This month, Balochistan government is holding a three-day international Livestock Expo from November18 to 20 in Quetta with an aim to promote cattle farming in the province. The initiative would also increase meat production in the country besides, fulfilling its growing demand in the local markets. Undoubtedly, it is for the first time that a provincial government is holding a Livestock Expo to help improving standard of marketing of huge livestock sector, having potential to change the lot of the farmers.
It is worth mentioning that delegates of researchers, farmers, academia and businessmen from various countries including Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey would be participating in the Livestock Expo 2019. The livestock Expo will encourage the farmers and facilitate the livestock keepers directly. Lack of proper marketing of livestock and dairy development has been the main issue in the development of livestock of the province.
This event will provide the province to introduce the cattle and sheep and best local breed to the international delegate and ultimately it would allure foreign investors to the province’s livestock sector.
Livestock contributes about 40 percent to the Balochistan GDP. Ironically, the provincial government allocates a nominal amount for the development of this sector, which is the primary sustainable source of living for over 70 percent of local population. Animals are traditionally kept for meeting household milk and meat needs. The main consumers of its livestock include leather, carpet and pharmaceutical industries. The province caters to the needs and demands of leather and carpet industries by sustaining the supply of hyde and wool to these sectors. Livestock development is linked with poverty alleviation in the province, as its 70 percent population is directly or indirectly involved in livestock rearing activities.
The province is rich in livestock resources contributing about 40 per cent of Pakistan’s total livestock population. A poverty alleviation strategy with main focus on livestock development can target the higher poverty in the province. According to one estimate, the province maintains 2.253581 million cattle, 12.804217 million sheep, 11.784711 million goats, 0.319854 million buffaloes, 0.379528 million camels, 0.059973 million horses, 0.006256 million mules, 0.471942 million donkeys and 5.911304 million poultry. Livestock contributes Rs. 20 billion with share of meat 40%, milk 35%, eggs 13%, skin, hides & wool 10% and others 2%.
The province annually produces 28,000 tons of beef and 204,000 tons of mutton. Issues related to livestock development include poor infrastructure, inadequate range management, subsistence policy, lack of awareness among local farmers, inadequate technology transfer, non-availability of proper veterinary service network, feed manufacturing and absence of disaster warning systems. Being a pastoral economy Balochistan is yet to exploit its tremendous potential in livestock sector.
Serious efforts on government level should be made to increasing productivity, improving feed and fodder availability, improving coverage of animal health care, provision of extension services, and improvement of marketing systems and intensification of relation with private sector. The government should implement vital reforms in livestock sector for its improvement and enhancement of production.
The budgetary allocation for the livestock sector needs to be enhanced significantly. The incoming provincial government must announce a new livestock policy involving the private sector for promotion of the organized cattle farming activities in the province. It should provide the required land and funds and announce incentive packages to attract the private parties for making investment in the sector.
The livestock farmers are mainly the small and landless farmers, who are living in miserable socio-economic conditions in the province. They lack land and water for fodder cultivation and animals. Livestock is dependent upon grazing in rangelands, which make 40 percent of the total landmass in the province. Environmental Profile Balochistan has defined range as self-generating and self-maintaining vegetation used for livestock grazing. The range supplies the bulk of forage and fuel wood in the province.
The rangelands not only serve as habitats for most of the wildlife, but the small stocks almost completely depend on rangelands for their food. Rangelands depletion has been owing to burgeoning population, land mafia, persistent drought in recent years, overgrazing and deforestation. The deforestation and overgrazing destroyed flora and fauna besides depleting the vegetation cover of the rangelands. During winter, the farmers living in central Balochistan migrate with their flocks to lower lands in Sibi and Kachhi plains for the purpose of grazing their flocks.
Local farmers even have no idea or familiarity with modern animal husbandry practices. There is no organized cattle farming activity, hence the province suffers low productivity due to poor breeding and rearing and low energy inputs. The local farmers use unhygienic and polluted water for drinking of animals. They lack the proper health care coverage for the animals, poor marketing system and extension services. The small-scale producers have no vertical linkages with processors and marketers. They are also deficient in technical know-how to increase meat production.
- A system for comprehensive insurance of animals needs to be introduced in the calamity-prone province in order to reduce any unforeseen risk.
- Feeding recipes should be provided for the animals in different seasons.
- Steps should be taken to promote improved marketing and agricultural enterprises and service delivery through the private sector.
- New technology for meeting animal feed shortage should be introduced in the province.
- The range development schemes need to be launched to improve and modernize the sheep breeding in the province.
- Steps should be taken to provide overall technical support to local farmers.
- Research projects should be launched to improve the reproductive efficiency of cattle in smallholders production system in the province.
- Steps must be taken to establish chilling units for collection of milk from rural areas.
- The government should be ready to deal with any calamity like drought and homework for its recurrence should be done. A comprehensive strategy to combat drought recurrence is urgently needed to save this sector.
- Proper attention should be paid towards maintenance of disease free herds, germ plasm improvement and storage arrangements for poultry products, meat, milk and other dairy products.