In general, cattle and buffalo are raised in extensive systems largely based around seasons and cropping cycles. During the wet season when crops are grown, animals required for draught power or manure are generally tethered in makeshift housing near the smallholder’s home away from cropping areas, while others are taken into forest areas to prevent crop damage. During the dry season, cattle usually graze freely on cropping land and on communal land with feed shortages common. However, there has been some development in feeding forages to cattle in parts of Laos. But feed availability is still constrained in many areas. In southern Laos for example, there is very little feeding of cattle using forages. This is due mainly to the harsh conditions and poor land quality. The most fertile land is taken up with rice production, and while there is significant common land for grazing, overstocking and general poor land condition mean that feed for cattle is in extremely short supply.
Due to the fact that smallholder cattle are primarily raised in small-scale production systems, the cattle productivity remains relatively low comparing to global average. The average carcass weight of Lao cattle is about 125 kg in comparison with 181kg of the global average. As a result, the annual meat production per capita only reaches 21.3kg per person per year while the regional average is 30 kg per person per year (FAOSTAT 2012). This suggests that Laos needs more efforts to expand its cattle population and raise its productivity in order to meet demand of domestic market as well as export to neighboring countries (NAFRI&IPSARD 2013).