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Chapter 3

Animal resources


The South-East Asian region has a sizeable population of animals of economic importance. The magnitude of the animal resources is reflected in Table 3.1 which show the high proportion of the world's population of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks and poultry which are found here.

Ruminants (buffaloes, cattle, goats and sheep) are numerically more important than non-ruminants and are generally widely kept. Both categories are important resources for small farmers. They are renewable resources and have varied functions, from food production (meat, milk and eggs) to various miscellaneous benefits such as security, draught power, fertiliser (dung and urine), fuel, utilization of coarse crop residues, social values and recreation (Devendra, 1983).

Over the period 1981–1991, the annual growth rate of specific animal populations varied between 0.3%–9.1%. Among ruminants, the sheep and goat populations grew the fastest (3.6–4.1%), followed by cattle and buffaloes. Among non–ruminants, the chicken population grew at a very rapid rate (9.1%), followed by pigs (2.8%) and ducks (2.6%). Appendix Tables 1–7 provide more details of the animal populations in individual countries between 1981 and 1991. Table 3.1 also provides the projected growth of these populations up to the year 2000.

Within the small ruminant populations, which consistently record high growth rates, the highest was for sheep (4.1%). However, this figure is more a reflection of excessive imports of sheep from Australia and New Zealand to such countries as Malaysia, which has embarked on a massive programme of sheep importation. It has recorded an annual growth rate of 15.1% between 1981–1991, which is over three times the average for South-East Asia. Indonesia recorded a national growth rate of 3.8%. In goats, Thailand has the largest increase of 11.7%, followed by Vietnam and Laos at 10.6% each and Indonesia, 4.0% (Appendix 1, Tables 3 and 4).

Table 3.1 Animal Populations in South-East Asia (FAO, 1991)
Country Buffaloes ('000s) Cattle ('000s) Goats ('000s) Sheep ('000s) Poultry (millions) Ducks ('000s) Pigs ('000s) Approx. % ownership in small farms*
Cambodia 760 1560 - - 7.7 3500 1610 95
Indonesia 3500 10350 11300 5750 590.0 29500 6800 90
Laos 1100 865 143 - 8.0 310 1390 95
Malaysia 190 658 315 200 148.0 5000 2400 70
Myanmar 2080 9310 1040 280 24.0 3566 2250 95
Philippines 2710 1677 2107 30 65.5 8268 8007 80
Thailand 4743 6052 140 178 114.4 17300 5000 76
Vietnam 2929 3282 300 - 81.5 28600 12583 95
TOTAL 18011 34343 15495 6438 1039.1 96044 40039 -
Ave. annual growth rate (%) (1981–1991) 0.3 2.7 3.6 4.1 9.1 2.6 2.8 -
As % of world population 13.2 2.7 3.0 0.6 10.3 17.9 4.8 -
Projected population in 2000 18497 426883 20515 8814 1890.1 118518 501288 -

* These refer mainly to ruminants and ducks. Poultry and pigs in most countries are intensive commercialoperations and are found mainly in urban fringe areas.

Plate 2. Typical small farmer's house in Surin, Thailand. Note the housing of cattle under the house.

Plate 2

Plate 3. Ducks are very valuable resources throughout South-East Asia and fill an important niche in rice growing areas. The photograph shows ducklings being raised adjacent to rice fields in Vietnam.

Plate 3

These data show that small ruminants are far more important in small farm systems than is normally recognized. The trends in growth are consistent with the expansion of the systems integrating small ruminants and tree crops in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In the case of buffaloes, the overall growth rate is the smallest (0.3%) and countries like Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand recorded decreases. Indonesia had the largest growth rate of 3.8%, followed by Vietnam (2.4%), Cambodia and Laos (both 2.2%). The growth of the cattle population (2.7%) was much more than that of buffaloes and is also the result of considerable imports of both dairy and beef cattle into the region. The largest increases were noted in Indo-China, with Cambodia (8.6%), Laos and Vietnam (7.5%), followed by Indonesia (3.5%) and Myanmar (0.4%). The Philippines had a negative growth rate.

The annual growth rate is spectacular for poultry and the highest growth rate of between 12.4–12.5% occurred in Indonesia and Malaysia, followed by Cambodia (8.4%) and Vietnam (4.9%). The duck population is growing steadily and the highest growth rate was found in Malaysia (12.4%), followed by Cambodia (8.7%), the Philippines (5.0%), Thailand (2.7%), Vietnam (2.4%) and Indonesia (2.1%). With pigs, very high annual growth rates were noted in Cambodia (16.6%) and Indonesia (8.1%) (Appendix 1, Tables 5–7).

The pig and poultry industries are advanced commercial operations in many countries in South-East Asia. The main reasons for this are the availability and successful transfer of proven technologies in pig and poultry production, support from large private feed mills, the ease of importing feedstuffs, a large and ready market for the products, credit facilities and the rapid turnover of capital investment. The two sectors have already assumed industrial proportions and are usually found in urban–fringe areas which can provide the growing domestic market outlets for the products.


Table 3.2 gives an indication of the contribution of animals to agricultural and total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in some countries in South-East Asia. The livestock share of agricultural GDP was between 6–20%, and livestock share of total GDP was 1.4–5.4% Unfortunately these figures do not include the contribution of animals to draught power and crop production which would further increase the figures.

Table 3.2 Contribution of animals to agricultural and total gross domestic products (GDP) in some countries in South-East Asia.
Country Livestock share of agricultural GDP (%) Livestock share of total GDP (%)
Indonesia 11 2.6
Malaysia 6 1.4
Philippines 20 5.4
Thailand 12 2.0
Average 12.3 2.9


The ruminant resources include a variety of indigenous and introduced animals. In most countries within the Asian region, dairy development is accorded the highest priority in livestock programmes. Indeed, in all countries without exception, dairy development forms the main thrust in animal production. There are several reasons for this, including demand for milk and milk products, means of generating ready income for small farmers, efficiency of protein and energy conversion, entry point to stimulate rural development, means to effectively use family labour, development of cooperatives, improvement in the level of human nutrition and quality of the life of the rural poor, and means of intensifying crop-animal systems in small farms.

Among the dairy breeds, the use of the Holstein-Friesian breed is widespread, followed by the Jersey. A number of important indigenous (Bos indicus) cattle breeds exist and include the Kedah-Kelantan in Malaysia, and the Madura and Bali cattle in Indonesia. Among the beef breeds introduced, the Shorthorn, Brahman, Hereford and Charolais are the most common.

Among small ruminants, a variety of exotic sheep breeds have been introduced into the region, mainly from the United Kingdom and Australia. They include the Merino, Dorset Horn, Romney, Wiltshire Horn, Border Leicester, Suffolk and Polled Dorset.

The predominant goat breeds that have been introduced include the Alpine, Saancn, Anglo-Nubian, Toggenburg and German Fawn Although these various breeds have been introduced and several crossbreeding programmes have been initiated, examples of established crossbreds and proven improved new breeds are very few. One recent achievement was the evolution of two genotypes in Malaysia based on long-term crossbreeding of the indigenous Katjang-type animals with the German Fawn (Mukherjee, 1989). The two crossbreds are the Jermana (50% German Fawn x 50% Katjang) and the Jermasia (75% German Fawn x 25% Katjang).

Among non-ruminants, a number of Chinese breeds have been introduced, including the South China Black, Kwai, Rad, Taoyuan and Kinhwa. These have however been completely overtaken by the introduction of other exotic breeds from industrialised countries like the Large White, Landrace and Duroc for crossbreeding. Several indigenous breeds of poultry and ducks are also found in the small farms; the latter includes the Muscovy.


In South-East Asia, animals play numerous important functions in small farm systems. They make a variety of contributions (Devendra, 1983; Chantalakhana, 1990) but, for reasons of brevity, these can be grouped into three important functions relating to sustainable development:


Animals are seldom raised with a single objective in mind, unlike wool production from sheep in Australia or commercial cattle ranching in Brazil. Rather, the primary reason for rearing animals on small farms is that they serve the material, cultural and recreational needs of the farmers. Thus, rearing animals has the following advantages:

Despite the relatively high ruminant populations and their individual contribution, the development of buffaloes and goats, and to a lesser extent sheep, has been generally neglected. Development strategies have tended to concentrate principally on cattle and the other species warrant much more emphasis in the future in the context of increased efficiency in the use of natural resources.

Plate 4. Intensive small ruminant production is common in several countries. Women play a very important role in the management of goats and sheep in West Java.

Plate 4

The value of animals and especially small ruminants within small farms is also demonstrated by the importance of shared ownership. Attendant advantages of such arrangements are the prevention of overstocking on small land areas and the opportunity they offer to landless and tenant farmers to own animals.

Some idea of the extent of the contribution of small ruminants to total farm income is illustrated by data from highly intensive small farm systems in West Java (Table 3.3). The results indicate that in the lowlands, rubber plantations and upland regions, the percentage contributions to annual income were 17.1, 25.9 and 13.8% respectively. More recently, Devendra (1992a) has reported from an extensive review of the literature that the magnitude of the component contributions from goat rearing was as follows: sale of animals 22.0–25.8%, milk 19.7–76.0% and manure 1.0–4.5% of total farm income.

Table 3.3 Estimated share of total income from small ruminants in West Java (Knipsheer et al., 1983).
Location No. of farms surveyed Annual income per farm (IDR)* Small ruminant income
Total (IDR)* % of annual income
Cerebon (lowland) 79 222000 37593 17.1
Ciburuy (rubber plantations) 66 180000 46671 25.9
Garut (upland) 135 300000 41466 13.8

* In October 1986, 1 US$ = 1625 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)


There are many examples of integrated farming systems. McDowell and Hildebrand (1980) have identified 10 each for Asia and Africa and 4 for Latin America, in which animals were important. These systems refer to all categories of animal-based enterprises, such as lowland rice and intensive livestock rearing in Asia, pastoral herding in Africa and extensive and intensive livestock production in Latin America.

However, the best examples of integration of animals with mixed cropping systems on small farms are found in the rain-fed areas of South-East Asia. The rain-fed systems are a complex diversity of interactions between animals, crops and the supporting resources. They are characterized by a diversity of animals and crops and a broad spectrum of farming systems.

Table 3.4 is a classification of the prevailing animal-based small farm systems in Asia. For each species, the production objective in relation to type of mixed cropping system is indicated. In the last column of the table, the current importance of the system is assessed in terms of a high, medium or low rating. The rating is based on animal ownership and the table does provide an adequate summary of the current position for the whole of Asia.

The main conclusion that emerges from this table is that, among ruminants, buffaloes and cattle are of high to medium importance, whereas goats and sheep are of medium to low importance. Among non-ruminants, pigs, poultry and ducks are all of medium to low importance in small farm systems.

The role of animals in small farm systems varies from country to country depending on the level of exploitation, the prevailing ecological conditions and whether the animals have to compete with other systems of agricultural production such as tree cropping. In these situations, small ruminants are being more fully integrated with tree cropping systems with the complementary advantages of effective utilization of the available herbage, improvement of soil fertility, maintenance of soil cover and increased total productivity. Large ruminants, on the other hand, utilize the large quantities of crop residues available under lowland situations and are well integrated with mainly annual cropping systems.


The prevailing ruminant production systems in Asia are in three categories:

Taking account of the current patterns of use of the production resources, growing animal populations and available grazing land, it has been suggested that future ruminant production systems in Asia and the Pacific are unlikely to change.

New proposed systems and returns from them would have to be demonstrably superior and changes would need to be supported by major shifts in the availability and use of resources (Mahadevan and Devendra, 1986; Devendra, 1989). This situation is however likely to develop in countries in South-East Asia where land will be increasingly limiting in the face of rising human and animal populations. The principal aim, with good justification, is to make maximum use of the basic feed resources available.

Table 3.4 Animal-based small farm systems in South-East Asia
Species Production objective Type of mixed cropping system Current importance**
I. Ruminants      
Buffaloes Draught Rice and field crop cultivation High
  Beef Rice cultivation High
Cattle Beef Orchards*, tree crop plantation, rice cultivation High/medium
  Dairy Orchards and tree crop plantations High/medium
  Draught Rice and field crop cultivation High
Goats Meat Orchards and tree crop plantations Medium/High
  Milk Orchards and tree crop plantations Low
Sheep Mutton Orchards and tree crop plantations Medium/High
II. Non-ruminants      
Pigs Meat Intensive vegetable production orchards Medium/High
Poultry Meat/eggs Orchards and intensive vegetable production Medium/Low
Ducks Meat/eggs Orchards, rice cultivation and coastal fishing Medium/Low

* Includes gardens and unused potentially valuable land.

** Based on ownership by small farmers.

However, more efficient use of the production resources, with the objective of increasing performance per animal, will bring about shifts within the systems through intensification, from the more extensive to systems combining arable cropping and integration with tree cropping systems. The poorest of the resource-poor farmers, and especially the landless, will obviously continue to practise extensive systems but strategies are needed to develop intensive systems that reduce grazing pressure, provide for control of animal numbers and promote sustainability and environmental integrity. Factors which are likely to influence this process in the future include:

It is essential to ensure therefore that strategies are designed which are suited and appropriate to small farm systems that are typical of Asian agriculture.

In view of the presence of buffaloes and also very high goat populations with approximately 45 breeds identifiable in Asia, it is appropriate to keep in perspective the considerable differences in feeding behaviour and metabolism of different ruminants and equines Table 3.5 presents a summary of the main characteristics that are peculiar to individual animal species.

It is equally important to keep in perspective the characteristics and peculiarities of tropical feeds, their extreme variability, utilization, and nutritional constraints that restrict high performance. Many of the tropical feeds are poor quality roughage materials: mainly crop residues whose nutrient content is dominated by cell wall materials. These materials contain sugar rather than starch (e.g., molasses and fruit cake wastes) and the protein content is negligible. Thus, their utilization must take cognisance of the capacity to release dietary energy and nitrogen. In respect of the former, this also necessitates consideration of alternative processing techniques which, for example with alkalis, enables solubilization of the hemicellulose fractions and render increased susceptibility of the cell walls to microbial degradation. Much will depend, of course, on whether the added benefits in terms of animal response is significantly higher than the associated costs of processing and/or treatment (Devendra, 1984; Giaever, 1984; Greenhalgh, 1984).

Table 3.5 Feeding behaviour and metabolism of ruminants and equines (Devendra, 1987).
Species Arid/Semi-arid zone Wet zone
Water buffaloes   Grazer (3–5 km/day)
Slower rumen movements
Use coarse roughages more efficiently
Superior N retention
Cattle Grazer (3–5 km/day) Utilizes forages efficiently
More active With coarse roughages, longer retention time in Bos indicus cattle
Able to walk long distances
Dietary N less well digested
Goats Browser (8–12 km/day) Daily consumption of dry matter up to 6% BW
Bi-pedal stance
More active
Selective feeding
More discerning taste
Relishes variety in feeds
Utilizes coarse roughages more efficiently
Recycling of urea greater
Sheep Grazer (3–5 km/day) Preference is for grass
More sedentary Daily consumption of dry matter up to 3% BW
Less discerning taste
Recycling of urea less
Use coarse roughages less efficiently  
Camels Grazer and browser (15–25 km/day)  
High digestive efficiency for cellulose
Less selective
Higher efficiency of N utilization
Very tolerant to salt
Feeding and digestion unimpeded by water restriction
Asses Grazer  
Horses Lower digestive efficiency
Mules Digestion mainly in the colon
No rumination or eructation
Faster rate of passage

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