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1 August 2007 Dairy Farming in Mountain Areas
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Integrated farming (agricultural land, crops, farm animals, forests/trees/grasses, water, and rural industry/market) is the main source of living for most mountain people in the Himalayas. Farm animals play key roles in generating both income and employment for mountain communities. As primary users of biomass from forests, trees, grasses, and crop residues, farm animals help to recycle energy and nutrients from forest and rangelands to cropland and vice versa, thereby contributing to maintaining these ecosystems.

In recent decades, smallholder dairy farming has gained importance for the mountain economy. This publication attempts to analyze and describe key features of mountain dairy farming, with examples from Indian districts of the Himalayas. It covers a wide range of topics, including livestock population and composition, feeds and feeding management, and health management. It is organized in 11 chapters, beginning with a general introduction. Chapter 2 reviews interventions for dairy development in different periodic plan periods, with some case studies. Chapters 3 and 4 provide information on dairy development indicators and livestock population, composition, and dynamics. The next 3 chapters include information related to feeds and feeding management, dairy breeds and breeding management, and health management. Chapter 8 analyzes milk production, milk marketing and milk consumption patterns, and Chapter 9 highlights some constraints facing dairy farming in the Hindu Kush–Himalaya region. Chapter 10 is devoted to a case study of livestock in high pressure peri-urban areas in the central Himalayas. The final chapter looks at smallholder dairy farming and approaches to sustainability.

This publication provides general information on livestock population and composition and their importance in mountain farming systems, as well as on aspects of dairy farming and the market for dairy products. The authors could have done a little more, especially in terms of analyzing and presenting socioeconomic aspects of dairy-farming communities. For example, information on livestock population and composition trends for different time periods (Chapter 4) could have been usefully complemented by trends in other socioeconomic variables (eg demographic changes including out-migration to cities, increased numbers of children attending schools, shortage of household labor for agricultural activities), and the livestock numbers in Chapter 10 could have been presented in Cow Units. There is no explanation for the recorded decline of the cattle population or the increase in the populations of some other farm animals.

Likewise, for the case study in Chapter 10, information on trends in livestock population (numbers and composition) over different periods of time would have been useful and could have helped to make the link to information provided in Chapter 4. More importantly, in Chapter 10, information on milk production, consumption, and marketing at both household and village levels could have been taken further, to show the contributions of dairy farming to overall household and village economies (both income and employment).

There is a need to view the impact of the dairy market and cooperatives in terms of the extent to which these have benefited poorer household members—especially smallholders, landless livestock-owning households, and women and other disadvantaged family members. This is particularly important in view of the agricultural labor shortages arising from the increased out-migration of rural people (mostly male) to cities for off-farm employment, and more children attending schools.

Finally, given the importance of access to public forests and grazing lands for livestock rearing, it is a must to look at policy interventions, such as joint forest management, and how such policies have had impacts (positive and negative) on dairy farming communities, especially small landholders and landless livestock owners.

However, despite these few gaps the book should be seen as a useful contribution to our knowledge on dairy farming and livestock husbandry. It will be of interest to students and professionals associated with this discipline, as well as to people interested in the development of mountain regions in general and the Hindu Kush–Himalaya in particular.

Yam Malla "Dairy Farming in Mountain Areas," Mountain Research and Development 27(3), 291-292, (1 August 2007).
Published: 1 August 2007

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