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May 5, 2021

Government to introduce fundamental change in dairy sector

Business

May 5, 2021

LAHORE: The federal government is going to introduce a fundamental change in the dairy sector through massive artificial insemination with imported semen, essentially eliminating local hardy cow breeds that have potential of producing up to 40 liters of milk daily.

According to an official, milk in the country has been expensive and it is largely not available in pure form mainly due to low production. The Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to launch a project to increase milk production, under which Rs40 billion worth of imported semen will be available in three years, which will help 'improve' the characteristics of local cow breeds and increase per animal milk production to 5,000 liters from present 1,100 liters.

The livestock sector contributes a major share in the agriculture economy of Pakistan. The country produces 59 billion liters of milk annually from a herd of 49 million cows. However, he added, the average milk yield of local cows is just 1,100 liters per lactation against Australian cows’ 7,000 liters and American cows’ 11,000 liters.

He continued to say that per capita annual milk consumption in the country stands at 200 liters, which cost Rs18,000.

Milk is the most important component in nutritional needs and it is not available in pure form as per requirement that is why it is expensive.

However, experts believe that the unplanned artificial insemination resulting in hybrid breeds of cows would not yield results. There should be a scientific approach for carrying out artificial insemination. Local breeds' yields potential are proven in adverse weather conditions and they have resistance to many diseases.

The yield potential of local breeds have not been fully exploited as no major systematic genetic selection has been done so far. “We have seen up to 30-40 liters of milk production by Sahiwal cow breed,” experts said. These high potential animals need to be made part of an elite animal group for further improvement in milk production. Genetic selection of local breeds has been termed as the only viable solution to raise milk output in this regard instead.

It is feared that an unplanned and flawed program of artificial insemination would deprive Pakistan of pure local breeds. Many livestock genetic resources are likely to be lost due to sweeping hybridisation of local breeds. It is virtually saying goodbye to Cholistani, Sahiwal and Red Sindhi indigenous cow breeds that have been serving local people for centuries. These breeds have performed in other countries well if genetic potential are explored coupled in addition to carefully crossing them with other breeds.

It is a fact that pure milk prices in rural areas with about 5% fats have touched Rs 100 per liter. In cities, it hovers around Rs 120-140 per kg.

The government is expected to announce a flawed plan for revival of the dairy sector shortly, maybe tomorrow. Under this initiative, imported semen is to be used in massive quantities to genetically improve local breed with artificial insemination, which will eliminate hardy local breeds having potential of up to 30 liter a day. The milk prices in the country could also be reduced by curtailing post-production losses that are as high as 40 per cent.

For this purpose, the government should help in establishing a cold chain right from producers to marketers, which will help reduce losses of milk considerably. Solar chillers, storage tanks and special vehicles need to be introduced on subsidy in this connection.

Lack of proper branding and development of dairy breeds are also costing producers and consumers alike. Despite being blessed with fundamentally good cattle breeds of Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, and Cholistani, milk production could not be increased due to multiple reasons.

According to a report, production systems of cattle and buffaloes are subsistence small-holdings, market oriented small-holdings, rural commercial farms and peri-urban dairy farms. Systematic genetic improvement programs for livestock have been limited and half- hearted. Some of these are land grants, herd-book schemes, provision of pedigree bulls and establishments of government livestock farms, provision of artificial insemination. These programs have been addressing productivity issues and have been limited to a few breeds of animals at limited scale.