Effect of Drought on Rangeland Productivity and Animal Performance in Dryland Region of Balochistan, Pakistan

Abstract

Arid and semi arid areas of Balochistan are characterized by low and erratic rainfall and are prone to drought conditions which normally occur every three to four years. The prevailing drought is one of the most severe in its magnitude as annual rain (60-150 mm) has been well below average for a continuous period of four to five years in most parts of highland Balochistan. Results from a long term study on range monitoring in highland Balochistan show that the annual range productivity has declined from an average of 150-180 kg/ha dry matter of forage biomass to 30-45 kg/ha as a result of continuous drought in most parts of Balochistan. This has seriously affected the productivity of range-based small ruminants in terms of health and high stock mortality. Recommendations are provided in this paper on short and long term programs to combat the effects of drought on range based small ruminant production. Government sponsored drought relief programs should encourage early destocking so that the herders do not keep their stock longer into the drought period and thereby avoid catastrophic effects. A shift from extensive herding on rangelands is suggested to intensive or semi-intensive feedlot livestock production system by integrating range grazing and crop-based livestock production. This would make the livestock enterprise economically and environmentally sustainable

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