Fodder Production for Peri-urban Dairies in Pakistan
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Muhammad Dost


Pakistan's Climate and Cropping Systems
The Main Forages in Pakistan
Fodder Production
The Livestock
Dairying and the Demand for Milk



Economics of Dairying and Fodder
Seed Supply
Pollution by dairying



Annex I. Case Studies
Annex II. Bibliography
Annex III. Forage Cultivars Released by Various Institutes
Annex IV. Photographs


Pakistan is a large milk producer and demand is rising; it has no natural pasture suitable for dairying so dairy stock, mostly buffaloes, rely on cultivated forage for the green feed in their ration. Large numbers of dairy stock are kept in and around the cities and feed has to be brought in. This paper describes and reports on studies, undertaken in December 2001 - January 2002, on a series of urban and peri-urban sites in both the rainfed and irrigated tracts. Most dairy animals are in and around the intensively cultivated irrigated regions, except for some rainfed areas such as Rawalpindi-Islamabad and Mirpur. There is no land for grazing, so animals are kept at the homestead and stall-fed on cultivated forage, crop residues, and concentrates. On the irrigated plains there are also two very different types of stock rearing: subsistence and commercial; the latter in the milk-shed areas around and within big cities and towns. There are also two levels of fodder production: some farmers grow for their own stock (again sub-divided for subsistence and commercial) while others grow fodder as a cash crop and may not be involved in dairying. In an area where land and irrigation are the major limiting factors to agricultural production, intensification is the only way to meet the country’s needs for forage and livestock products. Improved forage cultivars have been developed and are proving extremely popular with growers, although seed supply is still a problem. Commercial forage production has emerged as an important activity especially in and around big towns. Improved oat and berseem varieties have been developed and have become popular to replace the wheat and rice straw that used to form the bulk of the ration. These varieties are good producers even in the cold weather when green forage is scarce, and are replacing the forage brassicas, which were formerly used in the winter lean period. Although commercial herds are few in rural areas but very common and important in the peri - urban regions, not all the forage required is produced in peri-urban areas. For several town dairies, forage is produced in distant rural areas, some hundreds of kilometres away and huge quantities of forage and straw are transported daily. The practice of feeding all the milking animals at the same rate, which is common in most dairy farms, results in overfeeding of less productive and underfeeding of more productive animals. Dairies should classify their herd into groups based on their daily productivity and feed them accordingly. Although cows eat less but produce higher milk yields than buffaloes, there is more demand for buffalo than cow milk, so buffaloes were the dominant animals on almost all the farms. Wheat straw and dry maize and sorghum stalks usually formed the bulk of feed in dairy farms. All farmers seemed unaware of the nutritive value of urea treated straw and stalks and of good quality hay. Average forage yields are very low as compared to their potential. Although improved varieties and technology are available, they have been slow to reach the small scale farms that account for the bulk of forage producers and seed production has lagged behind plant breeding and introductions. Recent on - farm trials have indicated that yields can be enhanced two to three fold by using available improved varieties and appropriate agronomic techniques.


Milk and dairy products are important in the Pakistani diet and the demand for milk is rising sharply with an ever-increasing population. About 42,200,000 hectares, 60 percent of the country, is grazing land but it is dry range, unsuitable for dairy cattle, so their green feed and roughage comes from agricultural land, most of it irrigated. The FAO-AGP Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile for Pakistan, Dost (1999), gives detailed information on the country’s pasture, forage and ruminant livestock situation. Rangelands and alpine pastures are used by herders of small stock and subsistence cattle, often under transhumant systems: some of these systems are described in a forthcoming AGP publication on Transhumant grazing systems in temperate Asia (Suttie and Reynolds 2003) and in Rafique (2000).Traditionally large numbers of dairy animals have been concentrated in and around the main towns, probably initially due to the difficulty of transporting fresh milk in a hot climate. These town dairies are supplied with both green and dry feed from the countryside and there is a considerable industry in providing and delivering it.

This paper describes and reports on studies, undertaken in December 2001 - January 2002, on a series of urban and peri-urban sites in both the rainfed and irrigated tracts.


Pakistan's climate and cropping systems
The main agricultural, and dairying lands are in the great plains of the valley of the Indus and its tributaries (see Figure 1), in the Punjab, Sindh and to a lesser extent the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Irrigated land, about 16,000,000 hectares is by far the most important from the point of view of production; there are also about 5,000,000 hectares of rainfed ( barani) land.

Figure 1. Map of Pakistan in general

The semi-arid to arid climate of the main agricultural areas is typified by great seasonal changes in temperature; the more easterly and northerly areas receive considerable amounts of monsoon rain. The climate of mountain areas, of course, is greatly affected by altitude and topography, those behind the Himalaya are in a rain shadow and the Balochistan highlands, west of the Indus, are very dry – these are not important agricultural areas. The main agro-ecological regions are shown in Figure 2.

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Figure 2. Pakistan: agro-ecological regions
[Click on map to view enlarged version]

The climate of the main farming areas may be summarised as follow:

(i) The Indus Delta. The climate is arid tropical marine with moderately hot summers and very mild winters. The mean daily maximum temperature range is 34-45 oC in summer and 19-20 oC in winter. The mean monthly summer rainfall (July-September) is approximately 75 mm and in winter (December-February) is less than 5 mm.

(ii) The Southern Irrigated Plains. The climate is arid subtropical and continental with hot summers and mild winters. The mean daily temperature range is 40-45 oC during May to July. The mean daily minimum temperature in winter is about 8.5 oC. Mean monthly rainfall is only about 16-20 mm in summer, with little rain in winter.

(iii) The Northern Irrigated Plains. This zone has a semi-arid subtropical continental climate. The mean daily maximum temperature in summer is 39.5 oC, and in winter, the mean daily minimum temperature is 6.2 oC. The mean annual rainfall range is 300-500 mm. Mean monthly summer (July, August, September) rainfall varies from 108 mm in the east to 75 mm in the southwest, while in winter, it varies from 14-22 mm per month.

(iv) The barani Lands. The climate of this zone is semi-arid with hot summers and cold winters and with a short dry season in early summer. In summer, the mean daily temperature is 38 oC. In winter, the mean daily temperature range is 3-6 oC. The mean monthly rainfall is approximately 200 mm in summer and 36-50 mm in winter (December-February).

The temperature regime allows at least double cropping over most of the irrigated tracts although temperatures in December – January are low enough to slow down or stop growth of berseem, but not oats; the southerly limit of frost is about the level of Multan.

The climate and the need to keep irrigated land in production for as long as possible each year (for land tax reasons) favours annual crops. Few perennials can produce over such an annual temperature range without being dormant at some season. Two main cropping seasons are recognized: rabi crops are sown in autumn for spring harvest and kharif crops are sown in summer to grow through the monsoon for autumn harvest. Both seasons are very important for irrigated land; the kharif is the most important for the barani tracts.

It is advisable to avoid the competition between forages and field crops which leads to competition between animals and people. Due to limited land, some farmers prefer to grow cash crops rather than forage and their animals are fed only dry roughages. It would be better to intercrop some compatible leguminous forages with the main cash crops to obtain good quality forage for livestock without affecting the main crop. The choice of forage will, however, depend on the relationship of forage with main crop, price, and cost ratio and variability of prices and yield (Heady, 1957).

Based on needs and requirements (subsistence or commercial production), several forage options are available to farmers. The concept of diversified agriculture (Ranjhan and Pathak, 1979) would help enhance farm families’ income. As a result of expansion in dairying, commercial forage production has become an important activity, especially near and around big towns. Adequate green forage is only available in March-April when berseem and oats are plentiful and from July to November, but by the end of this period, the nutritive value of mature sorghum, maize, and bulrush millet is low.

Mixed farming should continue in a situation of small land holding; this has been greatly facilitated by mechanisation. Since crop residues are deficient in protein and minerals, the forages grown should preferably be legumes so that poor crop residues could be better supplemented. In milk-shed areas with adequate demand and sufficient facilities for marketing liquid milk, agriculture has shifted towards dairying and commercial forage production (Dost, 1994).

Fodder is, of course, very important in rural farming systems both for livestock and soil fertility maintenance. Draught animals are still widely used, although mechanisation is increasing rapidly; even in towns animal power is used for short-haul work.

The main forages in Pakistan
Fodder is a traditional crop in Pakistan. In the irrigated tracts it is usually grown under basin irrigation which makes mechanical harvesting very difficult, so forages are usually cut by sickle; on barani lands the fields are usually levelled terraces. Brief notes follow – for more detailed information on the cultivation, use and conservation of these crops see the Grassland Index on this website and Suttie (2000).

Due to increased demand, improved forage crops such as multi-cut oats, berseem, lucerne, Sorghum- Sudan grass hybrids, sorghum, maize and millet have been developed. These have become very popular in irrigated areas such as Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sargodha, and Renala Khurd (Punjab), Nowshera, Charsada, Mardan, and Peshawar (North West Frontier Province), and Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Halla, and Nawabshah in Sindh, for sale to peri-urban dairies. Details of fodder cultivars released by Research Institutions in Pakistan, are given in Annex III. Average forage yields in Pakistan are extremely low compared to yields obtained on research institutes and from well managed farms and fields. Krischke (1987) also reported that an intensive fodder cultivation system and organization of farm input supply assists smallholders in the Punjab to avoid forage shortages and to earn additional income through increased milk production.

Most dairy animals are reared in the intensively cultivated irrigated plains with no fallow or natural pasture and are kept around the homesteads and stall-fed on forages, crop residues and some concentrates. The vast irrigated tracts of the Punjab, the North West Frontier Province and Sindh, which are the major source of forage for urban dairies, are at low altitude with a sub-tropical monsoon climate and hot summers. Cash crops such as wheat, cotton, sugar cane, maize, rice, and forage crops like sorghum- Sudan grass hybrids, lucerne, berseem, and oats are commonly grown. These areas supply the grain and forage requirements of urban dairies. Due to suitable temperatures and availability of irrigation, green forage is produced year-round. In the semi-arid deserts of Balochistan and the Northern Areas (a territory administered by Pakistan comprising the disputed territories other than Azad Jammu and Kashmir - the old Gilgit Agency) there is a seasonal movement of livestock, usually to high pastures in summer, and small quantities of forage are produced where irrigation is possible. The very successful improvement of fodder production in the Northern Areas, by introduction of better cultivars and improved husbandry, is described by Dost (1996).

Improved forage varieties and technology have been slow to reach the small scale farms which account for the bulk of forage production; seed production has lagged behind plant breeding and introductions. Medium scale on-farm work in the late nineteen-eighties demonstrated that yields can be raised two to three fold by using available improved varieties and appropriate agronomic techniques. In an area where land and irrigation are the major limiting factors to agricultural production, intensification is the only way to meet the country’s needs for forage and livestock products. Hence, intensive forage cultivation and economical production of several forage crops per unit area per season should be practiced in peri-urban and urban areas to feed dairy animals kept in the towns (Dost, et al. 1990, Bhatti et al. 1992).

Winter annuals
These are mainly grown under irrigation since the sparse winter rains are unsuitable for their cultivation, especially of berseem.

Berseem or Egyptian clover (Trifolium alexandrinum) is the major winter fodder. It is always an irrigated crop. If sown in late August or early September berseem will be ready for cutting before the cold weather on the Punjab plains and should produce four to six cuts. It dies off in late April to early May. Where the cropping pattern does not favour early sowing, as in the rice tracts where the land may not be free until well into November, berseem may be broadcast either into the crop at the last irrigation or into stubble after harvest; this provides no fodder until spring but does give a great flush in March and April; such areas are often also used for seed production. Berseem, unfortunately, is not an easy crop to make into hay, although this is possible by careful drying off the field but this is laborious and expensive. Berseem is a crop of relatively recent introduction, having been brought to Sindh from Egypt after the First World War and became the major winter fodder of what was then Northern India in less than twenty years.

Oats (Avena sativa) have become a very important crop in the past fifteen years or so. Previously they were almost restricted to Military Farms and Government stations but, with the introduction of high-yielding multi-cut cultivars in the late eighties the situation changed dramatically and Oats have become a major forage and now figure largely in the green feed, and hay sold to urban markets. Oats provide a high quality feed and are high yielding, they continue to grow at lower temperatures than does berseem so can provide feed in the winter gap when prices are high. Oats are frequently mixed with berseem to give early bulk. Like berseem they are mostly an irrigated crop. Oats are easily made into hay and oat hay is now a traded commodity being sent from the irrigated tracts to urban dairies. One potential constraint in getting the oat varieties into large-scale cultivation once research institutions had released them was the gap between the amounts of seed which stations had on hand and the quantities needed to build up an adequate supply; seed bulking of good, proven cultivars of oats and other forages, notably berseem, from national research stations received assistance from TCP/PAK/4452 and much of the work is described in Bhatti and Khan (1996). The introduction and development of fodder new oat varieties as a major cash crop in Pakistan is described by Dost (2002) on this web site.

Persian Clover or Shaftal (Trifolium resupinatum) is a crop of ancient cultivation in the region and was previously widely grown but has largely been replaced by berseem since it produces nothing in autumn but gives two big cuts in spring. It is still grown on soils which are too wet or too saline for berseem and is a very common contaminant in commercial berseem seed. It is a cold tolerant crop and is grown in some higher areas. It is an excellent hay crop and its young shoots are used as a vegetable.

Fodder Brassicas are commonly sown for early winter bulk; several species which are also used as oilseeds and vegetables are grown. The commonest is “sarson” Brassica campestris var. sarson but “toria” Brassica campestris subsp. oleifera var. toria and mustard or “rai”, Brassica juncea are also used. Brassicas are often mixed with berseem and, while they increase the yield at first cut, generally have an overall depressing effect through shading berseem seedlings. In subsistence systems the sarson shoots are picked as a favourite vegetable in Punjab.

Barley (Hordeum sativum) is grown as a minor winter crop; it is tolerant of salinity and low rainfall. Selected cultivars are available.

There are a few minor winter fodders. Senji or Indian clover (Melilotus indica) has been superseded by berseem but is still sometimes used on a few very saline fields or on sites too dry for berseem. Vetches (Vicia spp.) perform well in trials but have not gained popularity. Italian Ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) is an excellent winter fodder with good cold season growth and is a good mixer with berseem, but to date its seed supply problems have not been solved. Wheat was widely used but now, except in special circumstances, is being replaced by oats.

Summer annuals
These are grown under both rainfed and irrigated conditions since the monsoon provides plentiful precipitation over about ten weeks.

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is widely grown on both barani and irrigated land, often broadcast at fairly high seed rates. It may be used fresh, although there are dangers of toxicity, or allowed to reach near maturity and dried as “karbi”. Successional seeding is required where a supply of green feed is needed. Fodder cultivars are available, but most of that grown is local landraces.

Hybrid Sweet Sorghum x Sorghum sudanense has been gaining in popularity over the past twenty years, since it provides several cuts through the warm season (provided that maintenance fertilizer is given); it also does away with the necessity of cultivating land during the monsoon for the successional sowings needed for single-cut crops. Local hybrids have been developed but their seed production is still being organised and much of that used comes from multi-national companies. Sweet sorghum is a safer feed, with little danger of HCN toxicity than ordinary sorghum. Seed is expensive and the crop is usually row-planted under irrigation by commercial fodder growers and dairymen.

Maize (Zea mays) is a very important fodder; it is used in many ways. In the irrigated tracts it is first grown as a catch-crop to help cover the May –June gap and later in the season is grown when profitable. In the barani tracts it is grown where soil and moisture conditions are deemed suitable for green feed or dried fodder. Since considerable areas of maize are used for green cobs, as vegetables, their green residues contribute to the forage pool.

Bulrush millet (Pennisetum americanum) is a popular fodder on lighter soils, especially under rainfed conditions; selected fodder cultivars are available.

Cowpeas (Vigna uinguiculata) are a high quality summer fodder, and can be sown early, but are grown on relatively small areas commercially ( they are also grown as both pulses and vegetables and provide very useful by-products).

Guar (Cyamopsis tetragonaloba) is an useful summer fodder, sometimes sown in admixture with sorghum. It is suitable for both barani and irrigated situations. At present local landraces are used. Improved fodder cultivars are, however, available in climatically analogous regions of India.

There are many minor summer fodders. “Swank” (Echinochloa sp.) is still used on wet lands during the monsoon in the irrigated tracts. Mung (Vigna radiata) and moth (Vigna aconitofolia) are summer pulses used as fodder. True millet (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica) are grown in the Northern Areas as is Lathyrus sativus, the grass pea.

Perennial fodders
The climate of the irrigated tracts, with its enormous differences in temperature between seasons, is not well suited to perennial fodders; only two are in common use:

Lucerne (Medicago sativa) probably the world’s best overall fodder, is traditional in the higher and drier areas, but has increased in popularity in the irrigated tracts in recent years. In much of the Punjab it is grown as an annual or short term perennial since lucerne fields tend to become diseased and infested by perennial grasses during the monsoon; in the more westerly, drier tracts lucerne is a more reliable crop. Californian cultivars are generally used and much of the seed is imported. In the semi-desert conditions of Balochistan lucerne thrives where perennial irrigation can be assured; it is grown on tubewell irrigation around the city of Quetta, often as an under-crop in apple orchards; much of the seed comes from Afghanistan. In the northern areas lucerne is a traditional crop and fields usually last many years; recently the introduction of non-winter-dormant cultivars to the lower areas has greatly increased yields and prolonged the productive season (Dost 1996, Dost 2001).

Elephant Grass ( Pennisetum purpureum) has been on stations in Pakistan for decades, but the cultivars of early introduction were adapted to tropical conditions and remained dormant for six to seven months of the year; this is not compatible with land use in the irrigated tracts. An improved cultivar “Mott” was introduced from the USA in the nineteen-eighties which is much more cold-tolerant and, even at the latitude of Lahore, has a growing season of eight to nine months; Mottgrass has been widely introduced to farming communities in the area; it is usually planted on field edges and odd bits of land and is probably more important in the subsistence than in the commercial sector – since it is vegetatively propagated and now spreads mainly by farmer to farmer exchange. There is no information as to its area, but it has become popular with smallholders.

Fodder production
Most dairy animals are in and around the intensively cultivated irrigated regions, except for some rainfed areas such as Rawalpindi-Islamabad and Mirpur. There is no land for grazing, so animals are kept at the homestead and stall-fed on cultivated forage, crop residues, and concentrates.

Table 1. Feed sources for dairy stock around some Pakistan cities
City Dairy herd - head Population Source districts and distance



Kasur, Sheikhupura are major green feed suppliers. <100 km Dry roughages from Gujranwala.



Green and dry forage from surrounding areas.
Rawalpindi & Islamabad



Dry roughages from Attock, Fatehjang, Gujranwala, Gujrat, and Sargodha. Hay from adjoining villages. Green forage from Hafizabad, and very scattered as far as Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Gujrat and Kasur. Maximum 350 km (Kasur).



Mainly from surrounding areas.



Some from surrounding areas but mainly from Sindh. >400 km.



Green forage from Hyderabad, Nawab Shah, Thatta and Adjoining areas, 350 km Dry roughages from central Punjab and Lower Sindh.
Hyderabad 61,000


Adjoining areas and lower Sindh
Adapted from: Hay and straw conservation for small scale farming and pastoral conditions by Suttie (2000). Pp. 244-248.

Table 1 gives an estimate of the size of the urban dairy herds of some of the major cities as well as the great distances from which fodder is brought to those which are outside the irrigated tracts.

Green forage
Sown forage is important in most farming systems, for subsistence dairying, feeding draught stock and soil fertility maintenance. Here, however, we are dealing with fodder for commercial dairying and two very different fodder production and availability situations in peri-urban areas:

  • First, in barani areas, where agriculture depends on seasonal rains, feed needs are partly met through forage crops, forage imports and purchase from irrigated tracts and partly from fallow grazing.

  • Second, in irrigated areas with excellent irrigation facilities, forage production is mainly commercial, surplus forage is sold in peri-urban and urban areas.

On the irrigated plains there are also two very different types of stock rearing: subsistence and commercial; the latter in the milk-shed areas around and within big cities and towns. There are also two levels of fodder production: some farmers grow for their own stock (again sub-divided for subsistence and commercial) while others grow fodder as a cash crop and may not be involved in dairying. Farmers usually grow four crops per year on the same piece of land due to optimum temperatures, availability of irrigation, proper and sequential planting time, balanced doses of fertilizers with different times of application.

The timing of forage production and its quality at harvest, is more important than absolute dry matter production. Although quantity and quality of forage required for maintenance, during pregnancy and lactation are different, there is a minimum but regular amount that a dairy farmer must produce or purchase for daily use. Multicut forage crops such as oats, lucerne, berseem, sorghum-Sudan grass hybrids ensure quick and regular supply of nutritious forage (Dost, 1997).

Forage production is now more popular with farmers than ever before. There are three main reasons for this;

  1. Peri-urban and urban forage production is more profitable than cash crops.

  2. Cultivation of forage is easier and cheaper than cash crops as it does not require much weeding, hoeing, and insecticidal sprays (e.g., cotton requires five to six sprays), and

  3. It does not require a lot of other inputs like high doses of chemical fertilizer, etc.

With dairy units growing up rapidly in smaller towns, the demand for forage at local level is increasing. The forage trade is achieving importance compared to other cash crops.

The area under fodder has remained static over the past quarter century but average yields, which are still very low, have risen by about 30 percent. These are gross figures and the yield may be diluted by large areas of barani fodder.

Table 2. Total area and production of fodder crops in Pakistan

Area (million ha.)

Production (million tonnes)

Yield (t/ha)













































































Source: Government of Pakistan (2001).

The amount of fodder grown has not, however, kept pace with the rise in the number of cattle and buffaloes as is shown in Figure 1.

Fig1.gif (3482 bytes)

Figure 1.  Number of cows and buffaloes and tons of fodder produced by year from 1991 – 2000.
Source: Government of Pakistan (2001).

Fodder in rainfed areas
The barani areas cover a quarter of the total cropped area in the Punjab and AJK. In Punjab around 20 percent of rainfed land is under forage which supports about 70 percent of the dairy population in the peri-urban region. Farmers usually allocate land to forage according to moisture availability; a lower proportion is generally sown to forage in high rainfall areas, whereas more is planted with fodder in low-medium rainfall areas as these have to support a higher animal density (8.3) per farm as against (4.2) in the wet zone (Table 3).

Table 3. Area allocated to food, forage and cash crops in rainfed areas of Punjab

Percent Cropped Area

Small Farmers

Food Crops

Forage Crops

Cash crops






Low rainfall





Medium rainfall





High rainfall





Large farmers





Low rainfall





Medium rainfall





High rainfall





All farmers





Source: PARC/CYMMIT paper No. 88-2, 1988. (Not in references)

Dry fodder (wheat straw, dried maize, sorghum and millet herbage)
Straw and dried stover form the bulk of most dairy rations, rural and urban. Drying of coarse cereals is widely practiced in the rainfed districts where getting a crop to grain harvest is risky; crops used are sorghum, maize, millet, guar, and oats; they are cut either at maturity, or once droughted, dried to make the so called karbi, bundled and stored or sold. In Punjab and NWFP this is common in the barani tracts of Fatehjang, Attok, Sialkot, Wazirabad, Gujrat, Jhelum, Kohat, Karak, Bannu, Rawalpindi, Mianwali, Dehra Ismail Khan, and Dehra Ghazi Khan. A similar system is prevalent in the Northern Areas, Swat, Hazara, and parts of Balochistan and Sindh. Karbi, after chopping, is mixed with some green forage and sold to dairies, especially in forage deficit seasons. Sometimes seed heads or cobs are left on to enhance the feeding value. In parts of Balochistan, maize is sown thickly, to keep the stems thin and harvested as forage along with the cobs; some is sold to urban dairies.

Rice straw is a major, albeit poor, feed in the irrigated tracts of central Punjab and parts of Sindh. It is usually stacked on field edges and by dairy sheds. In winter, it is often fed ad libitum, usually unchaffed. Rice straw is eaten within 3-4 months after harvest. Due to open storage which results in improper drying, this straw is often poor in nutritive value (Ali and Mallorrie 1987, Bhatti, 1996).

Wheat straw is a major, typical, and very popular feed, it is always chaffed, and was the main or even only major dry roughage used on almost all the dairies visited. Traditional threshing methods break the straw into short pieces, bhusa, and modern mechanical threshers have been designed to break the straw. Often sources of wheat straw are far from urban dairies of rainfed areas, sometimes in other provinces. In all urban dairies visited wheat straw was bought at Rs. 2 per kilo or even more; in the harvest season, however, in places where it is produced, it is available at Rs. 0.40 per kilo. In recent years baling units have been installed in central Punjab; bales are transported to major cities, and even to Gilgit, Skardu, and Chitral (700-850 km).

Traditionally, chopped straw is stored in stacks coated with dried mud; this can also be used effectively for urea straw treatment which, although well demonstrated in the country, has been very slow to take off with small farmers. Urea treatment increases nutrient density and intake, so treated straw can form a larger part of rations for a given nutrient density. In particular, it may be possible to reduce the concentrates in a ration (Ali and Mallorrie, 1987). Techniques for straw treatment with urea are described by Dolberg (1995).

Transport of straw and concentrates (cotton seed cake) is not , however, only from adjacent areas; as for green forage they are procured from afar, e.g., for central Punjab mainly from Multan (several hundreds kilometres), and sometimes from other areas or provinces. These items are bought in bulk by big stockists in the season of their production; stored where they are produced (especially straw) and supplied to peri-urban and urban dairies throughout the year according to demand. The feed and forage trade in the production tracts has become a major source of employment for many people for harvesting, making bundles, chopping, transport, loading and unloading in urban markets.

In the Northern Areas and parts of Balochistan, lucerne is conserved as hay in the form of small bundles which are stacked on roof tops and covered with straw, dry maize stalks, polythene sheet or other waterproof material, to be fed to cattle in December-February (when natural vegetation is dry or unproductive due to freezing temperatures), to supplement straw and stover. There is a big demand for lucerne and surplus hay sells at Rs. 280-300 per maund (a maund is a traditional measure standardised at 40 kilos). It is fed to milking cattle in the evening, 1-2 kilos per animal depending on grazing patterns and availability of other feeds.

In an earlier study of small farms with 1.2-2 hectare holdings in Gujranwala Division, where an FAO project promoted hay making from surplus forage, the average herd composition was three buffaloes, one cow, two small ruminants, and two donkeys or a pair of oxen. Feeding of lactating animals had priority due to the commercial value of milk. In both winter and summer, green forage was fed (winter berseem or mixture of berseem, brassica or oats) at 30-40 kilos per buffalo plus 5-10 kilos wheat straw. During forage shortage the quantity of straw was almost doubled with the addition of 3-4 kilos of concentrate (cotton seed cake, wheat bran, rice polishings). In summer the major requirements were met through green forage feed (maize, sorghum, Sweet Sorghum Hybrid, millets, Mottgrass or Napier Grass - Pennisetum purpureum); a total of 40-50 kilos of green forage was offered without straw. Berseem hay, where available, was fed in the early summer forage shortage period. On ten farms, with 2-3 lactating buffaloes each, the animals were given 15-20 kilos of berseem hay, five kilos of wheat straw mixed with concentrate twice daily (e.g., 2-3 kilos cotton seed cake). Almost total maintenance and production requirements were met (milk yield averaged 8-10 litres). The study was carried out over a period of 45 days (Hanjra et al, 1995).

Other crop residues
Sugar cane tops are a very important feed in season and in the NWFP there is some beet pulp.

Vegetable crops are important in the irrigated tracts and provide large quantities of unsaleable greenery – especially cabbages and cauliflowers, radishes and turnips; this is used by urban dairies. Sometimes urban dairymen participate in vegetable harvest in exchange for the crop residues; the same is true for rice straw.

Weeds and vegetation from bunds and field sides are widely used as fodder but are more important in rural areas.

The livestock
Buffaloes predominate in almost all town dairies of Punjab, NWFP, and Sindh as their milk is preferred by consumers and commands a high price because of its butter fat content (8.5 compared to 4.5 percent in cow’s milk).

In Quetta (Balochistan), less than half of the urban herd is buffalo because Afghan refugees brought and continue to rear excellent pure and cross-bred Friesian cattle which have attracted the interest of local dairymen; Quetta, on the Baloch Plateau at 1,600 metres altitude, is much cooler than the plains.

Figure 3. Pakistan - numbers of cows and buffaloes from 1990 – 2001
(Source FAO Statistical Databases, 2002)

The number of cows and buffaloes in Pakistan is rising (Figure 3); both have about half of the population. In commercial dairying, however, buffaloes which are mostly kept in the irrigated tracts, are by far the most important and in the field studies (see below) cows were only sometimes present in small numbers.

The riverine buffalo of Pakistan belong to two breeds, Nili-Ravi of Punjab and Kundi of Sindh province (Usmani, 1997). Nili-Ravi buffaloes constitute approximately 79 percent of the buffalo population of the country and are found in several parts of NWFP and AJK in addition to their primary home tract which is in irrigated Punjab. Pakistani buffaloes are used as a triple purpose (milk, meat, draught) animal. They are the main dairy animals in the country, and more than 71 percent (13.4 million tonnes) of the national milk production (18.94 million tonnes) is contributed by them. Meat is an important by-product of buffaloes. According to recent estimates, more than 450,000 tonnes of buffalo meat is produced per annum which constitutes about 49 percent of the total meat production in Pakistan. Young male buffaloes and surplus cattle are fattened for meat, but not in peri-urban areas.

Dairying and the demand for milk
In the late nineteen-eighties the Pakistan dairy industry began to grow very rapidly and several new milk marketing outlets became available. Many milk processing units were installed in peri-urban areas. The rapidly increasing urban population (see Table 4 for data on some cities) provided a lucrative milk market and dairy farming became attractive. This provided a big boost to the peri-urban and urban forage production and supply business. Farmers have become involved in commercial forage production and thousands of jobs were created in rural as well as urban areas in milk marketing, forage production, forage harvesting, loading, unloading, chopping and transport to dairies around and in big cities.

Table 4. Population of some cities over time







n. a.



n. a.

n. a.























n. a.

n. a.





n. a.






n. a.






n. a






n. a.

n. a.

Source 1999/2002 "populstat" site: Jan Lahmeyer
* This does not include a very large number of Afghan refugees who were in and around the city until recently

According to Umrani (2000) the agricultural sector contributes about 24 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. Of this, Rs 336 billion was contributed by the livestock sub-sector in 1998-99. The dairy industry has the largest share of 57 per cent in the livestock sector (Rs 225 billion).

The milk produced by urban dairies does not satisfy town needs. The consumption and demand for milk is higher in urban areas than in rural areas, but its production cost is lower in the countryside so, due to improvements in communication systems, huge quantities are transported from rural areas (as well as forages) to urban areas daily.

Milk production has risen by 81 percent over the past decade (Table 5) while the proportion produced by buffaloes and cows has remained fairly stable with a possible small increase in cow milk (i.e the proportion of buffalo milk declined from 75 percent in1990 to 68 percent in 2001).

Table 5. Milk production (million tonnes) by cows and buffaloes in Pakistan





















































Source: FAO Statistical Databases, 2002

According to SMEDA (2002) processed milk has about 4 percent market share while the rest of the market is with the informal (dhodi) sector. Milk consumption is growing at a growth rate of 4.5 percent per annum, while milk production is growing at 4 percent per annum. The gap between supply and demand is met through adulteration and milk powder imports. Pakistan is the world’s seventh largest producer of milk but even then it has to import powder milk to meet the domestic needs. About 30,000 tons of milk powder is imported from Poland and other European countries to meet the country requirements. The Government is spending huge amount of foreign exchange amounting to about Rs. 807 million every year on the import of milk and dairy products. Some milk processing firms produce milk powder locally but most of that is used for reconstitution in seasons of scarcity. About 80 percent of the milk, especially in and around big cities is used for milk tea.

There is a great need to enhance yield per animal and this should be through the improvement in the genetic potential of local breeds and production of high quality fodder and feed. Milk output should not be sought through increase in animal numbers. Scarcity of feed, and its high cost is a major limiting factor in urban dairying. At present there is insufficient quantity as well as quality of fodder, so animals are underfed, weak, thin, and consequently produce less milk and meat.

With large numbers of farmers getting into commercial dairying and forage production, middlemen have emerged who have contracted hundreds of small farmers in remote villages and towns of difficult accessibility. The middlemen visit households on motorcycles and purchase milk early in the morning at much lower prices than in city markets. They have contracts with urban hotels and households to deliver milk to them. Due to high prices in the big towns, milk is transported on the roof of buses from hundreds of kilometres. Payment is usually monthly. Poor farmers with 2-3 buffaloes and cows usually find their animal feed and meet some of the important domestic needs from milk money. These small dairymen are happy to earn sufficient profit to meet their family needs of milk and animal feed from the sale of the milk and still save reasonable amounts.

Because of shortage of meat, milk, and dairy products, there is a growing interest in modern commercial dairy farming throughout the country, even in small towns, provided that enough fodder can be grown and made available round the year to the milking animals. Several hundred tonnes of fresh milk and milk products are transported daily from Sargodha (250 km) to Rawalpindi-Islamabad, from Jhelum, Saray Alamgir, and Dina (30-50 km) to Mirpur (Azad Jammu and Kashmir – AJK), and from Mardan and Charsada (40-60 km) to Peshawar. Also the milk processing and packing companies especially Nestlé (MilkPak), Kinas (Haleeb), Chuddar Industries collect milk from rural areas, chill and transport it to Lahore for processing and packing. Packed milk and milk products are sold throughout the country in big, medium and even small towns. Hence there is a tremendous need for high quality and cheap fodder to get maximum value from stock kept in villages, towns and stall fed in the peri-urban and urban areas.

The major milk companies purchase milk from association members at suitably sited collection centres for different villages. Milk is purchased according to its fat content. Improved forage seed, livestock health care and breed improvement facilities through artificial insemination are provided to members at subsidised rates.

Notwithstanding the great increase in modern commercial activity, by far the greatest amount of milk, 90 percent, is handled by the traditional sector. Table 6 shows the proportion of the various types of milk marketed.

Table 6. Classes of milk marketed
Type of milk Market share – volume

Sale price Rs litre

Open Gaiwalla milk


12 – 14

UHT Tetra Pak

4.98 %


Open Pasteurised

3.76 %

14 – 15

Open milk sold in milk shops

0.98 %


Pasteurised pouch

0.24 %


UHT Polypack

0.02 %


Direct to home

0.02 %

15 - 18

Commercial dairies are few in the rural areas but very important in big towns. Towns in the irrigated tracts find fodder nearby; it is brought early in the morning and sold in the wholesale forage market. Cities like Karachi, Islamabad-Rawalpindi, and Mirpur have to import forage from over 300-400 km e.g., from Hyderabad-Sukkur-Napa Shah to Karachi; from Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Gujrat, and Renala Khurd to Mirpur and Rawalpindi-Islamabad, and from Nowshera, Charsada, Mardan and Swabi to Peshawar (see Table 1).

Many landless dairymen belong to ethnic groups traditionally specialised in stock-rearing and associated with herding. The Gujars are a major group involved in traditional milk marketing as well as dairying. They also work for farmers and are partly paid in crop residues (both dry and green) and fodder. Some of this group still undertake summer transhumance. They are present throughout north-western India as well as Pakistan and their production systems there are described by Misri (1996).

Nowadays around 40 percent of the milking animals are kept in peri-urban and urban areas and 60 percent in rural areas, by farmers with cultivated land. In rural areas almost all forage requirements are grown domestically. In rainfed areas seasonal grazing is exploited to the maximum extent; part of the milk is for family consumption and the rest is sold, mostly in the form of dairy products. Many dairy products are made by rural households for domestic use but the main one marketed is ghee (clarified butter oil – not to be confused with "vegetable ghee" or vanaspati, a hydrogenated oil cooking medium of similar consistency). In urban areas, most dairymen feed animals mainly on wheat straw, bought green fodder, and feed which they obtain from the market daily. The cost of milk production in urban areas is high compared to in rural areas. The same is true for forage. The consumption of both forage and milk is higher in the urban areas.


To get a better understanding of the present situation of peri-urban and urban forage and milk production, this study in December 2001 - January 2002, examined the widespread practice around major Pakistani cities of producing fodder for sale to the owners of small dairy operations within city boundaries.

A questionnaire originally devised by Akram (1986) was used to collect detailed data on forage and dairy production. Cities were selected so that data is representative of the various systems of forage and dairy production of the country. A number of large, medium and small cities and towns were chosen: Rawalpindi-Islamabad, Sheikhupura (Punjab), Peshawar, Charsada, Nowshera (NWFP), and Mirpur (AJK). There are several hundred dairies in and around these towns: data were collected from seven dairy farms from each. Data collected included general information about the farms, total land holdings and area under forage, forage crops cultivated at different seasons, forage scarcity seasons, herd statistics, types of feeds, forages, straw, concentrates available, and their sources of production and transport etc., total quantities of milk and milk products produced and marketed and environmental protection and pollution control. Detailed data for each town are presented in the section below (Findings) and in Annex 1.

Dairymen, some with land, some landless, were interviewed. Akram (1987) reported that livestock in Pakistan are owned in small units by 5,000,000 farm families and 1,000,000 landless people and provide a regular source of income for small and landless farmers whose daily needs are met through the consumption and sale of milk and dairy products. In interviews in the present study farmers felt that they received more income from growing and selling forage than from other cash crops. Farms visited varied in size; quite a large number of small farms had holdings of 14-150 kanals (a kanal, one twentieth of an hectare, is the usual local measure of land measure) however, big ones (300-400 kanals and above) were common. Increased demand by urban dairies has created special forage production niches that supply hundreds of lorry loads of forage to demand-driven peri-urban and urban wholesale markets from the nearest to the farther towns almost throughout the country.

Some urban dairies had no land and purchased all forage, straw and concentrates. Most dairies in the irrigated areas were operated by farmers with sufficient land for forage production. As the survey took place in winter, when crop growth is very slow, almost all farmers were harvesting moderate quantities of forage daily so as to make it last till spring when forage is usually available in abundance. Pollution was worst at landless dairies.

The same feeding pattern, with very minor modifications, was practiced by all dairies; they kept animals with a milk yield of about eight litres per head per day and if yields started falling, they would sell the animal and buy freshly calved buffaloes. Landless dairies sell dry animals immediately whereas farmers with land keep them for new calving.

Green maize was being transported from Kasur to Rawalpindi (400 km), from Mardan, Charsada, and Nowshera to Peshawar ( 40-80 km), sugarcane tops from Saray Alamgir to Mirpur (40-60 km) in the first week of December. Small quantities of oat and berseem forage were also brought from surrounding areas to Mirpur markets. Green maize without cobs was sold in Peshawar at Rs. 50 per maund (a maund is a traditional measure of weight standardised at 40 kilogrammes) while berseem and oats, being scarce, fetched Rs. 80 per maund.


Sites in the North West Frontier Province
Peshawar, a town of great antiquity commanding access to the Khyber Pass and thence a major route to Afghanistan and beyond, is the capital of the NWFP and its one great city. For over two decades its population was greatly swollen by hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees but, at the time of writing, many have returned to their native country. The city is at an altitude of 359 metres with an annual rainfall is 340 mm. The Vale of Peshawar, an oases in a stark, arid and mountainous Province, is the main agricultural area of the NWFP, and is irrigated from the Kabul and Bara rivers. Nine dairies were visited in the vicinity of Peshawar; all had arable land in a range of 20-50 kanals, while one had thousands of kanals of land. All the land was utilized for forage production and surplus forage in summer was sold. All animals were stall fed.

Nowshera is on a sandy plain surrounded by hills, on the banks of the Kabul River about 45 kilometres from Peshawar on the Grand Trunk Road. All land in Nowshera is fertile and irrigated. Huge quantities of green forage are produced and sold, some to Nowshera city but most is transported to Peshawar, especially in scarcity seasons, and sold at higher prices. Five of the seven dairy farms visited owned irrigated land with a range of 50-200 kanals with about 10 -20 kanals used for forage. Sufficient forage was produced in summer for each farmer’s stock. Stock are stall fed.

Charsada is a rural town in the NWFP; about 40 kilometres northeast of Peshawar near the Kabul river. All the dairymen owned land, the size varied from 50-320 kanals, except for a farmer with only 20 kanals, with forage crop production on 12-40 kanals. Traditionally two maize crops (one forage and one grain) are harvested from the same piece of land in spring and summer. The third or sometimes fourth crop on the same piece of land is the common mixture of berseem, oats and maize sown at the end of August and beginning of September; forage is usually available by late November or early December.

Sites in Punjab

Sites on the Potowar Plateau
The Potowar Plateau lies at a height of 360 to 570 metres, east of the Indus and west of the Jhelum River, in the Punjab. It is open, undulating country, consisting mainly of sandstone and covered by varying thickness of loess (a loamy deposit formed by the wind), which erodes easily. It is an area of rainfed barani agriculture.

Rawalpindi and Islamabad are contiguous cities but differ greatly from one another. Rawalpindi is an old town which developed greatly with the coming of the railway and the installation of a military cantonment. It has all the characteristics of a big Punjabi town in the barani areas and is crowded, bustling and highly commercial. Islamabad in utter contrast is a modern city, purpose built as a capital from the nineteen-sixties, with broad streets and leafy residential areas. Not only are there regulations banning cattle keeping within the city limits, but they are enforced. The towns are at a higher altitude than the Punjab plain or Peshawar; about 500 metres, and rainfall is higher at 712 mm. All the dairies in Rawalpindi were owned by landless farmers while the farms in the suburbs of Islamabad had land for forage and other cash crops, vegetables, and fruit production. To meet the vegetable and meat requirements of Islamabad, the federal Government allotted farms with 15 – 24 kanals of land to several farmers. Almost every farmer keeps milch cattle and buffaloes to meet family needs and sells surplus milk in Islamabad. About a third of the area is under summer and winter fodders, the rest is under vegetables. Weeds and vegetables leaves, especially of cabbage, radish, and turnips are an important forage source. Irrigation water is from electric tube wells. In winter farmers grow mixtures of oats and berseem which they feed economically by mixing almost double quantities of straw in the daily ration along with 2-3 kg of concentrates. Summer crops are mainly maize and sorghum, usually rainfed. Since the dairies in Rawalpindi have no land, they have to buy all forage and wheat straw from the market and the animals are stall fed. Buffaloes dominated all dairies.

The irrigated tracts
The irrigation system of Punjab is watered by the Indus and the Punjab rivers; water is controlled by some large dams, notably the Tarbela on the Indus and the Mangla on the Jhelum. A network of canals, and link canals distributes the water; many areas also use tube-wells as an irrigation source. Although there had been some irrigated cropping along river valleys since ancient times, the great developments are recent and now the Punjab is criss-crossed by canals and a huge oasis where there are hundreds of settlements - canal colonies - with practically no historical reference. These canal colonies are probably one of the most astonishing projects ever carried out. The first major colonization was in the late nineteenth century. Later, many large scale irrigation projects were undertaken, perfecting the skills of canal engineering. Nowadays, the map of the Punjab has been totally altered by the changes brought by irrigation. With the irrigated settlement and the development of a good rail network, old towns grew and new ones were built. Industry associated with the agricultural produce brought great urban growth and the dairy and fodder industry developed to supply their needs.

In the Punjab plains, the crop growing season lasts ten months. Lahore is at 214 metres with a rainfall of 502 mm. Green forage is available round the year to lavishly supplement crop residues. All the forage needed for the livestock population is produced around Sheikhupura. Farmers are skilled and well trained to maximize green forage production through intercropping berseem + oats + brassica and also oats as a pure crop in winter. Commercial forage production in the irrigated areas has become an important and profitable business and surplus green forage is transported to forage-deficient big cities such as Rawalpindi-Islamabad, Mirpur, and sometimes to Lahore.

Sheikhupura is a typical city of the irrigated Punjab about 50 kilometres west of Lahore. It is renowned, among many things, as the home of the highest quality Basmati rice and is in a major area for Nili-Ravi buffaloes. Most farmers sow berseem, and oats into the stubble of cotton and rice crops in November-December (far later than for normal fodder production) so the area produces thousands of tons of berseem and oats forage in February – April. Berseem, lucerne, and oat forage in March-April is usually in surplus and prices in city markets fall so farmers leave the crops for seed which fetches good prices; hundreds of tons of berseem and oat seed are produced by local farmers. Sheikhupura is very famous for berseem and oat seed production and most of the berseem seed requirements of Punjab and other provinces come from there.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Mirpur is a new town, created in the late nineteen-sixties to replace its predecessor which was inundated during the construction of the great Mangla dam on the Jhelum, which has a perimeter of 400 kilometres. It is at 460 metres in the extreme southwest of the Jammu, close to the Punjab border and close to the Great Trunk Road.

Mirpur and several small and medium towns, are located around the Mangla dam; a major source of irrigation and hydro-electricity. In summer snow melt and rain water is stored while in winter water is released for irrigation. The water level in the dam falls leaving a drawdown of thousands of hectares of wet land. Farmers simply broadcast wheat and sometimes mixtures of wheat and berseem on the wet soil; this germinates and provides luxurious growth due to fertile silt gathered by water in summer. Due to very extensive areas under wheat and reasonable prices of green forage, farmers sell the standing wheat to landless dairymen in Mirpur in February at half of the December-January prices. Plenty of forage is available for local dairies and the forage wheat growers earn more than wheat grain producers because they do not have to provide labour for harvesting, storing, threshing, and cleaning. The agricultural land of Mirpur is not, however well placed for irrigation and largely relies on tubewells or rainfall. The city is relatively rich through repatriated funds and the demand for milk and dairy products is high.


Farm size
A wide range was covered but most were medium by local standards. Generally rural sites had larger farms, notably at Charsada and Sheikhupura but a farm, entirely in fodder, of over 1,000 kanals at Peshawar was an exception. The results are summarised in Table 7

Table 7. Farm size and fodder area on the dairies studied





Land area1


Fodder area






20 - >1000

Peshawar *





20 - 50







20 - 150







20 - 40







60 - 300







24 - 40







184 - 400


*Excluding the holdings of over 1,000 kanals
Mean areas for landed dairies!

The areas devoted to fodder, omitting the vast farm at Peshawar, were generally between one and one-and a half hectares, except at Sheikhupura where the average was over three hectares per holding.

Stock numbers and production per holding
Details of each farm are given in Annex 1.; here the overall results are summarised by site in Table 8. Most farms also kept one or two bulls although at Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Sheikhupura three farms at each site had no bull.

Table 8. Stock numbers for the dairies visited by site

Average head per holding
































* Means of global totals

Milk yields per animal were modest (Table 9), between 6.6 and 9.8 litres; this may partially reflect the low forage availability at the season of the visits and generally poor overall feeding. By far the highest yield and income per head was from Sheikhupura and the milk for domestic consumption was twice that elsewhere – reflecting a Punjabi rural lifestyle.

Table 9. Average milk production, consumption and income per head for the sites studied



Litres per farm

Per head




income head










































Feeding systems

The high cost of green forage, wheat straw and concentrates is an important constraint affecting most of the peri-urban dairies visited. The situation worsens in May-June and December- January when the prices of forage and feed increase and dairymen give livestock more wheat straw, dry maize, sorghum and millet stalks, while the amount of concentrates remains static. Most urban dairies buy green forage, wheat straw and feed daily. Several middle-men also operate from the forage and feed producing areas to urban dairies and exploit the dairymen to make huge profits.

There is no tradition of measuring daily milk yield per animal, all animals were fed the same ration. With indiscriminate feeding the milk yields of most animals decline sharply; on most farms they ranged from 8-10 kg milk per animal per day. Some animals, if well fed, had the potential to produce 15-20 kg of milk daily but due to poor feeding could not attain their genetic potential.

Table 10. Feeding of dairy stock

Kilos per head daily

Green roughage

Dry roughage


















Rawalpindi Islamabad












Livestock weights and feed composition were not determined, but from Table 10 and the vast quantities of dry roughage in the ration it would appear that the animals were close to their limit of dry matter ingestion.

Gross margins of milk production by peri-urban and urban Dairy Farms

The cost:benefit ratios for Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsada, Mirpur, Rawalpindi-Islamabad, and Sheikhupura dairy farms are summarised in Table 11; only feeding costs were obtained – a longer study would be necessary to collect and calculate the costs of herd replacement and veterinary care. Obviously replacement costs are very different for farms with the ability to rear stock and keep dry stock, compared to landless urban dairies. Dairies keeping 8-10 buffaloes with irrigated land and producing sufficient forage for milking animals with an average production of 8 - 10 kg milk per animal per day were very profitable. That could be further enhanced through modifying the feeding pattern by offering feed to the animals according to their daily productivity.

Table 11. Gross margins for dairying per farm, daily by site

Pakistan Rupees

Gross income

Feed Expenses

















Rawalpindi Islamabad












All sites earned between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,200 daily, except for Charsada at Rs 548. Charsada, however, had an average herd size of 13 animals in milk compared to the general mean of 19 (Table 11) and its income per head was not much below average (Table 9).

Feed and feed supply
More than 70 percent of daily expenditure is incurred on feed for dairy animals in peri-urban areas and the towns.

The total digestible nutrients (TDN) and digestible crude protein (DCP) from various sources and available for livestock were estimated by Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Cooperatives - Livestock Division (1988) to be 37.00 and 23.22 million tons, with an annual deficit of 29 percent and 56.50 percent respectively. Present feed resources permit animals to achieve only 75 to 80 percent of their inherent productive capacity (Crowder, 1988).

The feeding pattern on all farms depended on the availability of forage and feed in the market. Price and season determine the quantities given to animals. In scarcity periods, high prices make it uneconomical to feed additional purchased forages; in seasons of forage abundance it becomes economical to feed maximum quantities of forage. The pattern of feeding at all the farms visited was similar, especially for concentrates, with some variations in the quantities of green forage and straw offered. The variations in green fodder were mainly due to its cost and availability in different areas and seasons of cultivation and production. Feeding did not have any scientific basis but was based on the immediate costs of inputs versus output, traditional knowledge, customs and prices of various necessary components of the daily ration. Some feed prices are given in Table 12.

Table 12. Feed prices by season

Rupees per maund


Normal Season


Berseem & Mixtures

30 - 35

80 - 120

Green Maize

25 - 40

Wheat Straw


100 - 200

Chopped Dry Stover



Beet Pulp  

150 - 200

Stale Bread



During field visits, it was noted that due to very high prices, the amount of cotton seed cake fed was very small, 2-3 kilos per lactating animal per day, despite the small amount of green forage offered; in its season of production when it is cheaper 3-4 kilos are normally fed. The 2-3 kilos of concentrate at most dairies consisted of some rape seed cake and old bread bought from hotels at Rs. 7 per kg, and wheat bran.

A mixture of berseem, oats and some maize was commonly fed in winter at almost all farms. In summer, however, maize, sorghum, and millet are the major green feed. In Peshawar, Charsada, and Nowshera, a mixture of berseem, oats and maize was being fed in mid December. Also in Islamabad, Sheikhupura, and Mirpur, the mixture of berseem and oats was the common forage in December-January. In Rawalpindi green maize was transported from Kasur, Sheikhupura, and Gujranwala and was available even in mid December. In January only small quantities of berseem and oats grown in small tube well irrigated peri-urban areas were available to feed the animals. Wheat straw was a very popular dry forage in most dairies, but chopped dry maize-sorghum-millet stalks were also being fed in Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Mirpur.

It was very difficult to quantify what was being sold to dairies. Traders are afraid of taxation staff and reluctant to provide exact information about the quantities sold by them. However, all possible efforts were made through enquiries from the traders to get an approximate idea about the quantities of different feeds used in different cities under study (see Table 13).

Table 13. Quantities of feed sold


Quantity tons/day

Cotton seed cake


Rapeseed cake


Wheat bran


Old bread


Green forage


Wheat straw


Dry maize/sorghum stalks


Huge variations were noticed in the demand due to many new people getting involved in dairying. Big variations were observed in the availability and supply of feed items and consequently in their ultimate prices in towns visited. All kinds of feed were cheap in their season of production. Stockists buy dry feed and concentrates from where they are grown, store them, and control or regulate overall quantities of supply and sell according to the needs of dairies. There were separate suppliers for green forage, straw, dry maize-sorghum stalks, concentrates etc. Some sell on monthly credit to dairies and charge much higher prices than fodder bought for cash.

Bottlenecks in fodder supply
There are two fodder deficit periods, in May-June and December-January. Most farmers consider that mixing dry fodder with some green forage makes it much more palatable and also increases the voluntary intake. Whatever green forage was produced was fed to livestock with no consideration of its quality and quantity. However, most farmers have learned from the feeding behaviour of their livestock that they prefer green forages like berseem, oats and lucerne to wheat straw and other crop residues. Landed farmers grow summer and winter forages to try to maintain a supply (Dost, 1992). The major feeds for buffalo and cattle are cultivated forage crops and cereal straw (Sial, 1991). While forage supply shows marked seasonal gaps, there is also an overall scarcity of green forage throughout the year which results in increased feeding of straw (Bhatti, 1995).

The timing of forage production, so that it is of good quality at harvest, is more important than total dry matter production. Although quantity and quality of forage required for maintenance, pregnancy and lactation differ, there is a minimum but regular amount of forage that a dairy farmer must produce or buy for livestock. Multicut forage crops such as oats, lucerne, berseem and Sorghum-Sudan grass hybrids could ensure a regular supply of nutritious forage (Dost, 1997).

Because of the development of better communication systems to transport dairy products, there is an increasing interest in modern and commercial dairy farming in almost all villages and towns, provided that forage can be found all year round. There are several options available to a farmer depending on his particular needs for more or better quality forage and his present subsistence and other supplies.

To obtain year round forage, the improved variety of berseem "Agaiti" and winter active lucerne varieties Sundar and Sequel could be intercropped with early maturing oats varieties "Swan, PD2LV65" and maize varieties "Azam, Gauhar, Sarhad White" in the first week of September. The forage would be available for harvesting from December through May. In the water deficit areas, mixture of oats and vetch sown in September -October would provide green forage from the month of December through May. By that time March -April sown sorghum- Sudan grass hybrids and the previous year’s sown lucerne crop would be ready for bulky cuttings in May-June to provide regular harvests until November-December. Both Sorghum-Sudan grass hybrids and lucerne have a potential to provide green forage in repeated cuts from April till December (Dost, 1997; Dost, 2001; Musa et al. 1993).

These possibilities are not suggestions, recommendations, or conjectures, but have been successfully demonstrated in the farmers’ fields both under temperate and tropical climatic conditions to obtain the year round forage supplies of improved quantity as well as quality.

Feed traders and contractors
Around 20 traders were involved in Rawalpindi, 12-15 in Peshawar, 7 in Charsada, 9 in Nowshera, 6 in Mirpur, and 11 in Sheikhupura for green forage. Each trader has a contract with another trader to supply a fixed quantity of unchaffed green forage every morning. Traders may chop the forage at their chaffer and supply it, at their dairy, to buffalo owners with whom they have an agreement. Farmers with 10-15 buffaloes had their own choppers at their dairies. Green forage is transported by lorry to wholesale markets. Commission agents sell forage to dairy owners daily and deliver it by donkey and bullock or camel carts; the forage is chopped and fed to the animals. The forage trade in the cities visited involved around 800-1,000 people.

Most urban dairy farmers purchase green forage, wheat straw and feed daily from the market. Several middle-men also operate from the forage and feed producing areas to urban dairies and exploit the dairymen to make huge profits. Stockists buy dry feed and concentrates from the places of their production, store it, and control or regulate overall quantities of supply and sell according to the requirements of dairies. There are separate suppliers for green forage, straw, dry roughage, concentrates etc. Some supply on monthly credit to dairies and charge much higher prices compared to fodder bought for cash. If dairies have sufficient labour, they always prefer to purchase standing forage based on the area and stand of crop: it is cheaper to purchase forage by area than from the market, but requires labour.

Economics of dairying and fodder
About a third of farmers produced forage for sale without being involved in dairying and two thirds practiced mixed farming i.e. growing cash and forage crops and keeping animals mainly to meet family requirements, but sold animals and surplus milk. There were also many farmers who had irrigated land with quite a big dairy business. In Rawalpindi-Islamabad and Mirpur most dairymen were landless; they purchased forage, straw and feed. Farmers felt that they received more income from growing and selling forage than from traditional cash crops. Farmers involved in dairying felt that they earned more through dairying than either cultivating forage or cash crops. Therefore, it is interesting to compare the prevalent crop and animal related businesses.

Economics of cash crop production
The major cash crops are cotton, rice, sugarcane, and wheat (Table 14).

Table 14. Economics of cash crops (Pak. Rupees*) production per hectare
Expenditure Cotton Rice S. Cane Wheat
Land preparation





Seed & Sowing















Irrigation/Land Revenue










Total expenditure





Yields (kilos)





Price/kg (Rs)





Gross income (Rs)





Net income (Rs)





* 1 US $ = 60 Rupees at the time of the study

Economics of milk production
Sial (1991) and Krischke (1987) reported that most of the expenses for animal production are incurred on feeding; so a profitable production system is based on less expensive and maximum quantities of forage production and its efficient utilization. The use of as much quality forage to replace concentrates as possible in urban dairy farming should enhance total farm profits. Under different systems, high forage production and consumption with low concentrate use appeared to be the best farming system for maximum profits in specialised dairy farming (Table 15).

Table 15. Net income from milk production under different farming systems in Pakistan (Pak. Rupees per lactation per ha.)
Livestock Specialised livestock System 50% Mixed Farming 25% mixed Farming Agriculture/crop Farming















Under existing crop-livestock farming conditions, an average farmer can economically raise dairy animals by using cultivated forage and crop residues properly (Prasad, 1992). The output from one milking animal reared for one year amounts to Rs. 42,020 while spending Rs. 17,000. Costs can be easily reduced by the adoption of improved forage production and preservation technologies (Gill and Bhatti, 1996). A dairy farmer can get Rs. 25,020 from one milking animal as net income (Table 16).

Table 16. Economics of dairy production per head per year in Pakistan
Particulars Units Value Rs. Quantity kg Amount (Rs)
Milk Litre




Calf / heifer / culls Head




Manure Kg






Variable Costs      


Fixed Costs      


Total costs      


Net Income      


Variable Costs: Seeds, fertilizers, land preparation, irrigation, harvesting, Transport etc

Fodder production economics
The comparative economic feasibility of various forage crops produced under various farming systems is shown in Table 17. The net income per hectare was highest for Sweet Sorghum Hybrid (Rs. 146,266) followed by lucerne (Rs. 139,990) and berseem (Rs. 138,925) while it was lowest for forage maize and sorghum (Dost, 1997).

Table 17. Economics of forage production under improved production system per hectare in Pakistan

Forage Crop



S. S hybrid




Land preparation







Seed & Sowing





















Land Revenue/rent














Total expenditure







Yield (Kilos)







Price/kg (Rs)







Gross Income (Rs)







Net Income(Rs)







With a suitable climate and irrigation, four forage crops per year (three in summer, one in winter) on the same piece of land are produced with a total yield of 438 tons per hectare; this can easily sustain 17-20 dairy animals per hectare under improved forage cultivation and production. On the other hand, a farmer under conventional forage production system with poor yields can hardly maintain 5 - 8 dairy animals (Hanjra et al., 1995, Table 18).

Table 18. Potential for raising dairy animals on a hectare of fodder under improved production system in Pakistan
Average Body weight of a Buffalo (Kilos)


Dry Matter intake/Buffalo/day@ 3% Body weight (Kilos)


Buffalo Requirements/year (16.5 X 365) kg


Improved Fodder Production System

4 fodder crops yields /ha/year : Green Fodder (tons)


Dry matter (438/4)(tons)


Buffaloes maintained/ha (110/6.02)


Traditional Production System  
Green Fodder (tons)


Dry Matter (tons)


Buffaloes maintained / ha (31.25/6.02)


Several of the farmers interviewed were only involved in forage production and sale. These farmers, satisfied with the business, were earning around Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 150,000 from 0.8 - 1.23 hectares of forage. Some farmers have started peri-urban dairy farming with surplus forage still being sold to urban dairies and felt that they are earning more now than from the sale of forage only. Increasing numbers of farmers are now entering the business of commercial forage production and dairy farming. Both enterprises provide more money daily compared to crop production which demands more investment in inputs and little income is available before 4-6 months at harvest and sale of the produce.

If dairies have sufficient labour, they always prefer to purchase standing forage based on the area and stand of crop: it is cheaper to purchase forage by area than from the market, but requires labour. In winter, forage is more expensive than in summer. A good oat + berseem crop can be purchased at Rs 1,500-2,000 per kanal (a kanal, the traditional land measurement, is standardised at one twentieth of a hectare) for the full winter and spring (total 4-6 cuts). A good crop of maize or sorghum crop sells for Rs. 800-1,000 per kanal and provides one heavy cut.

Sen and Bains (1956), in India, but under very similar conditions to the Pakistan Punjab, proposed to spare 0.4 ha of land out of 2.4 ha holdings for the cultivation of winter and summer forages (also see Pathak and Jakhmola, 1983). The forage thus produced, in addition to crop residues available as by-products from the cultivation of grains, pulses, and cotton was sufficient to feed four dairy animals and three calves. At present significant advancement in the production of good quality forage has been made and carrying capacity of cultivated land has increased many-fold. In a trial of two years intensive forage production at the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, the yield of green forage was 264.175 tonnes per hectare (Anand, 1977). In other words daily yields of digestible crude protein (DCP) and total digestible nutrients (TDN) per hectare of forage was 5.5-6.75 kg and 41-44.5 kg, respectively. Intensive forage cultivation on about a fifth of a hectare of well managed land may suffice to balance the crop residues for supplying the nutrient requirements of three lactating cows or buffaloes producing 5-7 kg milk daily.

Economics of keeping dairy animals
The economic data for raising seventeen dairy animals on one hectare through cultivation of improved fodder (Table 19) revealed that total output from one hectare was Rs. 992,113 at a total cost of Rs. 260,000 and a net income of Rs. 732,113. These facts clearly indicated that, for average farming communities forage, livestock production and integrated crop livestock production is more beneficial than arable farming. Livestock raising along with crop cultivation, especially forage, is more feasible and economical to obtain maximum output from soil, plants, labour, and financial resources, sustainably.

Table 19. Economics of raising dairy animals (seventeen/ha) under improved fodder production in Pakistan
Particulars Unit Rate (Rs) Quantity Amount ha. (Rs)
Milk Litre




Calf-cow-culls Head




Manure Kilos






Variable Costs      


Fixed Costs      


Total Costs      


Net Income      


Variable Costs: green fodder, wheat straw, dry maize/sorghum straws, feed etc.

Comparison of cash crops with forage crops, dairying and mixed farming
The overall comparisons of economic returns from various crop and livestock businesses are presented in Table 20. The economic benefits a farmer obtains from raising seventeen dairy animals through improved peri-urban and urban forage production for feeding dairy animals, and selling milk in the market provided maximum profit (Rs 732,113) followed by commercial forage production for selling or feeding to the urban dairies and mixed farming i.e. animal + crops (Rs. 96,250) and (Rs. 62,550) respectively compared with all the other agriculture related businesses. On the other hand, cash crops such as cotton (Rs. 17,000), rice (Rs. 15,525), sugarcane (Rs. 18,700), and wheat (Rs. 7,050) provided minimum net returns respectively. Animals in the integrated farming systems, in addition to monetary benefits, also contribute to soil fertility, crop production and ultimately to the socio-economic welfare of the farmers.

Table 20. Comparison of net income from dairy and crops in smallholder systems in Pakistan
Item Unit Amount (Pak. Rs)
Net Income
Cotton production Hectare


Rice production Hectare


Sugarcane production Hectare


Wheat production Hectare


Fodder production (Average yields) Hectare


Dairy Production Litre - head


Raising 17 Dairy animals /ha Head


Seed supply
Forage seed is widely available in local markets and from seedsmen but its quality, both varietal and purity, is usually mediocre. Many farmers produce their own seed and may sell what they do not need. Seed is often taken from the last cut of multi-cut crops such as berseem and oats; it will receive only summary cleaning. Generally local landraces rather than improved cultivars are available. Berseem, one of the most widely traded seeds, is usually of the "Miscawi" type and heavily contaminated with "kasni" (Cichorium intybus) and a small, weedy form of Trifolium resupinatum. For summer fodder any maize, sorghum or millet seed available will be used. Some lucerne seed is imported, either from the USA or Afghanistan.

Highly productive cultivars of the main forages have been developed and widely tested and are well proven at farm level. They have entered commercial use but their seed is still not really readily available. Government forage stations do their best, but their area is limited and all that they can be expected to achieve is a supply of mother seed for commercial growers.

Companies and research centres in forage seed production
Very little work has been carried out on seed bulking and distribution of improved forage crop cultivars. The Agriculture Department has put more emphasis on varietal improvement of cash crops in the past. However, due to heavy expenses on import of milk and milk products, the importance for improvement of the forage situation in the peri-urban and urban areas has been realised now and maximum efforts are being made to improve the feed and forage situation for enhancing dairy productivity in these areas.

Unavailability of seeds of improved forage varieties is a major constraint limiting forage yields; most seed is supplied by the traditional sector and is of variable quality. The urban and peri-urban dairy industry had never flourished to the extent to create a big demand for forage crop seeds to be attractive to seed companies. There is no organised and regular system of seed bulking and multiplication of improved forage crop varieties in the country. To maximize profits, most of the 83 registered seed companies in Pakistan concentrate on producing cash crops such as vegetables, rice, cotton, maize, sunflower and seed potatoes.

For maize seed production, a significant market has been created by the quickly expanding poultry industry, consumption of maize as bread in some parts of the country and some industrial outlets. The rapidly growing urban and peri-urban dairies in and around towns have created a big demand for multicut and quick growing forage crop hybrid seeds especially for sorghum -Sudan grass hybrid seeds. The four multinational seed companies (Novartus International, Sandoz, ICI and Monsanto) only produce hybrid seed of maize and sorghum-Sudan grass hybrid.

Details of forage crops varieties, seed production, and availability for purchase in various parts of the country are presented in Table 21.

Table 21. Location of seed production and multiplication


Main areas for seed production

Berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum) Sheikhupura district, parts of Gujranwala and Faisalabad districts, Bahawalnagar, Mirpurkhas, and Peshawar and Mardan.
Oats (Avena sativa) Islamabad (NARC), Sargodha, Faisalabad, Chakwal, Sheikhupura, and Kasur Districts.
Lucerne (Medicago sativa) Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Sheikhupura, Gilgit, Ghizer, and Quetta districts.
Maize (Zea mays) Sahiwal, Okara, Lahore, Mardan, Swabi, Peshawar, Swat, Manshera, Rawalpindi, Muzafarabad, Rawalakot, Hyderabad, Larkana, Diamer, Gilgit, and Ghizer districts.
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) D. I. Khan. D. G. Khan, Bukkar, Sahiwal, Dadu, Islamabad, and Sibi districts
Sorghum-Sudan Grass Hybrid x Sorghum sudanense Okara, Sahiwal, Chichiwatni, Faisalabad, Lahore districts
Bulrush millet (Pennisetum americanum) Layyah, Bhakkar, Mianwali, Khushab, Bahawalpur, and Rahim Yar Khan Districts

Pollution by dairying
Two very different situations are found. On peri-urban farms and where dairymen have land or there is irrigated land nearby there is no problem with waste disposal. The dung is either used directly on the dairyman’s land or is sold to local farmers who collect and, since the manure has been paid for, clean up well. Dairies in Peshawar and Nowshera sold dung in excess of their requirements at Rs 1,000 per lorry load. At Charsada and Sheikhupura, dairies were all on farms and dung was generally used by the farmers as fertilizer and fuel with no excess to sell.

In town dairies with no land and far from irrigated farms, in Rawalpindi and Mirpur, the situation is very different and dairy dung and landless dairies allowed effluent to pollute local land and watercourses; those with land, of course used it as fertilizer.

All dairies in Rawalpindi are on the banks of the Nullah Lyie which runs through the city. Dairymen have built sheds on the banks of the nullah (a nullah is a watercourse, sometimes seasonal) and all are owned by landless people. Many tons of dung and urine are produced daily with no disposal and storage facilities. The area is always full of wet dung and litter. Animals cannot find a clean and dry space to sit and rest. Dairies dispose off all excrement into the nullah, polluting the water. The whole area over a length of 10-15 km is polluted. The situation is worst in the rainy season. On the demand and protest of the citizens, the government tried to provide another place in the suburbs for these thousands of dairies but no permanent solution has been found to keep Rawalpindi free from livestock pollution. Due to dumping of dung, the nullah is getting narrow and shallow. Heavy summer rains in 2001 caused a big flood and around 2,000 buffaloes drowned. The property of hundreds of families was damaged by this flood. In nearby Islamabad, by contrast, cattle keeping within the city is forbidden, the dairies outside the town have land and use the dung, so hygiene is good.

There are around a hundred dairies in the centre of Mirpur city owned by landless people. Almost all use old rented houses as animals sheds; most of which are on low lying land near the banks of a sewerage nullah. During the monsoon water gathers around the sheds and the whole area is dirty and muddy. There is no proper system for dung disposal. Some manure is sold; some is made into dung cake for fuel but most is dumped in low lying areas in the city. The area around city dairies is always full of filth, flies, and mosquitoes; it pollutes underground drinking water and may cause malaria, typhoid, jaundice and stomach diseases. A solution to the problems is still being sought.

Dung is also very commonly used as fuel throughout the country since firewood is scarce and alternative fuels are often either dear or of difficult access.

Table 22. Dung disposal at the various sites

Dung sold

Dung cakes made

Pollution problems














By some





By some




By some


Some farmers in Nowshera, Mirpur, and Sheikhupura converted part of it into dung cakes for fuel (Table 22). Farmyard manure is one of the cheapest and very effective sources of improvement of soil fertility which improves the texture and structure of the soil and increased soil water holding capacity. The use of farmyard manure as a fuel should be discouraged by providing alternative sources of fuel to the farmers. In Peshawar one farm with a biogas plant was unable to handle and dispose of the effluents properly; if more biogas plants were available and if properly managed they could be a very effective and cheap source of energy. Also the farmyard manure being used for fuel could also be saved and used to maintain soil fertility and enhance productivity. Also in Nowshera some of the farms were not maintained in a sufficiently clean and hygienic way and some pollution problems were observed.


  1. The rapidly growing urban population provides an attractive milk market; hence, the dairy stock are better managed and well fed. Commercial forage production has emerged as an important activity especially in and around big towns. Improved oat and berseem varieties have been developed and have become popular to replace the wheat and rice straw that used to form the bulk of ration. These varieties are good producers even in the cold weather when green forage is scarce, and are replacing the forage brassicas, which were formerly used in the winter lean period.

  2. Although commercial herds are few in rural areas but very common and important in the peri-urban regions, not all the forage required is produced in peri-urban areas. For several town dairies, forage is produced in distant rural areas, some hundreds of kilometres away and huge quantities of forage and straw are transported daily.

  3. The practice of feeding all the milking animals at the same rate, which is common in most dairy farms, results in overfeeding of less productive and underfeeding of more productive animals. Dairies should classify their herd into groups based on their daily productivity and feed them accordingly. Although cows eat less but produce higher milk yields than buffaloes, there is more demand for buffalo than cow milk, so buffaloes were the dominant animals on almost all the farms.

  4. The economic analysis of various farm related enterprises clearly showed that raising dairy animals along with improved forage production for feeding and selling milk followed by commercial forage production and dairy farming or livestock farming, were more profitable than all the other farm related enterprises including cash crops. Hence, due to increased demand for forage by rapidly expanding dairy farms, the farmers in these regions have shifted towards growing more forage crops.

  5. Serious problems of manure pollution in Rawalpindi and Mirpur dairies owned by the landless were mainly due to the unavailability of proper disposal and storage facilities. In the other towns, since all the farmers owned land and applied farm yard manure or sold it to fellow farmers, pollution problems were almost negligible. As demanded by the residents of various towns, dairies should be shifted to the peri-urban areas, not only to avoid pollution but also for the safe storage of manure, so that farmers can buy it. Since farmyard manure is the safest and cheapest source of maintaining soil fertility, alternate facilities for cheap fuel such as natural gas and training in biogas production and handling of effluents would help save the large quantities of farmyard manure being wasted for fuel purposes.

  6. Wheat straw and dry maize and sorghum stalks usually formed the bulk of feed in dairy farms. All farmers seemed unaware of the nutritive value of urea treated straw and stalks and of good quality hay. Urea treatment at the time of storing should be popularised to enhance the feeding value of dry roughages. Also harvesting surplus maize and sorghum at the proper maturity stage would enhance its nutritive value.

  7. Average forage yields are very low as compared to their potential, with 22.8 tons per hectare a recent estimate. Although improved varieties and technology are available, they have been slow to reach the small scale farms that account for the bulk of forage producers and seed production has lagged behind plant breeding and introductions. Recent medium scale on-farm work has indicated that yields can be enhanced two to three fold by using available improved varieties and appropriate agronomic techniques. In an area where land and irrigation are the major limiting factors to enhancing fodder production, intensification is the only way to meet the needs for forage. Intensive and economical forage production per unit area per season would be the best choice. Also efforts should be made to produce and provide sufficient quantities of seed of multicut forage varieties and hybrids to commercial peri-urban and urban growers.

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