Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Using Digital Technologies to Transform the Livestock Industry in Pakistan

This post was written by Sheryl Cowan, CNFA Vice President, Programs and Nega Berecha, Director, Programs at Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA).

Pakistan’s major natural resources of arable land and water have enabled agriculture to become the mainstay of the country’s economy. Livestock production, a subsector of agriculture, plays an especially important role in accounting for over 50 percent of the country’s agriculture sector.

Supporting nearly 10 million families who earn more than 40 percent of their income from livestock production activities, the livestock sector contributes to over 11 percent of Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). [1]

But despite the scale and scope of livestock production within the country, Pakistan represents less than one percent of the international livestock export market.[2] This is mainly due to a lack of commercial backgrounding and feedlot fattening farms, a limited number of abattoirs equipped with proper machinery and equipment, improper control of foot and mouth disease (FMD), and the absence of breeds capable of providing a higher feed conversion ratio (FCR).

Additionally, livestock producers in Pakistan face constraints in accessing top import markets such as China, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Europe, primarily because of their inability to provide a diversified range of livestock products at competitive prices while complying with international food safety and traceability standards.

To address this issue, the USAID-funded U.S. Pakistan Partnership for Agricultural Market Development (AMD) project, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), introduced digital technologies such as feed ration balancing, herd management and traceability software to commercial feedlots and export abattoirs with the aim of supporting the development of Pakistan’s commercial agriculture and livestock sectors.

Ration Balancing and Farm Management Software

Livestock feed is the largest cost for Pakistan’s livestock farmers because meeting the international requirements for livestock nutrition is complex and requires access to proper technologies to balance feed formulation rations with maximum accuracy. Utilizing a specialized feed software called “FRB,” a “feed ration balancing” product created by a global agribusiness, AMD was able to improve feed management processes and help modernize integrated feedlot operations for 10 commercial Pakistani feedlots.

The “FRB” software collects nutritional information from its own databases as well as a locally developed feedstuff library by analyzing more than 40 different feed ingredients collected from 40 districts in Sindh and Punjab provinces.

It also uses Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)[3] and E-Tag[4] tools synced with an electronic scale to measure and record the bodyweight of live animals. The system then tracks the data collected from each tagged animal – weight, health and feed bunk records – to calculate the animal’s feed conversion ratio (FCR), ideal medicine intake and movement.

Together, this technology helps commercial feedlots prepare balanced and nutritious feed at the lowest cost by comparing feed market prices with dietary needs to provide a variety of feed ration options, allowing farmers to make informed decisions about which feed ingredient combinations yield maximum returns for their feedlot farms in competitive markets.

ZulMeat™ Traceability Software

Another major export obstacle in Pakistan is the traceability of agricultural produce and livestock. ZulMeat™, a locally developed and trade-marked software system, ensures product traceability at meat processing abattoirs by allocating a unique identity code to each animal that enters the abattoir facility. With the ability to capture the transfer of animal carcasses through various stages of production, processing and distribution, ZulMeat™ generates accurate information about the origin and movement of an animal. This method of tracking also helps to monitor and prevent the spread of animal diseases and enhance overall biosecurity.

From facility to plate, ZulMeat™ ensures the proper traceability of products across the meat processing cycle, paves the way for food safety certifications such as ISO 22000, and improves the credibility of meats marketed through its users’ abattoirs.

So far, these 10 AMD-supported feedlots have improved their organizational capability to efficiently manage more than 4,000 market ready cattle. Additionally, the three abattoirs supported with ZulMeat™ were able to export more than 18,000 metric tons of traceable meat to different Gulf Cooperating Council countries.

Over the course of the four-year project, AMD tailored digital technology trainings and grants to livestock farmers, commercial feedlots and export abattoirs to help them modernize their operations to meet international standards, make informed management decisions, better respond to market needs, increase competitiveness, and strengthen Pakistan’s meat export capability in new and existing markets.

[1] Pakistan Economic Survey 2017-2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.finance.gov.pk/survey_1718.html.

[2] Beef Market Central. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://beefmarketcentral.com/.

[3] A wireless system comprised of tags and readers

[4] A management software that is linked with the electronic weighing scale