3.2 Sandy and alluvial soil
3.3 Gravelly soil
3.4 Residual soil
3.5 Glacial soil
4.2 Ruminant production systems
4.3 Constraints to livestock development
5.2 Pasture land productivity & carrying capacity
5.3 Pasture and fodder seed
Nepal is a landlocked
country which lies along the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountains. It has India on
its southern, eastern and western borders, and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the
Peoples' Republic of China to the north (Abington 1992). The country has a population of
20 M people and a land area of 147,180 kmē. It is 800 km from east to west, varies from
144 to 240 km north to south, and lies between 80-88° E and 26-31° N (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Map of Nepal
Nepal has three distinct topographic zones. The southern part of the country is the Terai, which has a low elevation and is a northern extension of the Ganges Plains of India. The topography is flat. This zone ranges from 25-32 km in width and covers 22% of the total land mass.
Rising above the Terai plains, and following an east/west alignment, are ranges of hills generally referred to as the "mid-hills (1300 - 2500 m), and the "high-hills" (2500 - 5000 m). To the north of these "high-hills", are the Himalayas proper, again aligned east/ west, which include the highest mountains in the world (5000 - 8848 m). Their rugged mountain topography constitutes almost 78% of the land mass of Nepal.
Nepal has a number of climatic regions characterized by six climatic features (Manandhar 1989).
Based on the topographic features, Nelson (1981) divided the country into five major physiographic regions which run in parallel fashion from the north-west to the south-east. However, in another approach Nepal was divided into three broad agro-ecological zones viz. Mountain, Hills and Terai, in order to facilitate development planning and administration, and to ensure equitable distribution of development efforts to all parts of the county. This approach segregates different areas of the county into groups with similar constraints and potential (topographic and climatic), and has immense significance for macro-level planning (APROSC 1990).
The mountain region occurs at elevations above 2000 m. The cultivated areas of this region are the inner Himalayan valleys and some southerly aspects of mountains. The inner Himalayan valleys have a dry and cool climate. The average daily temperature fluctuates between 9 to 10 oC during June/July. The annual rainfall varies from 140 mm in the west to 900 mm in the east.
The hill region is a wide belt of land aligned east to west in the middle part of Nepal. The elevation ranges from 300 to 2000 m. The average daily temperature fluctuates between 2 to 17o C during December/January and between 13 to 27o C during June/July. The average rainfall varies from 1000 mm in the west to 2800 mm in the east, with more winter rain in the west than in the east.
The Terai region is a flat plain in the south running from east to west. The elevation ranges from 60 to 300 m. The Terai has a tropical to sub-tropical climate with the main tropical region in the east, and drier areas in the west. The average daily temperature fluctuates between 7 to 24o C during December/January and between 24 to 41o C during June/July. The rainfall ranges from 600 mm in the west to 1300 mm in the east, with winter rain occurring in the west.
The soils of Nepal are highly variable and are derived mainly from young parent material (Manandhar 1989). Soils have been classified on the basis of soil texture, mode of transportation, and color, and are broadly divided into:-
Alluvial soil is found in the valleys of the Terai region and in the middle hill valleys around Kathmandu and Pokhara. The valleys lie between the Siwalikhs and Mahabharat Lekh hills which widen out in places to form flat fertile valleys called Dun valleys. The Siwaliks (also called Churia hills) range from 300-700 m and form the southern sub-range or the pre-Himalayan range. The Mahabharat Lekh is a prominent belt of uplifted mountain in the north, parallel to the sub-range. In the inner Terai, the major Dun valleys are the Dang, Deokhuri, Surkhet, Chitwan, Kamla and Trijuga, while in the middle hills they are the Kathmandu and Pokhara. New alluvial soil, but with more sand and silt than clay, is being deposited in the flood plain areas along the river courses. Alluvial soil is also found in the slightly higher areas above the flood plain covering a greater part of the Terai. The nutrient content of new alluvial soil is fair to medium depending on how long they have been cultivated. On the other hand, the nutrient content of old alluvial soils is very low.
Valleys in the mid-hills of Kathmandu and Pokhara have sandy and silty alluvial soil, which is fairly fertile. In the Kathmandu valley, some deposits of peat mare (Kumero) have been found. This is a diatomaceous clay which is used for painting house walls during festivals in rural areas .
In addition, the Kathmandu valley is a source of dark clay / silty clay (Kalimati) soil which is obtained from deep underground pits and is used as a manure mainly for potato and other vegetable crops. This soil is rich in humus as well as in potash and has a small amount of calcium.
The foot of the Churia hills has soils of mixed gravel and pebbles. This soil is not useful for agriculture as it has a very coarse texture and cannot hold sufficient moisture for plant growth. Such soils were deposited by rivers originating in the Churia hills and have a high lime content. Some soils in high mountain areas are also coarse textured gravels.
This type of soil is found mostly on the ridges and slopes of the mountains. Soils of the Churia hills are very young and coarse, and are dry for most of the year. Soils on the slopes of mid-hills are medium to low in plant nutrients but less productive due to moisture and climatic limitations.
These soils, found in high Himalayan regions, are mostly rocky. They are covered with snow most of the time.
Livestock population in Nepal for 2000/2001 was estimated to be 7.0 M cattle, 3.6 M buffalo, 6.5 M goats, and 0.85 M sheep (Table 1).
The distribution of livestock by ecological belts indicates that over half of the cattle, buffalo, goats, and sheep are being maintained in the hills, and about one third in the Terai (Table 2).
Source : Agricultural Statistic Division, HMG, 1996/97
The per capita consumption of milk, meat, and fish in Nepal is 44.1, 8.1 and 0.8 kg respectively. This indicates a much lower consumption of animal protein by the Nepalese population than in developed countries (Mishra & Shrestha 1996). The status of Nepalese society in the global context for per capita consumption of energy, protein and fats from livestock products is low (Table 3).
Table 3. Per capita consumption of energy, protein and fats in 1987
Ruminant livestock production systems are closely related with other important components of farm production, namely, cropping and forestry. There are three major ruminant production systems which predominate in Nepal.
(a) Transhumance systems. This system is practised in the temperate, sub-alpine and alpine regions where cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats migrate from one place to another throughout the year. This system utilizes forage resources available from temperate, sub-alpine and alpine pastures during the monsoon season, and from crop stubble during the winter season.
(b) Sedentary systems. This system prevails at the lower altitudes of the mid-hills (900 - 1000 m) and utilizes all the available forage in and around the village. The main grazing areas during summer are the scrub-lands and community grazing lands around the village. The livestock population is sedentary and consists of working oxen, dry buffaloes, a small number of cattle, and goats. The animals spend half their time grazing. Other forage resources are crop by-products and tree fodders during winter, and grasses and weeds from crop-lands during the summer (Joshi 1992).
(c) Stall-fed systems. This system prevails mainly in the low to mid-hills (400 - 900 m) and peri-urban areas, and comprises milking buffalo, exotic or cross-bred cattle and buffaloes. The system predominates in areas of intensive cultivation and marketing, where the availability of crop by-products is adequate to maintain the animals in winter. In addition to crop by-products, tree fodder, grasses and weeds collected from farm-lands are also an important forage source.
Lack of infrastructural support, a poor feed resource base, lack of encouragement of private sector participation in development, and weak research and extension services are the main constraints to livestock development in Nepal. Other constraints are ineffective quality control, and inadequate monitoring systems.
The pasture lands have historically been a major source of livestock rearing in Nepal for many generations. They have been utilized in a variety of ways in sedentary and migratory grazing systems. At present, about 1.7 M ha, or about 12% of the area of the country, constitutes pasture land. Due to extremes of climate, poor management and constant gazing, these areas have been degraded to an alarming extent. Such lands are less productive than well managed grasslands, but they are an integral part of animal rearing systems.
Pasture lands vary from subtropical grasslands at lower elevations to alpine meadows on ridge tops in the mid-hills and high mountain valleys of the inner Himalayan range. They include areas of Manang, Mustang, Dolpa and Mugu. Pasture lands are mostly located in the hills and only 4 percent is found in low-lying areas (Table 4).
Table 4. Pasture land by physiographic regions
Source: Land Resource Mapping Project (1986)
Tropical pasture lands are dominated by the grasses Phragmites karka, Saccharum spontaneum and Imperata cylindrica (Whyte 1968). Some also contain 2 m tall Cymbopogon jwarancusa and Bothriochloa intermedia (Stainton 1973). Because of man's activities, Imperata cylindrica is a dominant species throughout, and the weed Eupatorium is gradually replacing many of the palatable species.
Sub-tropical pasture lands are mostly associated with Pinus roxburghii forests. They are heavily grazed and are infested with Eupatorium adenophorum (Banmara), Pteridium aquilinum (bracken fern), Urtica parviflora (Stinging Nettle) and Artemisia vulgaris. These grasslands are termed the Themeda-Arundinella type. The main forage species are Arundinella bengalensis Druce, A. nepalensis, Bothriochloa intermedia, B. pertusa, Chrysopogon gryllus, Cynodon dactylon, Heteropogon contortus, Apluda mutica, Brachiaria decumbens, Imperata cylindrica and Eragrostis pilosa Beauv.
Temperate pasture lands are associated with oak or mixed broad-leafed species such as Quercus or bluepine forests. These pasture lands are very important, but due to heavy grazing for many years, less palatable species such as Arundinella hookeri are found. In many areas, Andropogon tristis has been replaced with less palatable forage species such as Arundinella hookeri. The common forage species are Arundinella hookeri, Andropogon tristis, Poa spp., Chrysopogon gryllus, Dactylis glomerata, Stipa concinna, Festuca spp., Cymbopogon spp., Bothriochloa spp., Desmodium spp. and Agrostis micrantha.
Sub-alpine pasture lands are associated with a variety of shrubs. The common genera are Berberis, Caragana, Hippophae, Juniperus, Lonicera, Potentilla, Rosa, and Spiraea and Rhododendron. In many areas, the shrub Pipthantus nepalensis has heavily invaded productive pasture lands once dominated by Danthonia spp.. The common naturally grown grasses are Elymus spp., Festuca spp., Stipa, Bromus himalaicus Stapf., Chrysopogon gryllus, Cymbopogon schoenanthus, and Koeleria cristata. Elymus nutans, a native species, is of great importance to pastoral systems at high elevations. Forbs of the genera Anaphalis and Potentilla have become more common as Danthonia is removed from the grassland (Miller 1987).
Alpine pasture lands are associated with Rhododendron shrubs. The main types of vegetation, based on the specification of areas, are Kobresia, Cortia depressa, and Carex / Agrostis / Poa associations. Common plant species are Kobresia spp. and Agrostis spp..
The total land area under rangelands provides only 36 % of the total feed requirement for livestock in the country (HMG/ADB/ FINNIDA, 1988). The forage production of natural high altitude grazing lands varies from place to place. Estimated dry biomass production from various sites was 0.65 t/ha at Dolpa, 1.53 t/ha at Mustang, 2.36 t/ha at Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha, 3.2 t/ha at Tuten, 3.6 t/ha at Terhathum, 0.79 t/ha at Dhading and 1.5 t/ha at Myagdi. The carrying capacity of the various grasslands, based on their production figures, is given in Table 5.
Table 5. Carrying capacity of different pasture lands
Evaluation of exotic species commenced in 1953, and continues at different intensities in various projects. In the High-hills, Mid-hills and Terai, the following forage species have been found promising (Table 6).
Over the last 25 years, Nepal has imported substantial quantities of forage seed. Unavailability of high quality seed of fodder and pasture species has directly affected forage improvement activities. Although seed production programmes have been initiated through private seed growers and on government stations, it is estimated that only 50% of the total demand is being fulfilled. The annual demand for forage seed is estimated to be 140 tonnes, however, the total seed production was 70 tonnes in 1994/95 and 85 tonnes in 1995/96. Over 16 types of forage seed are produced of which 46% is in the private sector and 54% on government farms (Table 7).
Table 8. Land suitable for forestry purposes by physiographic zone, Nepal, 1985 86 (M ha)
The closure of borders to protect Nepalese herds and flocks has provided opportunity to develop expertise inside the country for a variety of resource development programs.
The scientific management of biotic resources is necessary to restore soil fertility, encourage regrowth of the medicinal herbs and other grass species, restore balance into ecosystems, provide gainful employment to farmers, and to restore the productivity and beauty of the environment.
The problems of annual burning and over-grazing of pasture lands, and loss of valuable plant resources can be overcome if management policies at institutional, technical and socio-economic levels are appropriate for private, community and public sectors. This gigantic task requires decentralization of development activities to local level institutions in order to mobilize local people and resources for development. Policies for livestock and wildlife production and conservation need to be formulated as a matter of high priority in all agro-ecological zones. Integrated research - development - extension projects should be initiated with support from international and national non-government organizations.
The key persons and institutions involved in forage research and development in Nepal are listed below and their addresses are given in Section 9.
Mr. Dinesh Pariyar, Mr. K.K. Shrestha: Pasture & Fodder Research Division (mid-hills). Nepal Agricultural Research Council has the mandate for forage research, seed production, and provides training to officers, junior technicians and farmers.
Mr. J.P. Bajracharya: Department of Livestock Services, Harihar Bhavan. This organization looks after forage development activities throughout the country.
Mr. B.R. Bastola: Agricultural Research Station (high-hills). This station takes responsibility for the conduct of research on temperate forage species and also produces seeds of temperate species.
Mr. Devendra Yadav: Forage Development Farm, Ranjitpur (Terai). This station has the mandate for seed and plant material production. It produces seeds of Avena sativa, Centrosema pubescens and Pueraria phaseoloides.
Mr. S.N. Poudel: Goat Development Farm, Gaughat, Nepalgunj (Terai). This farm produces seeds of Euchlaena mexicana, Avena sativa and Aeschynomene americana.
Mr. D.N. Tiwari: Regional Agriculture Research Centre, Nepalgunj (Terai). This regional centre of NARC produces seed of Euchlaena mexicana, Avena sativa, Aeschynomene americana, Pueraria phaseoloides, Centrosema pubescens, Pennisetum pedicellatum, and Stylosanthes spp..
Mr. D.B.Singh: Livestock Development Farm, Lampatan, Pokhara (Mid-hills). This farm produces seed of Euchlaena mexicana, Avena sativa, Pennisetum pedicellatum and Trifolium alexandrinum.
Mr. K.Karmacharya: Chitlang Sheep Farm, Chitlang (Mid-hills) has undertaken forage seed production of Avena sativa and Paspalum dilatatum.
Mr. Y.N. Sharma: Livestock Development Farm, Jiri (Mid-hills). This farm has potential for temperate seed production and produces seed of Trifolium repens, Lolium perenne, Dactylis glomerata and Avena sativa.
Mr. R.C. Devkota: Livestock Development Farm, Syangbochhe (High-hills), is the only farm which produces seed of native temperate species such as Poa annua and Bromus himalaicus Stapf.
Mr. M.K. Shrestha: Pansayakhola Sheep Development Farm, Valche, Dumbang (Mid-hills), has responsibility for seed production of Dactylis glomerata and Avena sativa.
Mr. J.L.Yadav: Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS) Rampur (Terai), conducts educational courses, research and training on forage species.
Mr. B.H. Pandit: Nepal Agroforestry Foundation, (Mid-hills) has responsibility for conducting research and producing seed of forage species and fodder trees. It is capable of providing training on fodder tree species cultivation and management.
Abington, J.B. (1992). Introduction: The Country of Nepal. Sustainable Livestock Production in the Mountain Agro-ecosystem of Nepal, FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 105.
Agricultural Statistics Division (1996/97). Statistical Information on Nepalese Agriculture, HMG, MOA, Kathmandu, Nepal.
APROSC (1990). Study on the Development of Hill and Mountain Crops of Nepal. Agricultural Projects Services Centre, Nepal.
Department of Livestock Services (1996). Annual Progress Report. Department of Livestock Services, Pasture and Animal Nutrition Development Section.
HMG/ADB/FINNIDA (1988). Master Plan for the Forestry Sector Nepal, Kathmandu.
Joshi, B.R. (1992). The Role of Large Ruminants. Sustainable Livestock Production in the Mountain Agro-ecosystem of Nepal, FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 105.
Land Resource Mapping Project (1986). Economic Report.
LMP (1993): Livestock Master Plan. The livestock Sector Volume III, Asian Development Bank /ANZDECK /APROSC.
Manandhar D.N. (1989). Climate and Crops of Nepal. Nepal Agricultural Research Council and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Nepal.
Miller, D.J. (1987). Yaks and Grasses, Pastoralism in the Himalayan Countries of Nepal and Bhutan and Strategies for Sustained Development, University of Montana USA.
Mishra U. and Shrestha, N.P. (1996). National Research Strategies to Promote Sustainable Production of Livestock and Fisheries for Food Security. Proceedings of First National Workshop on Livestock and Fisheries Research in Nepal, NARC, NASRI, Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Nepal.
Nelson (1981). Landsat Mapping Project, FAO.
Pariyar, D., Banstola, B.R. and Sedhain, G.K. (1996). Fodder and Pasture Research and Development in Nepal. A Review and Synthesis of Its Application for Rehabilitating Degraded Land.
Rajbhandary, H.B. and Shah S.G. (1981). Trends and Projections of Livestock Production in The Hills of Nepal. Presented at Seminar on Nepal's Experience in Hill Agricultural Development, held on 30 March - 3 April, 1981, MOA / ADC, Kathmandu.
Stainton, J.B. (1973). Forests of Nepal. John Murray Press London.
Whyte R.U. (1968). Nepal Grasslands of the Monsoon. Faber and Faber, London.
Name, address and the institutions associated with forage improvement
For further information on forages in Nepal contact:
Mr. Dinesh Pariyar,
This profile was prepared in 1998 and periodic updating will be undertaken by Mr. Dinesh Pariyar.
The profile was edited by H.M. Shelton in 1999 and livestock number and
production statistics were updated in November 2002 by S.G. Reynolds.