Country Profiles

Inputs sector

Feed types in a country the size of China are of course diverse. However, the bulk of China’s cattle herd especially in the Central Plains and Northeast China are linked with the cropping sector. Cattle are fed crop residues, especially straw and silage, from intensive cropping systems. Attempts to introduce straw treatment practices (silage and ammoniation) were largely abandoned by small household because of the extra labour demands, but are widely practiced in feedlots. All cattle fattening units in agricultural areas feed grain supplements – especially corn – but limited by escalating grain prices – see Figure 9 for corn. By-products from local crop processing (grain brans, soybean/cotton/canola meal/cake/oil) is widely available but cattle producers have to compete with other livestock industries (pig, poultry) in competitive markets. It is rarely viable for small cow-calf households to feed grains except in small amounts for supplementary feeding (early lactation etc.).

China has a very large and developed manufactured feed sector, mainly to cater for the pig and poultry sectors, and also produce compound and concentrate feeds. Most large feedlots buy feed in bulk – crop residues, corn and especially brewery or distillers waste and bagasse. Animal by-products (feather, fish, bone meal etc.) are common.

China has in recent years rapidly expanded forage (especially lucerne) production, accompanied by forage companies and processors, variety and seed improvement and storage and silage technologies. These are produced mainly by or for the dairy industry that, again, beef producers struggle to compete with.

China has around 400 million hectares of grasslands – more than Australia – and accounts for 42% of the country’s land mass. There are several different classifications of grassland types, but the most fundamental is the distinction between the tropical and sub-tropical grasslands in the south, the temperate grasslands in the north, and the steppes on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau (see Brown et al., 2009). The (266) counties classed as pastoral or semi-pastoral (but that often also have cropping areas) held 29 million cattle in 2012 or 42% of China’s beef cattle (and 15 million productive cows and 57% of China’s sheep). Cattle are rarely grazed in extensive grazing systems, and even then are penned at night. Most cattle especially in the north are raised in transition zones to corn cropping areas (similar to cropping systems overviewed above). About 90% of China’s grasslands are classified as degraded to some extent which, together with policy to destock, limits numbers of cattle, including breeders that can be raised on grasslands.

As local cattle have been bred to provide draught power on a maintenance diet, they are relatively small, fine boned and produce “draught quality” beef. “Yellow” cattle breeds in Central Plains include Qinchuan, Nanyang and Jinnan and Luxi cattle. A large majority of the herd are cross-bred with Simmental, Limousin and Charolais breeds (the latter becoming less popular because of dystocia) and other lesser disseminated breeds.

Local village bulls were in the past used for breeding, but almost all breeding in the Central Plains is now done through artificial insemination and pellets have replaced straws. The breeding system is dominated by the state system comprising of 159 beef cattle breeding stations (and 39 bull stations which must be national or province level), with 94,000 head (54,000 cows and 2,500 bulls) that produce 12,700 embryos and 17 million straws (China Livestock Yearbook, 2013). For many years, however, private companies have entered the breeding sector (often with contracts with households and integrated downstream) and this interest in breeding appears to have been sustained in recent years. State and private breeding companies are heavily subsidies by higher levels (central and provincial) government, as are AI dissemination and AI services for producers by local government. Central government funding for beef cattle genetic improvement was Rmb60 million 2012, and reported to have increased since then.

While the details is outside the scope of this report, China has incidences of several bovine diseases, including periodic outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease, Brucellosis, Anthrax and Bovine Tuberculosis. The country has several mechanisms to manage diseases. It has a large veterinary hierarchy from central level down to village levels. There were 32,600 livestock veterinary stations in 2013 – mainly at township and village levels. Local veterinary stations were funded mainly by county governments which have limited funding and the stations. Local veterinarians (the vast majority of staff have “basic” training and creditation) can charge for basic services including treatment of non-infectious diseases (parasites).

If Foot and Mouth Disease, Brucellosis or Tuberculosis is identified, then higher authorities (county level disease control station) are charged with slaughtering, burning and burying animals. Parts of Shandong have since the 1990s been routinely vaccinating for diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease (two or three times per year). China has sought to establish quarantine zones for beef – in the 11th Five Year Plan – in Jilin, the Liaodong Peninsular (in southern Liaoning), Chanqing and Jiaodong (in eastern Shandong). Hainan is a comprehensive livestock quarantine area. Disease status and issues plays major role in cattle and beef trade (import) policy (see below).

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