The Punjab government has established five model livestock development farms in the rangelands of the Cholistan desert.

Each farm, spread over 500 acres, would provide breeding and upkeep facilities to the livestock of 25 community members of the area who have already got their present stock of cattle registered for this purpose.

The five selected areas where these farms have been established include Mattanwali, Chapo, Jampur, Mauj Garh and Noorsir Blochan.

Keeping this in view Sindh government too has undertaken an ambitious plan to set up a modern dairy village near Bhambhore, some 78 kilometers from Karachi. A project director for Bhambhore Dairy Village has already been appointed. And, according to officials, proposals received from companies to participate in this private-public partnership project have been evaluated. The proposed dairy village, spread over 1300 acres would house milk processing plants, chilling units, feed mills, a livestock and fodder market, slaughter houses and a meat processing unit.

The model farms, initiated in Cholistan, fall in the first category of a series of such farms that are part of a much broader scheme for development of livestock. Under the scheme, the provincial government plans to allot 100,000 acres of land in Cholistan to individuals and companies including foreign investors in three categories.

Under the second category, the government plans to lease out 95 lots of 500 acres each for corporate farming for an initial period of 50 years which would be extendable for another period of 49 years.

And in the third category five lots, also of 500 acres each, would be provided to registered corporate poultry firms for poultry breeding.

Besides, the government would lease out 6,000 lots of 12.5 acres each to graduates of agricultural sciences on certain terms and conditions.

Here, 75 per cent quota would be reserved for graduates from Cholistan and the remaining 25 per cent for those of other areas.

According to Economic Survey of Pakistan, livestock made up 55 per cent of the value-added agricultural sector and accounted for 11.6 per cent of GDP in 2001-12.

Such a high-profile economic role has drawn increased attention of policymakers and corporates in the area of livestock development.

Provincial governments of both Punjab and Sindh are in the process of modernising and developing livestock through a combination of policies including community-based model farming. But milk and meat production in Pakistan is growing at a slower rate and that provides one good reason for inviting corporate sector into this area despite reservations being shown by local livestock breeders. “This sums up the rationale of setting the stage for corporate livestock farming by first introducing a community-based cluster of livestock farms in Cholistan,” said an official of Punjab Livestock Department.

In 2011-12, total milk output reached close to 48 million tonnes from 46.4 million tonnes a year earlier showing a meagre growth of less than 3.5 per cent. Overall meat production also increased by less than 4.5 per cent—from 3.095 million tonnes in 2010-11 to 3.232 million tonnes in 2011-12. Against this, India’s milk production is estimated to have risen by five per cent to 129 million tonnes in 2012 and its meat production (only of buffaloes) is estimated to have increased by six per cent to 3.16 million tonnes during this year. Growth rates of milk and meat output in some other countries like Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China and Mexico are also higher than in Pakistan, according to a recent report of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

A study conducted in 2009 shows that Cholistan is home for tens of thousands of camels, cattle, sheep and goats but their productivity (or birth rates) is very low. Modern techniques in livestock farming that are being introduced through livestock development farming would help in boosting the animals’ productivity. And a higher birth rate obtained in notable breeds like Cholistani and Hasari cows, Jattal or Cholistani goat, Buchi, Khadali and Sipli sheep and Marecha and Brella camels would enrich the livestock profile of not only Cholistan but the entire Punjab.

Keeping this in view Sindh government too has undertaken an ambitious plan to set up a modern dairy village near Bhambhore, some 78 kilometers from Karachi. A project director for Bhambhore Dairy Village has already been appointed. And, according to officials, proposals received from companies to participate in this private-public partnership project have been evaluated. The proposed dairy village, spread over 1300 acres would house milk processing plants, chilling units, feed mills, a livestock and fodder market, slaughter houses and a meat processing unit.

One important aspect of the recently set up model livestock farms in Cholistan is that it aims to obtain higher birth rates and higher per-animal milk and meat by containing a high mortality rate (up to 60 per cent) among the livestock of the desert. The main causes of mortality are related to droughts, lack of animal healthcare and poor nutrition due to shortage of feed, water and diseases caused by lack of feeding. No proper livestock health facilities are available in the desert, only limited health services are available in peripheral small towns and vaccination of livestock is not practiced regularly.

The rangelands in Cholistan survive on monsoond, and forage production there depends much on the amount, timing and frequency of monsoon rains. During normal rainfall years (100–200mm) green herbaceous production remains critically low for cattle and sheep and animals remain under-nourished. Only once or twice in a decade is forage production sufficient for year-round grazing.

In livestock development, ensuring proper feeding of animals and providing them with the best healthcare are essential not only to optimise their birth rate and minimise mortality rate but also to obtain a higher amount of milk per animal and larger quantity of meat per-animal when they are slaughtered. “Minimising milk and meat processing losses or preserving them hygienically to increase shelf-life are secondary requirements of optimising livestock yields,” says an official of Engro Foods.

He said that whereas corporate interest in milk processing and retailing has been growing fast in Pakistan, the share of processed and packed branded milk is still around five per cent of the overall production. Lately the market has seen the launch of several new brands of milk packs.

And because of the involvement of corporate sector in milk processing and marketing, new techniques introduced by corporates for obtaining higher milk per cow and buffalo have also been replicated by some progressive individual livestock breeders.

Half-a-dozen wealthy politicians and textile tycoons in Punjab have even set up small and medium-sized livestock farms where they are getting higher average output of milk from imported cows and buffaloes. Owner of one of such farms told Dawn that American cows give 6000-9000 litres of milk per year against 1500-2000 litres that Pakistani cows give.

Some companies have also succeeded in capturing a share in meat production and processing market because they are vertically integrated and maintain the whole supply chain from cattle heads to meat processing to manufacturing of meat products.

But on balance, the presence of the corporate sector in the areas of livestock breeding and development is very nominal. In a country with no less than 63 million cows and buffalos as of now there is much room for involving the corporate sector.

Updated Dec 30, 2012 08:18pm

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