Category Archives: The food we eat

The Best Option for Sustainable Food Production in Challenging Environment ~is the Promising Camel

Happy Camel’s Day (WCD)

Among the camel’s world, the subcontinent is the region where the day starts first. It is 22nd June in the subcontinent, so I can safely say Happy Camel’s Day. At the occasion of WCD, I started the series of articles based on the documents/material sent from different corners of the world. As my own share, I want to express my views on the role of the camel as a farm animal in NENA region.

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Not the ship but the gift of the desert

Near East and North Africa (NENA) is one of the driest and challenging landscapes on the face of the earth. The major percentage of the global deserted lands fall in this region, making it a hostile ecosystem for many other livestock species. Nature blessed the region with the highly adapted and unique livestock species “the Camel”, well said as Ataullah in Arabic.

As mentioned in the holy book Quran “do they do not look at camel; how strange it is created?” the camel is the animal of unique characteristics’ making it the most valuable creature of the drylands. The people living in this region, especially the camel herders and pastoralists depend on the camels for food, accessibility, and other livelihoods. Camel produces milk in very high ambient temperatures and other climatic challenges, in the same environment, other livestock species are hard to survive. Camel is not in competition with any other livestock as camel browse on very woody and bushy vegetation.

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The desert’s friend…

In the climate change scenario and fragile security (in some parts of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria) camel is the animal of choice to provide precious food items as milk (primary product) and meat to ensure the survival of the people. Camel farming needs very low input making it a sustainable profession.

Based on my experience and scientific findings, I can say that camel is the most sustainable farm animal in the region. The cow model (cow dairies) is not sustainable in such a hostile ecosystem and the milk produced is very expensive if calculated in the ecosystem model as the cow needs many times more water to produce one liter of milk. The camel tolerates very high ambient temperatures, on a contrary, the cow needs a cooling system (using fossil oil) to produce milk in the same situation.

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Camel ensures accessibility in the remote areas

The quality of camel milk is very appreciating than that of cow milk. Free of allergen protein, intolerant lactose and low in the saturated long chain, fats making the camel milk the best choice for health sensitive people. The region needs to ensure joint efforts for making policies regarding the food and agriculture and keep the camel on top priority as an animal of food security in climate change scenario.

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They are not in competition with other livestock species

The organization “Camels4Life” which is an advocacy group supporting camel’s cause,  is always willing to support both governments and NGOs for finding ways to use a camel as a sustainable farm animal contrast to its old vision of beast of the burden.

For more details, please go to the link below.

https://camel4milk.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/camel-a-one-in-all-creature/

http://www.thenational.ae/uae/health/al-ain-doctor-sees-potential-in-camels-beyond-their-milk

Turning Again to the Native Gene ~ Back to the Future

Turning Again to the Native Gene ~ Back to the Future

The catastrophes of climate change along with growing desertification consequence in the adoption of new strategies. The industrialized nation’s choice is mitigation strategy while among the native livestock keepers’ adaptation is the best tactic. Unfortunately, the so called policy makers (at all levels) are not that much in tune (with the above-said challenges) as the rural indigenous people of the bush are. These sensible livestock keepers know how to materialize livestock agriculture sustainably as; to satisfy versatile requirements of the owner/community and ensure its own life whereas depending on available natural resources.20151009_172921

The so pseudo green revolution (1960s era) was actually a trick of the capitalism to provide an immature solution (factory farming) to increase productivity but contrary it resulted in erosion/dilution of the precious native animal genetic resources and depletion of soil fertility. Coincidentally, nature reacts after each specific period and shed all the unkind things attach to it; intensive farming is failing in many ways.

A Case Study from Balochistan

In months of September, October (2015), I visited the rural areas of northeastern Balochistan. I sniffed a very positive change, the wise decision of the community elders; turning back to the native cattle. Many small scale farmers have adopted the native cattle (Kohe-Suleimani/Lohani/Kakari®) to better utilize free available natural resources and ensure sustainable production. The lovely Kakari cows mostly depend on the bushes, especially Sarghasie (abundantly available bush in the region) which is otherwise useless. Some wise farmers narrated “native cow is the best weed regulator” as she restricts the weeds/bushes to creep in the cropping lands. She is the best converter of bushes into food item and high fibrous manure.20151012_101537

The dung produced by the cattle provides softy and fluffy texture to the soil, making it apt for cropping. The cow manure is highly preferred for wheat, tomato, cauliflower, almond, and apricot agriculture. Sometimes, the dung is used in construction material is added to the mud plaster. The native cow is unique as; grows well, catches high consumer demand, resistant to health ailments/parasites and easy management making it the best choice as a farm animal.20151009_170928

Nevertheless producing little milk (2-3 liter per day with a shorter lactation length), idolized as best in the conversion of poor quality roughages into precious milk and meat. The yummy, creamy and appetizing milk makes it super cow than the exotic one. Its milk is esteemed as beautifying skin and treats febrile conditions. The special taste of ghuarri (a Pashtu word used for ghee) produced from its milk is highly anticipated. Pashtuns’ folk poetry is rich with the appreciation of the precious ghuarri. The surplus ghuarri is sold by the women and the income purely owned by them. Now a day, the prices for ghuarri is too high and attracts bulky Pakistani rupees. Hey! The native genes empower the women, they told.20151009_174051

The steer catches reasonable prices at the occasion of Eid-Adha, highly preferred by locals and suit well to a common customer. A slightly pinkish color beef (not too red) has the special desire and high organoleptic scoring. It is approachable selection for the low-income groups during the Eid-Adha and other religious/cultural occasions. A native keeper whispered that it takes the little time to cook, making a good selection for women.20151011_161325

The strategies adopted by the native/indigenous people are highly useful to guarantee sustainable farming systems under climate change scenario. Their knowledge is based on centuries’ long experience and evolved with the natural phenomena; making it the treasurable heritage of humanity. Unfortunately, their contents are never asked while making policy regarding the livestock agriculture both at national and international levels. It would be so great if native livestock keepers are involved in policy making to ensure sustainable and ecological farming.20151011_161444

For more details, please go to the links below;

http://dry-net.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/091220_potential_of_livestock_breeds_of_Baluchistan_final_.pdf

http://www.pastoralpeoples.org/docs/CGRFA_LIFE_sideevent_kakar.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/216121092_Prospects_of_Livestock_Production_in_Balochistan

®Native livestock Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture are very diverse in many ways, having different names in different regions, many colors, sizes, and purposes etc.

International Camel Conference at Islamia University Bahawalpur Pakistan

The International Camel Conference (ICC) under the patronage of Camel Association of Pakistan and the Islamia University of Bahawalpur was organized in Baghdad campus of Islamia University (19-21 Dec 2013). Bahawalpur being the city of the great Thar desert and home of camel culture was the right choice for this event. Many scientists, research scholars, camel herders and students from different universities and institutions participated in this important event on the camel. Many animal scientists, students and camel herders from Balochistan province also participated.

Marrecha camel safari caravan passing nearby the Dirawarr Forte

Camel is the unique heritage of the region Cholistan

FAO Balochistan chapter sponsored a group of camel herders and L&DD officials to participate in the conference. The conference was very versatile of its nature, not only covered the camel science but provided a good opportunity to camel people to know about the camel culture of great Thar desert which is famously known as the Cholistan. The vice-chancellor of the IslamiUniversityty (Dr Iftikhar) was very kind and humble while providing all the best facilities and opportunities to the conference participants. Camel scientists from 7 different countries also participated.The Desert’s Livestock Species Have Tremendous Potential for Milk Produciton

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The scientists presented their work on camel culture, milk production potential, milk characteristics, camel breeds and breeding, diseases and economic opportunities etc. The local media covered the event in a very nice way and kept the country audience and viewers aware regarding the conference. At the end of the camel conference, the following recommendations were suggested.

  • To maintain camel genetic and production diversity with the involvement of the camel herders and policymakers
  • To maintain camel habitats, especially Cholistan desert intact and safe from land grabbing etc
  • The slogan of ‘DESERT SHOULD REMAIN THE DESERT‘ was given for Eco-conservation of Camels and ‘SAVE PASTROLISM
  • More interaction development among the camel people, camel scientists and policymakers should initiate
  • Research on camel diseases and other health issues should initiate and coordinate with the international bodies in this field
  • Publication of full-length articles of the abstracts received in ICC-2013 in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Industry Liaison for Value Addition of camel products
  • Enhanced collaboration with foreign camel researchers and institute

IMG_2082[1].jpgCamel conference was a great opportunity, except the bad weather with the heavy fog. At the end of the conference, the meeting of the CAP was organized and some decisions were made. The decisions of the CAP are given in the ensuing lines.

  • The foreign scientist (not more than 5) will be invited purely on merit basis to make it more worthwhile and fruitful
  • The meeting was held on 21st Dec at 8 pm
  • I suggested a seminar (with very specific title) and with very specific number of participants
  • The seminar will be in the month of Jan or Feb 2015, as the next ISOCARD is in June 2015 Almatay Kazakhstan
  • The venue of the meeting will be decided later but most probably, Karachi, Uthal, Quetta or Lahore
  • CAP member list will be compiled according to the registered members in 3 categories, i.e.
  1. category A. Scientist/Activist/NGOs
  2. Category B. Camel Herders
  3. Category C. Students
  • Next election will be held on the occasion of the Seminar in 2015
  • The CAP registration amount, other income and expenditure if any, will be compiled and will be present to the cabinet
  • A Skype/online consultative meeting of the willing CAP members or other scientists to highlight/fix and mention the priority areas on camel in Pakistan

I am very pleased now, as the importance of camel is being appreciated in Pakistan. In the climate change context and challenge of food security; camel is the best choice to accept these challenges.

National Goat Show in Pakistan, The Story of Makhi Cheni Betal Breed

Organized and reported by Dr. Sajjad Khan

Dr. Sajjad Khan is a well-known scientist and currently working as Prf. and Dean faculty of Animal Husbandry, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Faisalabad Pakistan.

National goat show concluded here at Faisalabad (Pakistan) last evening on 21st October. It was very well attended the show as 663 animals competed for various beauty, weight and milk competitions. Beauty competitions were breed wise. Individual (male or female), pairs (breeding male and a breeding female) and flock (five adult females + 1 breeding male) competitions were held apart from goat kid beauty competition which was across breeds.

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Makhi Cheeni Beetal (MCB) breed from Bahawalnagar

Represented breeds were various strains of Beetal (Faisalabadi, Makhi-Cheeni, Nuqri and Nagri strains), Nachi-the dancing goat (Boora, Sawa, Makra and Bulahi strains) and Diara Din Panah (Kala and Shera strains). Single strains of Barbari, Pak-Angora, and Teddy breeds also competed. While beauty competitions were within, weight and milk competitions were across breeds. Breeders and goat keepers competed for cash prizes, trophies and certificates and just for fun. The show was supported by my University, GEF-UNEP-ILRI FAnGR Asia project and the Directorate of Small Ruminants, Government of Punjab.

Animals started arriving on 18th and 90% had reached by 19th. Animals from the host district arrived on 20thmorning as well. As some had taken a 10-hours journey, rest was needed especially for milking goats. Competitions continued till late into the evening on 20th. The goat kid competition, held for the first time (to promote goat as a pet) was conducted on 21st, the day for prizes and trophies. Some 50 goat kids competed and were paraded (actually allowed to move around for about a minute) before young boys and girls (between 5-8 years of age) who were our no-card guests/visitors and had even helped farmers in handling goats during flock competitions.

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Mature Buck of Makhi Cheeni Beetal

Some 50 were randomly selected from about 90+ boys and girls present. We had 50 red ribbons to be worn to the goat kids. Every kid was individually explained to not follow his/her friends or parents (some had come) for making his/her choice, rather his/her own likeness. While farmers kept sitting with their goat kids, judges (boys and girls) marched in front from one side to the other and selected their champion. Some had done it while animal science students (girls) were tagging the goat kids in the start, while others did it on the spot. Nuqri goat kid won the first position with 7 ribbons followed by Makhi-Cheeni and Barbari goat kids. It is worth mentioning that many goat kids were purchased by the local residents’ price ranging between 80 and 400 USD/animal at the end of the goat show.

 

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MCB lactating doe can produce up to 10 kg milk per day

 

 

Highest weight was 179kg of a Beetal  (Faisalabadi) buck while highest milk yield was of a Beetal Makhi-Cheeni goat producing 4 liters of milk on a voluntary intake as owners were not allowed to offer anything and competing goats remained in the custody of organizing committee before the beginning of emptying of udders till the last milking. Similar restrictions were imposed in weight competition. This was not a kidding season for goats because in our March competition last year, amount of milk by the winning goat was around 8 liters.

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The most deficient information seemed to be scoring the dancing gait of Nachi goats while a lot of indigenous knowledge (apart from the typical nose and longer neck, foot sole was desirable to be visible while animal walks, as narrated by a Nachi farmer) awaits documentation. Love for this breed could be judged talking to a 70-year-old farmer who had raised this breed since he was 10. I hope to learn from him and similarly knowledgeable farmers in future.

 

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Deep colored spotted MCB breed pregnant yearling

 

The show was telecasted live by at least five television channels. Introduction of Nagri strain of Beetal was the pleasant surprise for technocrats and so was the introduction of a colored strain of Diara Din Panah (Shera strain) which was even more attractive than the traditional black strain. Bucks with their cock screw longhorns, massive bodies (~100kg) and long hair really gave a dangerous look (as a friend called them terrorists). New strains of Nachi were also worth watching.  It looks we need to redefine breeds to incorporate farmers standards and available. Information available in booklets on various breeds looks quite distant from reality.

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Best animal of the show was a DDP buck (black strain). The best breeder was Mr. Nazir Masih with exceptionally good animals (1st in milk competition, 1st in flock beauty competition for MCB breed and 1st in individual female beauty competition in MCB breed).

 

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8 Month old MCB female

 

As always it was a very pleasant and rewarding to organize and conduct a goat show. Interaction and exchange of ideas with farmers is an asset. Few photos are attached. More photos with video clips will soon be posted at project website  (http://fangrpk.org/).

Dr. M. Sajjad Khan

Professor

Dept. Animal Breeding and Genetics

University of Agriculture Faisalabad 38040

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Morak Goat Breed of the Chaghai Kharan Desert

Habitat: Chaghai Kharan desert especially Raskoh mountains of the region is the home track of the breed. The breed is very close to its wild ancestors. There are many tribes, rearing this breed of goat, which are Badeni, Muhammad Hasani, Maingul, Jamaldini, Sasoli, Sanjrai, Nothezi, Nausherwani, Malangzai, Siafad, Faqirzai, Hajizai,.

Phenotypic characteristics: The goat has medium size with black body coat, very rare specimen with white color is also found. The long curled horns, especially in the male with beard are the salient feature of the breed. The goat also produces reasonable amount of milk.

Vegetation: Vegetation of the area liked by the goat is comprising of Ghaz (Tamarix Articula), shrub as Taghaz (Haloxylon Amodendron), bushes like Hashwarg (Rhozya Stricta), Pog (Calegnum Polygonaides) Cotor (Stockcia Brohinca), Lara (Salsola Kali), Kandar (Alhogi Camelarum), Barshonk, Karwankush, Narronk (Salsola Arbuscula), Tusso (Gaillaina Aucheri) and grasses like Mughair (Atriplex Dimprphostegium), Kash (Sacchorum Siliare), Righith (Suoeda Monica) Shanaluk (Allium Rubellum). etc.The Ice Cream Species of Plants for the Camel and Goat. Part 1Part 2. Ice Cream Species of Plants for the Camel and Goat

Population: Population of the breed is almost 0.5 million. The population trend is increasing. Morak breed is one of the badly affected goat breeds in the province by the previous drought (1998-2003), as the drought was very severe in this ecological zone.Effects of Drought on Livestock Sector in Balochistan Province of Pakistan

Special Traits:

  • Close to its wild ancestors
  • It is very accessible to inaccessible areas for grazing, i.e. the peaks of the mountains
  • The animal is very alert and fast running, hence can’t be eaten by pest and predators. More close to wild ancestors
  • High milk production in harsh environment of the region in a very low input system of the ordinary grazing

Option Hopes: Close relation to its wild ancestors.

Morak goat of Kharan Washuk region

Economic importance: The most important breed for livelihood earning of the pastoral livestock keepers of the region. It provide milk in the harsh environment when the sheep milk yield ceased. It also provides cash by selling it, when the livestock keepers need cash money. The animal may attain good weight and attract good prices because of its more meat and height.

Mangeli Sheep of the Central Balochistan

Habitat: The major habitat of the breed is the central Brahvi land. The nucleus areas are Kalat, Mastun, Khuzdar, Wadh and Awaran. The tribe of the breed is Maingul.

Phenotypic characteristics: The sheep is medium in size with coarse wool, black and white body coat. The head of the sheep is usually black. The ears are long and droopy.

Vegetation: Vegetation of the habitat much like by Mangeli sheep is comprised of Saba, Sargharri, Hawe, Gorkha and Kashum.

Population: The population of the breed is a bit hard to compile because of the scattered nature of the breed in a wide area. Moreover the estimation on the basis of the breeders and flock size the estimated population of the breed 1 Million. This breed shrink in size because of two reasons, the First reason of the shrinking was the drought (red spot of the climate change); this breed was severely affected like Dumeri sheep. The second reason is the high financial return of orchard farming of apple and Cherry in the region. Because of the drought and other social changes, many breeders shifted towards orchard farming. Though the number of the breeders decreased the breed is again increasing in size due to high consumer demand for its products.

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The tribe love their sheep genetic resources

 

Special traits:

  • Good thriftiness nature, high compensatory growth
  • v  Good ability to graze in the small area
  • v  Good scavenger animal, also fit for grazing on the waste of the city
  • v  High milk producer under the low input production system.
  • v  High meat yield and a reasonable growth rate

Option hopes:

  • Capable of grazing of the highlands of the region (highly adapted to the landscape)
  • Strong link to the sheep culture with Maingul tribe
  • Precious part of the Balochi culture
  • High consumer demand for the special flavor of the milk

Economic importance: The breed is highly thrifty and produces more meat per unit feed consumption compare to other breeds of the region.  The male animal at the age of 2-3 years is used for Landi purpose Persenda~Dry Meat Cousine of Pashtun Afghan and catches very good prices. Mangeli is one of the best milk producers in the province or may be in the region. The lambs of the breed can be used for feedlot system to produce more and healthy meat. The male at the age of 3 years attains a weight of 80 kg. The lambs are usually slaughtered at the age of 3 years for Landi purpose. The breed is an important source of livelihood earning and the prices are very high for Mangeli sheep in the province. The rate of a Mangeli ewe is almost Rs. 12,000 and that of a male with 3 years of age ranges to a price of Rs. 20,000.

Musakhaili Sheep Breed

Habitat: Found in Musakhail district of northeastern Balochistan and the main tribe of the breed is Musakhail as indicated by the name. Moreover, the breed is also raised by Marghzani, Zamri and Issot and Jaffar tribes of Musakhail district.

Phenotypic characteristics: The breed is larger in size compared to Bybrik sheep breed. The tail is wide and a bit long (called as hanging tail), therefore, accumulate more fats. The head of the sheep is larger and wider. The wool is shorter in length like that of Bybrik. This breed is more attractive for the trader because of its meat demand.

The distinctive characteristics of the breed are long hair in the base of the horn. Spotted ears, black spots on wool and skin on the rump area, are the prominent feature of the breed.

Vegetation: Vegetation highly like by Musakhaili sheep is comprised of Khuriasa, Ozi, Viza, Paha, Saba, Zangi, Barawa and Barvaza etc. The vegetation is different in different season and topography.

Population: The population size of the breed is almost 2.9 million and the trend is increasing.dsc00154

Special Traits:

  • Can climb on high mountains and consume the inaccessible vegetation
  • Get more weight in short duration and fill the tail with fats very fastly, hence can resist the dry period
  • Good response to stall feeding and grains offer
  • The wool is thin in density (Khalaswargi) and is good to resist high temperature
  • Consume bushy vegetation when there is scarcity of grasses

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    The meat drying process (landi) 

Economic Importance: The breed is not only raise for family subsistence. The breed has very high economic returns by selling male animals at the age of 8 months. The animal has high trader preference and mostly reaches to the market of Iran and even Middle East. The local consumers like the meat and use this breed for the persenda making (Landi)Persenda~Dry Meat Cousine of Pashtun Afghan, The crop reaches early in the market because of the early breeding season. The milk of the breed is not use for family needs but allow to the lambs. The wool has no higher economic importance and is mainly send to the market of Punjab province and is usually use in the carpet industry.