Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kazakhstan rebuilds its beef industry

Kazakhstan's beef cattle numbers halved in the first 10 years after independence as the big state farms got used to the idea of no subsidies from Moscow and frantically sold off cattle as the only liquidity they had.  The villagers kept their cattle as they were a means to survive and today 85% of the cattle in Kazakhstan are in herds of one, two or three animals; past of subsistence agriculture.

The government of Kazakhstan has an ambitious plan to eventually double beef cattle numbers again by rebuilding herds on the big corporate farms.  To that end there has been a great deal of planning and program development (Yes, Virginia, central planning is alive and well in the FSU).  One part of the plan is to import 70,000 purebred cattle from Canada, USA and Australia, establishing herds of 1000 to 3000 cows on a number of qualifying farms.  Needless to say, every genetics sales rep from the three countries mentioned is there salivating at the thought of huge sales.

So far, a North Dakota group has the jump, having sold some 1300 head (half of them Hereford, half of them Angus) into a joint venture with the Kazakh government.  The cattle are located on a ranch about 3 hours NE from Astana.  Sort of a giant demonstration farm. They have survived the first winter, calved out and when I was there, were being bred by AI using estrus synchronization to simplify and speed up the process.

Soviet production systems kept all cattle in barns in winter.  Created employment but at huge costs. These cattle are kept outside as we do in North America, with sheds to take shelter in against the wind.  A number of people including other North Dakota cattlemen I spoke with felt that the pens were too open and there should have been shelter fences around the perimeter of each pen.
Winter pens and open front sheds
Calving barn, I am guessing

Angus cows and calves, penning made from pipe

The Hereford and Angus cattle will be crossed with Kazakh cattle of which there are three main "breeds".  Kazakh Red which is the native beef animal; Kazakh White Head which is a "new" breed developed in 1953 from Hereford and local cattle and another "new" breed Auliekolskaya developed in 1993 based on Charolais.  These three breeds are not bad cattle to start a crossbreeding program from, being survivors of  terrible management.  They are small, rugged and hardy.  Getting the villagers to cooperate and breed their cattle to Hereford and Angus and then sell the offspring to big farms will be a challenge.  Akin to herding cats.

Kazakh White Head cow, with ND Hereford bulls in the pen behind her
Auliekolsaya Cow from Kostanai Oblast


  1. This is the only good news I've heard in weeks. You go away and the world goes to hell. Financial markets collapse, riots in England and a drought and triple digit heat wave in Texas. That's it no more trips for you.

  2. You can't heard cats.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  3. Looks like they do have solid basics for rebuilding the cattle sector. Pretty exciting time to be on the ground there.

  4. Demeur, so Tanya and I shouldn't move to Kazakhstan for a year?
    Ol'Buzzard, you have tried, I take it?
    RB, there are even some good World Bank and UNDP projects at the village level related to improving grazing management, which would be more interesting than helping the rich get richer but work is work.


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