Livestock sector of Pakistan is one of the largest contributors in Agriculture and the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP). During 2014-15, the total contribution of livestock in agriculture and the national GDP stood at 56.3% and 11.8% respectively. Meat and Milk remain the major products of the livestock sector. The total population of cattle and buffaloes in Pakistan stood at 41.2 and 35.6 million heads, respectively. During 2014-15, the gross milk production from cattle and buffaloes stood at 18,706 and 32,180 million Tonnes respectively. Despite, a low average milk yield of animals, Pakistan is the third largest milk producer in the world. However, a large portion of this milk remains unprocessed. Some of the leading market players in the dairy industry of Pakistan do not agree with the statistics released by the Economic Survey of Pakistan. The Chief Executive Officer of Engro Foods, Mr. Sarfaraz Rehman, one of largest producers of processed milk in Pakistan, is of the view that the country faces a severe shortage of milk and there is never enough milk to meet our demand. He further stated that “there is certainly a huge potential in the dairy segment but the country needs to graduate from buffalo milk, which is about 70% of the total milk produced in the country, to cow milk.
As buffaloes don’t produce as much milk as cows, especially imported breeds, a number of small scale dairy farmers resort to the use of harmful injections to enhance milk production in their animals. These injections are Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST) and Oxytocin. Although banned by the authorities, these injections are still being used, causing harmful affects both in the animals and humans alike.
The local breeds of cattle such as Sahiwal, Red Sindhi and Cholistani are famous for their milk production. Similarly, Nili Ravi, Kundi and Azakheli are some of the famous breeds of buffalo. Due to a lack of research and breed improvement, the average milk production of these breeds remains low as compared to the breeds from the developed world, including Holstein Freisian, Jersey and their cross breeds. Sahiwal, which is the most famous breed of Zebu cattle that was developed in present day Pakistan produces between 1500 to 2200 liters of milk per lactation with 4.5% butter fat i.e. in 235 days of lactation. Similarly, the most famous breed of buffalo, Nili Ravi, produces 1800 to 2500 liters of milk with 6.5% butter fat, in one lactation i.e. 322 days. When compared with the breeds of cattle from the developed world, this milk yield is considered very low. Holstein Freisian, the top most milk producing breed in the world produces 7200 to 9000 liters of milk with 3.5% butter fat in one lactation i.e. 305 days. Similarly, Jersey produces 3600 to 6800 liters of milk in one lactation with 4-5% butter fat.
A number of large corporate dairy players in Pakistan are successfully running environmentally controlled dairy farms with imported animals. However, the environmental conditions in Pakistan are considered severe as far as the successful rearing of imported animals is concerned. In order to overcome the problem of acclimatization, cross bred animals are kept by small scale dairy farmers in Pakistan. By doing so, they combine the genetics of imported animals with the local ones and overcome the problem of low milk production and acclimatization. However, crossbred animals don’t offer a sustainable solution. A sustainable solution lies in the development of a breed that not only produces large quantities of milk and can easily endure the severity of Pakistan’s weather.
Due to the adoption of Sahiwal breed to harsh climates and its natural resistance to ticks and other diseases, some specimens were imported in Australia during 1960’s and a breed was developed, which was named Australian Freisian Sahiwal, which is an efficient milk producer in tropical environments. JK Dairies in Pakistan has employed these animals due to their suitability to the local environment.
In Pakistan, The Research Center for Conversation of Sahiwal Cattle (RCCSC), Jhang has been making an effort to further improve the genetic potential of Sahiwal breed by selection and breeding of high yielding specimens. In order to encourage local farmers of Sahiwal breed, the center has not only introduced incentives but has established clubs and private nucleus farms. Due to the efforts of farmers and the center, some of the animals have produced as much as 7100 liters of milk in one lactation. A Red Gold Club has been established by the combined efforts of farmers and RCCSC. A Sahiwal cow having platinum membership produced 39.040 liters of milk in one day during 2013-14. Similarly, other high yielding specimens of the breed have been given golden and silver memberships.
Breed selection remains one of the most important functions of a dairy farm in addition to nutrition, healthcare and breeding. In order to run a successful dairy business in Pakistan, it is important to select the most suitable dairy breed(s) which are able to withstand the harsh climate of the country and are able to produce high yields of milk.