Fodder shortage

Shortage of quality livestock fodder

By Tahir Ali
(DAWN Monday, 31 May, 2010)

The shortage of cheaper and quality feed is forcing farmers to use maize and wheat plants as fodder for livestock in Khyber–Pakhtunkhwa.

“Fodder and feed availability is the basic need for healthy animals and for raising the income of farmers. But there has been no or little research in the vital area. There is no data available on the annual fodder needs, potential and production of the fodder crops in the province,” said an official of the livestock department.

The province has a favourable topography and environment for fodder production but its potential is yet to be utilised.

Because of the failure to develop high-yielding fodder varieties, un-ripened wheat and maize crops are used as fodder in different parts of the province since quite some time now.

Director General Livestock and Dairy Development Department Dr Sher Mohammad said the department was doing everything possible to develop high-yield fodder varieties.

“But the fact is that it has not been given due attention in the past not only at provincial but also at federal level. The government, farmers and department of agriculture have focused on cereal crops. Farmers in the province mainly use wheat hey, maize stem and sugarcane leaves for their animals,” he said.

According to Sher Muhammad, range management for communal grazing, promotion of high-yielding fodder crop varieties and development of wasteland of southern districts into pastures and grazing lands are some of the steps that need to be taken urgently.

“The only fodder research institute is in Faisalabad. There is a need to establish such institutes in every province,” he added.

Livestock gives direct and indirect jobs to millions of small farmers. In order to increase their incomes, the government should ensure provision of cheaper and quality fodder for their livestock.

The province, according to official estimates, is home to around six million cattle, two million buffaloes, 3.4 million sheep, 10 million goats and 21 million domestic poultry.

In Rabi 2007, the province produced about 1.4 million tons fodder of different varieties from 62,000 hectares. In Kharif 2008, the total fodder yield was recorded at 67,000 tons from 36,000 hectares.

The agriculture department has high-yielding fodder varieties, but their dissemination to farmers at grass root level is very slow.

The cattle breeding and dairy farm Harichand has produced numerous fodder varieties that can be sown both in Kharif and Rabi season. Some of them have great value for being good in taste, high yielding, multicut, perennial, and with great nutritious value.

“One of our varieties named Mott grass, has a per acre yield of 25 to 30 tons per cut and with four cuts its yearly yield comes to around 120 tons of grass. It has the potential to meet the fodder needs of farmers if disseminated in every corner of the province. More so it can be sown on banks of water channels and other unattended places,” another official said.

“Evergreen yields about 30 tons and has three cuts per annum. Rhodes grass yields about 60 tons per acre a year. Their seeds are provided to progressive farmers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata at the start of their respective seasons,” he added.

“Turnip is not only a vegetable but can also be useful as fodder for animals. It has an average yield of 9 to 11 tons per acre. It is sown in October. Barseem yields about eight to 10 tons per acre. Sown in October and November, the crop has three cuts per year and could be healthy addition in to the fodder varieties. Bean or Lobia is also another potential fodder variety that has an average yield of around eight tons,” said the official.

According to another official, the department has started a programme of sowing of high-yielding fodder crops through public-private partnership in Nowshera.

“Technical advice is provided to farmers. Also, certified seed of fodder crops is given to farmers provided they would return it after harvest.”

“Development of high-yielding varieties of fodder crops by the public research institutes must be ensured. Grass nurseries can be developed in hilly areas in summer and in the plain in winter for meeting the fodder needs of the animals,” said a Swabi-based farmer.

The hybrid maize seeds that have been recently developed by local scientists at the cereal crops research centre Nowshera can help achieve the objective. When their crops ripen, the

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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