March 31, 2011

Brazilian Cattle Suffering from Flooded Pastures

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The heavy rainfall that has fallen in Mato Grosso over the last two months has not only delayed the soybean harvest in the state, but they have also caused severe problems for cattle ranchers in the state as well. The hardest hit area of the state appears to be in the northeastern region where there are reports of starving cattle due to flooded pastures.

According to the Cattle Producers Association of Mato Grosso (Acrimat), the current problems actually started a year ago. In 2010, the region suffered from an extended dry season that lasted from early April through October. During that period there were no rains at all and the temperatures were very hot. As a result, it is estimated that 20% of the pasture grass died due to the dry conditions. When the rains returned in November, ranchers started to report that many of their pastures did not exhibit the normal regrowth that is expected with the returns of the rains.

The cattle in the region suffered extensive weight loss and were emancipated by the time the first rains returned, but instead of a normal start to the rainy season, the rainfall remained below normal until this past January. Unfortunately, during January, February, and early March the rainfall was much above normal resulting in flooded pastures. The cattle never had a chance to recover from the dry season and now they are lacking pastures once again due to the flooding.

Acrimat estimates that 70% of the six million cattle in the region are malnourished and emancipated. Ranchers in the hardest areas are trying to move their cattle out of flooded areas to higher ground, but such cattle drives are difficult and as many as 10% of the cattle die in the process.

Ranchers who are trying to sell their cattle are also encountering problems. Only two processing plants are located in the region and they are either refusing to buy the emancipated cattle or they pay very low prices for the cattle. Transporting the cattle to other regions of the state where prices may be higher is also difficult due to the poor condition of the roads in the region. The heavy rains have also made the dirt roads in the region nearly impassable. Prices are better in other regions, but it is nearly impossible to transport the cattle the long distances needed to obtain the higher prices.

The situation is not expected to improve any time soon because the next dry season is set to start within the next month or two.