4. Conclusions and recommendations
Some countries in the Asia Pacific Region have demonstrated that a rapid increase in livestock productivity is possible. A number of livestock in the region have low levels of production as a result of low levels of nutrition and health. A relatively small input into fodder production and health, comprising a small increase in inputs, would result in a large increase in production. This is because much of the inputs would be used for production rather than for maintenance of the animal. This is a similar situation to the Green Revolution, during which for relatively few changes in inputs the outputs of crop production were greatly increased.
Many animals receive maintenance or below maintenance levels of nutrition resulting in low levels of production. Increasing the quantity of feed by reducing the number of animals does not provide a solution as the nutritional value of the available feed is low. The addition of a small amount of higher quality feed can have a large effect on production in this situation. In the case of milk production, the use of cattle with a small body size would result in reduced maintenance requirements of the animal, thus enabling more efficient use of available feed for milk production.
The effectiveness of many livestock projects in Bangladesh shows that production could be increased rapidly. A major step in this process would be the education of livestock owners to view their livestock as income earning.
This report does not attempt to quantify the role of livestock in terms of nutritional intake. This is because many of the outputs are not directly nutritional but play a role in the integrated farming approach that is used by most farmers in the region.
Generally, the role of livestock had centered on the outputs that can be consumed and are usually quantified by standard government-collected statistics. However, this study demonstrates that such a method of estimation is flawed, greatly underestimating the importance of livestock. For example, such statistics underestimates the value of large ruminant production in Bangladesh by at least 50%.
The large rural population, small farm size and intensive land use in the region do not allow the setting aside of areas specifically for livestock grazing or fodder production. As a result the provision of adequate nutrition for livestock production is a major constraint.
Summary of findings
- The role of livestock in food security is undervalued. Livestock provides nutrition, power and income for small scale producers thereby increasing food security and contributing to rural development. The costs of inputs into this system are low. For example, feed for ruminants consists mainly of rice straw and grazing from waste, fallow and common land.
- Livestock productivity is low. This can be increased in several areas, in particular: (1) inputs (especially livestock nutrition); (2) animal health; (3) genetics (which requires a balancing of survival and production characteristics); and (4) the use of outputs (such as dung which can greatly increase the value of the outputs). In each of these areas there are limitations to increasing production.
- The region has a large number of animals with a low level of productivity. These animals are being fed to about maintenance level. With an increase in the level of feeding much of the additional nutrition would be partitioned to production. This has been demonstrated in Bangladesh where the provision of a small amount of supplement has led to increased milk production, from 1 to 6 litres per day in indigenous cows. Therefore, by concentrating on improving the efficiency of production of the animals owned by smallholders, large gains in total production can be made rapidly.
- Considerable work is being carried out in the region to determine the availability and effect of a range of alternative livestock feed production methods that do not impinge on human food production.
- Research on disease diagnosis and vaccine production is being carried out in the region. However, suitable village level disease control programmes have not been devised. The development of such programmes requires a modification of standard government methods which often involves the use of large scale disease control programmes rather than the use of strategic vaccination by individual producers.
- Cross breeding programmes to increase the productivity of livestock are being carried out in all countries studied.
- Integrated sustainable farming systems have been developed in Vietnam and allow farmers to gain the maximum benefit from limited resources. In addition, it provides the farmer with a sense of purpose and improves the local environment. In these systems the use of bio-digesters to produce biogas and fertilizer increases the value of animal manure and is being studied at the University for Tropical Agriculture and Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute and applied extensively in the field in Vietnam. Manure is also used directly in fishponds to increase fish production and to assist in the growth of duckweed for livestock feeding.
- Marketing systems to ensure fair prices for livestock producers have been put in place by organizations such as Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee in developing poultry projects and Milkvita a dairy cooperative in Bangladesh. However, small scale livestock farmers often receive low prices for their products.
- Increasing livestock production by poor farmers would provide a useful short to medium term benefit, especially where farm labour is underutilised. Livestock enables the farmer to enter the cash economy. If the production levels of animals already owned by the farmer are increased, the benefit is received for little cost. The long term effects as the economy expands and infrastructure improves are more difficult to predict.
- Governments, for example Vietnam, are provided with conflicting advice on the development of the agricultural sector. The advice at times seems to concentrate on the interests of the advisor rather than the local community.
- Due to a lack of livestock feed resources and the shortage of land for livestock feed production, most countries in the region are not in a position to develop large scale intensive livestock industries without the importation of feedstuff. The major comparative advantage these countries offer is relatively cheap labour and government concessions.
- Government extension services have generally failed to provide information to individual farmers, mainly because the task is too large. The role of government agencies needs to be re-evaluated.
- The integration of governments, research agencies (including government, universities and non-government), NGOs, cooperatives (and other farmer groups) and international organizations must be carried out. Any such development should involve links between organizations in different countries in the region.
- An advantage NGOs provide is the examination of the community as a whole and the integration of livestock development into community development. However, these organizations often lack technical expertise in livestock production. The provision of technical information to livestock producers through NGOs and farmers' cooperatives by government extension services provides an avenue to more effective livestock development.
- Any livestock strategy developed must be in keeping with the resources that are available within the production system and that the products meet market requirements.
- Livestock should be considered as part of any future food security activities because of their important role in food security and rural development.
- Livestock development projects should focus on improving the productivity of animals presently in the region and small scale farmers should given priority. This would enable effective use of a relatively unproductive resource with a small increase in inputs. Productivity improvement should be integrated with programmes to ensure the more effective use of livestock outputs, such as the use of biodigesters that would increase the value of animal manure, and effective marketing systems that ensure access to markets and that fair prices are paid for animal products.
- Support should be given to improve communication between organizations in the region involved in livestock development, in particular where one country or organization has specific expertise and experience in an area of livestock development. For example, in Vietnam there is considerable expertise in the development of integrated sustainable farming systems while in Bangladesh NGOs have considerable experience in assisting communities set up commercially viable livestock programs.
- Work should be undertaken to assist organizations involved in livestock development to determine which combinations of species and breeds of livestock provide the greatest benefit to farmers under different circumstances and conditions (including access to markets for outputs and availability of inputs). Such an examination should include detailed examination of successful projects that have been carried out and involve investigation of the infrastructure needed for successful implementation.
- Further work should be carried out on the development and dissemination of information on alternative production of livestock feeds as this is a major limiting factor in livestock development.
- Animal health constraints to livestock production should be investigated and appropriate and economically viable control programmes be developed for small scale farmers. This would involve the need for an innovative approach to be taken to the collection of animal health information and the provision of advice on vaccination and drug use (such as anthelmintics) at a local level.
- Government livestock services should be assisted to change their focus in the provision of services to livestock producers. This would involve a shift to the provision of technical advice to livestock project development agencies such as NGOs, and cooperatives rather than directly to farmers and involves a major shift in the philosophy of government livestock services.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) should reassess the way in which it provides technical support for livestock development. One alternative is to increase its role as a facilitator assisting other organizations to carry out livestock development.