Animal Production

ANIMAL PRODUCTION

Animal breeding is an important sector of the Slovak economy. Its share in the gross agricultural production is more than 60%. The importance of animal breeding, apart from other things, lies in off-production functions, where beef cattle and sheep play an irreplaceable position in the preservation of the cultural character of the country. Beef cattle breeding as well as sheep breeding belong to the Slovak country, were an important part of its past and we believe that they will also be a part in the coming years.

The variable natural conditions of Slovakia create the conditions for breed-varied animal production focused on the use of the biomass of a wide area of permanent grass covers for ruminant breeding, as well as for monogastric animal breeding.

The use of the natural production potential considerably decreased after the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy. Since the year 1993, however, the previous negative trends changed in the case of decisive breeds of farm animals (beef cattle and pigs) and are gradually increasing in effi ciency, which is mainly refl ected in milk cow breeding.

STRUCTURE OF FARMS

Factory farming of farm animals was preserved in Slovakia, similarly as in the Czech Republic and Hungary, while the production systems were enriched with the small herds of individual far-mers. Although with respect to the number of farms, individual farmers are dominant (table No. 1), signifi cant number of animals are bred on large farms.

Structure of Farms in Slovakia (Farm Census, 2001) 

  Number of large farms Number of individual farms
Plant production 410 21 000
Beef cattle breeding 117 5 234
Sheep and goat breeding 43 869
Pig breeding 56 993
Poultry breeding 59 223
Mixed farms 872 32 530

This is mainly true of beef cattle (table No. 2), when almost 85% of milk cows are bred on farms with a concentration of 50 and more heads. A similar situation holds in the case of pigs, and about 35% of the sheep population is owned by individual farmers. Factory farming, mainly of milk cows, has experienced signifi cant modernisation during the last 10 years and, nowadays, almost 60% of cows are bred in free stalls with milking in modern milk houses.

Structure of Farms in Milk Cow Breeding 

Number of milk cows per farm Number of farms Number of milk cows Share of cows (%)
1 13 000 13 000 6,1
2 - 50 1 900 20 000 9,4
51 > 820 178 000 84,5
Total 15 720 211 000 100

Due to the market oriented economy, change in the structure of meat consumption were also reflected also in the change of the structure of its production as given in chart

graph3_1


RESTRUCTURING OF ANIMAL PRODUCTION

On the basis of the change in the consumption of single animal production commodities, as well as with respect to the required increase in the efficiency of farm animals, there occurred a change in the structure of units of types of farm animals bred during the years 1993 – 2003 (chart No. 2). The relevant restructuring of animal production has resulted also in a decrease in the number of units of the majority of farm animal types. The numbers of beef cattle and sheep have decreased most; on the other hand, an increase in the number of units has been recorded in poultry. (Data submitted are calculated on the basis of coefficients of large cattle units valid in the EU).

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EFFICIENCY

After the year 1993, there gradually arose a required increase in the efficiency of decisive farm animal types. Milk cow breeding is the sector with considerable acceleration, where we record an average year-to-year increase of 200 kg of milk per milk cow (twofold in comparison with the original EU Member States) as shown in chart No. 3. This increase in the efficiency of farm animals is connected with an improving of production conditions, which are gradually adapting to EU standards, as well as with the improving of the gene-pool of farm-bred animals achieved by long-term animal breeding activity.

graph3_3


BREED STRUCTURE

Holsteinisation has predominated in the beef cattle breeding in the relevant period, resulting in a shift of the structure of utility types from the combined type to the milk type. Cross-breeds with Holstein breed and pedigree Holstein milk cows form approximately 60% of the milk cow population. They are complemented by milk cows of Slovak piebald breed (approximately 35 % of the population) and milk cows of Pinzgau breed and their cross-breeds (5 %). Nursing cow breeding, which is a new sector in our conditions, is expanding gradually. At present, we breed 29 000 cows in this system, mainly cross-breeds of domestic breeds of the combined type with specialised meat cattle.

The sheep population is going through a considerable change in utility focus, with emphasis put on specialisation in milk or meat production and, apart from local upgraded “valaška”, “cigája” and merino breeds, the milking breeds Lacune and East-Friesian, as well as several meat breeds (Suffolk, Charolais, Ile de France and others) are used to an intensive rate.

Hybridisation is used in pig breeding. White high.grade and landras are decisive in the position of maternal breeds. Pietrain and Yorkshire and their cross-breeds dominate in the position of fathering the final hybrids. Effective hybridisation, together with improved nutrition, leads to considerable increase in the share of musculature of slaughter animal hybrids on many farms, as well as to a significant increase in the consumption qualities of the meat produced.