Goat Genetic Resources in Pakistan

Pakistan is endowed with diverse livestock genetic resources. In fact, it is postulated that one of the centers of animal domestication lies in this part of the world. Pakistan has nearly 50 million goats. Livestock population trend in Pakistan Goats are kept for milk and meat production and contribute significantly to the income of the rural farmers. Dairy goats are commonly kept by the farmers belonging to the poor socio-economic class of the society, most of which are landless. They prefer goats as an initial investment in agriculture as capital costs and fodder requirements are small. Livestock population trends (see Figure 1) show that the goat population in Pakistan has increased 650% in the last 45 years (1955-2000).

Thirty-six recognized breeds of goats can be found in Pakistan. The production characteristics of these breeds are given in Table 1 [pdf].

Production Systems

Goat production is almost evenly distributed among all regions of the country. The vast majority of small ruminant flock owners are small-scale farmers. Mixed flocks of sheep and goats are common, although separate flocks of either species can also be seen. The production systems are nomadic, transhumant and sedentary.
Nomadic. This system is found mostly in parts of Sindh and Baluchistan in Southern Pakistan. These flocks, with more than 100 animals, move constantly throughout the year in search of grazing land. Most of the lambs and kids are born between January and April, when flocks are at lower elevations. Females are retained for flock replacement or enlargement, but males are sold before they are one year old. Farmers usually do not need to pay a fee for grazing, but in some areas grazing rights or fodder may have to be purchased. Sheep are usually shorn twice per year. Some milking is done to provide for family consumption and for sale in the local market.
Flock of Teddy goats Transhumant. In this system flock owners have a fixed base but move with their families to another grazing area for a major part of the year: This system is prevalent in tribal areas in parts of the North West Frontier Province, in parts of Sindh and Baluchistan and throughout the Northern Areas. Average flock size is about 100 animals. Grazing is mainly on rangeland or crop residues, and sometimes pastures must be rented. The flock owners have easy access to the market and sell the male progeny, often at low weight. Sheep are shorn two or three times each year. There is some milking for family consumption or for the sale of milk or milk products.
Sedentary – household. These flocks remain in the same locality throughout the year and are taken out to graze during the day and brought back in the evening: Flocks are small, usually between 20 and 40 animals, and graze opportunistically on crop stubble, roadsides, canal banks, waterlogged areas, rangeland and weeds. Women frequently keep a few animals, mostly goats, near the house and feed them on household scraps, weeds and nearby pastures.

Threats

Sheep and goat breeds are at higher risk of losing their identity due to indiscriminate breeding and lack of any breeding policy or directive from the government. In fact, no significant development project or programme for improvement or selective breeding of local breeds has ever been seriously undertaken. Sheep breeds are more vulnerable, as sheep raising is being replaced by goat husbandry in many regions. Furthermore, with population expansion, availability of grazing places and rangelands is decreasing, thus reducing nutrient availability to these animals. Since formal phenotypic and genetic characterization of the small ruminant breeds has generally not been carried out, the value of a given breed is judged only based on their potential for production of mutton, thus breeds with lower adult weight are most likely to disappear.

Recomendations

  1. Clearly defined breeding policies should be established and implemented for all major breeds of goats.
  2. Livestock departments in the provinces should assist in the organization of goat farmers’ groups and breed associations in various regions.
  3. Pakistan is very rich in goat genetic resources. However, if more emphasis is place only on certain breeds, the others may get neglected and lost over the time. This scenario will be a real loss to the nation. Immediate efforts should be made to conserve breeds with lesser populations. For these conservation efforts, either government farms can be utilized or the government may provide incentives to private farmers for rearing these animals.
  4. Goat improvement programmes for all major breeds like Beetal, Dera Din Panah, Nachi, Kamori, Barberi Khurasani and Dhamani should be started immediately for exploiting full potential of these breeds.
  5. Forage and range development programmes should be instituted and implemented involving local stake-holders, particularly goat herders.

Research and Development Needs

Goat Genetic Resources in Pakistan Improvement of livestock productivity per unit animal remains the primary concern of research and development efforts. If the present course is followed, the only breeds of livestock that will survive will be those that are particularly useful in the scenario of increasingly modernized farming systems. Thus, there is a real danger that many of the breeds may effectively become extinct unless some conservation or breed utilization programme is put in place. Major research and development needs in the area of genetic improvement of goats are listed below:
Goat breeds of Beetal, Kamori and Dera Din Panah should be developed as dairy-cum-meat breeds through sustainable selective breeding programmes.

There are a large number of sheep and goat breeds officially defined in Pakistan. Although general production traits of these breeds are known, unique genetic and phenotypic characteristics need to be studied. One can question if all of these breeds are genetically distinct. Many may be off-shoots of other breeds. Molecular genetic studies are in progress to answer these questions. This research work is being carried out as part of the CRP on “Gene based technologies in Livestock Breeding: Phase I – Characterization of Small Ruminant Genetic Resources in Asia”. Results of these studies will help to define the breeds to be conserved in Pakistan.

Source: This article was contributed by Dr. A. N. Naqvi of the Karakurum International University in Gilgit, Northern Areas, Pakistan and reflect her opinions on goat breeding in Pakistan and not necessarily those of the IAEA. Dr. Naqvi can be contacted by email at annaqvi@yahoo.co.uk or annaqvi@hotmail.com or icrisatp@isb.paknet.com.pk