Feature by Muhammad Aatif Ismail
MULTAN, Oct 6 (APP): Once considered to be merely an additional family support instrument for farming community, livestock in Punjab now appears to be on the launch pad to exploring its full potential to transform rural life.
The Agriculture Sector contributes 21% of GDP of Pakistan, which consumes 46% of direct labour force coming from 67% of population. Out of Agriculture, the share of livestock sector is 56%. However, the head count involved in both sectors is same as livestock and agriculture supplement each other in the rural landscape, officials said.
The share of livestock products in the generation of foreign exchange is about 13%. More significantly, livestock is an integral part (30-40%) of livelihood of about 30 to 35 million rural farmers. Presently, the reported gross value addition of livestock stands at PKR 1,172 billion, whereas livestock share in export is 8.5%.
Sensing its importance and performance not matching expectations, Punjab government launched various programmes to control cattle diseases and promote production of meat as well as milk. Livestock plays an important role for the uplift of rural economy as it is considered as good source of employment generation in rural population and thus helpful in poverty alleviation.
Millions of the farmers rear cattle and manage to meet their daily needs. Punjab have 49 percent share in total cattle strength in the country. Similarly, 65 % Buffaloes, 24% sheep, 37% goats, 22% camel, 47% Horses, and 48 % Poultry.
It is also best source of meeting emergency expenditures because it provides cushion in case of crops failure and can be sold to meet sudden expenses in routine life.The milk production enabled farmers to have cash income on daily basis.It has handsome share in national GDP.
In past, the productivity of the livestock sector in Punjab was low as compared to international markets, in terms of meat and milk output. The initiatives Punjab government is taking, includes Save Buffaloe-Calf programme, Calf fattening programme, Provision of poultry units, free of cost vaccination against different diseases, registration of cattle farmers and their cattle and many others. These programmes not only won hearts of farmers but also enhancing meat and milk production, says district officer Livestock Dr. Sabtain Bhatti.
Under Save Buffalo Calf programme, Rs 6500 per buffaloe incentive is being offered to each registered cattle rearer provided their animals gain 400 grams weight per day.
The special focus on buffalo-calf was meant to discourage a negative tendency among farmers who used to overlook male calf and sold them out while giving care to female calf for these give milk. This tendency reduced the population of male buffalo-calf, Sabtain Bhatti explained.
Nearly 240 animals have been registered with district livestock department. The cattle from one to 15 days was registered under this scheme and incentive would be paid after four months subject to meeting target.
Livestock department is planned to cover at least 5000 buffaloe-calf under this programme, says noted progressive farmer Mumtaz Khan Manais who also the chairman of Punjab Agriculture and Meat Company.
Another initiative, The Calf Fattening programme, would register Cattle Calf ranging from 12 months to 16 months old, and is meant to increase meat production. About incentive delivery criteria, DO livestock said, the animals who would gain weight over 700 gram per day over a period of three months, would won Rs 4000 reward for their owners.
In Multan district, the department has registered 250 Calf under the fattening programme.
Livestock department is also providing 600 poultry units to farmers on subsidized prices in the district to save Desi breed of chicken from extinction. Each poultry unit is comprised of 5 five hens (Daisi) and one cock and is given to farmers for only Rs 1320 against the open market price of Rs 2200.
Dr Majid, the focal person on livestock, told APP that the department provided 111 motorcycles to officials of Livestock department in the district to improve their outreach to cattle rearers. And, now they are moving from door to door to provide advisory to farmers.He maintained that the department had controlled over 95 percent of cattle diseases in the district.The department also introduced cold-chain for maintaining efficacy of vaccines in the province.
Similarly, disease diagnostic laboratories have also been set up to cure animals.The department also focusing on siemens quality.
In district Multan, there are five lakh cows, 416,000 buffaloes, 80,000 sheep, 60,000 goats and 73000 poultry units (daisi) at domestic level. These all are registered with the department and officials inspect them after regular intervals. Livestock department vaccinated 463,340 big animals and 132,770 small animals which resulted in controlling almost all diseases of cattle, claimed Dr Majid.
About animal’s quality nutrition, Dr Majid said that they were also working on provision of quality nutrition (Wanda) to farmers and have imposed penalties on shopkeepers found involved in sale of substandard oil-cake (Khal) in the district.
These were few of many steps being taken by the government and it would guide Punjab Livestock to a much developed stage in due course of time, officials said.
A small scale cattle farmer Murad, a resident of Barahmanwala, Multan, said: “I have 35 animals and they undergo inspection after every 15 days by staffers of Livestock department”.
Laique Sheikhana, another farmer, expressed same views saying officials were highly active these days and visit farm houses on daily basis.
Both cattle rearers were happy at getting officials’ attention and livestock department officials believe that Pakistan would be able to gain more share in export of meat and milk to earn handsome foreign exchange in near future.
However, Mumtaz Manais, was found cautious in expressing optimism, saying cattle rearers deserve more compassionate approach from the government.
Chairman Punjab Agriculture and Meat Company admitted importance of the initiatives but underlined the need for accelerating pace of progress and widening its scope further to cover more cattle rearers.
“We are far behind others in livestock sector”. Manais said one of our neighbouring country was at the top in terms of meat export. He said that more such measures were needed to encourage cattle farmers to raise their herds on modern lines and help Pakistan compete at the international level.