Beef cattle farming is undergoing a major transformation in Brazil. Literature indicates that, until 1985, a little more than 40% of the beef production rise was due to pasture area increases, while 59% was related to productivity gains. Between 1996 and 2006, however, last data released by IBGE indicate a reduction in pasture area and, thus, the 122% increase in Brazilian beef production was due to productivity gains. This year, the Brazilian Federal Government has not conducted the Agricultural Census, due to spending cuts, but Cepea-Esalq/USP data make it possible to infer that productivity gains of Brazilian cattle farming have been occurring at a fast pace.
These productivity gains, however, have occurred heterogeneously. Brazil is a continental country and, thus, not only in cattle farming, but in most agricultural production, there are major differences in productive features and offered products, a result of weather and soil conditions. Besides, institutional factors (economy, legislation, culture, productive scale, among others) also determine regional productive models. Recently, the difference among productive models in Brazilian regions has been significant. Government incentives and the development of new technologies have resulted in a staggering increase of production in central-western and northern Brazil. Opposite to that, other areas, such as the northeastern region of the country, preserve social relations from the past, thus keeping a relative delay.
The number of animals in southeastern and southern Brazil, mainly in Rio Grande do Sul, however, has increased, but the share in the Brazilian herd has decreased. In 1974, when IBGE series started, 22% of the herd was concentrated in southern Brazil. In 1990, this number dropped to 17% and in 2014, to 13%. Despite this decrease, the southern region underwent a major transformation. Weather conditions allowed the area to be the first one to cross and develop breeds with European genetics. Recently, the country is going through institutional changes that have been favoring that region. The south region has great importance in the Brazilian cattle farming activity, due to the possibility of allying productivity gains to genetics, and the fact that the region is near a developed consuming market. So, we invite you, reader, to follow our column and understand the challenges and opportunities in Rio Grande Sul in the Brazilian beef production.