Investment needs to go into research on artificial insemination to increase milk and meat production
By Tahir Ali
Expansion of artificial insemination services can help meet the growing requirement of milk and meat in the country. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa earns billions of rupees for the country. A strong commitment and financial support is required on the part of federal and provincial governments to realise this goal.
Improvement in per animal productivity through artificial insemination will not only increase farmers' income but will also attract local and foreign investment. "Artificial insemination and cross-breeding of the local and high-yielding species will help increase local milk and beef production.
Animals born through artificial insemination can yield up to 30 to 40 litres of milk per day as against the local average milk-yield of 4 to 5 litres. Likewise, indigenous cow breeds have comparatively short lactation period of 200 days as against the cross-bred cows that provide over 5000 litres of milk for around 300 days. Similarly, weight at the time of maturity of local cattle is 300kg whereas the cross-bred cow weighs over 400kg," says Dr Muhammad Ghulam, a livestock breed improvement expert.
Ghulam says indigenous animals take more time in attaining puberty -- in about two to three years as against the AI animals which attain puberty in less than a year. "Artificial insemination also helps prevent viral diseases which are common by the natural way. The premature use of bulls is avoided. Early detection of infertile, old, or crippled bulls is also possible," he says, adding, "In natural mating one male is required for 10 female but through artificial insemination 300 specimen can be prepared from a single ejaculation. Artificial insemination is economical, has less or no chances of disease transfer and is safe as compared to natural breeding as it avoids physical injuries," adds Ghulam.
Pakistan has 25, 26, and 25m buffalo, sheep, and goat respectively. But the failure to go for artificial insemination and their cross-breeding with foreign breeds has hampered development of genetically superior milk/beef breeds. "Improvement of livestock breed through artificial insemination is a sure recipe for farmers' prosperity and empowerment. For this purpose, the development of breed improvement societies by farmers is need of the hour," says Sajjad Haider, a farmer.
The province, however, has only two semen production units at Harichand Charsadda. The semen produced there is supplied to artificial insemination centres to livestock farmers throughout the region, including provincially and federally administered tribal areas.
Imported semen or one extracted from local bulls is kept in containers under minus 196 degree centigrade in liquid nitrogen containers. But there are only two nitrogen-production plants in the province. "The nitrogen plants are a basic requirement for the programme. To minimise the shortage, and early and easy delivery, more nitrogen plants should are set up," says another official at Mardan's centre which is non-functional these days.
"Farmers have greatly benefited from the services. The artificial insemination straw is given to farmers for Rs50 but it can fetch him up to Rs100,000 as it matures early which means more money for farmers," says an official in the directorate of breed improvement KPK.
Director General Livestock and Dairy Development, Dr Sher Muhammad, says the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is doing its best to improve the local breed but an increased level of interest and investment by private entrepreneurs is a must to convert the livestock sector from subsistence-oriented to income-driven commercial farming. "Expansion of artificial insemination network, development and promotion of breed improvement societies, and encouragement of private sector are some the steps that need to be taken urgently," he says.
According to the livestock census in 2006, there were 6 million cattle and 2.78m buffalos in the province. Of these, 3.03m female cattle and 2m female buffalos were three years of age who could be covered by artificial intelligence services. There are at present about 360 artificial insemination centres, providing services to the farmers in the province. The AI coverage has been recently increased to up to 15 percent in the province but much still needs to be done.
Artificial insemination has played a pivotal role in the livestock breed improvement worldwide. According to a report, quantity of milk of an average American cow has increased to 9000 litres from 3000 litres thirty years ago. The SPU in Harichand prepares about 0.21m AI doses annually and earns over Rs10m. "By importing more bulls for SPUs, increasing the standard and amount of feed for the existing 31 bulls, and expanding the coverage of AI services, the income may jack up to hundreds of millions per annum," says the official.
The government should import bulls to the SPU to increase artificial insemination. "It will save billions on import of the foreign insemination doses. We provide the locally produced doses to farmers for Rs50 while the imported one costs over Rs7000," he adds.
According to him, getting a male or female offspring from the AI facility is possible in other countries but, "we are yet to import the technology that separates male and female doses for obtaining a calf of one's choice. The SPU also should have a single machine for filling, sealing and printing the doses which will save time and increase production," he advises.
In 2006, the directorate provided 0.28 million AI services. The production of liquid nitrogen reached to 0.1 million litres from 0.01ml in 2005. The income earned from AI services also went down from Rs16 millions in 2006 to Rs14m in 2007 and Rs12m in 2008.
A private veterinary doctor, Imtiaz Ali, however, says AI programme also has some disadvantages which could be avoided by proper management. "Success of AI depends to a great deal on staff training. So it requires more labour, practice, facilities, management skills and properly trained staff," he says.
Another important issue is that conception rate for AI is 60 percent in cows and is considerably lower in buffaloes. The problem should be tackled quickly. The province has a great potential for higher milk production but, unfortunately, due to poor genetic make-up, the average milk yield in the province stands at just 900 litres for cow and 1200 litres for buffalos.
The milk and beef requirements in the province stand at around 2.79 and 0.783m tonnes as against the availability of 2.254 and 0.229 respectively. The average availability of meat in the province is 31 grams per person per day whereas the requirement is 56 GPD. By improving livestock breed through artificial insemination and cross-breeding, the gap between demand and supply can be easily met.
Pakistan's biggest and provinces' only cattle breeding and dairy farm at Harichand Charsadda houses the only SPU in the province. It faces a shortage of funds and personnel as the staff and infrastructure sanctioned way back in 1982 for 90 cows have now to attend to around 500 animal heads. Unemployed veterinary graduates and assistants should be given special AI training and provided necessary inputs to enable them open private AI centres.