Sep 30, 2016

Brazilian Cattle Herd Reaches New High of 215.2 Million Head

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

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the Brazilian cattle herd reached a new record high in 2015 of 215.2 million head. This represents an increase of 1.3% compared to 2014. It was the largest increase in cattle numbers since 2011. It also represents a renewed expansion of the Brazilian cattle herd which declined in 2012 due to drought and held steady in 2013 and 2014.

In recent decades, cattle production in Brazil has been declining in southern Brazil and northeastern Brazil while it has been expanding in northern Brazil. In southern Brazil, pastures have been converted to increased row crop production and sugarcane production, while in northeastern Brazil, a prolonged drought has resulted in reduced cattle numbers.

Cattle production in northern Brazil has been expanding in recent decades due to a number of factors including: lower land prices, availability of water, favorable climate, government incentives, and the opening of large processing facilities. The cattle herd in northern Brazil expanded 2.9% in 2015. In fact, the formation of pastures has been one of the primary factors in deforestation in northern Brazil.

The center-west region of Brazil, which includes the states of Mato Grosso, Goias, and Mato Grosso do Sul, has the largest cattle herd in Brazil representing 33.8% of the total and the number of cattle increased 2.1% in 2015. The state of Mato Grosso has the largest cattle herd (29.2 million head) accounting for 13.6% of the total. The state of Goias is third with 10.2% of the total (21.9 million head). Mato Grosso do Sul is fourth at 9.9% of the total (21.3 million head). The state of Goias has the most cattle in feedlots of any state in Brazil.

While beef cattle numbers in Brazil increased in 2015, the number of dairy cows declined 5.5% in 2015. The southeastern region of Brazil has the most dairy cows, but it's the southern region that produces the most milk accounting for 35% of the total. The average dairy cow in southern Brazil produced 2,900 liters of milk in 2015 (2.09 gallons per day), while the national average was 1,609 liters in 2015 (1.16 gallons per day). The state of Minas Gerais has the most dairy cows and the largest milk production accounting for 26% of Brazil's total milk production. The total milk production in Brazil declined 0.4% in 2015 to 35 billion liters.

Ranchers in Brazil are expecting the cattle sector to improve in the coming years because Brazil has just recently received authorization to start exporting fresh beef to the United States and to China.

A lot of emphasis is placed on the agricultural production in the state of Mato Grosso because it is such an important part of Brazil's total agricultural sector. The state of Mato Grosso is Brazil's leading producer of soybeans, corn, cotton, sunflowers, and cattle. The reason why it is so important is because it is a very large state. It is approximately the same size as the U.S. Midwest.