Monday, 28 February 2011



Rameshwar Singh Pande
(Published in ‘The Rising Nepal’, Daily National Newspaper, Kathmandu, Nepal. May 9, 1996)

            LIVESTOCK sector serve human beings by providing animal protein, draught power, manure, wool etc besides cash income and supports for social and religious work. Livestock sector contributes about 18 per cent to total GDP and 38 per cent in agricultural GDP in Nepal. Total livestock products are 0.94 million mt milk, 0.16 million MT of meat, 383 million eggs and 624 MT of wool. The per capita availability of milk, meat and eggs is 48 litres, 8 kgs and 18 pieces respectively. The contribution of livestock in the national economy is increasing.

Livestock density
            The major livestock are cattle, buffaloes, goats, sheep, pigs and poultry. The livestock density is highest in Nepal; there are 220 numbers of livestock per square kilometer compared with the human density of 141. The total population of cattle, buffaloes, goats and sheep are 6.8, 3.3, 5.7 and 0.9 million respectively. Every farm family maintains a few heads of livestock. Even the landless farmers keep some livestock.
            In recent years, the population of human beings as well as of livestock has increased substantially. Traditional grazing based livestock production system, high stocking rate beyond the carrying capacity of the natural resources, dairy farming in the urban areas is creating a threat to environmental conservation.
            Almost all the tillage works are performed by bullock power. There are 2.8 million oxen and 0.21 million of male buffaloes which are mainly used for agricultural works. The use of imported petroleum products are not only expensive but also cause air pollution and environmental degradation. Livestock provide cheap and environmental friendly energy.
            In the mountainous region, livestock are used for transportation of household commodities. A castrated sheep or goat can carry 10-12 kgs and large animals such as Jhopkyo can carry 60-70 kgs. These animals can walk continuously for about 15-20 days with the pack. In the high Himalayan areas, yak is the only pack animal to carry goods of mountaineering people up to the Everest base camp. Transfrontier trade between Nepal and Tibet are mostly done with the help of pack animals.
            One of the major contributions of livestock of livestock is to provide manure, a substitute of chemical fertilisers. In 1994/95 the consumption of chemical fertlisers was 181, 578 mt. Chemical are not only expensive but also destroy the soil fertility in the long run. Furthermore, only 30 per cent of the used fertiliser is utilised by the crops and rest is wasted and pollute the river and water resources ultimately.
            The best, cheap and reliable sources of fertiliser are bio-fertiliser. Nepal produces 41.4 million MT of livestock manure. Manure not only provides nutrients but also improves the texture and water holding capacity of the soil. Only a small percentage is properly used fro composting.
            In the rural areas, the major sources of domestic energy are fuelwood, agricultural waste and dried dungs. The traditional sources of energy comprise over 94 per cent. Per capita consumption of fuelwood is 656 kg per person per year. Use of dung-cake for cooking is a common practice. About 8 per cent of the energy comes from animal dungs. Such a practice cause respiratory diseases and infection of the eyes. The use of bio-gas could be an option to dung cakes. The gas produced in a bio-gas plant is methane which could substitute petroleum energy.
            Livestock are regarded as an asset. In case of emergency the animals are sold to fulfill the needs of the farmers. Besides, the milk and milk products are major sources to generate cash income for the rural farmers. In the last fiscal year, farmers of the rural areas have earned over Rs 10 million from the sale of milk.
            Due to overuse, forest resources and the pasturelands are diversely affected. Forest provides about 40 per cent of the total livestock feed. Every year about 25,000 ha of forest land is denuded. One of the main causes of the degradation of forest vegetation is due to grazing, browsing and trampling effect of livestock. In the forestation sites, over 40 per cent of the newly planted saplings are destroyed by livestock.
            Forests are also major sources of foliage and bedding materials. par capita consumption of bedding materials is 460 kg per animal per year and fodder is 655 kg per person per year in hills of Nepal.
            The degradation has been accelerated also due to the large number of livestock species. For example, the goat’s population is 5 times higher than sheep. Goats are considered as a forest destroyer. Goats prefer browsing on twigs and leaves of trees rather than grazing on the vegetation on the ground. Nibbling of main shoots and twigs are detrimental to the young plants. One of the main reasons for the rapid desertification of trans-Himalayan region is due to the high population of goats/ chyangra.
            In high mountains pasture based livestock production system is found. Livestock are grazed on native pasture lands and forest moving from one place to another throughout the year. During the summer, livestock go to high alpine pasture of up to 5,000 m while in winter livestock remain in lower altitude zone about 2,500 m. Due to continuous grazing without any renovation practices, most of the available pasture lands are deteriorating. The native pasture lands are assumed to produce only 25 per cent of its potential.
            The main reason for low production and productivity of the pasture lands are over population and over stocking of the grazing animals. When the number of livestock exceeds the carrying capacity of the grazing lands, over grazing occurs. Selective grazing, continuous grazing and over grazing are detrimental to the survival of vegetation and causing loss in top soil.
            Most of the livestock are selective in habit. Yaks are observed to dig the ground in search of palatable plant species. When the palatable plant species are grazed completely than the animals graze on relatively less palatable plants. Under extreme feed deficit situation livestock graze on every chewable material to satisfy their hunger. In the Solukhumbu area and other parts of Nepal, the livestock are observed chewing toilet papers and cartons of cigarette and/or other paper due to severe feed deficit situations.
            Grazing/ walking of livestock on the fragile ground cause the compaction of soil. In such a compact soil the rain water flows at high velocity causing loss of top soil and landslide. Nepal loses about 240 million cubic meter of soil each year. The estimated soil loss from the unmanaged pasture is about 40-200 mt/ha. Due to overgrazing most of the valuable plant species are being threatened.
            Recently, dairy and poultry enterprises are mushrooming around the urban area. The hybrid milch animals, poultry and pigs require high quality feed mainly prepared from cereals and grain by-product which could be used for human consumption. In Nepal, presently 89 livestock feed industries have been established and are producing about 0.4 million mt of animal feed. The major ingredients are maize, wheat, oil-cakes, molasses, fish meal, mineral mixtures and vitamins. If it is assumed only 25 per cent of cereal would be used in livestock feed the total amount which could be as human food would be 0.1 million mt.
            Furthermore, these dairy animals and poultry are raised relatively in small shed with poor housing and poor disposal facilities of urine and dung. Dumping of these waste materials in the common places and municipality drainage creates problems of pollution, disease outbreak and environmental degradation. Toxic substance, medicines, vaccines and insecticides are used haphazardly and thrown in the community places which cause pollution and environmental degradation.
            Increasing population, rapid urbanization, tourist flow and improved living standard of people have created a high demand for animal protein which has led to over exploitation of the available natural resources, thereby proving to uneconomical in the long un.

High dependency
            On the other hand, extreme poverty in the rural areas, fewer opportunities for alternative income generating sources, lack of infrastructures and lack of appropriate technologies has compelled the farmers to rely on traditional sources of income such as livestock production. To increase the income level of the farmers, the need is to improve the production and productivity of the livestock and effective measures should be taken for the sustainable use of natural resources in on environment friendly manner.


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