Model Achai cow farm

Model cow farming
Under the Achai Cow Conservation and Development Project, KP farmers will get free of cost insemination, vaccination, medicines and advisory services for conserving and developing their cattle
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/Jan2013-weekly/nos-13-01-2013/pol1.htm#5

A Model Achai Cow Conservation Farm has almost been built at Munda in Lower Dir Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The farm is being constructed under the Rs222 million Achai Cow Conservation and Development Project. Launched in July 2009, the farm was originally scheduled to be completed by June 2012, but it was delayed by a few months for law and order situation in the region.

A senior official said that after completion of the remaining only 2 per cent work, the site will be handed over to the Directorate of Livestock within a few days.

According to Dr Wahid Mir, the project director, 20 canals of land has been purchased for the farm while another 22-24 canals will be bought for fodder production for the animals to be kept there. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has around 6 million cows of different breeds but none of these have been utilised to produce genetically superior and high yielding species so far.

Though there are several indigenous cattle breeds like Lohani in Kohat and Gabrali in Swat that need conservation and development, the government selected the Achai cow for its characteristics, inter alia, of good weather adaptability, suitability for the area, docility, high fertility and good conception rate.

“The cow is suitable for the area terrain and weather; it can resist cold and warm climate (can withstand both icy and as high as 200 Celsius); it has a small body and thus needs little food but gives more milk as compared to its size and food; it is docile and can be milked by even children; it has double conception rate than other national breeds; it also has better fertility. While other breeds take two to three years after one reproduction, Achai cow usually reproduces after one and a half year and may give birth to three calves against the one or two on part of other breeds; and because it was endangered as according to the livestock census in 2006, only 5 lakh Achai cows were reported province wide,” Dr Mir said.

The best high milk/meat yielding Achai breeds are to be selected for reproductive purposes at the farm and then disseminated to farmers in the area. Even with the beginning of the Achai project, the price of Achai cow, which was until recently looked down upon by market players, has increased to Rs40,000/cow from Rs15,000/20,000 earlier.

Based on a survey of 400 Achai cattle, the average milk yield in 45 per cent Achai cows was recorded by the project officials at only 1 and 1.5 litres a day. Another 20 per cent yielded 2-4 litres. Some other cow groups produced 4-5, 6-7, 8 and 9 litres a day.

“The respective yields of these groups can be easily increased with concerted efforts for dissemination of best Achai breeds, provision of hygienic feed and efficient animal health services,” according to the official.

“There will be a small laboratory that will be used for diagnosing animal diseases. The best Achai cows will be ascertained and later used for reproductive purposes through the artificial insemination and the embryo transplantation technique wherein embryos from best female are collected and implanted in other female animals,” he added.

Asked whether any semen production unit (SPU) is being established at the farm for semen availability for artificial insemination, Dr Mir replied in the negative, but said that there was a big SPU in Harichand Charsadda cattle farm. A state of the art embryo transplant technology is also being established there. Its services will be used for the Dir farm as well.

Side by side, implementation of Achai project has already started in the districts of Charsadda, Swat, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Malakand and Chitral. Achai-rich Kohistan, Shangla and Buner districts have been kept out from the project, apparently for fiscal and staff constraints though Dr Mir said Buner and Swabi will be included in it in the near future.

Through the project, Achai owners are being registered and Achai cow associations are being formed in every village where 25 households own Achai cattle. “Against our initial target of 48 bodies, 102 Achai associations have so far been enlisted in the project area and more are being formed. These organisations will later be combined into a district Achai cattle owners association. Another association at divisional level is also to be formed.”

Asked as to what benefits would accrue to the registered farmers, the project director said that the registered farmers would get free of cost insemination, vaccination, diagnosis, treatment, medicines and advisory services for conserving and developing their cattle.

“We have already provided training to some farmers at the Cattle Farm in Hari Chand, Charsadda. Farmers will also be taken to model public and private cattle farms in KP and Punjab where they will be acquainted with modern ways of livestock rearing, feeding, milking, feed making, preparation of by-products from milk etc,” Dr Mir added.

Another great benefit of these associations is the farmers-government linkages. “These associations have greatly facilitated the work of the veterinary assistants and benefited the farmers as cattle are being inspected, vaccinated and treated by the former at a pre-determined date with the help of the latter at village level,” he argued.

By raising milk and meat production of Achai cattle, the project is expected to boost the incomes of the area farmers. But staff deficiency may serve to minimise its coverage and impact. There are only 56 personnel at disposal of the project directorate province wide — 5 doctors, 12 veterinary assistants and other staff. Each district is to be looked after by a doctor and two veterinary assistants.

The difficult terrain of the Malakand division, scattered and distant villages, large population of Achai cows and staff deficiency will seriously impact the working and efficiency of the project and harder/farther areas will be left out. Dr Mir said more staff was needed at Tehsil level and locality levels for full coverage of the area.

“Veterinary Assistants will prepare an elaborate record of the conception, birth, calf-sex and its weight, milking duration and the growth and then the conception of the child-cow and its mother. This is a continuous process. They will also have to do other field duties like inspection, vaccination, treatment and counselling services for the farmers,” he added.

Though the livestock sector accounts for over 12 per cent of 25 per cent of provincial gross domestic product from agriculture, the sector has not received enough attention from both the federal and the provincial governments who have been handed over its ownership after 18th Amendment.

Insufficient funds and technology constraints have, inter alia, hampered its growth. Animals in the province are characterised by delayed puberty, low reproductive efficiency and low production of milk/meat and are, therefore, mostly non-profitable for the livestock owners, especially for small ones.

The share of livestock in the agriculture ADP has also decreased to Rs0.379 billion (26 per cent) this year from Rs0.60 billion (44 per cent) in the last fiscal year, reducing its share in total ADP from 0.70 per cent last fiscal to 0.38 per cent in the current ADP. Most of the districts still have no model dairy, beef and poultry farms there. Expansion of animal healthcare system and evolution and promotion of high yielding fodder varieties have also been neglected.

Though the livestock department is better equipped, trained and capable of supervising the veterinary drugs, the task has been left to the health department at both federal and provincial levels.

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

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