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October 23, 2012

Brazilian Cattle Herd Increased to 213 Million Head in 2011

We almost always focus on crop production in Brazil and rightly so since it is such an important country when it comes to the production of soybeans, corn, sugar, ethanol, coffee, oranges, tobacco, etc., but Brazil also has a very large animal agriculture as well. Brazil has one of the largest cattle herds in the world and it is a leading beef exporter. According to IBGE (the Brazilian Census Bureau), the cattle herd in Brazil in 2011 totaled 213 million head, which was up 1.6% from the previous year.

The major cattle producing states in Brazil are Mato Grosso with 13.8% of the total herd followed by Minas Gerais with 11.2%, Goias with 10.2%, and Mato Grosso do Sul with 10.1%. One of the major trends in cattle production in Brazil in recent years has been the increasing use of feedlots to finish cattle before they move to market. This allows ranchers to produce more cattle even though their total amount of pasture may decline. In recent years, many ranchers have converted some of their existing pastureland to soybean and corn production to take advantage of near record high commodity prices. The feedlots of course use corn to feed the cattle, so it has become a way to utilize some of the excess corn that is produced in Mato Grosso.

The hog herd in Brazil also registered a small increase of 1% in 2011 compared to 2010. IBGE reported that there were 39.3 million hogs in Brazil at the end of 2011. The state of Santa Catarina had the most hogs at 20.3% of the total and the three southern states had nearly half of the hogs in Brazil.

Southern Brazil is also where most of the country's poultry production is concentrated as well and the biggest challenge facing the entire livestock industry in southern Brazil is high corn and soybean meal prices. Corn is of particular concern because much of Brazil's corn is now produced in Mato Grosso and the cost of transportation the corn to southern Brazil is extremely high.