Enhancing Livestock Productivity in the Desert Ecologies of Pakistan: Setting the Development Priorities.

Livestock is now sharing by more than 53 percent of total agricultural value added in Pakistan. Identifying and developing the potential areas of livestock production is part of the overall development strategy for this sector while rural poverty alleviation is a major concern of Pakistan’s overall development policy. Our major livestock production systems are grazing, stall-fed and grazing-cum-stall-fed based. Grazing based livestock farming is economical and customary system in mountainous, rainfed, deserts and salinity affected areas. The livestock herders of desert areas deserve special attention of the policy-makers because of their most deprived living conditions as majority is living below poverty line by all poverty measuring standards. The present study is aimed to generate an updated synthesis based on empirical knowledge about status of livestock farming in desert ecologies of Pakistan. The results show that the average herd sizes maintained by the herders is fairly large to cover losses due to drought, disease and other epidemics. The human and physical capital endowments of the farmers are generally poor. Other common characteristics are: major dependence on natural vegetation with limited supply of fodder, more physical exertion of animals during grazing, poor animal health, practicing natural method of breeding, low milk and meat productivity, highly limited livestock and milk marketing opportunities, etc. The stall feeding is mainly composed of dry stalks and straws of different crops along with a small quantity of food grains. On marketing side, because of location and lack of infrastructure support, milk marketing opportunities are meager, therefore, it is converted into desi ghee—a value added and preserved form which is sold in nearby town markets. In marketing of live animals, the farmers are always exploited by beoparies. On average herd size, the net monthly income in Cholistan desert from cattle (for milk), sheep and goats farming (for meat purpose) was Rs 10128, Rs 990 and Rs 508, respectively; for Thal desert the corresponding estimates were Rs 457, Rs 359 and Rs 552, respectively; and for Tharparkar, the corresponding estimates are Rs 918, Rs 3221 and Rs 331, respectively. There is a strong need of prioritising development efforts for desert ecologies. High priority areas include efforts for increasing availability of rangeland vegetation and green fodder, improvement in the genetic potential of local livestock breeds, provision of more efficient livestock health coverage, and establishment of milk collection centres of milk processing plants. The low priority areas include designing regulatory framework for milk and livestock marketing, programs for human capacity building, facilitating through institutional credit, and different incentives for the veterinary staff posted in such areas.