The availability of land suitable for grazing has made animal husbandry an important part of the economy. Natural pastures cover some 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) but are being overgrazed. The northern regions around Mazar-i-Sharif and Maymanah were the home range for about 6 million karakul sheep in 1998.
The output of livestock products in 1998, as projected by the FAO, included 300,000 tons of cows' milk, 201,000 tons of sheep's milk, 41,000 tons of goats' milk, 18,000 tons of eggs, 16,000 tons of wool (greasy basis), and 16,000 tons of sheep- and goatskins. Much of Afghanistan's livestock was removed from the country by early waves of refugees who fled to Pakistan and Iran. Total meat output in 2000 was 356,840 tons.
In 2001, the livestock population in Afghanistan had declined by about 40 percent since 1998. In 2002, this figure was estimated to have declined further to 60 percent. An FAO survey done in the Northern Regions during the spring of 2002 showed that in four provinces (Balkh, Juzjan, Saripol and Faryab), there was a loss of about 84 percent of cattle (1997/98: 224,296 head; 2002: 36,471 head) and around 80 percent of sheep and goats (1997/98: 1,721,021 head; 2002: 359,953 head).