Livestock Breeding

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Livestock Breeding


a branch of agriculture concerned with breeding farm animals to produce livestock products. Livestock breeding provides the population with various foods (milk, meat, lard, eggs, and so forth), and light industry with raw materials (such as wool, hides, and bristles). It also provides the tractive force of horses, oxen, asses, mules, camels, and deer. Other products of livestock breeding are organic fertilizer (manure), various kinds of fodder (skim milk, tankage, bone meal, and so forth), and medicinals (therapeutic serums and hormones). Livestock production constituted about 50 percent (in value) of the total USSR agricultural production in 1970. The development and productivity of livestock breeding are closely linked to the development of plant life and to the intensity of land use. Live-stock breeding includes cattle breeding (dairy husbandry, dairy and beef cattle husbandry, and beef cattle husbandry), swine breeding, sheep breeding, goat breeding, horse breeding, camel breeding, poultry breeding, fish breeding, apiculture, rabbit breeding, fur farming, deer breeding, donkey breeding, mule breeding, and dog breeding.

Livestock breeding arose in very ancient times, when man began to tame wild animals, domesticate them, and use them for farm needs. By tenacious effort over a long period of time, man changed the nature of many wild animals and succeeded in sharply increasing their productivity.

Prerevolutionary Russia. Livestock breeding in prerevolutionary Russia was one of the most backward branches of agriculture. The small peasant farms, ruined by the excessive taxes imposed by the tsarist government and in bondage to the landowners and kulaks, did not have the economic prerequisites for the development of livestock breeding. The latter developed more rapidly on the farms of the kulaks and landowners. According to zemstvo (district and provincial assemblies) statistics, the average annual increase in live-stock in the 48 provinces of European Russia from 1870 to 1914 was less than 1 percent. In 1914, 31.6 percent of the farms were without horses and 24 percent were without cows. Unpedigreed livestock with low productivity was predominant. The cows produced 900–1,000 kg of milk, the sheep about 2 kg of wool, and the hens 40–50 eggs per year. The cows weighed no more than 300 kg on the average. The sheep mostly had coarse wool, and the swine were unproductive and slow to mature. On the small farms of the poor and middle peasants, livestock breeding was semisubsistent in nature, whereas on the kulaks’ and especially on the land-owners’ farms it was distinctly of a commodity nature.

V. I. Lenin, in The Development of Capitalism in Russia, showed how, beginning in the 1880’s, commercial dairy farming developed in the areas of consumption, and especially in the suburban areas. The distribution of cows became more concentrated; the raising of dairy cattle was separated from the using of them; and the raising of young stock, the most laborious and least profitable part of the work, was shifted to the small breeders, while the use of dairy cattle was centralized on the large farms. The processing of milk was concentrated chiefly in the hands of the large landowners. No efforts were made to improve the quality of the livestock on most of the peasant farms. Some breeds and pedigreed groups of dairy cattle were created only in certain areas of commercial dairy cattle breeding, mainly as a result of natural selection: Kholmogory,Yaroslavl, Tagil’, Red Steppe, and Krasnyi Gorbatov cattle. The landowners had small herds of pedigreed, mostly imported, animals, but these had almost no effect on improving the peasants’ cattle. Beef cattle (Grey Ukrainian, Kalmyk, and Kazakh) were bred in the steppe regions of the Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus, the Volga Region, Siberia, and Kazakhstan. Beef cattle breeding, by then extensive in nature, became concentrated on the kulaks’ farms. Pasturing of animals was left to the large cattle dealers, whereas fattening them on stored material (for the most part, culled working oxen were fed this way) was done on the farms of the landowners, who had their own fattening areas in sugar mills and distilleries. There were large herds of Mazaev and Novokavkazskii merinos in the Southern Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus. Kuchugury, Mikhnovo, indigenous Voloshka, Romanovskaia, Gissar, and Karakul breeds and curly-haired and fat-tailed sheep were very common. The penetration of capitalism into agriculture led to the plowing up of substantial areas of the Ukrainian and Northern Caucasian steppes, previously the main regions of finewooled sheep breeding. As a result, the fine-wooled sheep decreased from 15 million head in 1870 to 4.5 million head in 1916. The development of grain farming in the southern and central regions of Russia helped somewhat to promote swine breeding and poultry raising. Smokehouses began to appear in these regions before World War I. Russia began to emerge in the world market as an exporter of eggs. Horse breeders created some outstanding breeds, for example, Russian Trotter, Don, Bitiug, Akhal-Tekinskaia, Kabarda, and Karabair.

Livestock productivity in Russia was roughly 2.5 to three times lower than in the developed capitalist countries of Europe and America. In 1913, 5 million tons of meat in slaughter weight, 29.4 million tons of milk, and 11.9 billion eggs were produced in Russia. The marketability of livestock was very low. The decline in agriculture during World War II was accompanied by a sharp decrease in the number of live-stock animals and an even greater decrease in their productivity.

The USSR. The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the free transfer to peasants of more than 150 million hectares of fertile landowners’, monastery, and government lands paved the way for the development of agriculture, including livestock breeding. In July 1918, Lenin signed a decree on pedigreed livestock breeding that initiated the organization of pedigreed stock breeding in the country. The People’s Commissariat of Agriculture was given the responsibility of creating pedigreed stock farms. A decree was issued in March 1919 on the retention and development of fine-wooled sheep breeding. In 1920, the Moscow Zootechnical Institute was created, the first such organization in the country, and it started the planned training of highly skilled zootechnicians. However, the Civil War and military intervention of 1918–20 and the 1921 drought not only prevented the rehabilitation of livestock breeding but further undermined it. The Soviet government was very helpful to the poor and middle peasants in enabling them to acquire cattle and providing them with concentrated feeds and grass seeds. It organized the efforts to improve the stock and assisted the poor and middle peasants in forming production and marketing cooperatives. The number of cattle increased at this time, mainly on the farms of the poor and middle peasants. By 1928, the principal cattle species and production of livestock breeding reached prerevolutionary levels. However, the small peasant farms could not maintain high rates of development of livestock breeding. An upswing became possible only after the socialist reconstruction of agriculture. At the beginning of collectivization (1929–30) the number of cattle in the country again decreased substantially because of the stubborn resistance of the kulaks, who had destroyed their animals and persuaded the middle peasants to do the same. The decisions of the June plenum (1934) of the Central Committee of the ACP (Bolshevik), which led to large-scale socialized livestock breeding in the kolkhozes, were enormously important for the restoration and upswing of live-stock breeding. The plenum decided that the commercial live-stock breeding farm is the main form of organization of socialized livestock breeding, corresponding most closely to the agricultural cooperative. The plenum also decided to introduce state planning into livestock breeding. Since that time sovkhozes and kolkhozes and the country as a whole were given tasks embracing a whole complex of measures designed to promote this work. The network of kolkhoz live-stock sections and the number of animals they kept began to increase in 1934. By 1940 the number of livestock sections of the kolkhozes had risen from 62,000 to 631,000. A powerful socialized livestock breeding system had been created by 1940, and during the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) it played a major role in supplying the army and the civilian population with foodstuffs. It was severely damaged as a result of the occupation of some areas by the fascist invaders. The number of cattle and livestock production decreased.

After the war, the kolkhozes and sovkhozes were strengthened, and livestock breeding began to develop rapidly. As early as 1950 the number of cattle and sheep exceeded the prewar level (the number of swine reached 88 percent of the prewar level). The production of meat, milk, and wool reached the 1940 level. Work was on the upswing in pedigreeing the species in existence, as well as raising new strains. In 1950, a plan was approved for regionalization of all cattle species for breeding purposes, with reference to the natural and economic conditions prevailing in the different zones of the country. The upswing in livestock breeding was significantly affected by the decisions of the September plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU (1953), which called for substantial increases in the state purchase prices of the products of livestock breeding, and by the decisions of the June plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU (1958), which required a transfer from mandatory deliveries to bulk state purchases of the products of livestock breeding. However, the progress made up to 1959 was not consolidated. Shortcomings in the management of agriculture slowed the rate of growth of livestock breeding between 1960 and 1964 and reduced the production of meat (especially pork), eggs, and wool. The March plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU (1965) specified a broad set of economic measures designed to stimulate agriculture. The new stage in agriculture was also marked by an acceleration of the rate of development of livestock breeding. From 1966 to 1970, the number of cattle and sheep rose to 5.8 million and 8.2 million, respectively (Table 1).

The development of livestock breeding in the USSR after 1930 was due principally to the kolkhozes and sovkhozes. In 1933, 38 percent of all the cattle (including 25 percent of the cows), 55 percent of the swine, and 49 percent of the sheep were concentrated on these farms. In 1970, the kolkhozes, sovkhozes, and other state farms had about 75 percent of all the productive cattle. At the end of 1970, one kolkhoz had on the average 1,243 head of cattle (including 423 cows), 880 pigs, and 1,611 sheep and goats, and one sovkhoz had 1,944 head of cattle (including 669 cows), 1,116 pigs, and 3,607 sheep and goats. The average specialized dairy and meat-and-milk

Table 1. Number of cattle in all categories of farms (on January 1, million head)

production sovkhoz had 2,310 head of cattle (including 877 cows), the average swine breeding sovkhoz had 6,350 pigs, and the average poultry sovkhoz had 152,000 chickens.

In addition to the growth in the number of cattle, there was also an increase in the output of the products of livestock breeding. Between 1913 and 1970, meat production increased 2.5 times, milk production 2.8 times, egg production 3.4 times, and wood production 2.2 times (Table 2). The relative share of beef, veal, and fowl in the total production of meat increased substantially. Meat production per capita in 1913 was 31 kg, and in 1970 was 51 kg; milk production was 185 kg and 342 kg, respectively, and egg production was 75 and 168, respectively. Kolkhozes and sovkhozes were the main producers and suppliers of these products. In 1940, they produced 28 percent of all the meat in the country, 23 percent of the milk, 6 percent of the eggs, and 61 percent of the wool compared to 65, 64,47, and 81 percent, respectively, in 1970.

Table 2. Production of the principal livestock breeding products in all categories of farms in the USSR
 Meat in slaughter weight (million tons) 
YearTotalBeef and vealPorkMilk (million tons)Eggs (billions)Wool (thousand tons)

Production grew both because of the increase in the number of cattle and because of their greater productivity. The average annual milk yield per cow (in kg) was 982 in 1913, compared to 2,266 in kolkhozes and 2,346 in sovkhozes in 1970.

The income of the kolkhozes rose as a result of the increase in state purchase prices for livestock products and the overall increase in the number of purchases. In 1964, payments to kolkhozes, kolkhozniks, and manual and office workers for these products amounted to 7.6 billion rubles, as compared to 17.7 billion rubles in 1970.

Livestock breeding in kolkhozes and sovkhozes is based on a continuous buildup of feed resources, improvement of the stock, better maintenance and care of the animals, extensive construction of animal farm buildings in accordance with hygienic requirements, increasing mechanization, and better organization of labor on the farms and in the veterinary service.

The area of forage crops was 3.3 million hectares (ha) in 1913 (in the present-day USSR), 18.1 million ha in 1940, and 62.8 million ha in 1970. Perennial grasses (the mowed area of past years’ crops and coverless crops of the current year) occupied 21.7 million ha, annual crops (including winter crops for green fodder) 18 million ha, corn for silage and green fodder 18 million ha, and fodder root crops, citron melons, and fodder gourds 1.8 million ha. In 1970 the total seed yield from forage crops was 62 million tons, and the hay and green fodder yield (in hay equivalent) was 110.3 million tons. About 150 million tons of silage are produced every year. A mixed feed industry is thriving. The consumption of feed per standard head of cattle in the kolkhozes and sovkhozes in 1970 was 26.1 centners of feed units. The kolkhozes and sovkhozes try to obtain enough plant products to provide the animals with a varied and adequate diet at the lowest possible cost. The production of leguminous crops, grass and hay meal, food yeasts, animal products, and other foods with a high protein content is being stepped up to compensate for the shortage of protein feeds. The production and use of antibiotics and trace elements are being expanded.

The qualitative transformation of herds played a major role in boosting the productivity of socialized livestock breeding. The pedigree and productive qualities of existing breeds are being improved, and 67 new highly productive breeds of farm animals have been obtained. Pedigreed animals now constitute 98–100 percent of all the animals in the livestock sections of kolkhozes and sovkhozes. A broad network of pedigree stock farms is engaged in improving the breeding qualities of the animals; this network includes state stations for breeding pedigreed stock and for artificial insemination, pedigreed stock farms and sovkhozes, kolkhoz and sovkhoz livestock sections, and stud farms. The pedigreed stock farms sell tens of thousands of high-grade animals to kolkhozes and sovkhozes every year.

The volume of construction of standardized buildings to house the animals increases from year to year. In keeping with the accepted technology for maintaining animals, design organizations are developing standardized plans for cow barns, pigsties, poultry houses, sheep pens, and so forth. The plans specify the equipment required and the mechanization of the production processes. Industry manufactures the machines and equipment for mechanizing the labor-consuming aspects of livestock breeding. Only three types of machines were produced in 1928, compared to 113 in 1970. In 1970, 68 percent of the cattle and 81 percent of the swine were watered mechanically, 56 percent of the cows were milked mechanically, and 88 percent of the sheep were shorn electrically. The cleaning of the barns, storing and preparation of the feeds, and other kinds of work are done mechanically. The large livestock farms have specialized teams to care for animals of different age-groups and economic uses.

Livestock breeding in many republics and oblasts varies with the natural and economic conditions. Dairy farming is emphasized in regions where the natural conditions are favorable for growing grasses and crops for silage and where there are many pastures, a comparatively large work force, and many large cities demanding milk. Mostly dairy and beef cattle farming and swine breeding are developed in regions where much of the land is plowed up and pastures are in short supply, grain farming is developed, and manpower is fairly abundant. Sheep raising and cattle breeding chiefly for meat production are most highly developed in regions with many unproductive natural pastures (steppe, desert, semidesert, and so forth), where grain and succulent forage are in short supply and the strength of the work force is unstable. Even narrower specialization in the various branches of livestock breeding occurs in many regions. Around large cities there is a network of sovkhozes that specialize in the production of whole milk. There are also specialized poultry farms, poultry processing plants, and large poultry-raising sovkhozes. Many kolkhozes and sovkhozes specialize in fattening up cattle and swine. The construction of complexes of livestock farms for the production of meat, milk, and eggs on a commercial basis was started in 1971. Livestock breeding is becoming quite concentrated. Specialized sovkhozes and kolkhozes are generally large mechanized farms capable of using the most advanced production technology in the most economical fashion. Intensive livestock breeding permits more efficient use of the biological characteristics of the animals and helps to shorten the production process while using less labor and capital per unit of producton.

Veterinary care in livestock breeding (prevention and treatment of animal diseases and veterinary inspection of livestock products) is provided through a network of specialized facilities—for example, stations to control animal diseases, veterinary hospitals, veterinary stations and sections, and veterinary laboratories. Specialized veterinary service corresponding to the nature of the livestock breeding done and the direct participation of veterinary personnel in the work of kolkhozes and sovkhozes are important.

Progress in livestock breeding depends on the practical application of advances in zootechny. In 1970, 236 scientific organizations were engaged in research in livestock breeding. Soviet scientists are very helpful in the breeding of pedigreed stock, the organization of standardized feeding and proper maintenance of cattle, the improvement of the technology of producing livestock products, and the perfecting of methods of raising young animals. About 300,000 zootechnicians and veterinarians with higher and secondary-school educations are working in this field. Zootechnical and veterinary institutes and university departments, as well as zootechnical and veterinary technicums, train personnel with the highest and intermediate qualifications. Many stock breeders take courses for training and improving the skills of workers on livestock farms. A number of scientists, specialists, and advanced workers have been awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor and have been given orders and medals of the USSR.

Perspectives for the USSR. The continuing development of agriculture in the USSR should result in substantial increases in the output of livestock products in order to satisfy more fully the people’s growing requirements for foodstuffs and industry’s need for raw materials. One of the main tasks set by the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU (1971) was to improve the people’s diet by increasing the output and consumption of meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, vegetables, and fruits and by broadening the variety of foodstuffs. The principal method of fulfilling this task is for every farm to take effective steps to build up its feed supplies, improve the purity of the cattle and poultry, and increase their productivity and numbers. In order to fully satisfy the nutritional needs of socialized livestock and of the stock that are privately owned by kolkhozniks and sovkhoz workers, the production of hay, hay fodder, silage, grass meal, root crops, corn, barley, oats, legumes, and other crops must be stepped up considerably. The production of forage should be increased mainly by boosting the yielding capacity of forage and cereal crops. The harvesting of hay using crushers and then drying it by active ventilation and the preparation of hay fodder and vitamin-enriched grass meal are widespread. The principal way to increase feed resources is to enlarge the area of cultivated pastures and increase the productivity of natural forage lands. Plans call for stepping up the production of nutritious mixed feeds and protein-vitamin supplements, tankage, and blood and fish meal. Industry should supply agriculture with steadily increasing quantities of food yeasts and large amounts of feeds high in protein, amino acids, trace elements, vitamins, mineral feeds, and various preservatives to prevent the loss of nutrients in the feeds.

The Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU noted the need to organize the construction of mechanized livestock sections in kolkhozes and sovkhozes; in large state, kolkhoz, and interkolkhoz complexes for the production of livestock products on a commercial scale; and in poultry stations. There also are plans to develop intensive dairy farming and specialized beef cattle, swine, and poultry breeding and to increase substantially the numbers and productivity of sheep and goats. The intensive fattening of young cattle and swine in sovkhozes, kolkhozes, and other farms will become even more widespread. Moreover, kolkhozes and sovkhozes should give the rural people the help they need to manage their personal plots and increase the numbers of cattle and poultry they raise.

Other tasks include the development of deer and rabbit breeding, pond fish farming, apiculture, and silkworm breeding; the improvement of the veterinary service; the strengthening of pedigreed stock farms and stations for breeding pedigreed stock and for artificial insemination; the provision of animals with housing that conforms to veterinary requirements; and the mechanization of more operations on livestock breeding farms.

Outside the USSR. At the end of 1970 there were 1,118 million head of cattle, 627 million swine, and 1,073 million sheep in the world. The population of productive livestock in some countries with developed livestock breeding is shown in Table 3. Many of the animals in Europe, North America, and Australia are cultivated breeds. The output of livestock products increased in most countries after the war (Table 4). The world output of such products in 1970 was as follows: 80.4 million tons of meat (not including by-products, lard, and poultry), 399.4 million tons of milk, 388.5 billion eggs, and 2,795,000 tons of wool. Milk production increased rapidly in the first decade after World War II. The rate of increase in milk production then slowed down because of the decline in the demand for butter. Meat production increased markedly in the second decade after the war.

Table 3. Productive livestock population in some countries outside the USSR (1970, thousand head)
German Democratic Republic (GDR)......................5,1909,9951,607
Great Britain......................12,5818,08826,080
Federal Republic of Germany (FRG)......................14,02420,961842

The steadily increasing demand for high-grade meat and the stable prices for it prevailing in the home and international markets resulted in the intensive penetration of capital into livestock breeding and the increased specialization of agriculture, as well as in the concentration of production. Large farms were established in Denmark, France, Poland, and Rumania to fatten swine and steers. In the countries of South America and Oceania, steers are fattened with stored provisions as well as being pastured in the traditional way. Animals are fattened rapidly, and the time required to raise steers is shortened in order to accelerate the turnover of capital invested in livestock breeding and make its use more efficient. On many farms, swine are brought to slaughter weight (about 100 kg) when they are six or seven months old, after consuming no more than 4 feed units per kg of weight increase. Steers are increasingly being slaughtered when they are about 18 months old, and they weigh 400 kg or more after consuming 6.5–7 feed units per kg of weight increase. Everywhere, fewer calves are being slaughtered at an early age. Research is under way on methods of making the fattening of young cattle of dairy and dairy-beef breeds as effective as possible. Dairy cows are crossed with bulls of beef breeds. Beef cattle breeding is steadily expanding in some countries.

The organization of feed resources is being improved and new kinds of feeds are being introduced. The development of grain farming and the broadening of world trade in fodder grains are stimulating the development of livestock breeding in a number of countries. The main exporters of fodder grains are the USA, Argentina, and France, and the main importers are the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. Expansion of the world markets for the sale of livestock products, meat in particular, stimulated the growth of livestock breeding in countries with extensive grasslands—Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, the USA, Canada, and Australia. Specialized beef cattle breeding has developed most fully in these countries. Extensive beef cattle breeding predominates in Argentina, Uruguay, and Australia, where 6–21 percent of the agricultural lands are arable. In the USA and Canada, where 25 percent and 68 percent, respectively, of the agricultural lands are arable, commodity agriculture is highly developed and beef cattle breeding is intensive, with steers raised until they are weaned on some farms and then fattened on others. Mostly specialized beef breeds of cattle are bred in these countries. Dairy cattle breeding and swine breeding are developing along with beef cattle breeding in the USA and Canada, and sheep breeding and dairy cattle breeding are developing in Australia and New Zealand. In 1970, 886,000 tons of wool were produced in Australia and 355,000 tons in New Zealand.

Table 4. Production of livestock breeding products in some countries outside the USSR (1970)
 Per capita
 Meat (million tons)Milk(million tons)Eggs (billions)Wool (thousand tons)Meat (kg)Milk (kg)Eggs
Great Britain.....................2.9112.715.145521227270

The growth in the output of livestock products is outstripping the increase in the number of animals. The intensification of dairy husbandry is proceeding with unusual rapidity. In some countries, the number of dairy cows has decreased while their milk yield has increased. For example, the average milk yield per cow in 1969 was 4,154 kg in the USA, 3,898 in Denmark, 3,650 in Switzerland, 3,363 in the German Democratic Republic, 2,372 in Hungary, 2,359 in Poland, and 2,518 in Czechoslovakia.

About 3 million head of cattle reach the world market every year. Trade takes place chiefly between neighboring countries. The main exporters in Europe are Ireland, Denmark, and Yugoslavia, and the importers are the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, and Italy. In North America, cattle are exported from Canada and Mexico to the USA. Europe leads in the swine trade. Swine suppliers (chiefly for the neighboring countries) are Denmark, Sweden, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland. Of 2 million tons of fresh meat reaching the world market every year, 45 percent is made up of beef and veal and about 20 percent is mutton. About one-half of all the beef and veal on the world market comes from Argentina and Uruguay, and about one-third comes from Australia and New Zealand. Mutton reaches the market chiefly from Australia and New Zealand, and a small quantity comes from Argentina. Europe, especially Great Britain, is the most important market for beef, veal, and mutton. Foreign trade in pork and chicken is mainly intracontinental in character. The total volume of world trade in butter amounts to about 0.6 million tons a year. The main importer is Western Europe, and Australia and New Zealand are the leading exporters. Intra-European exporters are the USSR, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Eggs are traded chiefly between neighboring countries. In Europe they are supplied by the Netherlands and Denmark, and the importers are the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, and, in part, Great Britain. A small quantity of eggs is also exported to various countries from the USA, Canada, and Argentina.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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