Most Sri Lankans live in rural areas, so special attention has been given to rural development and land reform. The urban population (21.5%) is mainly concentrated in greater Colombo and five other cities. But 70% of Sri Lanka’s population lives in the south-western economically and climatically favoured province, on only 30% of the country’s land; the dry zone accounts for 60% of the land, but has only 20% of the population. Population density per square kilometre was 310 in 2004 (Annual Report Central Bank, 2004).
Compared to other South and Southeast Asian countries, Sri Lanka ranks very high in parameters of life expectancy (males: 71.7 years; female: 76.4 years), health standards (crude death rate in 2003: 1.89%; rate of natural increase in 2003: 1.28%; infant mortality rate in 2003: 1.11%) and education (literacy rate in 2003-2004: overall: 92.5%; male: 94.5%; female: 90.6%), Annual Report Central Bank, 2004. During the last few years, the population growth rate was reduced to 1.28% (Annual Report Central Bank, 2004) and was only 0.79% in 2005 according to World Factbook . Agriculture is one of the most important sectors of the economy and gives employment to at least 34% of employed persons (7,305,000) with a high degree of subsistence farming, and provided 18% of GDP in 2004 (Annual Report Central Bank, 2004).
The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which expanded by 1.6 per cent in value added terms in 2003, contracted marginally by 0.7% in 2004 mainly due to the impact of inadequate rainfall on certain major crops. The relative importance of the agriculture sector continued to decline from 19 per cent of the GDP in 2003 to 18 per cent in 2004 owing to the low contribution from paddy production. However, production of other subsidiary food crops and vegetables improved, as farmers shifted to them from paddy to ensure maximum use of available water. In fact the ‘other agricultural crops’ category which includes, vegetables, subsidiary food crops, minor export crops, animal husbandry, sugar cane, tobacco, and fruits, expanded by 3.2 per cent in value added terms compared to 1.9 per cent recorded in 2003, while the value added in the fishery sector recorded an improvement of 1.6 per cent.
The livestock sector, mainly the dairy and poultry industries, recorded a mixed performance in 2004: it is estimated that total milk production has grown by 3 per cent to 190.8 million litres and total milk collection increased by 13 per cent due to an improved collection network. Table 1 summarises livestock types, their numbers and products for 1998 – 2004.
Sri Lanka statistics for livestock numbers and production for 1998-2004
Most of the island's surface consists of plains between 30 and 200 metres above sea level. In the south-west, ridges and valleys rise gradually to merge with the Central Highlands, giving a dissected appearance to the plain. The coastal belt, about thirty metres above sea level, surrounds the island. Sri Lanka's rivers rise in the Central Highlands and flow in a radial pattern toward the sea; most of them are short. Sixteen principal rivers are longer than 100 kilometres; twelve of them carry about 75 percent of the mean river discharge of the country. The longest river is the Mahaweli Ganga at 335 kilometres in length.
Topography plays a major role in the pattern of rainfall distribution. While the northeast monsoon rains are island wide, the mountains intercept the southwest monsoon. Thus the country can be divided into three climatic zones:
On rainfall distribution, Sri Lanka has traditionally been classified into three climatic zones viz; the Wet Zone, Dry Zone and Intermediate Zone. The Wet Zone covers the south-western region including the central hill country and receives relatively high mean annual rainfall over 2,500 mm without pronounced dry periods. The Dry Zone covers predominantly the northern and eastern part of the country, being separated from the Wet Zone by the Intermediate Zone. The Dry zone receives a mean annual rainfall of less than 1,750 mm with a distinct dry season from May to September. The Intermediate zone receives a mean annual rainfall between 1,750 to 2,500 mm with a short and less prominent dry season.
In differentiating these three major climatic zones; land
use, forestry, rainfall and soils are widely used and as a result, they
were divided into 24 agro-ecological regions. Environmental change, availability
of more spatial and temporal data and advancement of GIS technology has
led to the sub-division of the 24 agro-ecological regions of
The largest number of cattle is found in the dry zones, where herd sizes are also the largest. The relative distribution of cross bred dairy cattle is highest in the mid- and up-country as well in the wet lowlands near Colombo. In the first case, this can be attributed to the temperate climatic conducive to the health and performance of improved animals. While in the second case, it may be attributed to the high milk prices available through the informal market close to the urban area, under which circumstances the risks to improved animals of lowland conditions are acceptable.
Livestock numbers for the period 1998-2004 have been described earlier in Table 1.
Livestock keeping in the country not only depends on the agro-ecological
conditions (like climate or pasture) but also on the farming traditions
(crop-livestock integration for example) and the farmer’s socio-cultural
and religious environment. The main purpose of cattle keeping varies according
to the type, breed, and agro-ecological zone. For example, up-country,
improved cattle are kept only for milk and manure, whereas the local Lankan
cattle are also used as draught animals. In the coconut triangle, buffaloes
provide both milk and draught. In
In general, 1.8 million smallholdings covering 1.42 million hectares (approximately 0.8 hectares per holding) produce food crops and animal products mostly for domestic consumption; a third of holdings have livestock. On the other hand, holdings of the cattle population (holdings of less than 4 hectares) account for about 95 % in the livestock sector.
In 2004 and 2005 beef and veal production in Sri Lanka was estimated at 28,200 and 29,000 mt respectively, buffalo meat was 3,503 and 3,955 mt, chicken meat 94,700 and 99,500 mt, eggs 49,590 and 52,000 mt, goat meat 1,430 and 1,500 mt and mutton and lamb 148 and 156 mt. (FAOSTAT 2006).
Milk is the principal element of the livestock sector, having reached a level of about 165,580 Mt in 2004 and 174,100 Mt in 2005. Of this about 60-70% is domestically consumed or locally marketed. Only about one-third of the total production is processed into milk powder, yoghurt, butterfat etc.. To satisfy the national demand, a total of 65,792,177 kg of dairy products, mainly milk powder are annually imported, which cost US$ 109,512,105 per year (Livestock Statistics, 2002). According to FAOSTAT the value of all dairy products imported in 2003 was US$119,908,000 and US$122,359,000 in 2004, of which almost US$112 M (2003) and US$113 M (2004) was for dry milk powder. In addition beef and veal imports in 2003 and 2004 were 50 and 54 mt, chicken meat was 2,314 and 1,645 mt, with milk equivalent imports totalling 506,901 and 434,483 mt.
Agro-ecological regions and livestock production
There zones reflect the effects of both altitude and precipitation. The common topographic and climatic features, type of animals and husbandry practices in the major systems are given in Table 3.
Up-country: Tea Estate Dairy/ Market Vegetable
Feed resources are generally constraining with producers dependent on cutting from small plots of steep pasture above the tea land, in gullies or valleys or on scavenging Gliricidia, Erythrina, etc. from plantations (Premaratne et al., 1997,1998; Stewart et al., 1998). Fodder supplies are seasonal as are concentrate prices and there is very little or no grazing. Milk marketing systems are well developed and are assisted by the concentration of estate workers into villages, with usually twice a day milk collection. Multiple milk collection and processing organizations operate in the area.
Manure is an important output of the system and is marketed through private entrepreneurs who collect directly from farms and sell to market gardeners in the Nuwara-eliya area. There is very little room for expansion of production in these areas due to feed and land constraints. Allocation of unused tea lands for fodder could increase the animal production in this area.
Mid-Country: Kandyan Forest Garden
Feed resources are not a severe constraint overall, although they can be seasonally. Cattle are often grazed - tethered on paddy land or bunds (Premaratne, 1993b; Premaratne and Sivaram, 1995; Premaratne, 1996 and 2000). Concentrates, mainly poonac (copra cake) and rice bran, are used. Manure is used on paddy or other crops or sold. A number of dairy co-operatives are well established and are providing services such as concentrate feed on credit, and in some cases AI and extension, as well as loans. In this zone the immediate constraint to increased milk production may be the inefficient feeding of dairy cattle. Access to livestock extension is poor and is a constraint to greater productivity. Access to AI and health services is generally good but variable, constrained in some areas by terrain, infrastructure and distances.
Coconut Triangle and Lowlands
Milk marketing is generally adequate and market infrastructure is good. Buffalo milk is generally converted to curd for which there is high demand. The potential for fodder production is not fully exploited in spite of current availability of pasture subsidies. Labour constraints again are likely to play a role in this due to proximity of urban areas.
Dry Lowland Systems
In the north and south systems focus on low technical efficiency, low cost and labour-efficient extensive beef-dairy production. On average cows make up 40% of the cattle herds and 50% of the buffalo herds which graze for most of the year on paddy lands, bunds and scrub jungles. There is almost no use of concentrates and little of crop residues, although buffaloes are fed rice straw. Silage is produced in most of the government farms but hay production is more common with farmers, although amounts produced are small (Ibrahim et al., 1989; Panditharatne et al., 1986a and b; Premaratne et al., 1993; Samaraweera et al., 2001). In the rainy season milk collection may fall as animals are moved off paddy lands. AI is severely constrained by open herd management, so that upgrading is occurring through use of studs. There is very poor access to extension services.
The average production of milk from an indigenous breed is less than 1 litre/cow/day, with 2-5 times more from dairy-cross breeds. The primary product is beef animals, mostly males up to 2 years old, which are sold once or twice a year to traders. Milk is sold when available and some of the standard collection structures apply, although distance is a limiting factor, as is low milk density. Milk prices are relatively high due to high fat and SNF, providing a good incentive for increased production. In some areas curd marketing is well organized but milk spoilage is relatively high due to poor refrigeration facilities.
There is some potential for increased production if market systems and price incentives are improved. The most direct means for increase could be upgrading of local animals, with focus on buffaloes and in that case a focus on the use of stud bulls to overcome the practical constraints to AI.
Chadhokar (1980) focused on the forage problems of small dairy farmers
in the Mid-Country and Coconut Triangle and reported on forages, silage
making, drought feeding, useful fodder trees and forage seed production.
Liyanage and Jayasundera (1988) demonstrated the value of Gliricidia as
an animal feed and Chadhokar and Lecamwasam (1982) reported the results
of feeding Gliricidia maculata to milking cows; Jayawardana
(1985) reported on the pastures of
However, in spite of various research, farm grown or improved pastures
are not practiced to any great extent in
Natural (wild) Guinea grass
Naturally, it now overruns road and railway sides, natural forests, crop
plantations, natural grasslands and scrubland at low and mid elevations.
There are several Guinea grass dominant grasslands occurring in the low
country dry zone areas. Forest Department statistics show that the vegetation
under natural Guinea grass in
Sri Lanka's grasslands have been categorized in many ways, based on their
origin and evolution, geographical distribution and floristic composition.
However, natural grasslands in
Sri Lankan grasslands are likely to play an economically vital role because
they have a potential as feed for livestock. However, their exploitation
has been rather unsystematic due to increasing biotic interference by
haphazard clearing for short-term cultivation, illegal burning, and extensive
removal of herbages for fodder and over-grazing. These activities have
caused considerable floristic and habitat changes and severe erosion of
many types of grassland with near complete destruction of some areas (Pemadasa,
1981). In terms of climatic and vegetation contrast, the grasslands of
Traditional livestock production in natural grasslands
Further, these livestock raisers were heirs to centuries of accumulated experience and skills for locally available resources of the grassland. Indigenous knowledge has been brought down from generation to generation and functioned as a part of the information base in the society. The pastoralists had a wide knowledge of the ecosystem in which they survive and ensured the use of natural resources in a sustainable manner (Naheesan, 2002). However, in the past, due to availability of land and free from various out side threats, farmers were able to have many more animals and therefore livestock farming was a first-class business.
Present situation of grassland-based livestock
Available information on the socio-economic background of livestock farmers in grassland areas and their production systems, forages and botanical composition, and soil and animal status are limited. However, preliminary studies on farmers’ socio-economic background and production systems, investigations on available forage species and their botanical composition, and, some chemical properties of soils in selected grassland types and locations have been carried out recently by the authors. The main findings of these studies are summarized in Table 7.
Preliminary investigations by the authors reveal that the so-called traditional pastoralism is no longer economically sound, basically due to land limitation and other unsettling reasons (Premalal and Premaratne, unpublished). This paper does not discuss the matters pertaining to number of classifications in livestock production systems previously made by a number of workers.
Issues and development programmes in grassland
The authors have observed that the current livestock management systems are incompatible with the area and, are not sustainable because of:
To face the ever more complex challenge to sustainable grassland resource management, the authors recognize the importance of fundamental social and socio-economic issues in the design and implementation of related interventions through participatory and multi-disciplinary approaches.
Constraints identified in improvement of national grasslands
Opportunities and suggestions for developing grassland resources
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of the Government of Sri Lanka has launched a revised Agriculture and Livestock Policy which generates a new approach to traditional livestock production. The ministry has started to allocate funds for communal grassland development activities. The research sector especially the state and universities have made efforts to identify the relevant institutional structure, present grassland resources and socio-economic background of the farmers involved in selected grassland ecosystems.
Milk marketing seems to be improving and consumption of liquid milk increasing gradually and farmers are now becoming interested in investing more money in dairying. Natural grasslands have to play a key role in providing feed for dairy stock.
The Council for Agricultural Research Policy (CARP) now provides funds for demand-driven research and development to ensure sustainability in the agriculture and livestock sector without irreversible degradation of environment resources. With this objective, the Government has also increased fund allocation to the CARP for implementing such research for reducing poverty and meeting the future food needs
The universities and state sector institutions have access to highly qualified, well-trained human resources with laboratory and field equipment and this is a big boost for grassland research activities in the country. A keen and enthusiastic group of researchers will be formed in the near future to implement the development of grassland resources.
There is a considerable “hidden harvest” from the grassland resources
|7. Research and Development Organizations and Personnel
Department of Animal Production and Health: A key department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. It is responsible for various development actions on livestock production and health including pasture/forage development.
Animal Science Departments of all major agricultural universities in the country: University of Peradeniya, University of Ruhuna, University of Jaffna, University of Sabaragomuwa and Eastern University. Responsible for academic and research activities on livestock management.
Veterinary Research Institute: This institute is under the Department of Animal Production and Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. The Pasture and Fodder Division of the institute has the mandate to carry out research on forage production, utilization and management, grassland development and conservation of forage germplasm.
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, University of Peradeniya: Responsible for academic and research activities on livestock diseases and management.
National Livestock Development Board (NLDB): This belongs to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and is responsible for management of the Ministry’s livestock farms.
Milk Industries of Lanka Company Limited (MILCO): belongs to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, and is responsible for forage development activities in the country.
Mahaweli Livestock Enterprise: managed by
the Mahaweli Authority of
Fodder Resources Centre, Kotadeniyawa: One of the regional centres of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. It is answerable for production of forage planting materials and distribution among the farmers throughout the country.
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