Less Milk and Less Beef
Less Milk and Less Beef / 14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz
Posted on September 1, 2015
14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz, Pinar del Rio, 31 August 2015 –
Cattle ranching in Cuba touched bottom in 1999, but it had started its
decline in 1970. That year’s effort to produce 10 million tons of sugar
was the focus of attention and resources for the entire nation. Such a
disproportion was detrimental to the the motto of centralized planning:
wielding economic harmony and proportionality.
The setback in the care and breeding of cattle came after a remarkable
success in the cattle industry until 1968. In the sixties, mass
vaccination increased the heads of cattle from just over 5 million on
the island in 1958 to 7.5 million. The increase was the result of
importing breeding stock from Canada, the massive use of artificial
insemination and good animal husbandry and veterinary management. This
improved the quantity and quality of the herds.
However, in 1968 a decline in the number of cattle began that is not yet
over. Alarms sounded in 1999 when Cuba had 3 million fewer head of
cattle than in 1968. Of the numbers lost, at least 1.9 million were
heifers, which considerably affected the base of reproduction, the
guarantee of future herds.
Many analysts attribute the livestock crash to the Special Period,
officially decreed in 1990, that came with the collapse of the European
socialist bloc. These analysts argue that the sectors loss of supplies
was the main reason for its collapse. Obviously this was an influence,
but the evils that became chronic in the nineties had originated almost
three decades earlier.
In 1985 the warning signs were already clear: the country had 2.2
million fewer heads of cattle than in 1968. At a time when the Soviet
supplies were still being received with both hands. What had happened
was that the resources needed for livestock were being reassigned to
other destinations by the Cuban government. Basically to the sugar
industry, which, in the end, also collapsed.
On the other hand, poor reproductive cycles have affected the
replacement of slaughtered animals. A cow should be ready to reproduce
at two years of age and give birth to a calf every 13 months until
she has achieved 4 or 5 births during her reproductive life. But in Cuba
many of these adult heifers only give birth to between 2 or 3 calves
during their lifetimes.
The difference compared to the sixty years ago is staggering. In 1954
Cuba had 0.9 heads of beef per capita, an indicator where it was only
surpassed in the region by Uruguay with 3.01, Brazil with 2.39, and
Argentina with 1.01. Today, however, the Pearl of the Antilles has only
0.4 starving heads per capita.
Milk production has also failed to take off despite the government call
to prioritize it. Between 2013 and 2014 it declined slightly this year
could decline still more. In the Camaguey region, known for its cattle
tradition, is trying right now to mitigate the effects of the severe
drought to ease the lack of milk production. Other provinces are worse.
Hunger, the deficient planting of pastures, disease, legal and
occasionally illegal slaughter caused by poor management, and the lack
of economic incentives, stand as the chronic internal causes of the
livestock disaster in Cuba. At the end of 2014, the number of cattle in
the entire country reached 4.1 million. This year the lack of rainfall
has forced massive slaughter of cattle that will surely adversely affect
Cubans should prepare for even less milk and less beef on their tables.
Source: Less Milk and Less Beef / 14ymedio, Jose Quintana de la Cruz |
Translating Cuba –