11,130 14,437 11,550 14,982 11,985
Buffalo 25,465 20,372 26,231 20,991 27,028 21,622
Sheep 35 35 35 35 36 36
Goat 682 682 700 700 719 719
Camel 77 77 787 787 798 798
Meat Total 2,618   2,727   2,515  
Beef 1,498   1,549   1,601  
Mutton 566   578   590  
Chicken 554   601   652  

Consumption of cow and buffalo milk equals 80 percent of production, as 15 percent is lost as transportation wastage and 5 percent is utilized in calving.

Around 8 million families or 40 million people with meager or even no land resources are involved in animal breeding and rearing. A sizeable portion of their incomes comes from this activity. This very important and really hardworking segment of our population needs economic and policy support. Besides public and private partnership corporate farming projects, the upgrading and capacity enhancement of small livestock producers should also be done. This will contribute towards achievement of food security goal in a big way.

The federal minister for livestock and dairy development has recently announced that the government, besides planning to spend more than Rs.10billion on development of the livestock sector, is also in the process of formulating a national livestock and dairy development policy. For this purpose, various task forces have been formed that will ensure the submission of proposals and recommendations of all the stakeholders within the shortest possible time.


With all the diehard representatives of feudal system occupying the top positions in the government, it will be foolish to hope that any policy that disturbs the decades old exploitative system shall be evolved. Now it is up to the stakeholders to join forces and insert in the policy as many positive changes as possible.

Livestock economy in comparison to crop economy is much open to systemic changes, as it draws strength from millions of smallholders who unlike their counterpart sharecroppers do not have to need arable land and consistent water supply - the influential feudal lords control these factors of agro production.

The national livestock policy, as a document of revolutionary changes, has to be poor centric. The member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda have had the experience of evolving a five-year strategy and implementation plan. The policy paper recognized the need to strengthen the downtrodden workforce of livestock sector to achieve regional food, peace, and health security.

The combined economy of IGAD countries and our economy have had many things in common as far as the poverty level and exploitative agro and social systems are concerned. The following lines that formed the central idea of the IGAD strategy and implementation plan can give some guidance to our livestock policy designers.

"Experience shows that policies and institutions, rather than technical innovation, first lead to development, and technological adoption follows institutional change. Moreover, in many countries, the livestock sector is heavily distorted in favour of large-scale producers. Therefore, the opportunity of achieving pro-poor impact through political and institutional reforms is high."

A paper developed by Dr. C.K Rao and Shefali Misra on Participatory Livestock Policy Development for different states of India underscores the importance of livestock for economies like India and Pakistan that, apart from regional proximity, have a lot in common. Some of the strategy measures that form the basis of their policy recommendations are reproduced under the following paragraphs.

"Enable small livestock holders to maximize livestock income so that they can make a difference between subsistence to progressively viable farming system. Lay special emphasis to enhance contribution of livestock and livestock sector to reduce poverty among the poor, woman and underprivileged sections of the society, especially in the underdeveloped regions. Enable more rural and peri-urban households to use and enhance livestock production as a viable livelihood option, which can ensure improved income, balance family diets, and generate employment. Improve livestock producers' access to animal health services by strengthening and restructuring the public delivery system. Encourage the growth based on the demand of livestock products viz. milk, egg, meat, and draft accommodating structural changes in the livestock sector in a balanced way, such that all species of livestock are allowed to grow and develop in proportion to their growth intensity and potential to enhance livelihoods. Improve livestock producers' access to financial services including institutional credit and insurance to enhance their capacity to invest in livestock and cope up with unforeseen calamities. Strengthen livestock research and its linkages with extension system to improve livestock producers' knowledge and access to new developments in research."