Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles

Nepal

by
Dinesh Pariyar

 
1. INTRODUCTION
2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY
Soils
Indigenous classification of soil and agricultural land
Topography
3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES
Climate
Agro-ecological zones
4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
Livestock statistics
Livestock management systems
Feed sources
Feeding systems
Feed utilization
Strategies for fodder production
Major problems associated with feeds and feeding
Integration of livestock into farming systems
Utilization of the various grassland resources
Vegetation - livestock - wildlife
Livestock market and trading practices
5. THE PASTURE RESOURCE
Grassland types
Grassland productivity and carrying capacity
Pasture and fodder crops
Fodder trees and shrub fodder
6. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE RESOURCES
7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS AND PERSONNEL
8. REFERENCES
9. CONTACTS

  1. INTRODUCTION

The small and landlocked Kingdom of Nepal extends from the highest peak in the world to the plains of the Terai. It lies along the slopes of the Himalaya between China and India with a land area of 147 181 km2 being 800 km from east to west, and from 144 km to 240 km north to south, between 80 0 – 88 0 E and 260 - 310 N. The country borders India to the East, South and West and China to the North (See Figures 1a and 1b). The elevation ranges from 66 m to 8 848 m above sea level.

Figure 1a. Map of Nepal
Figure 1b. The Himalaya-Hindu Kush and Tibetan Plateau Area
Notes FAO disclaimer

Nepal has distinct land use patterns as it is influenced by climatic variation, altitude and relief. Land use in the hills differs from that of the plains. After the eradication of malaria in 1958 there has been a massive migration of people from the hills and mountains to the Terai. Since then, the area under forest decreases every year and land under crops was increasing until recently when the government started a massive campaign against deforestation to check falling soil fertility caused by soil erosion and landslides.

Population distribution and growth influence the land use pattern. Pressure on the forest has increased due to the rapid population growth. Of a land area of 14.7 million ha, 17% is plain and the remaining 83% is hills and mountains. 15% of the total land is covered by snow and 37% by forest, whereas 18% is under agriculture. The population was 24.80 million at the 2004 census, increasing at a rate of 2.25% annually (although the World Factbook estimates the July 2006 population at 28,287,147 with an 2.17% growth rate). Population density per hectare of cultivated land is generally higher in the Hills than the Terai and lowest in the Mountains. The people of Nepal belong to several ethnic groups and may practice different agricultural techniques, so some details are given when discussing stock rearing and systems. The main religions are Hinduism and Buddhism.

The total cultivable area is 3.1 million hectares with a cropping intensity of 183%. Table 1 gives the land use statistics.

Table 1. Land use statistics

Category

Area (000 ha)

Agricultural land cultivated

3 091

Agricultural land uncultivated

1 030
Forest land

4 268

Shrub land

1 560

Grass and pasture land

1 766

Water

383

Others

2 620

Total

14 718

Source: - MOAC (2004)

The livestock sector
There is an enormous ruminant livestock population which puts considerable pressure on land resources. Nepal's total herd in 2003/04 was: cattle 6.9 million (including yaks and hybrids), buffalo 3.9 million, sheep 0.82 million and goats 6.9 million (Table 2).

Table 2. Ruminant livestock population, 2003/2004

Category Numbers Percentage

Cattle

6 966 436 37.21

Buffaloes

3 952 654 21.11

Sheep

824 187 4.40

Goats

6 979 875 37.28

Source:- MOAC (2004)

The ruminant population is greatest in the Hills, followed by the Terai and is least in the Mountains (Table 3).

Table 3. Ruminant numbers by agro-ecozone
(% in brackets)

Eco-zones

Cattle

Buffaloes

Sheep

Goats

Mountain
867 700
( 12.46)
347 270
(8.79)
357 829
(43.42)
968 375
(13.87)
Hills
3 285 375
( 47.16)
2 077 822
(52.57)
364 333
(44.21)
3 466 271
(49.66)
Terai
2 813 361
( 40.38)
1 527 561
(38.65)
102 025
(12.38)
2 545 229
(36.47)
Total
6 966 436
( 100)
3 952 653
(100)
824 187
(100)
6 979 875
(100)

Source:- MOAC (2004)

However, average numbers of livestock per household are generally higher in Mountain households than Terai or Hill households (Table 4). Terai households generally have more cattle to produce draught bullocks because their holdings are larger (2.58 ha.) than in the Hills (1.01 ha.) or Mountains (0.83 ha.). Buffaloes are used for cultivation in the Terai (Table 4).

Table 4. Average livestock ownership (number) per household for eco-zones

Species Mountains Hills Terai

Cattle

6.2 4.2-3.18 7.1-4.63

Buffalo

0.6 1.8-2.01 2.0-3.21

Equines

0.9 0.06 0.02

Sheep

3.2 0.4-0.13 0.3-0.29

Goats

3.4 2.1-3.53 1.3-3.08

Sub- Total

14.3 8.56 10.72

Pigs

0.4 0.1-0.25 0.2-0.15

Chickens

2.2 3.1 3.0

Ducks

0.02 0.07 0.1

Work oxen

2.2 2.4 3.2

Buffalo bullocks for work

0 0 0.5

Source:-Livestock Master Plan, 1993; volume III; page no. 222

Livestock Breeds. The different livestock breeds in Nepal are listed in Table 5.

Table 5. Major livestock breeds of Nepal

Species

Breeds

Buffalo

Lime, Parkote, Gaddi, Terai, Murrah and Murrah crosses

Cattle

Pahari Black, Terai White, Lulu, Achhame, Brown Swiss, Jersey and Holstein crosses

Sheep

Bhyanglung, Baruwal, Kage, Lampuchre, Dhorel, Polwarth and Merino crosses

Goats

Khari, Chyangra, Sinhal, Terai, Jamunapuri crosses

Pigs

Hurrah, Chwanche, Nagpuri, Hampshire, LargeWhite Yorkshire, Pakhribas pig

Goats

Khari, Chyangra, Sinhal, Terai, Jamunapuri crosses

Land ownership and tenure
The history of land ownership and tenancy rights closely follows political developments. Land reform policies were introduced from 1951. Early reforms, motivated by a fear of agrarian revolution starting in the western Terai, sought to offer greater security of tenure, regulate rents paid to landlords and prohibit further extraction of money and labour from tenants. Restricted to the Terai this legislation redefined the tenant - landlord relationship, rather than changing the structure of the agrarian system. Reforms of the tenancy system could not ensure that the productive capacity of the land was fully released, because of unequal distribution of costs and benefits of production, Traditionally, the tenant bore all costs of production, while returns were shared with the landowner. With land rents set by the land reform act at 50% of the gross product, the cost-benefit ratio for financial or labour investment in additional fertilizer application by tenant would be half that for an owner-cultivator.

Such theoretical predictions of the effects of land tenure systems on soil fertility management practices are supported by the higher yields observed under owner-cultivation. Perhaps in response to poor yields from tenant farms, landowners have begun to supply chemical fertilizers, favoured by tenants as a "free" input for quick returns. Tenants with little security on the land they cultivate and little vested interest in long-term productivity, may favour the use of chemical fertilizers. Greater investment was found in terms of application of compost, green manure and mulch by owner cultivators who are assured of both the short and long-term effects of their investment.

More far-reaching reforms were introduced between 1964 and 1966 and included the imposition of a ceiling on land holdings which, together with rent control measures, sought to reduce returns from investments in land so as to divert capital to finance industrial developments. Such a potentially radical move against the elite followed the return of the monarchy in 1960 and was supported by international political and economic interests. International support was motivated by fears that tenant unrest might support the spread of communism in the region.

The impact of the reforms was blunted by the high ceiling set for land holdings: 4.1 and 1.1 ha, respectively, for landowners and tenants in the hills, compared to the present average holding of 0.4 hectares for a family of between five and six members. The high share of production (50%) appropriated by landowners, compared to under 25% in India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, continues to influence the management practices of cultivators.

Generally, quick returns are required by tenants to meet subsistence requirements. This, and the relatively insecure nature of tenancy-cultivation, leads to management decisions with a short-term focus. Long-term investments in the land (such as optimum terracing, the planting of trees and trash/ grass binding to prevent soil erosion) may not be considered. Tree planting, in particular, may be discouraged because of rights and ownership status.

Common property resources

Common property resources (CPRs) are resources in which groups of people have co-equal use right. In Nepal, these include community forests and scrubland, community pastures, wastelands, watershed drainage, village ponds, rivers, streams and their banks. CPRs contribute to subsistence livelihoods, employment, income generation and asset accumulation. They complement private farm activities, providing organic matter for compost and green manure, animal feed and bedding, and are particularly important at times of economic hardship.

There are considerable differences between locations in levels of dependence on CPRs for fodder. Two studies in the Central Region found that between 25% and 30% of fodder was collected from sources beyond farm boundaries. In contrast, up to 85% of fodder may come from off-farm sources. In a given area, households are likely to differ in their reliance on CPRs. Resource-poor households have been found, generally, to rely on off-farm resources to a greater extent than the relatively resource rich.

In considering CPRs it is important to distinguish resources used and managed by a distinct group of people from those that have no restrictions on their use (open access resource). The pessimistic prognosis of Hardin (1968) for the "tragedy of the commons" argues that degradation of commonly held property is inevitable because of the economic advantages to the individual of increasing their share, while an individual is unable to control over-exploitation by unilateral action. However, in community-managed CPR's in Nepal, individuals act to preserve resources. A number of factors reinforce active management in these situations. Limited group and resource size enables members to police use of the resource effectively. A strong sense of membership of a common and interdependent community, together with shared knowledge and trust between users, leads to high levels of social capital being present. Community values depend on both the resource and group cohesion, factors that over-ride the short-term economic rationale of individual over-exploitation.

Traditional CPR management arrangements in Nepal have provided relatively sustainable and equitable access to forest areas for centuries. However, the CPR base has changed and, often, has been restricted in area or accessibility. Generally, this has resulted less from the nature of CPR management than from the burgeoning demand of an expanding population. Reductions in the size of land-holdings alongside this increased demand have compromised what were, traditionally, sustainable land management practices; soil productivity has declined and reduced returns to labour inputs. Such vicious circles build up in various areas of agricultural activity. The need for increased production leads to an expansion in livestock numbers. The resulting higher demand for fodder and access to grazing leads to greater use of CPRs, eventually exceeding their regenerative capacity, which inevitably leads to degradation, with reduced resource availability, including that of fodder and leaf litter for composting, which in turn leads to increased rated of erosion and reduced soil productivity.


 

2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY

Soils
The soils of Nepal (see Figure 2) are not classified in detail and systematic information regarding soil taxonomy is not available. In 1986, a Land Resource Mapping Project (LRMP) carried out a countrywide survey and produced a soil classification report based on USDA soil taxonomy. It reported 14-soil group covering the 4 soil orders encountered in Nepal. They are mainly Entisols, Inceptisols, Mollisols and Alfisols. Soil orders Spodosols, Histosols, Ultisols and Aridosols are occasionally found.

Entisols. These are the youngest and least developed soils, generally found on hill sides and adjacent to river courses. These soils are formed through deposition of colluvium and alluvium and are present throughout the country. Three great groups of this order are recorded. They are Ustifluvents, Ustorthents and Fluvaquents.

Ustifluvents. Are commonly found where the rivers are active in the depositional stage. Horizons of deposition are identifiable but soil does not show any pedogenetic development. They are mostly coarse textured, highly permeable and well drained. Depending upon the type of materials the rivers are carrying they can be calcareous or non-calcareous. The land is used for grazing and Acacia catechu grows there.

Ustorthents. These develop through colluvial deposition and are found in landslide scars and on slopes of more than 35 degrees. As the soil develops it is constantly removed by erosion. They are shallow, near the bedrock, coarse textured and poorly vegetated. Alnus is very well suited to such soil in Nepal. These soils are used for grazing, fodder and firewood collection.

Figure 2. Soils of Nepal
[Click to view full image]
Source: Soil Science Division, NARC

Fluvaquents. These entisols are also found adjacent to rivers, are poorly to imperfectly drained, vary in texture and occasionally flooded. If suited to cultivation rice can be grown.

Inceptisols. These cover the largest area in Nepal and are the most important soils. They occurs on more stable slopes and show distinct weathering in the subsoil. The vast difference in landscape, climate and geology and parent materials have helped to develop a variety of Inceptisols.

Haplaquents. This soil is dominant in the lower piedmont plain of the Terai where drainage is restricted. It is also found in duns (broad flat valleys), valleys and limited areas of the Middle hills. The B-horizon is well developed. As water remains for more than three months the subsoil shows gleying and mottling. Water table fluctuates and during the monsoon comes very close to the surface. Due to the aquic moisture regime rice grows well on the soils whereas crops requiring aeration do not thrive. These soils are common in the low relief areas and adjacent to major river systems.

Dystrochrepts. These are the commonest soils in the Terai as well as in the Middle hills, mostly below 1 500 m and have developed on the acidic or neutral bedrock including lacustrine deposits. They have a well- developed B-horizon and base saturation below 60%. They developed under forest and are found on steeper slopes and can be stony, well drained and deeper with ample stones and gravel. Their pH is below 5.5 and they have low base saturation. Organic matter plays an important role in retaining soil plant nutrients suppressing the possibility of aluminium toxicity. These soils should be cautiously used by maintaining high organic matter content. Prolonged use of nitrogenous fertilizers alone may increase soils acidity and need to be amended with high rates of lime. Erosion control on the hill slopes is a must to maintain the productivity of Dystrochrepts.

Ustochrepts. These are commonly on alluvial plains of the Terai and Siwalik regions and develop on phyllite, schists, quartzite and limestone on the Middle and High hills. They are commoner on the Western and Middle hills. They are diagnosed by a well-developed B-horizon, pale surface soils, high base saturation, variable soil texture and structure. Those developed on colluvial deposits are stonier. Soils on calcareous parent materials are non-calcareous at the surface. As depth increases calcium carbonate increases due to the leaching and precipitation of the calcium carbonate in the lower horizons. These soils on hilly areas are prone to heavy soil. Ustochrepts in the Terai are deep, well-drained, loamy texture, non-stony and non-calcareous but with high base saturation and when irrigated these soils have wide production potential. Ustochrepts in the Siwalik, Middle and Mountain regions are deep to shallow, stony, coarse to loamy texture, well drained calcareous or non-calcareous but have high base saturation.

Cryumbrepts. These are the soils of the High Himalayan and High Hill regions, generally found above 3 000 m but, depending on the local climate, altitude varies. Annual mean temperature is below 8 0C. Soils of this great group have dark A horizon, high organic matter with wide C/N ratio, low base saturation and contain no free carbonate. They are rubbly and silty in texture. As they are under snow at least three months of the year, vegetation ranging from monsoon grasses to Abies, Rhododendron and Betula is found. Near settlements trees are cleared for fodder and firewood and bare areas are prone to soil erosion. Pathways of gullies caused by melting snow are common. Areas under these soils are extensively used for seasonal grazing.

Haplumbrepts. These are the soils of the High and Middle hill regions and developed in cool temperatures on the acidic bedrocks under mixed forest. They are characterized by well developed Ah and Bm horizons. They have low base saturation and an udic moisture regime. Soils under forest and on steep slopes are shallow and stony but the cultivated ones are fertile due to a high organic matter content, which inactivates the toxic effect of aluminium by its chelating action. Frequency of stones on the surface hinders cultivation. Soil fertility is regularly maintained by grazing animals, and leaving fallow for 2-3 year periods. Barley, millet and potato are the main crops grown.

Cryochrepts. These, similar to Ustochrepts, are found above 3 000 metres. They are of no importance for agriculture production.

Eutrochrepts. These soils are similar to Ustochrepts but develop on calcium rich parent materials under an udic moisture regime.

Spodosols. These are soils with high organic matter and active amorphous materials containing Al but with or without Fe which develop between 3 000-4 000 m altitude with a humid, cool climate. They are found in the higher part of the High Hills and the lower part of the high Himalayan region and occupy a very small area. Agriculturally they are of very little importance. They have a well developed Bh or Bf horizon. These soils to be developed need mean annual temperature of 5 - 8 0C. They have low pH, which restricts growth of agricultural crops; rhododendron dominates the vegetation. They occur mostly in Tengboche of the Sagarmatha regions and Wollangchunggola of the upper Tamor River. Cryorthods are a great group under Spodosols.

Mollisols. Soils with high organic matter content, usually under thick grass or forest, dark colour and high base saturation are classified under Mollisols. They develop on basic parent materials at higher elevations.

Haplustolls. These are common in the sub tropical mixed forest of the Terai and inner valleys. They develop on alluvial materials and are distinguished by a soft and dark coloured mollic Ah horizon with high base saturation and a well developed Bm horizon under an ustic moisture regime. Haplustolls develop under forest but not under grassland. Land with old alluvial deposition and forest litter which, on decomposition, contributes high base saturation helps developing mollisols. The litter is generally sal leaves; these soils develop under sal (Shorea robusta) forest. They are usually very fertile and produce high crop yields for the first few years after clearing, but subsequently yields decrease as organic matter content decreases: maintenance of organic matter is necessary to sustain productivity.

Cryoborolls. These differ from Haplustolls mainly in their development on base rich parent materials under thick grassland of the high mountain in high Himalayan regions. They are found in cooler climate and an udic moisture regime.

Alfisols. These soils are found on the higher river terraces with accumulation of a leached layer of lattice of silicate clays in their B horizon and high base saturation. They are available on stable slopes of the Middle and High hill regions where climate helps the development of mature pedogenetic argillic horizons. The great groups of Alfisols found in Nepal are as follows:

Rhodustalfs. These, found in upper river terraces especially in the Siwaliks and Middle hills, are mostly developed on green phyllite. They are not present in the Terai nor the High hills. They have well expressed Bt horizons; soil matrix hue is more red than 5YR with ustic moisture regime. Base saturation is more than 35%. Fertility is maintained with the application of ample organic matter. Decrease in the content of organic matter correspondingly decreases crop productivity due to loss of fertile surface soil. These occur on ancient river terraces (tars), the upper alluvial terraces where water for irrigation is scarce. Rainfed cultivation is practiced with maize/millet being the major crops. As these crops do not stand waterlogging farmers grow then on sloping terraces, exposing the soil to heavy erosion. Where there is water for irrigation crops are grown on level terraces and the red colour due to the hematite is lost and the Fe is changed to limonite. In this case, total free iron content does not exceed 5% in the Nepalese red soils.

Eutroboralfs. These Alfisols develop on calcium-rich material under cold temperatures in the high Himalayan region.

Haplustalfs. These are Alfisols similar to the Rhodustalf but do not meet the criteria of the Rhodustalfs.

Ultisols. Ultisols are not very common in Nepal. Only one great group, Rhodudults, is found in small pockets of upper terraces formed by rivers. They are similar to the Rhodustalfs but soil pH is low; in these soils phosphorous management is a problem to maintain productivity.

Aridosols. These too are rare in Nepal but occur in the north of Jhomsom in Mustang district where rainfall is less than 250 mm a year. Soils have calcium and other salts accumulated on the surface. Depending on the local microclimate these soils can be fertile and produce good crops if water for irrigation could be supplied.

Indigenous classification of soil and agricultural land
Farmers have systematic criteria for distinguishing soils according to landform position, based on slope, elevation and drainage. Topsoil colour, texture and terrace type are the most dominant criteria for local land classification and soil fertility management. Farmers also use broad climatic regimes to differentiate climatic conditions. These are based on elevation and aspect, which relate to temperature and which is in turn one of the most important factors influencing the choice of crops to be used in the rotation sequence, crop production and length of the growing season. The broad classes, with their native vegetation types are illustrated in Table 6.

Table 6. Indigenous climate regimes

Climatic Regimes

Altitude (metres)

Mean Annual Air Temp. (0C)

Dominant Forests

Awal

<1 200

20-25

Shorea robusta, Pinus roxburghii

Kchard

1 200-1 600

15-20

Pinus roxburghii, mixed broad leaf forest

Lekh

1 600-2 200

1-10

Oak (Quercus) mixed forest

Khet and Bari land classification
Irrigated khet and rainfed bari terraces (see Photo) are classified according to landform position and slope. The classification systems developed by farmers form the basis for land management and agronomic cultural practices. Tables 7 and 8 list the terminology used by the farmers for classifying the khet and bari land in the Jhikhu Khola catchment and provide information on terrace types and the management limitations of khet and bari lands. Farmers have adjusted the terrace system to the different sites by changing the size and height of the riser and the width of the terrace to obtain maximum stability, drainage and performance. These classes are well recognized by the local farmers and reflect their experience and adjustment to environmental conditions.

Table 7. Local khet land (irrigated land) classification

Names of cultivated land types (irrigated)

Landform Position

Slope (degrees)

Terrace Type

Management Limitations

Bagar khet

Valley bottom, floodplain

1-3

Pata<1m terrace risers

Prone to frequent flooding

Khola khet

Stream banks, stream terraces

5-10

Gara<1 m terrace risers

Stream bank erosion

Sim khet

Head hollows, foot slopes of colluvial slopes, spring or seepage areas

3-10

Gara/Pata < 1 m terrace risers

Poor drainage, high water table during monsoon

Ghol khet

Valley floor depressions

1-3

 Pata / Gara < 1 m terrace risers

Poor drainage, high water table during monsoon

Khadi Daldale khet

Valley floor swamp

1-3

Pata / Gara < 1 m terrace risers

Poor drainage, high water table

Gairi khet

Valley floor, intermediate terraces or foot slopes

1-5

Pata / Gara < 1 m terrace risers

Imperfectly drained, high water table during monsoon

Tari khet

Old river terrace/fans (TARS)

1-5

Pata / Gara < 1 m terrace risers

Irrigation water, low fertility status, prone to surface wash and gullying

Pakho/Tari khet

Ridge tops/fan

10-15

Pata / Gara < 1 m terrace risers

Irrigation water, low fertility status, prone to surface wash and gullying

Ghara khet

Moderately/gently sloping hillside (colluvial slopes)

15-25

Gara<1 m terrace risers

Low terrace maintenance cost and surface erosion problems

kanla khet

Steeply sloping hillside

25-30

kanla>1 m terrace risers

High terrace risers, high terrace maintenance, severer surface erosion

Phagata khet

Steeply sloping hillside

>30

kanla>1 m terrace risers, short narrow terraces

High terrace riser, bullocks can’t be used for ploughing, high terrace maintenance cost, severe surface erosion

Surkhe khet

Very steep hillside

 

kanla>1 m terrace risers, long narrow terraces

High terrace risers, bullocks can't be used for ploughing, high terrace maintenance cost, severe surface erosion

Pata: refers to the flat cultivated land both in the hills and in terai.
Gara: refers to the sloping small cultivated land in the hills.
Kanla: refers to the sloping land between two separate garas.

Table 8. Local bari land( rainfed) classification

Cultivated land types (rainfed)

Landform Position

Slope (degrees)

Terrace Type

Management Limitations

Tar (Pata) Bari

River terraces (Tars) Fans, ridged tops

1-5

Pata < 1 m terrace risers, wide sloping terraces

Low fertility status, surface wash and gulleying, moisture deficiency

Pata Bari

Moderately sloping hill side

10-20

Pata >1 m terrace risers, sloping terraces

Severe surface erosion and mass wasting with slope disturbance

Ghar Bari

Gently sloping hillside, Fans, Tars accordant ridged tops

5-10

Pata <1 m terrace risers, wide sloping terraces

Surface wash and gullying

kanla Bari

Moderately to steeply sloping hill side

20-25

kanla>1.5 m terrace risers sloping or nearly level terraces

High surface erosion and mass wasting with slope disturbance, high soil fertility requirement

Surke Bari

Strongly sloping hill side

25-30

kanla>1.5 m terrace risers, sloping terraces, long narrow terraces

High surface erosion and mass wasting with slope disturbance, narrow terraces, bullocks can not be used, low fertility status, marginal areas

Khoriya Bari

Strongly sloping hill side

25-30

kanla>1.5 m terrace risers, sloping terrace, long narrow terrace

High surface erosion and mass wasting with slope disturbance, narrow terraces, bullocks can not be used, low fertility status, marginal area

Khar Bari

Moderately to strongly sloping hill side

20-30

kanla>1.5 m terrace risers, sloping terraces, long narrow terraces

Marginal areas for thatch grass producing

Karalo Bari

Gently sloping hill side, fan

5-10

Pata>1 m terrace risers, wide sloping terraces

Surface wash, gullying low fertility status

Gagrine Bari

Gently to moderately sloping colluvial slope

5-20

Pata>1 m terrace risers sloping or level terraces

Severe surface erosion and mass wasting with slope disturbance, coarse gravelly terraced, high leaching and infiltration capacities

Farmers have distinct and systematic criteria for soil classification. Soils are differentiated on the basis of colour, topsoil texture, depth and consistency. These factors, in combination with slope provide information on infiltration, drainage, soil moisture retention capacity, organic matter content and stability.

Soil colour
Soil colour can be used as a key distinguishing criterion by farmers. Some of the colour differences relate to the age of the soil, the origin or parent material, and the carbon content. The major topsoil colours used by the farmers to differentiate soils are shown in Table 9 alongside the scientific classification. The colour categories noted by the farmers are a partial indication of organic matter content in the soil. At higher carbon content the soil colours are usually darker, the moisture content and cation-holding capacity are higher, and the structural stability of soil aggregates is greater. In addition, the very old soils in Nepal are deeply weathered and contain significant portions of Fe and Al. the former gives rise to the red soils which have a significant portion of kaolinite and distinct physical properties. Because of the long leaching processes, the red soils are generally low in phosphorous.

Table 9. Local soil colour classification

Local Colour Classification

Munsell Soil Colour Chart

Kalo (black)

10 YR 3/1-4/1 –dark greyish brown-very dark greyish brown

Rato (red)

2.5 YR 4/6-5/6 - red

Haluka rato mato (light red)

5 YR 5/6-6/6-yellowish red-reddish yellow

Khairo mato (brown)

7.5 YR 4/2-5/2- brown-dark brown

Phusro (grey)

10 YR 5/1-5/2- grey –greyish brown

Kharani mato (light grey)

7.5 YR 7/10 YR 7/7- light grey

Jogi mato (yellow)

10 YR 6/6-7/6-8/8 – brownish yellow-yellow

Texture
Among the most important physical properties of soils considered by farmers is soil texture. Soil texture involves the size of individual particles and arrangement of soil particles into groups or aggregates. These properties determine nutrient supplying ability of soil solids and the supply of water and air necessary for plant root development activities. The size of particles in mineral soil (texture) is not readily subject to change, and remains constant. The farmers are aware of the fact that the texture of a given soil can be changed only by mixing it with another soil of different textural class. Farmers incorporate large quantities of sand and sill through irrigation water to improve the physical properties of red day soils for potato cultivation. The textural classes differentiated by farmers in the field are listed in Table 10 below and their equivalent USDA soil texture classes are also provided. The farmer's textural classifications are used primarily for crop selection and soil management. Heavy textured (chimte) soils require higher labour inputs then light textured (domat) soils for ploughing and other cultivation activities. Moisture content in relation to texture is also used as an index of workability of the soil.

Table 10. Indigenous terms for texture classification

Local Name

USDA Texture Class

Pango

Silty loam/silt

Balaute

Sand

Domat

Loam

Balaute Domat

Sandy loam

Balaute Chimte

Sandy clay loam

Domat Chimte

Clay loam

Chim

Clay

Gagren

Gravelly

Masino

Fine

Chimte

Very fine (clay) soil

Soil depth
Soil depth is one of the most important criteria used by farmers. Deep soils (gahiro) generally have higher moisture-retention capacities than shallow ones. Shallow soils restrict the penetration of roots and affect the soil moisture retention. Deep soils (> 1 metre) do not restrict the distribution of roots. Farmers prefer soils with a root depth of more than a metre and are aware of factors governing the uptake of nutrients and use of soil moisture by plants.

Soil consistency
Soil consistency has important significance for tillage and land management. Farmers do not distinguish criteria but know that wet red clay soils are sticky and slippery while sandy soils are not. "Rato Mato Chiplo Bato" a term used to note that red soils are slippery has significance to farmers in that these soils have poor infiltration. Major local terms used for classifying consistency are provided in Table 11. Terms for classifying soil consistency may be simple, but are meaningful and easily understood by farmers.

Table 11. Soil consistency classes and scientific equivalents

Local

USDA

Soil texture

Chipplo (chyap-chyape)

Sticky, plastic

Clay (fine)

Kahsro

Loose, non-sticky, non-plastic

Sands (coarse)

Lasailo

Slightly sticky, slightly plastic

Loams (medium)

The soil classification system used by the farmers is based on soil colour, texture, consistency and depth. Most indigenous classes can readily be converted to commonly used scientific classification. The conversion table facilitates communication between subsistence farmers and extension personnel. More documentation and calibration is needed, particularly in the area of physical properties and soil performance in terms of biomass production. Additional research is needed to document indigenous knowledge on soil workability, soil performance and quality, all of which are notoriously difficult to measure scientifically. These are the most fruitful research directions since their potential benefits are great, particularly when new management techniques and new crops are being introduced into the farming systems.

Topography

Physiographic regions
Nepal is divided into five physiographic regions (and three agro-ecological zones: see Figure 3 and Table 15) which are almost parallel to each other, running from west to east. They are: the high Himalayan region, high mountain, middle mountain, Siwaliks and Terai. Details:

Figure 3. Physiographic regions of Nepal
[Click to view full image]
Source: Soil Science Division, NARC

High Himalayan region. This region which is always covered by snow occupies 23.7% of the total land – 3 447 500 ha. Its altitude ranges from 3 000 m to 8 848 m. The mountains are very steep with active glacier systems. The geology consists of gneiss, schist, limestone and shale of different ages. Physical weathering predominates and soils are very stony. This region falls largely within the alpine and arctic climate regimes, so there are active glacier systems where there is enough precipitation in high catchments. The climate is dependent on elevation and location in the mountain massifs. The few pockets of arable land of Solukhumbu, Mustang, Manang and Dolpa are the result of a unique combination of aspect, shelter from wind and availability of water for irrigation.

Characteristic landforms are glaciers, cirque basins, moraines, U-shaped valleys and avalanche slopes. Bedrock in most of the areas is exposed at or near the surface including gneisses, schist and the Tethys sediments. Less than 1% of the region has soil and climate suited to crop production and then only where irrigation is available.

High Hills (or Mountain) region. The altitude of this region ranges from 2 000 m to 2 500 m and it lies below the permanent snow line. This region occupies 2,899,500 ha making up 19.7% of the country. It has a cool climate and receives heavy to moderate snow in winter. Mountain slopes are very steep but there are some flat valleys as well. The geology is characterized by phyllite, schists, gneiss and quartzite of different ages. Soil formation on the slopes is slow and they are rocky.

This region borders the Middle Hills to the south and the high Himal to the north. The boundaries are defined by changes in geomorphic processes, bedrock geology, climate and relative relief. This region has more metamorphosed and structurally consolidated rocks. Gneisses and garnetiferous mica schists are common. Most of the major valleys have been glaciated. High river gradients and enhanced river down-cutting resulted in the formation of deep canyons since glaciation. Agriculturally this region is of lesser importance. After the snow melts the mountains are covered with thick grasses and livestock like sheep, yak, and other mountain animals graze in this region. In the valleys, in summer, one crop a year can be harvested. The crops are potato, naked barley, buckwheat, and maize. Food grown here is not enough to support the population and more has to brought in.

Middle Hills (or Mountain) region. This region includes a wide range of physiography. Its area is 4 350 300 ha. - about 29.5% of the area of the country. Mountain peaks range up to 2 000 m with narrow river valleys. The mountains are the Mahabharat range. The geology consists of a complex of phyllite, schists, quartzite of Cambrian to Precambrian ages and granites and limestones of different ages. The climate ranges from warm subtropical to warm temperate. The higher peaks receive occasional snow whereas some lower parts receive occasional frost in winter, which causes damage to crops. Soils are extremely variable because of the differences in bedrock, geomorphology and microclimate. The southern margin mostly consists of a prominent belt of uplifted mountains known as Mahabharat Lekh. This belt is made up of deeply weathered granite, limestone, dolomite, shale, sandstone, slate and quartzite; is intensively cultivated and is home for more than 60% of the population. It produces most of its food, yet food is always transported from surplus regions to this area. Subtropical dense forest occupies the non-agricultural land.

Siwalik region. This region lies at the foot of the Mahabharat range. Its area is 1 888 600 ha: 12.7% of the total land. Altitudes range from 300 m to 1 800 m. The geology mainly consists of tertiary mudstone, sandstone, siltstones and conglomerate. Soils vary depending on the materials from which they are developed. There are several inner valleys or duns, which are densely populated. Because of alluvial deposition these valleys are very fertile. The landscape is very rugged and unstable, consisting of weakly consolidated Tertiary sediments with gentle to strongly sloping dip slope. Siwalik soils are unable to retain high precipitation which frequently occurs resulting in flash floods. Duns, a very important part of the Siwalik landscape, are structurally stable and sometimes, in the past, their outlets were blocked by rapid tectonic uplift of the Siwalik range. The major dun valleys are: Chitwan, Dang, Deokhuri, Surkhet, Trijuga and Kamala. Climate in the duns is modified by the regular occurrence of winter fogs; otherwise it is very dry.

The Terai region. The Terai, a flat extension of the southern Indo-Gangetic plain, occupies 2 142 200 ha, 14.4% of the country. Altitudes range from 66 m to 300 m. The region enjoys a warm sub-tropical climate and its alluvial soils are fertile. It is the granary of Nepal. Wherever irrigation is available the land is intensively cultivated. It consists of recent and post-Pleistocene alluvial deposits forming a piedmont plain adjacent to the Himalayan ranges. Although the whole length of the Terai has a common geomorphology, it has obvious differences in land use due to presence of different land systems and land units. The obvious difference is the increased amount of rice cultivation in the eastern Terai indicating a greater proportion of higher quality alluvial soils and more availability of water/rainfall compared to the west. A summary of the major characteristics is given in Table 12 while area and percentage of the physiographic regions are given in Table 13 and shown in Figure 3.

Table 12. Characteristics of physiographic regions of Nepal

Features

Terai

Siwaliks

Middle Mountain

High Mountain

High Himal

Geology

Quaternary alluvium

Tertiary sandstone, siltstone, shale and conglomerates

Phyllite, quartzite limestone and islands of granites

Gneiss, quartzite and mica schists

Gneiss, schist, limestone and Tethys sediments

Elevation

66-300 m

200-1 500 m

800-2 400 m. Relief 15 00 m with isolated peaks to 2 700 m

2 200-4 000 m. High relief 3 000 m form valley floor to ridges.

4 000 m above

Climate

Sub-tropical

Sub-tropical (but warm temperate in higher hill spurs)

Sub- tropical, warm temperate, cool temperate on high ridges

Warm to cool temperate, alpine

Alpine to arctic

(Snow 6-12 months)

Moisture Regime

Sub humid in FW+MWDR; humid in W+C and EDR

Sub humid in most of the area, humid in N-aspect of W+C+EDR and dun valleys

Humid, per humid above 2000 m

Sub humid to per humid

Semi and benid Himal

Rainfall Intensity

High

High

Medium

Low

Low

Vegetation

Sal +mixed hardwoods

Sal + mixed hard woods + pine forest

Pine forest+mixed hardwood and oak forest

Fir, pine, birch and rhododendron

Open meadows +tundra vegetation

Soils

Ustochrepts, haplustolls, haplaquepts,

haplustalfs, ustifluvents & ustorthents

Ustochrepts, haplustolls,

Rhodustalfs, ustothents,

Dystrochrepts,

Haplaquepts and

Ustifluvents

Ustochrepts, haplustalfs, rhodustalfs, haplumbrepts, ustorthents and ustifluvents

Eutrochrepts, dystrochrepts, haplumbrepts, cryumbrepts, cryorthents and ustorthents

Cryumbrepts, cryorthents and rock

Crops

Rice, maize, wheat, mustard

Sugar cane Jute, Tobacco, Cotton and Tea

Rice, maize, wheat, millet, radish, potato, ginger, tea.

Rice, maize, wheat, millet, barley, pulses, sugar cane, ginger, cardamom

Oat, barley, wheat, potato, buckwheat, yams, amaranthus, medicinal herbs

Grazing (June to Sep)

Horticulture

Mango, litchi, pineapple,

jackfruit, imli, potato, tomato

Mango, papaya, banana, potato

Mango,papaya,banana,
orange,lime,lemon, peach, plum, potato,cauliflower

Chestnut, walnut, apple, peach, plum, apricot, potato

Apple, walnut, vegetable seed, potato

People

Tharus, Brahmins, Chetris,

Tharus(dun valley) presently all hill tribes displaced/immigrated from middle mountains

Gurung, Magar, Tamang, Newar, Brahmin, Chetri, Damai, Sarki, Sunar, Kumal, Rais, Limbu.

Khas Chetri, Tibetan related groups - Thakali, Bhotiya, Sherpa, Tamangs, Ghale

Temporary herders Sherpa and Bhotiya

Transport

Good road linkage

Good road linkage within dun valleys

Road linkages around major centres

Very few road linkages

No road linkages

Note: FW= Far Western, MWDR= Mid Western Development Region, WDR= Western Development Region, CDR= Central Development Region, EDR= Eastern Development Region

Source: Land Resource Mapping Project (LRMP), Land Utilization Report (1986)

Table 13. Area of each physiographic region

Physiographic region

Area - hectares

Percentage

High Himalayan Region

3 447 500

23.7

High Hills Region

2 889 500

19.7

Middle Hills Region

4 350 300

29.5

Siwalik

1 888 600

12.7

Terai

2 142 200

14.4

Total

14 718 100

100

Source :- MOAC (2004)


 

3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES

Climate
There is a wide diversity in landscape, altitude, topography and temperature in the country. Temperatures range from arctic to tropical. The High Himalayan region is always below freezing whereas the Terai and the low valleys are always warm. In winter mornings and nights in the hills are bitterly cold and days are chill whereas in the plains and the river valleys mornings and nights are chill and the days are pleasant. Summers in the hills are pleasant but in the plains and valleys are swelteringly hot. January is the coldest and June and July the hottest months. Rainfall and temperature are the two main factors affecting Nepalese agriculture.

Rainfall. 80% of precipitation falls during June to October. The monsoon enters Nepal from the east which receives the first rain; the west gets rain about a week later. The western part receives comparatively less rain than central and eastern parts. The average rainfall in the country is a little above 1 000 mm.

Most of the eastern and central hilly areas receive 1 500 – 2 500 mm; the west gets 1 000 – 1 500 mm. Seasonal distribution of precipitation varies from east to west. The seasonal distribution of precipitation is shown in Table 14.

Table 14. Seasonal rainfall distribution

Region

Pre-monsoon

Monsoon

Post-monsoon

Winter

Terai

4-11%

80-98%

2-7%

2-5%

Hill

2-20%

79-92%

1-11%

2-9%

Mountain

8-24%

72-80%

1-9%

4-17%

Winter precipitation is due to the south west monsoon which passes over the driest area of India so the water vapour almost dries out by the time it reaches Nepal. This rain is low in volume but very important for winter crops. Rainfall data from meteorological stations show that the country receives as high as 5 100 mm and as low as 250 mm rain per annum. Rainfall variation is very high, the lowest precipitation is in small rain-shadow areas, for example in the Mustang district of the Himalaya Region, and falls as snow. From March to May there is little or no precipitation and evapotranspiration is maximal. Atmospheric temperatures as well as water requirement of crops are high. From mid-May to mid-October precipitation is sufficient to meet the water requirement of all crops except rice.

Temperature. Temperature is directly related to altitude. For a rise of 100 m, the mean annual temperature drops by 0.5°C. Latitude also affects the temperature. For every 3° north, the mean temperature would fall by 1°C. Temperature falls slowly during the monsoon because of heavy clouds and rain and continues to drop as winter starts. January is the coldest month and June-July are the hottest months. Temperatures tend to rise from east to west. The highest temperature recorded is 46°C (114.8° F) at Chisapani in Bardiya district and the lowest -26° C at Thakmarpha in Mustang district.

Agro-ecological zones

Nepal is divided into three agro-ecological zones: Mountain, Hills and Terai (Table 15). This broad division is based on the altitude, crop and livestock production systems.

Table 15. Area of agro-ecological zones

Agro-ecological zone

Area (km2)

Percentage

Mountain

51 817

35

Hills

61 345

42

Terai

34 019

23

Total

147 181

100

Source:- MOAC (2004)

Livestock are raised from the plains of the Terai to the rain shadow areas of the Himalayas, and there is a strong integration of crops with livestock, forestry and marketing in all agro-ecological regions. The role of livestock in each agro-ecological zone is specific.

Mountain (> 2 500 m)
In the high hills or mountain areas people are influenced by Tibetan culture and Thakalis, Sherpas and Bhotias live in separate, single, ethnic settlements. Climate varies from warm temperate to alpine. Livestock production is based primarily on crops and grazing. Cultivation includes annual crops on rainfed and irrigated land and perennial crops. Grazing includes the migration of ruminant livestock and the utilization of vegetation.

Herds are made up of yaks, chauries (yak-cattle crosses), cattle, sheep, goats and horses, reared in semi-pastoral or transhumant systems. Livestock move in an annual cycle according to their specific requirements and grazing availability at different altitudes. Yaks occupy an ecological niche at high altitudes (3 000 - 5 000 m), chauries move between 1 500 - 4 000 m, while cattle move between 2 000 and 3 000 m. Sheep, goats and horses are more adaptable to altitude and move between 1 200 – 4 000 m. Plant growth is limited by low temperatures and a short growing season. Barley, buckwheat and potato are the major crops. Pasture at high altitudes is only accessible for grazing in summer (July - September). Thereafter herds move to lower areas for winter (December - March); yaks, however, which are only adapted to cold conditions, are seldom taken below 2 500 m.

Livestock provide milk and fibre and their dung is a major source of fuel. Crossbred males are used for transport and meat. Goats and sheep supply meat and fibre. The use of mules, sheep and goats for trading and transport of basic inputs (grain, salt, building materials, etc.) is an important source of income.

Hills (500-2 500 m)
In the mid hills people are more influenced by the predominant Hindu culture and Brahman, Chhetri, Newars, Magars, Tamang and Gurung, live in multi-ethnic settlements. Livestock, although an integral part of agriculture, is secondary to crops. Climate varies from subtropical to warm-temperate and the major cereals are paddy, wheat, maize and finger millet (Eleusine coracana).

Cattle, buffalo and goats are the main grazing livestock. Livestock rearing is sedentary and animals make daily grazing forays and return every evening. Forages include: grazing in the forest, on cultivated land after harvest, and on fallows; also crop residues of paddy, maize, millet, wheat, mustard, soybean and vegetables; grass gathered from terraces and forests; as well as tree fodder gathered from farmer-owned and forest trees. Cattle graze and only lactating buffaloes and improved cattle (Jersey and Holstein crossbreds) are stall-fed with the associated labour to cut and carry fodder. Female calves are reared as herd replacements while males are either reared for draught oxen or neglected. The disposal of surplus cattle, both male calves and cull females at the end of their reproductive life, is a problem because of religious beliefs inhibiting their sale for slaughter and use for meat.

There is a potential to increase feed production from cultivated land by including winter fodders such as oats (see photo), oats + vetch, and oats + pea mixtures. Concentrate feeds used include: farm-produced rice bran, maize flour, (also barley, oats in Surkhet, Illam, Sindhupalchok, Kavre etc.) and common salt; compound feeds are rarely brought in unless justified by access to an urban liquid milk market. Cattle and buffalo are the source of milk, manure and draught. Sheep and goats are used for meat and fibre. Cultivation of land and transport are done by oxen.

Terai (< 500 m) The Terai is also characterized by multi-ethnic settlements, predominantly influenced by Hindu culture. Cattle and buffalo are the source of milk, manure and draught. Oxen are used for transport and cultivation. Although chemical fertilizers have become increasingly important for the intensive cropping, manure is still the main source of nutrient replenishment and soil fertility maintenance. In many areas where massive deforestation has reduced the supply of firewood, dung is an important fuel.

Cattle, buffaloes and goats are the main grazing livestock. The predominant system of livestock rearing is sedentary and animals make daily grazing forays and return every evening. Compared with the mid-hills, there is less grazing land and forest; so more crop residues are fed and the amount of stall-feeding relative to grazing is greater in the Terai than in the Mid hills. Although there is a similar shortage of feed in winter and before the onset of the monsoon, most productive and draught livestock are well looked after and others survive on the available grazing. Forages in the Terai include: grazing on roadsides, uncultivated land, forest (near the Siwalik), on cultivated land after harvest, and on fallows; crop residues (paddy, wheat, maize, millet, cotton, sugar cane tops, lentils). Cultivation of fodder oats, berseem, and oat and vetch mixtures has become popular in dairy pockets. Home-produced rice bran, wheat bran, maize, gur (evaporated sugar cane juice), broken pigeon pea and salt are the major feed ingredients, alone or in combinations with roughages like rice and wheat straw. Cattle generally graze, but are also stall-fed on crop residues and forages. Lactating buffaloes and improved cattle are given supplementary concentrates.

Female calves are reared as herd replacements while males are either reared for replacement draught oxen, or are neglected, slaughtered, or sold to buyers from India. Buffaloes are used for ploughing in the Terai, but they are hardly used in the mid hills.

Figure 4 shows the different agro-ecozones of Nepal.

Figure 4. The agro-ecozones of Nepal
[Click to view full image]


 

4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

Livestock statistics
The livestock population of Nepal for 2004/2005 was estimated to be 7.0 M cattle, 4.0-4.1 M buffalo, 7.0-7.2 M goats, and 0.82 M sheep (Table 16).

Table 16. Nepal statistics for livestock numbers, meat and milk production, live cattle and goat exports, cattle imports and milk equivalent imports and exports
for the period 1995-2005.

Item

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Cattle nos. (,000,000)

6.8

7.0

7.0

7.1

7.0

7.0

7.0

7.0

7.0

7.0

7.0

Buffalo nos. (,000,000)

3.3

3.3

3.4

3.4

3.5

3.5

3.6

3.7

3.8

4.0

4.1

Sheep nos. (,000)

918.9

859

869.6

870

855.2

851.9

850.2

840.1

828.3

824.2

816.7

Goat nos. (,000,000)

5.7

5.8

5.9

6.1

6.2

6.3

6.5

6.6

6.8

7.0

7.2

Beef & veal prod. (,000 mt)

45.9

47.1

47.8

47.9

47.8

48.0

47.2

46.8

47.6

48.5

48.9

Buffalo meat prod. (,000 mt)

104.1

104.8

113.5

117.4

119.6

121.8

124.9

128.0

130.8

133.6

139.0

Sheep meat prod. (,000 mt)

3.1

2.9

2.9

2.9

2.9

2.9

2.9

2.8

2.8

2.8

2.7

Goat meat prod. (,000 mt)

30.9

32.0

34.6

35.6

36.2

36.9

37.8

38.6

39.7

40.5

41.7

Milk prod. (,000 mt)

1008.5

1029.4

1081.0

1118.4

1144.8

1170.7

1200.3

1235.6

1272.7

1310.1

1352.4
Cattle exports (,000 head)
37.2
24.1
23.7
3.7
27.6
2.0
6.2
4.6
8.1
4.9
n.r.
Goat exports (,000 head)
30.6
32.2
27.4
21.8
13.7
21.5
27.8
28.2
15.3
15.5
n.r.

Cattle imports nos.(,000 head)

1.8

1.3

18.0

6.5

3.0

8.3

11.0

11.9

5.0

6.0

n.r.
Milk equivalent exports (,000 mt)
2.1
1.6
10.8
2.3
4.1
3.6
40.0
1.2
3.7
4.6
n.r.

Milk equivalent imports (,000mt)

1.2

0.7

1.3

1.3

25.6

3.9

3.1

6.3

30.5

17.0

n.r.

Source: FAO Database 2005
n.r. = no record

Live cattle and goats are exported particularly to India and while numbers of cattle are also imported, the numbers exported since 1995 are nearly twice those imported (although since 2000 the cumulative numbers imported exceed exports). Small quantities of beef and veal are imported. While dairy products are exported (in 2004 milk equivalent exports were 4,600 tonnes) imports are higher (in 2004 milk equivalent imports were 17,000 tonnes) and the cost of milk equivalent imports exceeded exports by US$ 4,796,000.

Livestock population by ecological zone is shown in Table 17.

Table 17. Livestock population by ecological zones

Ecological Zones

Cattle 

Buffalo 

Sheep

Goat 

Mountain (16 districts)

867700
(12.46) *

347271
(8.79)

357829
(44.20)

968375
(13.87)

Hills (39 districts)

3285357
(47.16)

2077822
(52.56)

364334
(43.42)

3466271
(49.66)

Terai (20 districts)

2813361
(40.38)

1527561
(38.65)

102024
(12.38)

2545229
(36.47)

Total

6966436
(100)

3952654
(100)

824187
(100)

6979875
(100)

Source :- MOAC (2004)

* Figures in brackets are percentages

Cattle are reared for milk and draught; buffaloes are reared for milk and meat. Goat meat is very popular throughout the country so they are reared for meat, and the Sinhal goats of high altitude regions are reared for meat and pashmina. Sheep are reared for meat and wool. There are 888 190 milking cows, which produced 368 531 metric tons of milk in a year, while 1 015 727 milking buffaloes produced 863 322 metric ton milk in 2003/2004. In the context of total milk production cows produce almost 30 % while buffaloes produce 70 % of the milk in the country (Table 18).

Regarding milk production in the three agro-ecozones, the highest milk yield is in the Hills followed by Terai and lowest in the Mountains. Cattle contribute more in milk both in Terai (41.18 vs 39.11 %) and in the Mountain (9.51 vs 6.78 %) whereas the buffalo contribution is greater in the Hills (54.11 vs 49.31 %) (Table 19).

Table 18. Milk production (mt), 2003/2004

Category Numbers Milk production (mt.)

Cows

888 190
(47.0)*
368 531
(29.9)

Buffaloes

1 015 727 (53.0) 863 322 (70.1)

Total

1 903 917
(100)
1 231 853
(100)

Source: - MOAC (2004)

* Figures in brackets are percentages

Table 19. Milk production (mt), 2003/2004 in three eco zones

Ecozones

Cattle

Buffalo

Mountain

35 045
(9.51)*

58 545
(6.78)

Hill

181 740
(49.31)

467 136
(54.11)

Terai

151 746
(41.18)

337 641
(39.11)

Total

368 531
(100)

863 322
(100)

Source: - MOAC (2004)

 * Figures in brackets are percentages

Buffalo meat contributes 64.1% on an annual basis while goat meat contribution is 19.5%. Chicken, pig, sheep and duck contribution in the national context is 7.6 %, 7.40 %, 1.3 % and 0.1 % respectively (Table 20).

Table 20. Meat production, 2003/2004

Category

Meat production (mt)

Percentage

Buffalo

133 600 64.10

Mutton

2 779 1.30

Goat

40 540 19.50

Pig

15 389 7.40

Chicken

15 881 7.60

Duck

223 0.10

Total

208 412 100

Source:- MOAC (2004)

In the Mountains the major sources of meat are buffaloes (63%), followed by goats (17.23%), pig (7.34%) and sheep (6.95%). The same trend is found in the Terai whereas in the Hills chicken rank third and pig fourth as far as total meat production is concerned (Table 21).This variation is due to the existence of various ethnic communities.

Table 21. Meat production (mt), 2003/2004

Animal species

Mountain

Hills

Terai

Buffalo

10765
(63.00) *

69831
(67.41)

53004
(60.41)

Goat

2944
(17.23)

14433
(13.93)

23163
(26.40)

Sheep

1188
(6.95)

1242
(1.20)

349
(0.40)

Chicken

934
(5.47)

9584
(9.25)

5363
(6.11)

Pig

1255
(7.34)

8449
(8.16)

5685
(6.48)

Duck

1
(0.01)

50
(0.05)

172
(0.20)

Total

17087
(100)

103589
(100)

87736
(100)

Source :- MOAC (2004)

* Figures in brackets are percentages

Wool production is concentrated in Mountain and Hills where sheep are the major source of meat and provide wool for household consumption. A mountain sheep produces 0.74 kg wool per year. The lowest quantity of wool per animal is produced in the Terai (Table 22).

Table 22. Wool production (kg) 2003/2004

Ecozone

Sheep Numbers

Wool Production(kg)

Wool Production(kg)/sheep/year

Mountain

357 829
(43.42)*

266 570
(44.58)

0.74

Hill

364 333
(44.21)

261 013
(43.65)

0.72

Terai

102 025
(12.37)

70 427
(11.77)

0.69

Total

824 187
(100)

598 010
(100)

0.73

Source: - MOAC (2004)

* Figures in brackets are percentages

To understand the livestock production systems of Nepal, it is important to know the ecosystem of which livestock form part. Central to the system is the farming household, which extracts and utilizes livestock products. The livestock depend on feed from crop land, grazing land and the forest so livestock production is dependent upon agriculture and forestry (see Figure 5). The ecosystem can be expanded and made more complex to include other factors which include, but are not limited to, land capability, agro-ecology (i.e., elevation, climate, annual rainfall, natural vegetation), marketing, access, institutional technical support services (e.g., health care, farmer training and extension, availability and price of purchased inputs), credit (formal and informal), and sociological factors (e.g., land tenure, ethnic group).

Figure 5. Agriculture, forestry, and livestock interrelationships
[Click to view full image]

Functions of livestock. Farmers usually keep several species of livestock at the same time, for interrelated reasons including food (milk, meat and eggs), fibre, hides /skin, manure, fuel, stores of wealth, draught power, transport (riding, pack), cash and barter income, for hospitality, and for festivals. Because of these multiple functions any proposal to regulate or reduce livestock numbers must provide for equivalent substitutes. Any reduction in manure production which is crucial for crops, will have to be replaced by chemical fertilizer, and organic matter through change in cropping programmes. Dung is used as fuel, so would have to be replaced by firewood or kerosene. Alternative investments, i.e., alternative stores of wealth, would also be needed which give better returns than investment in livestock. A survey of cash income and labour use for livestock enterprises in Nepal (Table 23) reveals the situation in different regions of the country.

Table 23. Household income from livestock and labour utilization pattern in Nepal

Description

Mountain

Hill

Terai

Percent cash income from livestock

21.2

19.7

9.7

Man days used for livestock

51

73

64

Source:- Nepal Rastra Bank (1988)

Livestock management systems

Ruminant management is governed by factors such as cropping intensity, availability of forest resources, animal species and productive stage, the overall farming system of the area, labour availability and animal numbers per household. Rearing of ruminants in particular, is dependent upon the overall farming system. Three traditional management systems predominate:

(i) Transhumant system. This system is adopted in high Himalayan areas where herds of yaks, chauries (yak-cattle crosses), cattle, sheep, goats and horses migrate from one place to another throughout the year. Livestock move together in an annual cycle according to their requirement and grazing availability at different altitudes. Yaks occupy an ecological niche at high altitudes (3 000 – 5 000 m), chauries move between 1 500 and 4 000 m, while cattle move between 2 000 and 3 000 m. In contrast, sheep, goats and horses are more adaptable and move between 1 200 – 4 000 m. Plant growth is limited by cold weather and a short growing season. Barley, buckwheat and potato are the major crops. Crop production is less efficient due to the long time required for crops to mature. Vegetation at higher altitudes is only accessible for grazing in summer (July - September). Thereafter herds are moved to lower areas for winter (December - March); however, yaks are adapted only to cold climates and are seldom taken below 2 500 m.

This system utilizes forage resources from the alpine pastures during the monsoon, and crop stubble and fallow land in winter. During upward and downward migrations undergrowth in the forest region is the major forage source. Livestock provide milk and fibre and their dried manure is a major source of energy for cooking. Crossbred males (dzopas) are used for local transport and also supply meat. Goats and sheep supply meat and fibre. The use of mules, sheep and goats for trading and transport of basic inputs provides an important source of income.

(ii) Sedentary system. In this system livestock make grazing forays from the village and return in the evening. The main grazing areas in summer are scrubland and community grazing land around the village. The sedentary population consists of work oxen, dry buffaloes and a small number of cattle. This system prevails in the lower altitudes of the hills (900 – 1 000 m) and utilizes all the available forage in and around villages. Cattle, buffalo and goats are the main grazing livestock. Forages include: grazing in the forest, on cultivated land after harvest, and fallow land; also crop residues from paddy, maize, millet, wheat, mustard, soybean and vegetables; grass gathered from terraces and forests; as well as tree fodder gathered from farmer-owned trees and forest trees. The grazing area is usually degraded and gully formation and soil erosion evident. Animals spend more than half their time grazing, but most of the feed is crop by-products and tree fodder in winter and grasses and weeds from crop land in summer which are offered evening and morning.

(iii) Stall-fed system. This is mainly found in the Terai and low hills (< 900 m) and peri-urban areas with milking buffalo and exotic or crossbred cattle. It is governed both by the availability of community grazing land and the steepness of the terrain, which may mean that other classes of livestock are also kept under stall-feeding. The system prevails in areas of intensive cultivation (three-crop sites), where the availability of crop by-products is adequate to feed the animals in winter. In addition to crop by-products, tree fodder, grasses and weeds from farm land are an important forage source.

Feed sources

Fodder is collected from all land use systems and the major sources are: cropland, forest, grassland, shrubland and non-cultivated inclusions. Forests are lands with tree crown cover above 10 %; shrublands are degraded forests where there are trees with less than 10 % crown cover; lands without trees or with only a few scattered trees with grass cover are described as grasslands. Forest, shrub and grasslands are generally owned by the government and are under the control of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. Non-Cultivated Inclusions (NCI) are government or privately owned lands consisting of degraded forests, permanent fallow, abandoned terraces and homesteads.

(i) Cropland. The majority of cropland is in the Terai (52%) and in the Middle hills (40%). Crop by-products and crop residues commonly used for livestock feed are straws, stovers, pulse residues, oil crop residues, maize cobs, sugarcane tops, rice bran, wheat bran, barley bran, mustard cake and molasses. In the country as a whole, crop by-products and residues contribute about 47 % of the total available TDN. Agricultural land contributes substantial fodder in the Middle-hills and Terai, where there are large livestock populations but little grassland. In crop growing areas, rice straw, wheat straw and maize stovers are widely fed, sometimes with cereal bran and oil seed cakes, along with a little grain.

(ii) Forest. The area of forest is 5.5 million hectares or 37.4 % of the total land. Forest land is almost evenly distributed between the High hills (34%), Middle hills (33%) and the Terai (34%). Fodder is collected from the forest for feed and bedding which is subsequently used as manure. Uneaten branches and twigs are used as fuel.

(iii) Shrubland. The area of shrubland is 0.7 million hectares or 4.8 % of the total. There is little shrubland in Terai, (9%); most is in the Middle hills (57%) and the High hills (34%). Fodder from shrubland is used to feed the animals and for bedding. In the country as a whole, shrubland contributes 7 % of the total available TDN.

(iv) Non -Cultivated Inclusions (NCI). The area of non-cultivated inclusions is 0.99 million hectares or 6.8 % of all land. There are few non-cultivated inclusions in the High hills (15 %) and the Terai (18 %); most is in the Middle hills (67 %). NCI lie fallow throughout the year and fodder is collected either by cut-and-carry or grazed by animals of nearby households. Fodder from non-cultivated inclusions contributes 11 % of the total available nutrients.

(v) Grassland. The area of grassland is 1.7 million hectares or 11.8 % of the land area. In the High hills grassland is the most important fodder source. Most of the grassland is in the High hills (79.3%) and the Middle hills (16.7%). More than half of the grassland is in the high mountains. The Terai and Siwaliks together have (4%). Grassland contributes 5 % of available TDN.

Feeding systems

(i) Mountain. Ruminants in high mountain areas mostly graze for 6-8 hours. Cereal by-products are fed to both ruminants and monogastrics. Concentrate feed is given to lactating and growing animals. Stall-feeding is only practiced when one or two animals are kept. Kundo (a home made cooked concentrate) is only fed to lactating animals. Salt is given once in a week or two mixed in kundo when kundo is fed. Oxen are given better care during cultivation time. Yaks and chauries graze for more time than other ruminants; mostly they are left to graze in pastures, forest and along the streams when the land is not covered with snow. They are let loose in such areas continuously for several days. It is more systematic at higher altitudes where a fixed system of rotational grazing prevails in the kharkas (pasture land) with 15 - 30 days in one kharka depending on the availability of forage and strength of the herd. In this system, there is no shed for the animals, only a compound divided into compartments, where the animals spend the night. Once the forage is finished in a kharka, they are moved to another. In winter when snow covers the pasture, animals do not find sufficient forage. In April – May, even when the pasture is bare, animals are left to graze and cannot even compensate the energy they spend going and coming from such pastures and they suffered great hardship. Although farmers make hay in high altitude in the rainy season when some grass is available, it is not sufficient to meet their nutrient requirement because farmers do not have sufficient land and prefer to grow potato, buckwheat and other crops on the limited land. Hay from native species like Elymus nutans (furcha), Pennisetum flaccidum (dhimchi), Medicago sativa ssp. falcata (kote), and other local grasses is very expensive and considered best by farmers. Hay is usually carried by pack yaks while transporting the household goods, from one part to another. Potato is one of the main items given to these animals as concentrate because it is available in sufficient quantity in both winter and summer.

Usually animals are fed twice daily. Young calves and lactating females are given special attention and fed with better hay, khole and some potatoes. Calves of under a year are given some pida prepared from uwa, (naked barley), potato, peas, wheat and maize flours. This practice is also very common in Tibet. Some straws, e.g. uwa, barley, buckwheat and wheat in lower belts are stored after harvest as feed during scarcity periods.

Yaks and chauries are always tied during feeding because they are extremely aggressive. Strong ones do not allow weak ones to eat anything if not tied. If a strong yak/nak hits a weak one, all others also come and hit that animal and may even kill it. In the migratory system, goats are taken to pastures at different altitudes depending on season and weather. Goats usually graze along with sheep and the two species move together. Hay from native fodder is not sufficient to meet the requirement of the entire herd for the long dry winter and summer and animals lose considerable weight during these seasons. Some grain is offered occasionally. Salt is provided from time-to-time.

(ii) Hills. Because of the high animal population and cultivation pressure and large human population in the Mid-hills, there is competition amongst livestock species for available feed. Productive animals, especially lactating buffaloes and cattle, are kept in the villages and others, especially sheep, goats and dry stock are often taken to the pastures for about four months in summer. The sedentary population consists of work oxen, buffaloes and a few of cattle. This system prevails at the lower altitudes of the Mid-hills (900-1 000 masl) and utilizes all the forage in and around the village. The grazing area is usually degraded and gully formation and soil erosion evident. The animals spend half their time grazing but most of the feed comes from crop by-products and tree fodder in winter, and grasses and weeds from cropland in summer, which are fed evening and morning. Usually, fodder trees play an important role to provide feed in late winter. Productive animals, e.g. lactating buffaloes, receive better feed in terms of concentrate, green fodder and straw. Others subsist on straw and around the fallow land and nearby forest.

Goats are left to graze or browse on bushes or low branches of trees near grazing areas or the forest for sufficient time to meet their food requirement. After 8 hours grazing they are brought back to the sheds and offered some grain (usually maize) especially castrated males for fattening. Young kids and their dams usually stay at home to protect them from predators as well as for better care and management; after about two months, they join the herd for grazing and some concentrate is provided in the evening.

(iii) Terai. Most livestock are stall-fed or graze around the villages on fallows, waste land, roadsides and are also fed by-products. Some ethnic shepherd groups still move their sheep flocks, especially Lampuchhre, in search of feed around the villages and may move across districts. Goats are mostly stall-fed and a few are reared in villages, along roadsides, near small towns and river basins. Forage is cut and carried. Goats are penned all day and fodder is fed in a rack. Enclosure size depends on the number of goats. In some places goats are penned in the same enclosure day and night; some grain is usually offered in the evening. Some are transferred to a night pen to save them from theft and predators. Lactating does and their kids are given better care and management along with good quality concentrate in form of cooked maize and / or broken rice.

Where paddy is the main crop, feed scarcity in commoner in the rainy season, when all land is planted. Grasses on bunds are the major source of stall-feeding and are fed in combination with chopped rice straw. Other combinations: chopped rice straw plus mustard cake, wheat roughages plus local green grasses, wheat roughage (bhusa) plus oil cake, rice straw plus locally made concentrate, wheat roughages plus locally made concentrate i.e. mixing grain with roughages are fed. In a few cases, livestock graze for several hours. In the dry season many areas are uncultivated and although growth of native grasses is slow, there is usually sufficient feed for livestock in the villages. In the hot, dry season livestock are mostly loose for grazing in uncultivated areas. Where the market access by road has improved, farmers have started to adopt new production technology based on balanced farming with cultivated fodder, fodder trees and appropriate crops to improve the feed along with increased farm productivity and keeping improved animals, especially buffaloes for milk. In winter livestock raisers generally feed oats, berseem, winter vetch in combination with paddy straw. In the rainy season, farmers feed livestock with stylo, teosinte, Napier, jowar, summer joint vetch etc. with combination of locally available feed resources. Farmers collect green feed for cut-and-carry; stall-feeding prevails in intensively cultivated areas where availability of crop by-products is sufficient to maintain animals in winter.

Feed utilization

Most farmers do not know about the quality of improved fodder, they harvest the crops when they are over-mature and fibrous but the dry matter yield is at its maximum. Farmers store heaps of maize stalks, wheat straw, millet straw and rice straw under the sky so the quality of these residues is already poor under traditional storage practices. The proper conservation and utilization techniques of these feeds should be demonstrated further.

Fodder Conservation. Both fodder conservation as hay and silage are encouraged. Farmers are provided with technical and financial assistance for implementing these activities. Farmers of high altitude regions have adopted hay making to some extent whereas both methods of conservation of fodder need to further be demonstrated for the other regions.

Fodder enrichment. In order to improve the utilization of crop residues, efforts have made to enhance their preservation and quality. Paddy straw, a very common roughage in the Terai is improved by urea treatment.

Strategies for fodder production

Despite a high average population per household, insufficient animal products are produced to meet the growing demand. The livestock consume nutrients below their maintenance requirement, which is the major reason for low livestock productivity. Different approaches have been adopted by Government organizations for fodder production in different zones:

- High hill

Grazing land improvement.
Forage conservation.

- Mid hill 

Cultivation of forages.
Terrace land utilization with forage species.
Fodder tree establishment on bund & terrace risers: Community grazing land improvement.

- Terai 

Intensive cultivation of fodder crops

An individual farmer and group/community approach is adopted to popularise fodder production and conservation by adopting the following strategies:

  • Provision of training.
  • Provision of seed and saplings.
  • Pasture development in community forestry and leasehold forestry land.
  • Provision of free technical services from livestock and forage officers.
  • Demonstration of year-round fodder production.
  • Enrichment of paddy straw with urea treatments.
  • Hedgerow establishment.
  • Pasture development under high tension lines.
  • Pasture development in the either sides of the roads.
  • Demonstration on hay and silage making.

Major problems associated with feeds and feeding

Major problems associated with feeds and feeding, include both their quality and quantity during winter and summer, be it in migratory, sedentary or stall fed systems. Shrinkage of pasture and community (public) grazing land, decreasing feed resources, unavailability of cereal and legume by-products for feeding animals etc. have led to the quantity related problems. The available feeds and forages are mostly poor in nutritive value. Grazing in the forest area has been prohibited to a great extent causing some problems in the availability of feeds and fodders. Heavy dependence on poor quality roughages and degraded pasture and grazing lands has reduced the production and productivity of the livestock.

Integration of livestock into farming systems

There are three important components of Nepalese farming systems and they are crop, livestock and forest. Integration among these components results in a farming system in different agro-ecozones of the country. Distinctively integration of livestock prevails in three prominent farming systems:

(i) Mountain farming systems. The potato, barley and buckwheat zone is in the lower ranges of the Himalayas from 2 500 - 3 500 m above sea level. The land is steep and less fertile than in other zones; holdings are small and fragmented. Crops take longer to mature, and harvesting one crop annually is the common practice. Crop productivity is very low and intensification to increase yields has limited scope. Cereals, for example, have to be purchased from outside the region. Transhumant animal production is concentrated in alpine meadows and forests. The chyangra goat, bhyanglung sheep, lulu and kirko cattle, chauri, Tibetan horse, yak and nak predominate. The productivity of livestock is lower than in the Terai or hills. Households keep 5 –20 cattle and 50 or more small ruminants.

Farmers in this zone derive their income mainly from livestock, but neither animal nor crop production can meet their basic needs. Many young people move to lower, more favourable altitudes to farm, or go abroad to find work. There are few educational opportunities for children. Generally, mountain farmers have little or no access to roads, electricity, markets or modern communication systems. In these remote areas, the main ethnic groups are the Sherpa, Limbu or Tamang who are adapted to the hardships of the mountain-farming environment that include a cold climate and food shortages. Tables 24 and 25 describe the prevailing cropping systems in mountain regions.

Table 24. Major cropping patterns in rainfed bari-land in the mountain region

Cropping Pattern

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Maize-wheat-finger millet (2 years )

Wheat

Early maize from June to Sept and finger millet from May to October

Wheat

Maize+potato+wheat+finger millet

Wheat

Maize+potato from April to October and or finger millet from June to October

Wheat


Table 25. Major cropping patterns in irrigated khet-land in the Mountain region

Cropping Pattern

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Rice-naked barley

Naked barley

Rice

Fallow

Naked barley

Buckwheat-naked barley

Naked barley

Buckwheat

Fallow

Naked barley

Potato+naked barley-fallow (2 years)

Naked barley up to May potato from March to August

Fallow

Naked barley

Constraints in various sectors and focused interventions initiated

The constraints faced by mountain farmers and options for improvement (Sharma 1998, Morrison 1998, and Shrestha and Pradhan 1995) are as follows:

a. Crop production

Physical

Limited area for cultivation; remote and steep land; cold climate and consequent slow plant growth rate; and a short summer growing season due to the long, severe winter.

No easy access for farmers to roads, markets, education, inputs and new knowledge.

Soils

Acidic with low phosphate availability; degraded land and often shallow.

Low soil temperatures and slow decomposition of organic matter.

Ecological

Fragile ecosystem, with diversification from the mountain base to the summit, which may be temporarily or permanently snow-covered.

Native pasture species complete their cycle within 6-7 months.

Traditional crop and livestock production, with migratory communal grazing due to:
(a) Winter feed deficit for animals (b) Inadequate technology generation and dissemination to meet the defined meet of farmers.

Social

Less attractive to the young because of the harsh conditions.

Alternative sources of income, such as eco-tourism, not well recognized.

Community ownership of pastoral land.

Replacement of the barter system with the modern marketing system.


b. Animal production

  • Low input and extensive production systems based on pastoralism.
  • Over-grazing of native pasture resulting in land degradation.
  • Lack of information on pasture development and utilization.
  • Inaccessibility of pasture area.
  • Low productivity of native pastures and indigenous breeds of livestock.
  • Poor knowledge of nutritive value of native pasture.
  • High mortality rates in the migratory flocks of small ruminants.
  • Harsh environment for livestock.
  • Inadequate livestock extension systems.
  • No administrative mechanisms to protect the fragile ecosystem or restore degraded lands.

Research and extension programme priorities for improvement of mountain farming systems

  • Improvement of the productivity, nutritive value and utilization of native pasture species and fodder trees, particularly at high altitudes
  • Evaluation of the technical and economic feasibility of improving hay-making within the traditional systems
  • Conservation, and expansion of the establishment of important native pasture plants: Medicago sativa ssp. falcata, Pennisetum flaccidum, and Agropyron spp. in the drier areas of the trans-Himalayan region Festuca and Elymus in the high hills of the eastern region. Dactylis, Trifolium repens and Lolium perenne in the humid, high hills
  • Evaluation and improvement of the existing transhumance systems for ruminants, yak, nak and chauri, sheep and goats.
  • Development of animal breeding programme relevant to the mountain farming systems
  • Improvement in land tenure issues such as the lease of pastures to farmer groups raising livestock
  • Improvement in cheese production in the yak
  • Improvement in the production of temperate fruits such as apples and walnuts
  • Improvement in the production of the potato and other crops such as buckwheat and barley

(ii) Hill farming systems

Hill farming systems are true examples of mixed crop-livestock production utilizing forest resources at elevations of 500 – 2 500 m above sea level. The combination of topography, wind, rainfall distribution, soils and solar radiation has given rise to unique and complex systems incorporating traditional practices and experiences. The terrain is rugged and transport, communications and livestock are all intertwined with the agro-ecological conditions to form micro-farming systems which differ between locations. In the lower hill belt, water is available for irrigation and rice is grown on terraces at least once a year. It seems that 1 800 m is tentatively the upper economic limit for rice, except in Jumla, where the crop is grown at 2 500 m above sea level.

Rice is usually followed by winter wheat under irrigation. Other cash crops such as potatoes and vegetables, that command higher prices, are slowly replacing winter wheat. Tropical fruits are also grown in this belt. The unirrigated upland (bari) land, has been used to grow maize, finger-millet, cowpeas, mustard, vegetables, orange, lemons, plums, pears, mangoes, guavas, bananas, pineapples, sugarcane, tobacco, barley, wheat, fodder trees and forages such as oats, vetch and Stylosanthes spp. There is moderate use of chemical fertilizers but extensive use of manure. The predominant animals are cattle, buffalo and goats, which are mostly stall-fed with crop residues supplemented with foliage from trees grown on the slopes of terraces and in the forest. Generally, milking animals are stall-fed with grasses from the terraces of the cultivated fields, using the cut-and-carry systems. Dry animals, oxen and growing heifers are often allowed to graze communally on common or fallow land.

Sedentary livestock keeping predominates. Feeding and management of livestock is mostly done by women, whilst the marketing of animals, milk and milk products is undertaken by men, who also make the decisions both in household and social matters. Bullocks are used for draught for almost all cultivation, and for threshing of rice and millet. Rice straw constitutes the main source of feed, with milking animals being supplemented with 'kundo', a concentrate made from the by-products of grain and oilseeds.

In the upper hill belt, maize, millet, mustard, black gram, horse gram and soybean are the predominant crops. Most of the citrus produced in Nepal is grown in this area. This zone is inhabited by the Magar, Gurung, Rai, Limbu and Tamang ethnic groups. The emphasis on Buddhism means that women play an important role in both agricultural production and in decision-making, in contrast to areas where male dominated Hindu societies prevail. The women are responsible for carrying fodder from the forest and for the feeding, milking and management of livestock as well as the preparation of various milk products. Agricultural operations such as clearing and ploughing the land are shared with the men.

The cultivated land is steep in this zone and depending on rainfall, is more difficult to work. Farmers cultivate the land around the village at the start of the summer rains. In the upper hill belt transhumant rearing animals exists; stock are taken to higher pastoral areas for grazing, moving from place to place during summer. They are brought down to the village at harvesting time and allowed to graze in the fields, where temporary sheds are erected for manure collection. Tables 26 and 27 describe the prevailing cropping systems in hill regions.

Table 26. Major cropping patterns in rainfed bari-land in the Hills

Cropping pattern

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Maize /finger millet-wheat

Wheat

Wheat or Finger Millet

Wheat

Finger/finger millet-fallow

Fallow

Wheat or Finger Millet ( Early and Late Type )

Maize+soybean-mustard-fallow

Mustard

Fallow

Maize+soybean

Mustard

Maize+upland rice-fallow

Fallow

Maize or upland rice

Fallow

Maize+rice-wheat

Wheat

Maize or Rice

Wheat

Maize+barley

Barley

Maize

Fallow

Barley


Table 27. Major cropping pattern in the irrigated khet-land in the Hills

Cropping pattern

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Rice+blackgram-wheat (bunds)

Wheat

Fallow

Rice+black gram

Wheat

Black gram-Wheat-Fallow

Wheat

Fallow

Black gram

Wheat

Rice-wheat-fallow

Wheat

Fallow

Rice

Wheat

Rice-wheat-maize

Wheat

Maize

Rice

Wheat

Rice-rice-wheat

Wheat

Rice

Rice

Wheat

Rice-barley-fallow

Barley

Fallow

Rice

Barley

Constraints in various sectors and focused intervention initiated

The constraints faced by hill farmers and options for improvement (Sharma 1998, Morrison 1998, and Shrestha and Pradhan 1995) are as follows:

a. Crop production

  • Degraded, acid soils
  • Declining soil fertility
  • Traditional farming system, with farmers resisting any change to fruit and off-season vegetable production
  • Small and decreasing size of landholdings
  • No integration of horticultural crops such as citrus fruits with pastures and forage crops; low livestock and crop productivity

b. Animal production

  • Poor utilization of crop by-products and forest grazing
  • High animal densities causing over-grazing
  • Religious restrictions on the culling of animals
  • Absence of animal breeding strategies suitable for small farmers
  • Poor access to roads and markets
  • Lack of market oriented livestock production system
  • Heavy infestation of parasites in animals
  • Research and extension programme priorities for improvement of the hill farming systems
  • Development of crop rotations incorporating legumes
  • Development of minimum-tillage operations to conserve soil and nutrients
  • Development of new crop varieties and cropping systems
  • Improvement in productivity and management of fodder trees
  • Genetic improvements of animals using farmer-participatory approaches
  • Integration of forage production with food crops
  • Improvement in the management of animal diseases
  • Improved in the feeding regimes for draught animals
  • Improvement in animal productivity through stall-feeding systems
  • Improvement in off-season vegetable production in areas accessible to markets

(iii) Terai farming systems

The Terai contributes 47% to the agricultural GDP of Nepal, which is the highest of the three major agro-ecological zones. Crops provide about 80% of the household income and dominate agricultural production in the Terai. The contribution of livestock to household income is estimated to be around 20% (Shrestha and Sherchand, 1988). The land is flat and fertile and is suitable for the cultivation of rice, the major crop. The area lies in an east west direction in the southern part of Nepal, and occupies about 58% of the cultivated land. Most of the flat land in the Terai is situated at an elevation of 70-300 m.

Most of the Terai households keep cattle; nearly 50% keep goats and over one-third keep buffalo. Although mechanization is replacing draught animal power, most of the poor and middle-level farmers still depend on draught animal power for various agricultural operations. Crop intensification in the Terai is high, with as many as three crops produced in a year. Consequently, an imbalance between organic matter and micronutrients is occurring in the soils. Tables 28 and 29 show the major cropping patterns in Terai regions of the country.

Table 28. Major Cropping Pattern in the Bariland of Terai

Cropping Pattern

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JULY

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

1.Maize-Mustard- Fallow

Mustard

Fallow

Maize

Fallow

Mustard

2.Rice-Fallow-Fallow

Fallow

Rice

Fallow

3.Rice-Wheat-Fallow

Wheat

Fallow

Rice

Wheat

4.Rice-Mustard-Chickpea

Mustard+

Chickpea

Fallow

Rice

Mustard+Chickpea

5.Rice-Mustard-Lentil

Mustard+Lentil

Rice

Mustard+Lentil

6.Maize-Chickpea or Lentil

Chickpea or Lentil

Maize

Chickpea or Lentil

7.Pigeon pea

 

Pigeon pea

8.Fingermillet-Lathyrus

Lathyrus

Fallow

Fallow

Finger millet

Fallow

Lathrus

9.Jute-Mustard-Fallow

Mustard

Jute

Fallow

Mustard

10.Jute-Wheat-Fallow

Wheat

Jute

Fallow

Wheat


Table 29. Major Cropping Pattern in the Irrigated land of Terai

Cropping Pattern

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JULY

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

1.Rice-Wheat-Fallow

Wheat

Fallow

Rice

Wheat

2.Rice-Rice-Wheat

Wheat

Fallow

Early Rice

Late Rice

Wheat

3.Rice-Rice or Lentil or Chickpea or Lathyrus

Late Rice. Lentil or Chickpea or Lathyrus

Early Rice

Late Rice. Lentil or Chickpea or Lathyrus

4.Rice-Wheat-Mungbean

Wheat

Mungbean

Rice

Wheat

5. Rice-Wheat-Dhaincha

Wheat

Dhaicha

Rice

Wheat

6.Rice-Potato-Dhaicha

Potato

Fallow

Dhaicha

Rice

Potato

7.Rice-Field Pea-Maize

Field Pea

Maize

Rice

Field Pea

8.Rice-Pigeon pea in Ricebund-Wheat

Wheat

Fallow

Rice, Pigeon Pea in Rice Bond

Wheat

Constraints in various sectors and focused intervention initiated

The constraints faced by the farmers of Terai and the options for improvement (Sharma 1998, Morrison 1998, and Shrestha and Pradhan 1995) are as follows:

a. Crop production

  • Soil micronutrient deficiencies due to intensive cultivation
  • Declining soil organic matter
  • Lack of efficient fertilizer and cropping practice for optimum and sustainable crop production
  • Absence of forages, particularly legumes, in the cropping systems
  • Lack of diversification and commercialisation in the crop production systems
  • Poor water management and limited irrigation facilities
  • Limited irrigation of fruit and pasture intercrops.

b. Animal production

  • Low availability of crop by-products for animal feed
  • Lack of adoption of improved animal breeding approaches by farmers
  • Poor control of livestock movements
  • Occasional outbreaks of contagious diseases
  • Reproduction problems in crossbred dairy animals

Research and extension programme priorities for improvement of the terai farming systems

  • Improvement in the production from cereals and cash crops
  • Introduction of forages, particularly legumes, into cropping systems
  • Improvement in draught animal power
  • Genetic improvement of buffalo, goats, pigs and poultry for meat production
  • Improvement in the efficiency of utilization of agricultural by-products by livestock

Utilization of the various grassland resources

Based on the crop-livestock and forest integration, different livestock production systems utilize the resources of the various grasslands. Annual resource utilization by types of animals is described below:

Tropical and sub-tropical. In the tropical grasslands of the Terai, animals such as Terai cattle, local Terai buffalo, Terai goats and Lampuchhre sheep are grazed year round even though the availability of forage is minimal at most times of the year. During the summer monsoon grazing is mainly confined to the road-sides and any available place. From October to December as the crop ripens and is harvested, animals graze the bunds under strict supervision. From January to May grazing moves to harvested and fallow lands where they are managed as herds. Animals are primarily raised under sedentary management, however, their major feed supply comes from cropland products and grazing fallows, wasteland and marginal road sides. In the subtropical grasslands (Siwaliks) which includes mainly lowland and upland agriculture areas and the forest elevations 1 000 – 2 000 m, the major feed supply comes from forest grazing, croplands, and wastelands. Lime, Parkote buffaloes, hill cattle, Kage sheep, Khari goats are raised under a sedentary management system.

Temperate, sub-alpine, and alpine. The temperate to alpine climate favours dwarf shrubs, junipers, rhododendrons and short grasses in many alpine pastures for the migrating flocks and herds (Pradhan and Rasali, 1994). Cool temperate grasslands are spread throughout the upper midhills from 2 450 to 3 050 m, whereas sub-alpine grasslands are located between 3 050 to 3 610 m characterized by continuous but in some places scattered grasslands. Sub-alpine grassland has a limited grazing period of 5 - 8 months owing to heavy snow during winter months. Alpine grasslands are most prevalent above the tree line from 3 900 m in elevation. These grasslands provide forage from June to September (4 months) particularly for nomadic sheep and goats. Grazing of the areas is seasonal due to the migratory system which varies depending on animal species, local geographical conditions and traditional patterns. Yaks graze the alpine meadows at altitudes of up to 5 000 m or more during summer. In winter the herd is brought down to around 3 000 m and herded near the village or allowed to graze unattended in forest around the winter snow line.

Migratory herds of sheep and goats move up from the villages in June - July to graze alpine pasture during summer and return with the approaching winter in October - November to graze grasslands and degraded forest above the village. About November the flocks move down into the Mid-hills where they graze crop stubble, and fallow lands in return for their manure contribution. Cattle, chauries, buffalo may join the summer grazing migration but are mostly stall-fed during winter on conserved hay and tree fodder. Herds of horses and mules, being rested from their winter transportation work also join the migration to the high pasture in the summer.

Steppe. Steppe vegetation is found to the north of the main Himalayan peaks of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna in the districts of Dolpa, Mustang Manang and Mugu. Located between approximately 2 450 – 5 000 m, the entire region is in a rain shadow and averages less than 500 mm annual precipitation. The major vegetation consists of dwarf shrubs and 12 - 22 % ground vegetation with perennials and weeds (Pradhan and Rasali, 1994). The vegetation of this region characterizes the high altitude pastures that are grazed by migratory herds and flocks. Chyangra goats and Lulu cattle are common in areas of poorer grazing. Yaks, chauries, kirko cattle, bhyanglung sheep, Tibetan horses and donkeys are found in the better pastures with greater accessibility to grazing during summer and winter.

Vegetation - livestock - wildlife

Changes in vegetation and degradation of forest cover alters and may ultimately destroy, the habitat of indigenous wildlife. Present continuous overgrazing of rangelands in most ecozones undoubtedly has led to a reduction in the numbers and range of wildlife species. In Langtang valley, due to heavy grazing, during the monsoon, wild herbivore, scrow (Capricoruis sumatraensis) are replaced by livestock (Yonzon and Hunter, 1991). It is the same for the wild buffalo (Bubalis arnee) and Gouri Gai (Bos gaurus) in tropical areas. For both the tame and ungulate herbivores whose life cycle is governed by the environment and feed available, the grassland carrying capacities and stocking rates should be determined that provide home for both livestock and wildlife. In some areas, that have been seriously overgrazed by livestock and are important habitats of wildlife, strict measures need to be taken to restrict or control livestock in order to improve vegetation condition and wildlife habitats.

Livestock market and trading practices

There are formal and informal markets for livestock. Traditional markets are in the Terai where communications and the availability of marketable surpluses are greater but the infrastructure is poor for holding, selling, loading and transporting livestock efficiently. Price information for livestock is limited and because producers bring only one or two head to the market, they find themselves either taking the best price offered or returning home. In the hills and mountains, permanent markets are confined to district headquarters and a few other centres.

Market agents are active in both large and small markets procuring live animals. Where established markets are not present, traders visit villages and provide a valuable service to the functioning of the market. The success of a market is a direct function of the number of private traders on a given day. The movement of slaughter animals like buffalo and goats is very high during festival seasons. Price and food habits are important factors, which influence cross-border livestock trading.

The major consumption areas for livestock products are urban areas like the Kathmandu valley, Pokhara and Nepalgunj. Major meat-processing industries, which consume large quantities of meat, are in major cities. Personal incomes of the population are high which increases the demand for meat and meat products. The largest contributors to meat production are buffaloes and goats. Meat processing entrepreneurs complain about shortage of quality buffalo and pork in the market needed for production of a variety of meat products.

The domestic market for live animals is strongly influenced by trade with India and China. India acts both as a supplier of breeding animals, animals for slaughter, and market for mature buffalo, male buffalo calves, goats and milking cows and buffaloes. Border livestock markets have close links with similar markets in India and Indian traders are involved in supplying livestock according to local demand and season of the year. Importation of sheep from India has been discouraged in recent years due to the risk of bluetongue. Because of the long, porous border with India, the orientation of this trade is strongly south to north and occurs throughout the length of the border.

A large number of Indian nationals are involved in buffalo and goat marketing by bringing livestock from India as well as purchasing in Nepal's villages. Indian traders have an extensive network of contacts and more importantly have access to an informal credit system. In the cattle trade, many traders are Muslims with a long family history in the business. Live animal markets for cattle have been in a state of uncertainty because of HMG/N's ban on the export of cattle to India.

Livestock farmers complain about market information and market accessibility of their products in-country. Although there are traditional markets in Terai districts, they have no facilities like weighing scales, animal feeding, animal holding yards and veterinary services. On the other hand, a milk holiday is observed periodically. The quality of traditional livestock products like ghee and leather is not good and farmers and entrepreneurs are not getting a fair price in the competitive market. Under such circumstances, the government has to play a crucial role to improve market accessibility of livestock and livestock products through establishment of livestock marketing facilities in potential areas, product diversification and enhancement of the quality production system. The Directorate of Livestock Marketing Promotion was established in 2000 to organize and promote marketing of livestock and livestock products (see photo) at the national level. It cannot function well due to the lack of facilities, supporting staff and network within the country.

Nepal has an established livestock trade with India, China and Bangladesh with to and fro movement in both northern and southern borders. It is important to consider both legal and illegal livestock trading in the region to develop effective disease control and marketing strategies. The major livestock import and export routes between Nepal, India and China are presented in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Routes of livestock product marketing and trading
[Click to view full image]

The annual growth rate of livestock products such as meat, milk and eggs is 3.95, 2.72 and 5.04 per cent respectively which does not meet the daily requirements and hence they have to be imported. Male buffalo calves and goats are imported from India and Tibet. Processed meat and milk powder are also imported (Table 30).

Table 30. Livestock production status

Commodity

Production

Growth rate (%)

Required quantity

Balance

Meat (000 mt)

203

3.95

331

-128

Milk (000 mt)

1154

2.72

1345

-191

Eggs (ten millions)

54.8

5.04

113

-58.2

DLS, Annual Progress Report, 2001/02.


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