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January 31, 2011

Mato Grosso Maintains Largest Cattle Herd in Brazil

In addition to being the largest soybean producing state in Brazil, Mato Grosso also contains the largest cattle herd of any Brazilian state. In 2010, the statewide cattle herd in Mato Grosso totaled 28.7 million head, which represented a 5% increase over 2009.

Approximately 60% of the cattle in the state are male, which is 6% more than in 2009. The number of females increased 3%, but the number of females over 36 months actually declined by 7%.

The governor of the state, Silval Barbosa, accredits the increase to several factors including increased lines of credit from the Bank of Brazil and the National Development Bank. Another positive factor for the livestock sector is the fact that the state has been free of foot and mouth disease for 15 years which has promoted increased beef exports.

In order to sustain future growth, the governor feels that additional investments are needed to improve the infrastructure of the state in order to drive down transportation costs. He would also like to see more diversity among the beef processors operating in the state in order to increase competition.

Environmentalists have often pointed out that cattle ranching is the principal driving force behind deforestation in the Amazon Region, which includes parts of Mato Grosso. The president of the Agricultural Federation of Mato Grosso, Rui Pardo, said it is important to note that the increase in cattle numbers did not come from increased deforestation in the state. Instead, he claims that the increase was the result of improved production practices including the renovation of pastures. He feels the cattle ranching in the state is sustainable and that the cattle numbers in the state could continue to grow without additional environmental damage.