Livestock feed resources, production and management in the agro-pastoral system of the Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan region of Pakistan; the effect of accessibility

A survey of 59 small-holder households was used to gather information about livestock production within a small-holder farming system in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. A broader survey of 130 households was used to gather information about cropping patterns, and access to off-farm employment and educational opportunities. The aim was to provide a description of the livestock production system in the Northern Areas and investigate the effect of agro-ecological zone and proximity to transport infrastructure on small-holder practices, especially those relating to livestock management. Two transects were selected for study differing in the quality of their transport infrastructure; the Karakoram Highway transect was defined by the Karakoram Highway, a major transport link through the study region, while the Gilgit–Ghizer Region transect lay along a side valley with a more limited transport infrastructure. One village from each of the three main agro-ecological zones within the region was selected in each transport infrastructure transect. Results showed that average landholding size was 1.6 ha of which around 60% was cultivated. Overall herd size did not differ significantly by zone or transect but there were more animals derived from cross-breeding with exotic breeds in the Karakoram Highway transect. The amount of fodder stored for livestock was higher in the Karakoram Highway transect than in the Gilgit–Ghizer Region transect. There was more selling of livestock in the Gilgit–Ghizer Region transect and the use of draught animals was also more prevalent in the Gilgit–Ghizer Region. The household questionnaire indicated that cash cropping, off-farm employment and degree of formal education were all higher in the Karakoram Highway transect, providing indirect evidence for a household economy less reliant on traditional livestock keeping for income. In conclusion, the survey results reveal a traditional small-holder system with heavy reliance on livestock. Householders in the lower altitude zones and those close to transport infrastructure appear to rely less heavily on livestock for income but have fodder resources which are more appropriate for their complement of livestock.