Calf replacement challenges ranchers to improve management.

Breeds beef cattle.  Photo: Carlos Lopes.

The cost of replacing the calf has increased in the livestock breeder and fattener’s account in 2019. After a significant fall in prices in 2017, the calf’s quotations rose again, recovering the calf margins.

This trend has challenged the breeding links and put on weight to improve its cost management. Since calf replacement can represent 45% to 60% of the production cost in these systems, an error in the strategy can mean the difference between Profiting High or having a Loss.

Should I stop producing since Calf Replacement is expensive?

The first important point to note in the strategy is that these investments are long-term, so it is essential to view the potential for appreciation of the arroba do boi Gordo in the coming years.

  • At the sitting Calf Trend‘s May decision of Livestock, recommend accelerating replacement because visualizávamos an uptrend in the market.

How to work short-term opportunities?

The second point is related to short-term fluctuations. Notice in the graph above that even with an upward trend. We find several short-term fluctuations (30 to 60 days), which generate opportunities around R $ 50.00 / head.

That is, in 2019, the calf rose R $ 152.00 / head until September but presented buying opportunities during the upward trend, with falls of R $ 50.00 / head at certain times.

By not understanding the trend, the recreator does not see these falls as opportunities and believes that prices will return to the level of the beginning of the year. The breeder can also take advantage of the peaks to sell dead calves.

To help with these decisions, we created the Probability of Falling Calf in Decision Livestock. 

Conversation with specialist: grazing fence to reserve food for drought

Florida Farm - Cassilândia - MS.  Photo: Rogério Domingues.

Seasonality in the availability of pasture for cattle is a well-known problem among ranchers. And for the food supply to be adequate to the herd throughout the year, some techniques must be performed. One of these techniques practiced is the sealing or deferral of pasture.

Although it is one of the practices considered most straightforward, there are still many doubts about it. One of the main ones is “when should the pasture fence be made?”.


Rogério Fernandes Domingues is an agronomist who graduated from ESALQ-USP (1998), has a specialization in Animal Nutrition and Pastures (2003), and an MBA in Agribusiness from FGV (2010).

Rogério started his work with livestock and animal production during his graduation period, interning at the Clube de Práticas Zootécnicas – CPZ, of the Department of Zootechnics ESALQ / USP until his formation. In 1999, he started working with the company Parmalat in the Department of Technical Assistance to the Producer, being responsible for the northern region of the State of SP and later, for the city of the city Jundiaí.

In 2000, he started his work with the formation of pastures, semi-confinement, and silage production in the State of MT. At the end of 2001, he started to work in the MS in the Misrahi Family properties, working in the restructuring of the production units that exploited beef cattle.

After completing his graduate studies, Rogério was hired by the Vilela de Queiroz group, in Barretos, after the indication of the Agronomist and friend Gustavo Ubida (who was also interviewed by Agromove. Learn more in “Conversation with specialist: Crédito Rural, as does it work? ” ), becoming responsible for all technical and agricultural and livestock planning of the same, in farms in GO, MT, RO, PA and too. In 2012, in the north of Minas Gerais, he assumed a group of farms as the technical and managerially responsible for full-cycle livestock in the Montes Claros region. That is, he creates, recreates, fattening in confinement, in addition to irrigated agriculture.

From 2014, he started to work with advisory and integrated management of several farms in the States of SP, MS, MT, and GO, participating in all stages of management and operational-financial planning of the agricultural and livestock activities of these properties. . Another activity carried out is the evaluation and feasibility analysis (projects) of production systems involving agriculture, livestock and recently, the integration between the two activities.

Agromove: What is a pasture fence?

Rogério Domingues: First of all, I would like to point out that Brazil occupies a prominent position in the world meat agribusiness, contributing a lot to the country’s GDP.

According to the latest data presented by the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporting Industries (ABIEC), Brazil today has 1.3 heads of cattle per hectare in an average stocking of 0.9 heads per hectare, totaling a herd of almost 215 mi of heads. In 2018, we had 44.2 million animals slaughtered, and to highlight the importance of pastures, only 5.6 million came from confinement. Only 12.5% ​​of the total slaughtered. This means that pastures are extremely important for Brazilian agribusiness.

Another detail is the reduction in the average slaughter age, which means that we are making available to the market younger animals and meat with much more quality. This quality results from correct decisions based on genetic choice, health, and, above all, nutritional management (pastures and supply of supplements).

As for the question about pasture sealing, grasses (tropical and temperate) in general have an intermittent growth curve. In one part of the year, they have a very intense growth, and in another part, it becomes very reduced.

AG: How is the deferral or sealing of pasture carried out?

RD: The deferred grazing technique is quite simple. It is a fence where the plant becomes “standing hay.” We select a specific area on the property, which does not participate in summer grazing (this choice is usually made in the final third of the water period) and let it develop. Then, during the drought period, we select the part of the cattle with the most significant demand and place it in this area with a more generous pasture supply.

It is worth mentioning that nitrogen fertilization must be done in the final third of the water period. This helps in the better development of forage and increases the product’s quality in the deferment of pastures.

The critical point is that pastures deferred longer, sealed have a higher dry matter content and a lower nutritional content. Therefore, care must be taken with the sealing time to not grow too much to the point of settling or that it does not have enough time to carry out the desired biomass accumulation. In this case, there are differences for each species of forage plant and where the technique will be implemented.

It must be remembered that the choice of pasture and season for fencing depends on some factors that change from region to region. Therefore, one should always look for a professional in the field.

AG: What is the difference between grazing and hay sealing? When should I use one technique or another?

RD: Pasture differentiation can be understood as a “postponement of grazing.” It is a straightforward technique and does not require much investment from machines or handling. When we talk about hay, we talk about a slightly different roughage conservation strategy; its main point is conservation from dehydration (which should be done as soon as possible to conserve nutrient and palatability values).

Pasture fencing becomes a more straightforward and cheaper technique, with a greater intention of keeping the animals or more modest gains. At the same time, hay is a practice that requires a lot of investment in machinery and planning and the risks of crop failure, since the ideal production period coincides with the summer period, with a high frequency of rainy days. It is an alternative aimed at more demanding cattle such as lactating cows that need a high-quality fiber to produce solids or high-performance feedlot diets. So the choice between one and the other depends a lot on the final goal you want to achieve.

Santa Maria Farm - Cassilândia - MS.  Photo: Rogério Domingues.

AG: When should I start planning the pasture fence? Can I use the fence with a commercial strategy for livestock? As?

RD: The beginning of adequate forage supply and demand planning occurs in conjunction with each agricultural year’s beginning. During this period, the sale of animals and the purchase of inputs takes place. It is already determined which management will be adopted for the pastures (choosing the area and planning the application of fertilizers, deferral, stocking rate, etc.). The pasture should be deferred, on average, between 2 to 4 months before the end of the rainy season so that it has a good condition of mass accumulation, without senescence.

With this planning, it is entirely possible to use the pasture fence as a commercial strategy. It is possible to measure the volume of accumulated mass and, consequently, the number of animals placed in the area for a certain period. An interesting technique is to stagger the deferral, which is a way to obtain high-quality fodder in different periods. There is a recommendation that indicates working in thirds of the area. The first would be banned in February and the other two in March.

AG: Are there forage species more suitable for use in the pasture fence?

RD: The plants most suitable for the pasture fence are plants with low accumulation of stems and good retention of green leaves. Thus, a more elongated nutritional value is sought within the grazing period in the dry season. Research shows that the most suitable species are the Brachiarian genus, such as brachiarão, and Cynodons, such as Tifton, coast cross, etc. Some properties also work with the Panicum deferral, such as Tanzania, mombaça, and others. However, they have a faster loss of nutritional value. The ideal is to avoid species of cespitoso growth, giving more preference to plants of prostrate growth.

AG: Some studies (from EMBRAPA, for example) indicate that pasture deferral is a poorly nutritious method. Because? How can I solve this problem?

RD: Several authors show that the longer the sealing period, the lower the nutrient content. Pasture maturation is characterized by an increase in fiber and lignin due to the thickening of its cell wall, in addition to a drop in crude protein content and a good part of minerals. So, only using this forage leads to a very modest, null, or even negative animal performance (weight loss), even with food quantity.

The way to make this method more efficient (to improve animals’ performance in deferred pastures) is to adopt practices used before the deferral period to increase the sealed pasture quality. Some examples are deferral in stages and nitrogen fertilization at the time of sealing, in February / March, even before the rainy season. Another alternative for using a more fibrous forage would be adopting protein supplements as an additive to nutrition, optimizing the animal’s performance.

AG: What is the ideal area for the pasture fence? How should I choose this area?

RD:  The fence must be worked in productive areas without restriction with soil fertility, areas in the right conditions, and high production potential. It is essential to apply between 40 to 50 kg of N (use a source with nitrate or sulfate, reduce losses due to volatilization) directly on the ground cover and moments before sealing. In short, the best area should be chosen to have a better response in dry matter production, that is, the accumulation of this pasture.

AG: Compared to haymaking, does this process have more or fewer costs?

RD: Sealing is an up-and-coming method because it is easy to adopt and has a low cost. It does not require any investment in facilities, harvesting, and machinery. Its only requirement is knowledge in management that includes the most appropriate choices for the process. Fencing is quite feasible when thinking about specific periods and categories and pre-established goals. Preserving fodder, be it in hay or even silage, is a more expensive process. However, it is a more nutritious source of fat food for livestock.

AG: For each animal unit (AU) / ha that I increase in the water stocking, how much do I need to increase the sealing area?

RD: In general, the fencing recommendation is usually around 40% of the effective pasture area. It is possible to perform mathematical calculations through an equation system generated by supply and demand within each period, but this is unique to each property and each region. For example, suppose the average stocking of the property is around 1.2 to 1.5 AU / ha in summer. In that case, the deferred pasture areas support around 2.0 AU / ha in winter (due to animals’ concentration in the area and less time of use).

AG: Are there any conclusions you would like to leave for the readers who are following this article?

RD: As a conclusion, I would like to mention some topics:

  • Seasonality in the production of forages is a crucial point for effective planning on the properties that work and are dedicated to the exploitation of livestock on pasture.
  • From the seasonality curve, it is possible to determine, among other factors, the area needed for food production in the winter period. This work needs to be based on a historical climate (rainfall, light, and temperature) and land use (levels of fertility, productive potential, latest cultural practices, etc.).
  • Seasonality represents the main obstacle to increasing the stocking rate throughout the year.
  • The alternatives that aim to correct this forage deficiency during the restriction period need to be taken during the water period. Be it the deferral or conservation strategy (hay and silage).
  • The deferral requires the animals to be removed from the grazing areas so that this absence allows the plants to grow. So, the producer must understand that this “rest period” is essential for this forage’s growth, to be used between harvest.
  • Last and foremost, the farms must become agricultural companies, with the planning of all activities, with a focus on the correct execution of techniques, data collection for further analysis (generation of indicators and reports), so that the strategy be substantiated with data generated on the property, taking into account other essential details that can improve the rates, quality and, consequently, the profitability of the company.

Prospects for Beef Cattle in 2020

Photo: Agropecuária Jacarezinho.

In January, we presented a webinar addressing the Prospects for Beef Cattle in 2020. We talked about reducing the forecast of growth of the global economy and 5 sectorial concerns that could impact beef cattle. Of the 5 points presented, 3 stood out.

To quickly review events in this short period and provoke a reflection on the increase in volatility in prices, we discuss below the evolution of some premises commented on.

Australia has raised meat prices globally due to the reduced supply of animals caused by drought and fire that hit large territory regions.

Swine fever strongly impacts protein supply in China, which consequently keeps the demand for protein steady.

The coronavirus has spread throughout the world, causing extremely negative impacts on the growth of global economies.

Brazilian exports remain high and gain competitiveness.

Despite these pressures, meat exports accumulated up to February 2020 were 4.6% higher than the same period in 2019.

The Brazilian ox that had lost competitiveness at the end of 2019 recovered, reaching US $ 33.00 / @, in the last days. This level is one of the lowest since 2006 and returns the Brazilian @ 40% cheaper than the average of exporting competitors. Best level since July / 19.

This drop in prices puts Brazil back in the sights of importers.

Stocks crash with Coronavirus expansion

The world’s stock markets collapsed. Investors started looking for lower risk in their assets due to fear of the paralysis caused by the virus’s expansion.

At BMF, it couldn’t be different. The future maturities of the live cattle collapsed, reaching an R $ 40.00 / @ fall in maturities in May and October, March 18, 2020. This decrease represents a 21% reduction over the expectations of 12 days earlier, in the BMF itself.

To understand the impact of this fall, Agromove reviewed the impacts of significant and potentially damaging crises on the market, such as foot-and-mouth disease, weak meat, and the 2008 global financial crisis. Each of them showed 17%, 11%, and 16%, respectively.

In all these crises, domestic consumption increased and played a significant role in stabilizing the market.

The perspective of a scenario without breaking the maxims that occurred on November / 19 is confirmed so far.

We warn against a scenario where there was no prospect of significant increases in the price of at-sign. We highlight the points mentioned above and similar highs in the past to validate our projection.

As we can see in the chart below, available on the Agromove Platforms, prices are moving within the confidence band that we projected in the Webinar Perspectives for Beef Cattle in 2020.

Opportunities to guarantee a superior result

In the Prospecting Webinar for Beef Cattle in 2020, we highlighted opportunities to buy and sell on our platform during 2019 and 2020. Some customers took the opportunity to protect the sale of live cattle above R $ 210.00 / @. Others bought corn below R $ 40.00 / bag or guaranteed calves below R $ 1,300.00 / head.

Since October 19, we have demonstrated how to work with Projections and Probability of Fall tools to help producers ensure good results, even in turbulent scenarios. In the last two Webinars, we highlight how Intelligent Platforms help the producer work on replacing and purchasing inputs, ensuring profit in their operations.

Anyway, the future is difficult to predict. We focus a lot on the analysis of our tools that make it possible to understand short-term exaggerations. We check if this is outside the scenario we designed and if our premises are still valid or reinforced, as we commented in the article.

From experience in crises of this type, we should have a rapid recovery when the market realizes that it has been controlled.

The longer the crisis lasts, the greater the future residual in terms of damage. However, the market tends to over-compress demand, and this effect can cause a sling-type counter effect. Anyone who is well prepared and with the right tools will see how big this sling will be and how long it will last.

As the objective of helping companies to orient themselves towards the market and learn to explore opportunities in turbulent scenarios, Agromove developed the Profiting High Outside the Portfolio course. Sign up now.

Outlook for Corn in 2020

VFL Brazil Confinement

Last April, with producers having many doubts about the Corn Perspective in 2020, Agromove held its webinar with Rogério Banin do Agro Sucesso.

The topics covered were Perspectives for Corn in 2020 by Alberto Pessina and Planning a Highly Profitable Confinement by Rogério Banin.

In this article, we will comment on Alberto Pessina, founder of Agromove, on the Outlook for Corn in 2020.

Fall expectations for corn Safrinha

Although prices in April reached a record of R $ 60.00 / bag in Brazil, Agromove already predicted a drop due to the following assumptions:

  • falling oil prices influencing ethanol prices.
  • Record harvest perspective in the USA.
  • Planting of the safrinha within the ideal window and sound development of crops.
  • High world stocks compared to the last 12 years.
  • prohibitive corn prices to chicken and live cattle, discouraging future production of these commodities.

Review of Assumptions and new expectations

Of the assumptions mentioned above, only the Brazilian safrinha was slightly revised due to the unfavorable climate during April and May.

The USDA revised its projections for the harvest in 2020 to levels higher than those forecast in April, pushing the quotes in Chicago to the lowest levels of the last 14 years.

For the first time in the last 3 years, these revisions also brought a perspective of global supply greater than consumption.

Outlook for Corn in 2020

With these assumptions confirmed, Agromove maintains its forecast of a fall in the prices of off-season corn.

Also, we alert you to the strategies covered in the webinar to guarantee a good feed cost in 2020. Now, the Agromove Premium Platform’s attention is focused on when the Probability of Falling Corn will enter the Shopping Zone again. These strategies have ensured above-average profitability for users, who, by accessing more detailed market information, are taking advantage of the substantial market volatility to guarantee results in their operations.

Intensive pasture management and irrigation trends

Pasture and blue sky

Appointed as one of the main economic activities of several Brazilian regions, livestock is directly related to the production of pastures, which are based on the food of most Brazilian herds in the meat and milk production chains.

According to the results of the 2017 agricultural census of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics – IBGE, there was an increase of 9.6% in the area of ​​pastures planted between the years 2006 and 2017, which causes a demand for information about of pasture farming and management practices that can make it more efficient.

In recent years, many producers have increased investment in meat and milk production from intensive pasture management.

What is Intensive Pasture Management?

Generally speaking, intensive pasture management (MIP) – or intensive pasture cultivation or intensification of pasture production, consists of more technically managed to obtain better pasture quality and high productivity rates, allowing an increase in the support capacity of the pasture.

In the MIP perspective, pasture is treated as a crop. For its maximum use, technologies related to soil, plant, and animal are used, including irrigation, fertilization, rotational grazing, and animal welfare practices. , in addition to the use of cultivars with high production potential.

Pasture Irrigation

The practice of pasture irrigation has been developed in Brazil more intensely since the ’90s. Its primary purpose is to increase the production and the quality of the pasture, thus increasing the stocking rate.

It is a technique that contributes, to a certain extent, to production in periods of seasonality that occur in some areas of the country. In these periods, there is a reduction in the supply of forage due to the lack of one or more growth factors essential for the excellent development of the pasture, such as water, nutrients, photoperiod (hours of light per day), and temperature.

Research already carried out and the experience of producers who have used the technique demonstrates positive results with pastures’ irrigation. It is worth noting that the technique requires good planning and management and skilled labor and proper management.

Research area with irrigated pasture.  Source: Tibério Feitosa.

The irrigation method most commonly used in the cultivation of pastures is sprinkling, in which the conventional sprinkler systems and central pivot stand out. However, in sprinkler irrigation, the system’s efficiency can be reduced, mainly due to the significant losses of water by evaporation and drag by the wind.

Considering the context of the search for the adoption of more sustainable management practices in agriculture that are based on the rational use of water and, even so, allow the achievement of greater productivity, the investment in more efficient irrigation systems such as localized irrigation systems it is very timely, even in the cultivation of pastures.

Localized Irrigation

Localized irrigation systems are currently considered to be the most significant commercial interests in the irrigated agriculture market. This group includes micro-sprinkler and drip irrigation systems (superficial and subsurface). Recent projections by MarketsandMarkets ™ indicate that drip irrigation will be the fastest growing system in the automated irrigation market over the next five years.

Localized irrigation systems’ main characteristics are the application of water at high frequency and with low volume. As they are highly efficient systems, they contribute to what has been called “more crop per drop” – more excellent production per drop. According to data from the 2017 IBGE Agricultural Census, the areas with localized irrigation systems already correspond to 24.4% of Brazil’s total irrigated area.

More data on the use of irrigation in Brazil can be found in the article Precision Irrigation in Agriculture 4.0.

In localized irrigation, subsurface drip irrigation (SDI – subsurface drip irrigation ) has gained evidence in recent years. This system differs from surface dripping in terms of its emitters, which, in subsurface dripping, are located below the soil surface and close to the crop’s root system. This configuration makes it possible to apply water and nutrients directly to the “plant mouth,” which guarantees better use.

The emitters used in the subsurface drip are self-compensating and with anti-suction devices. This technology allows the maintenance of the same flow in a specific range of pressure variation. It prevents solid particles’ suction due to the negative pressure that occurs, for example, when the system is shut down. Proper irrigation operation will also depend on a sound filtration system.

Subsurface drip irrigation has been implemented worldwide, especially in regions with high evapotranspiration and water restriction levels. Consequently, there is an increasing interest in more information about this technology. In this sense, technical recommendations regarding the installation depth of the lateral lines (or drip lines) and the spacing between them are essential for the success of the irrigation project. This information depends, above all, on the characteristics of the soil and the crop to be used.

In general, among the advantages that the subsurface drip system provides are the reduction of the volume of water applied per area, reduction of agronomic costs aimed at the control of weeds and fertilization, reduction of mechanical damages to the irrigation system since the tubing is buried. There is also a reduction in energy costs due to the system’s low operating pressures (cv/ha).

Localized irrigation in Intensive Pasture cultivation

Subsurface drip irrigation has been used in the cultivation of sugar cane, corn, soybeans, coffee and several fruit trees. In addition to these crops, the use of this system has also been observed in the intensive cultivation of pastures , being currently one of the investments promoted by large irrigation companies with their respective cases of success.

Pasture irrigation by subsurface drip.  Source: author's collection.

Although it is still an incipient practice, there are already national records on subsurface drip use in intensive pasture cultivation. Some farms in the state of São Paulo, for example, have part of their pasture area subjected to subsurface drip irrigation, with production turned to hay and grazing.

One of the obstacles to investing in subsurface drip systems is its high initial cost, which can be around R $ 8,000.00 per hectare. Of course, this cost depends on several factors, one of which is the level of automation of the system. However, this high initial cost can be offset by being a system with longer useful life and which reduces operating costs with energy, labor, machinery, fertilizers, fertilizers, and herbicides, in addition to the possibility of being used by more than a culture in the same area over the years.

Forages of the genera CynodonBrachiaria, and Panicum are among those already used in this system. Considering the benefits that the technique provides and the results already achieved with its use, subsurface drip irrigation can gain more and more space in intensive pasture cultivation and enable a rise in productivity rates in a sustainable manner.


The irrigation of pastures is not an end in itself. Investing in the pasture means investing in higher quality meat and milk, investing in vertical production, which consists of increasing production without exploring new areas of cultivation.

Subsurface drip irrigation is already used in pasture cultivation, and that is a fact. It is a system that can be efficient in the intensive management of pastures, as long as a good irrigation project is carried out and the management is conducted correctly.

In this context, it is essential to carry out more technical studies on the subject addressed. As a result, more information and technical recommendations will be generated, contributing to more assertive decision-making in the search for satisfactory productivity rates combined with water’s rational use in agriculture.

Strategies for replacing animals in beef cattle

Breeds beef cattle.  Photo: José Maria Matos.
  1. Challenges in Strategies for replacing animals in beef cattle.

In the article Animal replacement: How can we profit from this movement? we observed some critical challenges for maintaining activity growth, among them:

  • The increase in the relevance of the replacement cost in the rearing and fattening activity.
  • The challenges of increasing the calves’ supply in an activity that has a natural inefficiency to produce less than one calf per cow per year.
  • The dispute for land-use efficiency with other cultures and activities.
  • Difficulty opening new areas of expansion.
  • Need to increase the productivity of rearing, fattening, and the following links in the chain to support the increase in replacement costs.

These points lead us to an important question.

2. How to support the tendency to increase the cost of replacement in production systems?

One way to overcome the increase in replacement costs is to increase productivity in the chain’s following links. This increase in productivity helps to dilute the increase in the cost of replacement through the gain of more arrobas with a lower cost or greater logistical efficiency and lower taxes.

However, they all depend on an increase in technology in the sector. When technologies already exist, and change depends on simple adoption, the transformation is faster. When it depends on investments, culture change, or technological innovation, the change is slower.

In the Webinar, the speaker demonstrates how simple management tools and market intelligence can help the producer take advantage of market fluctuations.

3. Management tools to improve the commercial efficiency of beef cattle.

With information technologies and databases, we can create tools that help producers find the moments to market their products and raw materials better. These can be implemented with a very high-cost benefit for the producer.


  1. The use of Intelligent Platforms that help identify market trends and guide the producer to identify buying and selling opportunities throughout the year can generate impacts of 83% in the operating result.


As demonstrated in the challenges, the increase in livestock production is related to the intensification of production systems. The intensification of production requires an increase in the capital invested and, consequently, an improvement in risk management.

On the other hand, the increase in the global population and the demand for food have increased the number of countries that import food and reduced the number of countries with a surplus. This change in relations has increased the relationship between chains and global problems in the formation of commodity prices, causing greater volatility.

The greater complexity of the forces that influence price volatility requires more complex data analysis. In this line, the database analysis tools, through market intelligence, can bring significant changes in risk management and commodity profitability.

Why is pasture fertilization so important?

Cattle in the Pasture.  Photo: JM Matos.

The second-largest herd of cattle in the world and the largest meat exporter in the world! Who of us is not proud of such titles ?! 

We have as production characteristics, a herd mostly kept on pasture, in freedom. This is also the most economical and natural way of offering food for cattle. However, despite our international prominence, Brazilian cattle breeding still faces many challenges at home, within a business called “producing cattle on pasture.” One of these challenges is precisely related to the animal’s primary fuel: the supply of pastures and their quality! And it is on this subject, pastures, and how we can maintain them sustainably, that we will address in this text below!

Livestock farmers, farmers, entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector, the great truth is that everyone is bald to know that our pasture areas are degraded! Our situation is unfortunate and really out of step with what we initially stated in this article about our representativeness before the animal protein trade.

Do you know what Productivity levels are?

  • Potential Productivity
  • Achievable Productivity
  • Real Productivity

According to Embrapa, we account for no less than 130 million hectares of degraded pastures. This represents 65% of the total available grazing areas. Is this normal? 

The answer is no!

Honestly, this result only saddens and confirms the neglect with which we manage our workspace, our field, the environment, and demonstrates all the care that we cultivate in this matter.

Different reasons may be involved in pasture degradation. These can be linked from agronomic aspects of production to the forage plant, the type of soil, the climate, the management itself, and the animal. As well as about economic issues and the competence of the producer.

There is also another great reason behind all this, and it is intrinsically related to that old and traditional format of production that we have here in the country: extensive systems of creation articulated in the prevalence of the law of the minimum. When we refer to the minimum, we mean minimal investment in technologytechnique, and even labor. This is somewhat natural in human nature. After all, the majority desires to enhance a business that primarily provides them with profit and minimizes costs. The detail is that this strategy, and the mentality associated with this practice, do not work for long, especially if there is no parallel plan for reinvestment, maintenance of the productive machine, practically in business models based on biological exploration

It is known that the degradation process does not happen overnight, but that it occurs continuously, that is, gradually. The lack of management in the pasture, the overcrowding of animals, for example, the constant extraction of nutrients from the soil coupled with the lack of a plan for fertilizing the pastures to restore the soil fertility in the long term, all this contributes to the weakening pasture. And the consequences of this whole process are evident. In addition to the loss of productivity, we make room for the emergence of other subsequent problems, such as establishing invasive plantspests, and diseases.

Have you ever heard of a soybean farmer planting without worrying about the soil? Do not perform the necessary corrections, liming, plastering? Have you ever heard someone plant corn, ignoring the plant’s nutritional requirements, forgetting to predict nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, magnesium, micronutrients, etc.? Probably not.

Historically, the fertilization aspect of grasses has never been treated as a priority pillar by the rancher. What we observe in practice in most of the properties, except those that are already aware of their importance, is the eventual correction of the soil pH through liming, and rarely, fertilization of pastures.

The big problem is that the producer does not analyze the matter holistically to see that the benefits, both due to the gain bias in the profitability of the business and the aspects of the acquisition of value in equity (property), are much more significant and justify the cost of investing in the soil.

From an agronomic perspective, when fertilizing, we contribute to maintaining fertility and balance in the environment (soil-plant relationship). We are also increasing the potential of that space to provide higher yields per area of ​​plant biomass and offer better quality food for the herd.

Another point, analyzing the breeding system, the benefit of grass production, also allows the producer to increase the capacity to support animals on his farm significantly. And we do not stop there, gaining in the increase in the stocking rate (UA / ha), we accelerate the average weight gain (GMP) of the animal due to the more generous supply of food, a systemic effect that in the end reverts to the more significant turnover of animals and income for the activity. 


Considering our current situation, changes in the rancher practices and management about the theme “fertilization of pastures” will be required, sooner or later. To say that fertilization is the solution to all problems related to pasture is undoubtedly a mistake. But the change in mentality about it and seeing pasture as a crop is a good start. The demand for us to be more efficient productively speaking through the areas we already have is an absolute fact even more with the increase in demand for food globally and the pressure of environmental restrictions regarding the opening of new areas. The knowledge we have, space to work, and what we lack is common sense and will power to change this pattern of conduct.

Creates: 5 main obstacles

Breeding in Livestock

Beef cattle is an activity that involves the production of cattle or other animals. It aims at slaughter and, with that, the generation of meat for consumption, leather, and derivatives. In beef cattle, have phases creates, recreates, and fattening. The calf comprises the reproduction and development of the calf until its weaning. The rearing begins at weaning and ends at the beginning of the females’ reproduction or the beginning of the fattening.

As rural producers, we know that there is much more behind each of these steps. That care is needed and that there are several obstacles to overcome.

We also know that whenever it is a very complex activity, several doubts arise. And so, we made a three-chapter miniseries. Each of them dealing with each of these steps. And in this miniseries, we intend to answer the main questions with a specialist.

We will start with the Cria. This phase can be defined as the one that best represents the foundation of the entire process. Therefore, your better understanding can generate better-added value in the future. To answer the questions related to this step, we interviewed specialist Rodrigo Paniago, from Boviplan Consultoria Agropecuária .


Rodrigo Paniago graduated in 1998 from ESALQ-USP, in the Agronomic Engineering course, with a specialization in Ruminant Production in 2006, from the same institution.


Agromove: How can the Breeding system be better described?

Rodrigo Paniago: The production system called calf in cattle has as main objective the production of calves. Thus, in this production stage, the reproduction of the animals is understood, the calves’ growth, both males and females, until the moment of weaning, which occurs between 6 and 8 months of age. Part of the calves weaned are selected for breeding to replace breeding stock that are discarded due to different problems related to calves’ reproduction or production. Calves not selected for replacement are targeted for sale, along with male calves. Another form of revenue from this activity is the sale of breeding stock and bulls, usually for slaughter. Sales of both calves and cull animals occur annually.

Despite the growing market for the sale of semen for artificial insemination of cows, which in the first half of 2020 grew 45% in the beef cattle market, the vast majority of breeding is still done through natural breeding. That is, with the use of bulls.

In Brazil, this production system occurs almost 100% on pasture.

AG: What are the five main obstacles in this phase? Describe each one.

RP: Specifically, in the Brazilian market, we can highlight the following obstacles:

  • the long interval between births;
  • low conception rate, especially in 1st calf females (primiparous);
  • sanity;
  • nutrition;
  • management.

The interval between deliveries is an indicator of efficiency. It highlights the ability of a matrix to generate products sequentially over some time. A matrix shouldn’t have intervals longer than 12 months to generate a product, that is, the calf. The standard beef cow has an average of 283 days of management. She needs a period after calving, known as the “service period,” to recover physiologically and return to fertile time, and then to conceive again.

The conception rate is measured by the percentage of matrices impregnated in a certain period, over the total number of matrices exposed to reproduction in the same period, with bull or with insemination, or even with both integrated technologies. What is desirable is that the pregnancy rate is:

  • above 85% for cows (multiparous)
  • above 65% for females who will be pregnant for the second time (primiparous).

About health in the breeding phase, it is essential to know that, in addition to diseases common to cattle, reproductive diseases are added. Suppose the interference of a broader range of diseases was not enough. In that case, the calving stage also encompasses the most sensitive cattle category, which are calves (as), from newborns to weaning. Usually, the adult mortality rate is expected to be 1%, while suckling animals’ mortality is up to 5%.

Nutrition is an essential factor in the outcome of this activity. Commercially bred bovine breeds have been, and continue to be, naturally improved for fertility and disease resistance. But for these qualities to be expressed, the animals must be well-fed, both about the quantity and quality of the food offered, which is grass.

For obvious reasons, management is a prominent factor in any economic activity. It is even present, even if not directly quoted, in almost all previous paragraphs. However, cattle breeding, especially beef cattle, is notable for having an empirical management model, with meager data collection and analysis rates, low adoption of management techniques.

Create.  Tabapuã breed.  Photo: Disclosure.

AG: What are the possible causes of these obstacles, the impacts, and how can we alleviate them?

RP: The consequence of intervals between very long births is the increase in production costs, as the average generation of products per production unit, which is the cow, is reduced in a given time.

In most cases, the factors that interfere in the interval between deliveries are genetics, management of reproduction, and nutritional management. Due to a low level of management, common to livestock farmers, producers do not have a secure database of individualized data by a matrix to promote a good selection of them. A clear example of the effect of reproductive management, which incurs the most extended interval between births, and negatively on animal nutrition and genetic improvement, is the lack of breeding season. In this way, cows are offered at different times of reproductive stage, different quantities, and different grass qualities, generating results without an everyday basis for comparison, thus preventing the sows’ selection.

Usually, there is a deficit in supply and quality in the dry period of the year. While in the rainy season the offer is higher and with better quality. But, if the pastures are poorly managed, it can also negatively interfere with nutrition and, therefore, the interval between deliveries.

Therefore, in addition to an adequate reproduction management strategy, the producer has to use planning, which is an essential management tool, to enable data collection individually from animals and reduce seasonality in the production of animals—pastures on herd performance.

The low average fertility of herds, regardless of race (genetics), is linked to the lack of internal breeding selection processes and, in particular, due to errors in cattle’s reproductive and nutritional management, as mentioned above.

Specifically, in primiparous women, the nutritional issue is even more delicate, as they are still growing during pregnancy. Therefore, they must have a differentiated nutritional system, which further increases the challenge of obtaining reproductive efficiency in this category. Therefore, the nutritional planning of the herd must also provide differentiated support for the different animal categories of the herd on a calf farm, which are notably the multiparous, primiparous, breeding heifers (nulliparous), bulls, when separated from the calves (outside the breeding season) and, in some cases, even suckling calves, to obtain greater efficiency.

The highest occurrence of reproductive diseases is due to the lack of monitoring and planning of the herd’s health management, leading to a decrease in reproductive efficiency. An important characteristic that should be highlighted about cattle is that the transfer of antibodies from the mother to the calf occurs only through the colostrum. In other words, if the consumption of colostrum by the calf (as) does not occur until the first 6 hours of life, the consequence is an increase in the mortality rate of calves (as). In this case, the solution is to maintain more intensive monitoring with cows that are about to calve, ensure that the calf consumes colostrum, and receive the newborn’s health protocols.

The leading cause of nutritional problems in herds is the lack of planning to deal with pasture production seasonality. It is worth mentioning that the leading food of cattle is grass. In other words, a plant that is under development, which denotes changes in the quantitative and qualitative food supply over time. This is the biggest challenge for the rancher, balancing the demand and supply of food throughout the year in pasture production. One of the alternatives to improve the supply of pastures is rotational management, which allows the producer to make the rational use of forage resources, respecting the growth cycle of grass plants, ensuring a more adjusted offer throughout the year.

The lack of management in beef cattle farms is the fault of a past of loose margins between cost and revenue, which allowed both the inefficient and the efficient to take advantage of livestock activity without significant problems. In addition to the financial question, it is necessary to add the fact that in the management of the offspring, there is a more significant number of productive indicators, or better, reproductive ones that can and should be used in the performance analysis and, evidently, in the decision making to provide the more significant gain of efficiency. The solution is to empower the team, including the owner, so that data collection and analysis, both financial and production, enable better decision making.

AG: Considering the 5 main areas of animal production:

  • animal health and welfare,
  • animal and fodder nutrition,
  • animal breeding,
  • production science and management and science
  • meat technology.

What are the main bottlenecks that affect the breeding stage?

RP: Considering the areas mentioned as the top 5, animal health, and well-being, despite the fact that diseases are not the biggest problem, there is still room for gains inefficiency in the health issue. Therefore, the challenge is monitoring the health of the animals, as it is not common for the breeder to collect semen or blood to, through laboratory analyzes, provide changes in their sanitary or even reproductive management.

As for animal welfare, although there is already an evolution when comparing the way animals were handled in the 80s or 90s, there is also adequate space for maturing in this area, leading to gains in productivity and, consequently, in profitability. To improve this item, it is necessary to intensify the workforce training events related to the theme.

About animal nutrition, the technologies of supplementation with minerals and other types of nutrients are very advanced. Still, the adoption of some, which are even known to producers, would need to be more splendid, such as differentiated supplementation by animal category and use of supplementation with of protein source during the drought period.

However, the biggest challenge is in the management of pastures. There is no doubt that the highest failure rate among producers, regardless of the production system, is, whether it is created, recreated, and fattened or completed cycle. So much so that the percentage of degraded pastures in the properties is always high, with a consequent low supply of pastures per area. As a result, the rancher has a high cost to reform pastures and to produce little per available area. Therefore, this topic’s bottleneck is the lack of knowledge of forage budgeting and pasture management techniques.

As in animal nutrition, genetic improvement technologies in the country are very evolved, but they also need greater adoption, such as breeding bulls, as breeders do not know how to calculate the cost/benefit of acquiring superior bulls. It is common for ranchers to even buy semen from bulls in the market for a long time, instead of semen from younger bulls, coming from the continuous process of genetic improvement and evaluation.

The biggest bottleneck in management is management. As mentioned in a previous answer, amateurism in this item is the main characteristic of livestock. The producer loses a lot for not doing zootechnical bookkeeping and cost management, for example. This is the point at which there is the most significant scope for cumulative gains in production. With the management well done, the failures are evident, allowing the creator to act strategically to increase its efficiency.

Regarding meat technology, as a breeder, he is at the beginning of the production cycle of the live cattle. It is not up to him to manage the carcass finishing, which is one of the most critical factors for the slaughterhouse about the topic. But, about marbling, that is, the more significant presence of fat interspersed in the meat, the breeder can assume the direction because the effect on this characteristic comes from genetics: the breed of cattle, in general, are European origins. Thus, despite not being a significant bottleneck in this matter, it is still a challenge, because when including the blood of European breeds in the herd, the consequence is the production of less rustic animals, in addition to hindering the replacement of females, since reduces the number of females of the original breed of the matrix, which in general is zebu.

AG: Some studies comment on the fluctuation in the number of animals, mainly in the breeding stage. What could be the reason for this instability?

RP: This instability is typical of the livestock activity, known as the “livestock cycle,” which directly impacts the breeding sector. It is the most precise reflection of the consequences of supply and demand in livestock. The livestock cycle fluctuates due to the female market. That is, it fluctuates according to the total slaughter or retention of females. When calf retention occurs, the consequence is an increased supply of calves. Next, the lower price paid in calves and a greater offer of fatty oxen ultimately leads to a drop in the ox’s amount. When there is an increase in the slaughter of females, the supply of calves is reduced, which leads to a reduction in offers of an ox and, finally, an increase in the amount paid at the arroba do ox, which increases the demand for calves, which then increases retention of the cows and so it goes cycling.

AG: What is the importance of stock management of the herd in the breeding activity? How to do this control?

RP: Inventory management is essential because almost all inputs are directly or indirectly linked to the herd’s size and distribution according to the animal category. On the other hand, the size of the herd is directly linked to the carrying capacity of the property, which requires the rancher to monitor the stock so that he does not exceed the capacity of his pastures to properly feed his cattle, as it can generate a considerable drop in the performance of the animals and increases with pasture maintenance costs, in case it is not respected.

Inventory control should be done by calculating the number of animals per category, calculating the demand for stocking, consumption of supplements and veterinary products, for example. To simulate the evolution of the herd, that is, to define how the animals will enter and leave and when they may occur, enabling a budget plan, facilitating the financial management of the enterprise.

Mother and her calf.  Photo: Disclosure.

AG: In a survey carried out by EMBRAPA in partnership with CiCarnes, Unipampas, and NESPro, there is a ranking among the top priority items for rural producers, the Production Cost is in the first place (with 57.6% of the wishes). Explain to us why this item is so important?

RP: It is essential as in any activity in the productive sector. Without a clear understanding of the cost of production, it is not possible to make any projection of the financial result in such a way that the producer will conduct the business in the dark, without knowing whether the result at the end of the production cycle will be advantageous or not. It also cuts the possibility of the rancher taking initiatives to redirect his business to a direction in which the expected result is satisfactory.

AG: As mentioned above, production costs are among the main concerns of the rancher. What are the main costs? How to measure them? How to improve them? We know that the sector has excellent unevenness and different levels of production, but is it possible to present some average parameters for each of these costs?

RP: The variable costs inbreeding can be up to 3 times higher than the fixed costs. The main variable costs are supplementation, labor and administrative expenses, or purchase of animals. The main fixed costs are the exhaustion of pastures, depreciation of improvements, and machines and implements. To measure them, it is only possible to use management tools, such as the allocation of expenses by cost center and plan of accounts. Depending on the operation’s complexity and the type of data management you want, it can be used from a simple cash book or even a specific management software for this type of activity. To improve them, only after an in-depth analysis of expenses and the production strategy, to then define strategies for increasing production efficiency,

Breeding costs are around R $ 90.00 per sign for variable costs and R $ 30.00 per sign for fixed costs. If the bill includes the land’s value, this value can be around R $ 60.00 per sign. And if you also consider the expected return on capital, this can be R $ 50.00 per sign.

The more intensive the breeding system is, the cost increase that stands out the most is supplementation.

AG: To what extent is it worth intensifying the brood? What are the 3 main obstacles in the intensification process? In the article below, we commented on some problems.

RP: There is no way to define, precisely, and generically, the extent to which it is worth intensifying the brood. The same farm under the direction of two different people also leads to two different results, as it is more linked to the owner’s managerial capacity than specifically to the property’s infrastructure. Therefore, the acceptable profit parameter also differs from investor to investor, as does risk-taking. The only way to define a point, generically, is to establish, for example, that this is equal to the moment when maximum productivity, which incurs such an expense, which does not allow for-profit or generates loss.

When it comes to livestock intensification, there are two distinct paths, the investment to increase productivity by an individual or by area. The impact on investments for productivity increases by area is much more significant in total productivity than the increases provided by investments in performance per individual. However, the amount to be invested in earning technologies by area is also much higher. On the other hand, as cows have a high average individual weight, their cost of feeding for weight maintenance is also very high, limiting the maximum capacity, not for technical reasons, but cost/benefit.

In this way, we can cite as examples of obstacles to intensify the breeding:

  • the investor’s managerial capacity;
  • the high feed cost of cows;
  • the availability of capital for investments.

AG: In our research, we realized that the calf link is the one that pays less attention to cost management and commercialization of animals. As the intensification of breeding increases, costs increase, and revenue management gains more business representation. In the article below, we have shown that a small fluctuation in revenue can significantly impact the result obtained with the productive effort. How should the creator face this challenge?

RP: The rural producer is a price taker. He always asks the price at which the seller is selling the input he needs to buy. Just as he cannot define the price at which he will sell his product, be it the calf or the cull cow that he will send to the slaughterhouse for slaughter without first “asking” the market how much he is paying. Especially in the breeder’s case, the producer’s profile is more conservative and focused on productive performance, in the detail of production.

While the producer who does the breeding and fattening (winteriest) has a more negotiating profile since 60 to 70% of the two expenses, come from animal replacement, which makes him more connected to what happens in the market than inside the gate. When compared to the creator. Therefore, due to his profile, the creator is a manager who is more apt to obtain gains inefficiency in production than in the commercialization of his products.

However, even so, the breeder can invest in marketing, improving the presentation of his products so that they can be sold at the top level or partnering with the winterist, investing in the quality of his animals and the delivery date of interest to the winterist, in return receiving a combined premium in advance for your product.

AG: Are there any messages or conclusions that you want to leave for the producer reading your interview?

RP: The market is more and more demanding, whether in terms of food safety, in terms of product quality, or terms of environmental issues. Just as the buyer market is changing rapidly, the supply of technologies is also changing rapidly. There is no way for the creator to remain in the activity satisfactorily without also changing his production system because, without productive efficiency, there is no profit margin. The most comfortable and most assertive path is to professionalize management. From this, strategies are defined, the use of technologies and continuity in the activity is guaranteed. The future cattle rancher is the one who maximizes profit. He is no longer the one who is the record holder in productivity.

Recreates: 5 main barriers

Santa Maria Farm, Itápolis, SP.

Creates, Recreates, and Fattening. Livestock production processes are critical and complex.

In the breeding stage, as already commented in the text “Cria: 5 main obstacles”, there is a concern to provide the best conditions for weaning to occur in the largest number of calves with the most significant possible weight. This phase is of great importance for ranchers.

Another step, which is even more valued, is fattening or finishing. It is the last stage of the cycle, and it is from this that the animal ready for slaughter results.

However, there is a very significant period, not so considered that it goes from weaning to the beginning of fattening, known as rearing. Like the others, it is a stage that demands a lot of attention and special care.

At this stage, the intention is to stimulate the development of bone and muscle structure so that, later, the animal is ready for the reproductive or fattening stage. A small slip at this stage can represent a significant loss for the rural producer.

With that in mind, Agromove prepared an interview with specialist Marco Antônio Álvares Balsalobre to explain the main obstacles and precautions that must be taken at this stage.


Marco Balsalobre graduated in 1990 from ESALQ-USP, in the course of Agronomic Engineering, Master in Animal Science and Pastures in 1996, from the same University and PhD in Animal Science and Pastures in 2002, also from ESALQ-USP. He participated in the Dom Cabral Foundation’s Program for the Development of Counselors – PDC in 2012. Consultant in agricultural companies from 1990 to 2002, technical director of Bellman Nutrição Animal from 2002 to 2012, and technical director of Trouw Nutrition from 2012 to 2017.


Agromove: How can the breeding system be better described?

Marco Balsalobre: Recreating the period between weaning the animals (between 7 and 8 months) and the animals’ fattening period. The fattening of animals when they enter confinement is easy to establish. However, most animals are not finished in confinement in Brazil. In this case, the end of the rearing may be due to adopting a pre-established practice on a given farm, such as other food supplementation, smaller lot sizes, and better quality pastures.

The rearing time can also vary depending on the intensification of the system. It can be a few months up to 2 years or more. It is worth mentioning that the rearing can be eliminated when weaned animals are placed directly in the feedlot.

 The elimination of rearing may seem like the future; however, it must be analyzed from a financial point of view. It is not always the most profitable.

AG: What are the five main obstacles in this phase? Describe each one.

MB: Come on. I will try to identify five obstacles. I don’t know if I can do it. Anyway, I understand that obstacles are essential activities and not obstacles.

The first is the purchase of animals. The best animals for good breeding and later fattening are calves deforested between April and June. The purchase of these calves should represent a good part of the replacement, more than 50%. Thus, the search for these animals in the short term is a priority, and there is difficulty achieving this.

The second obstacle is that the purchase of these animals is made before sending the animals recreated from the previous year has gone to fattening; therefore, there is a need for adequate working capital without revenue and with anticipated expenses.

The third obstacle is that most of these animals must enter the farm at the beginning of the drought. Therefore, the system must be prepared to receive good nutritional demand in a period of low forage mass. Good forage budget planning must be carried out to guarantee an adequate supply of food for the animals in the first drought.

The fourth important point is that these animals, for efficient livestock, must remain in the breeding phase for no more than 1 year. For this, the gain of 6 arrobas or more in this period is essential. In Central Brazil, it is difficult to achieve 6 arrobas gains without the use of a protein or even protein/energy supplement in the drought. This demands expense and product adequacy, proper formulation, correct consumption, regular supply, and good handling.

The fifth point is the adequate management for high gains in the waters and end of the phase with animals above 400 kg and able to be finished, preferably in confinement. Protein supplementation at this stage may be necessary. In addition to forage budgeting, what farms find many difficulties is in the management of these animals.

Due mainly to sodomy, they choose to make small batches. This makes it challenging to manage the farm. Many pastures are occupied, there is difficulty in intensifying these areas with fertilizers, and the system does not evolve satisfactorily. Due to this, low forage supply in different periods of the waters is standard. Therefore, the weight gain is compromised; the animals do not reach the desired weight and are forced to remain another drought and, sometimes, another summer on the farm. Or, even, they are taken lighter to the confinement without giving the desired recipe. Forage planning, management of plots, division of pastures are essential for the success of water rearing.

AG: What are the possible causes of these obstacles, the impacts, and how can we alleviate them?

MB: The focus of efficient breeding is the purchase of good quality animals, at the right time, promoting adequate weight gain so that the animal remains on the farm for a maximum of 12 months. It is necessary to have a good forage plan so that there is no low food supply. Have adequate nutrition with the correct supplement throughout the year. Have enough working capital to buy good animals at the right time. Prepare the farm with pasture divisions to form plots suitable for right animal and pasture management.

Recreates.  Photo: Calves

AG: Recreating is considered the stage most neglected by producers. This neglect can create cost problems in the short run and affect profitability in the long run. What are the leading measures to be taken to avoid these problems?

MB: If a farm creates, recreates, and puts on weight. And the rearing stage is neglected. That is, the animal’s performance is below the potential. The system as a whole will be affected, but it is possible to recover this in the fattening process, for example. But a farm that only recreates ends up failing to recover this neglect.

For example, if you buy the calf with 6 or 7 arrobas and sell the lean ox with a certain weight, and in this period of about 1 year with a gain of 2 or 3 arrobas, you will certainly have a fixed cost of 20 at 30 reais, plus the variable, the fattened at sign will be very expensive.

As the calf’s sign is naturally more expensive than the sign of the withers sold, this price does not pay for the activity.

We can consider the recreator not as a producer but as a speculator. He buys calves looking for a price below the market and seeks to sell the withers at a price above the market. He ends up earning more in this buying and selling game than in the production itself.

Learning how to deal with the market is essential for this stage of production. In addition to the livestock cycle that brings positive and negative price periods, we have market volatility, which fluctuates around 24% between the year’s high and low. Therefore, a good manager needs to understand the cycle trend and know how to find opportunities within the year. Tools such as Agromove Smart Platforms, which help identify the cycles’ stages, find buying and selling zones within the year, help the producer capture these market gains to increase his profit.

The challenge is to combine marketing with productive actions. Have a productive, flexible farm and prepared to explore market opportunities 

So the neglect of this activity will undoubtedly bring losses and will make it unprofitable and unsuitable for this type of farmer.

AG: In a publication, the blog Gestão Agropecuária comments that as the focus of cattle ranchers is fattening, the market for garrotes is promising. What care should be taken to maintain the financial health of the property and ensure that this market is, in fact, promising?

Agricultural Management blog article “Calf breeding: how to maintain good management.”

MB: The number of animals confined and the number of feedlots has increased in Brazil. This has already been analyzed in states like GO and MT.

Inbreeding, recreating, and fattening are exciting since confinement enters as a load adjustment of the farm. Farms or feedlots that have only fattening activity are very vulnerable to the market, and this vulnerability can bring high profitability. If confinement manages to be efficient in fattening and in the purchase and sale of animals, this can generate a very profitable activity.

However, the origination (supply of the animals’ breeding groups) is always a big problem for the feedlots. And this has been a problem and can be an opportunity for those who recreate or even recreate and fatten and start to recreate and know the difficulty of this problem in the origination and purchase of inputs. This fattening activity is increasingly focused on large feedlots due to better negotiations in larger quantities, and the most suitable origination is an excellent opportunity.

There are areas in Brazil with a very high concentration of feedlots that have this problem in origination. As I already mentioned, the state of GO.

AG: What are the main alerts, both in management and in production, that should be considered at this stage?

MB: The rearing activity risks are found mainly in the commercialization and management of the farm. As already mentioned, you must be a good manager in the buying part, choosing animals with good genetics and buying at the right time, and in the selling part, being a good seller of animals with good potential and selling at the right time. However, good weight gain, reflecting useful supplementation and adequate pasture management, is significant for its success.

The management of the rearing activity, which is the excellent management of pasture and adequate supplementation, is essential to have good performance. However, one issue is the formation of lots. They must have a number of animals suitable for the farm. Lots with few animals and few pastures to manage each lot create problems, as it is not possible to exploit the growth of forage properly. And vast lots with little division of pasture cause a management problem within the lot, as there is the question of the animals’ sociability. The mixing of animals within a flock, without adequate handling and management of the adaptation phase, can cause leadership and sodomy problems.

Control is also significant, as animals arrive at different times and with different genetics (and, therefore, different performances). It is necessary to know how long the animal stays on the farm to establish sales control.

AG: With the calf intensification, calves have been gaining representativeness in the cost of livestock. The worsening of the exchange relations in recent years demonstrates this point. As replacement is the 

The highest cost of rearing, how should producers deal with this worsening trend in the exchange ratio?

MB: In the last 2 or 3 years, the exchange ratio has worsened, and there has been an increase in the calf’s value. This is in line with the livestock cycle, but it may be that we are in a bull calf uptrend and a slightly worse exchange ratio. However, the purchasing power of those who buy and sell the garrote or the fat ox has increased, as the other costs have not increased.

On the other hand, the calf is considered better. Several examples of farms report that they no longer have a calf born in January or December, and we know that the best calves are born between September and November. Some finials born between June and August are even better. This happens because, during the cow’s gestation, it goes through a period of good forage quality. When it is born, despite not having returned to the rainy season, the cow has a good reserve and an excellent condition to provide milk nutritious for this puppy. By the time he starts to feed on pasture, there is already a high-quality pasture around December. And he will wean in April or May with good quality pastures.

So it is a calf that has had no problems during its development period, not only in the embryonic phase but also after birth.

Closing the argument, although the exchange ratio has worsened, the calf’s initial quality has increased. Before, it was common to slaughter the animal with 17 to 18 arrobas, and now it is not common to find animals with less than 20 arrobas.

Having calves of better quality allows better and bigger calves to leave the feedlots, adding value to the animals. It is a game of exchange. The worse the relationship, the more expensive the calf, the more efficient the breeding process must be, and the heavier the animals at the time of sale. So, this is the way we have to avoid this situation. They are not always viable, but when they are not, it is necessary to review the production system that is being adopted.

AG: Much of the rearing in Brazil is done in the pasture system. What can the breeder improve in his pasture management to face the challenges mentioned above?

MB: Regarding pasture management, there is still a lot to be done. Many studies and development.

Recreating is undoubtedly the activity that most responds to intensification, pasture fertilization, and increased animal rotation. The risks are not so high because imagining that the animals will be sold in May, even though there is a calves’ purchase, there is an adjustment of loads because the calves are much lighter than the withers.

It is effortless to intensify the rearing system, as it is unnecessary to implement roughage in the drought. Remembering that to intensify 1 AU to 4 or 5 AU, it is necessary to fertilize the pastures in the summer, and in the winter, it ends up being the same confinement.

Confinement in terms of breeding for a long time is not adequate. The exciting thing is a maximum of 45 to 60 days. In this way, the intensification in the summer makes more sense.

So, the intensification of pastures is a way to guarantee profitability. Being per hectare, and no longer per head. And it is possible to earn less per head but earn more per hectare. Logically, an increase in risk occurs, so it is essential to manage these factors very well.

AG: Are there any messages or conclusions that you want to leave for the producer reading your interview?

MB: One last message I would give is that the recreation activity is the most profitable, without a doubt, but it is the most difficult to do.

You have to be a profitable dealer; you must continuously evaluate the market and be a good seller (selling is an art), with proper presentation, a lot indicated for each customer.

So, the rearing depends much more on the negotiation than the breeding and fattening phases.

Anyway, the message I would like to give is that we must not forget that commercialization is essential, but the farm activity is just as important.

Fattening: 7 main obstacles

Animals feeding on a balanced diet.  Source: Rogério Domingues.

Fattening is the final phase of beef cattle, and by many, considered the most important. It also requires care and attention in the other phases, explained in the texts of creation and recreation.

At this stage, the ox’s main objective is to quickly reach the appropriate final weight, efficiently and as best as possible.

But it is known that this era has several obstacles, mainly regarding the values ​​to be considered, both for cost and profit.

To better clarify the fattening phase, Agromove interviewed specialist Rogério Domingues. Rogério has already been interviewed in “Conversation with specialist: pasture fence to reserve food for the drought.”


Rogério Fernandes Domingues graduated in 1998 from ESALQ-USP in Agronomic Engineering, specialized in Animal Nutrition and Pastures in 2003, and an MBA in Agribusiness from FGV in 2010. Rogério started his work with livestock and animal products during the period of his graduation, interning at the Zootechnical Practices Club – CPZ of the Zootechnics Department until its formation. In 1999, he started working with the company Parmalat in the Department of Technical Assistance to the Producer, being responsible for the northern region of the State of SP and later, for the city of the city Jundiaí. In 2000, he started his work with the formation of pastures, semi-confinement, and silage production in the State of MT. And at the end of 2001, he started to work at MS, at the properties of the Misrahi Family,

After completing his graduate studies, Rogério was hired by the Vilela de Queiroz group, in Barretos, after the appointment of the Agronomist and friend Gustavo Ubida, becoming responsible for all technical and agricultural planning and livestock activities, in farms in GO, MT, RO, PA and too. In 2012, in the north of Minas, he took on a group of farms as the technical and managerially responsible for full-cycle livestock in the Montes Claros region. That is, he creates, recreates, fattening in confinement, in addition to irrigated agriculture. From 2014, he started to work with advisory and integrated management of several farms in the States of SP, MS, MT, and GO, participating in all stages of management and operational-financial planning of the agricultural and livestock activities of these properties. . Another activity carried out is the evaluation and feasibility analysis (projects) of production systems involving agriculture, livestock and recently, the integration between the two activities.


Agromove: How can the fattening system be better described?

Rogério Domingues: The production stages of beef cattle are normally divided into the breeding, rearing, and fattening (or finishing) segments; these segments can be isolated or even combined, characterizing each beef cattle production system.

The finishing consists of reaching the ideal weight and finish of the carcass delivered to the industry in a shorter period than the breeding and recreating systems. This stage is characterized by the increase in muscle tissue and adipose tissue. This period is less efficient from a biological point of view than observed in the breeding and recreating phases.

In this phase, the energy requirement for depositing a kilo of adipose tissue is more significant when compared to muscle tissue. As pastures are not able to meet high energy requirements, confinement (total or pasture) appears in this context as a good option, a practice that allows, through the formulation of diets with higher energy levels and less fiber intake, the greater energy consumption, concomitantly reducing the maintenance energy generated by walking, searching/selecting the offered pastures, or searching for weak points, of the animals under grazing.

In summary, the feedlot seeks to reduce the energy cost of keeping the animal under grazing, taking it to a high-energy diet, which is transformed into carcass (meat + fat + bone), with quality standards (tenderness, marbling, and juiciness) that meets the growing demand of an increasingly demanding market (internal or external); and from the business point of view, with the value of the arroba produced, capable of leaving a right contribution margin, compared to the sale value of the arroba.

Animals feeding on a balanced diet.  Fattening phase.  Source: Rogério Domingues.

AG: What are the 7 main obstacles in this phase? Describe each one.

RD: Confinement is, in my reading, the stage that almost demands attention due to its short cycle and a high volume of resources used (lean ox + food). Many factors can impact the financial result, but among them, I would like to highlight:

Marketing Planning: purchase of inputs, at moments of the lower market price (here it is worth mentioning the attention to the analysis tools of the market cycles, with prices and fluctuations that open the opportunities for buying grains and bran); this aspect is fundamental for the confinement to be viable (cost of daily rates or the amount produced). This also applies to the purchase of lean cattle when the producer is only confined. Buying correctly and efficiently is a condition of paramount importance for the operation (lean cattle make up about 75% of the cost in the condition of purchase + fattening).

Structures and Facilities Project: starting with the location of the project. You must be in a region with high availability of food for sale, especially when the project does not have agricultural areas and depends on the purchase of food to be used.

A good project should avoid locations close to streams or rivers, thus reducing the environmental impact; avoid areas with the channeled wind to avoid problems with dust and bad odor to residents of the farm (or nearby neighborhoods/cities); choose well-drained areas that guarantee a dry floor (terrains with a medium-sandy texture are preferable) and, if possible, close to electric power networks.

It is very relevant that the project meets some prerequisites, such as fattening pens, which must be designed on slopes close to 3%, to facilitate the flow of waste conduction. The management corral must be designed according to modern standards of rational management and rapid flow to meet the weighing, sanitation, and collection of information and shipment processes.

The feed factory, if possible, should be designed with automation mechanisms; that can store sufficient quantities of food; a fast flow of movement of the ingredients to the storage boxes at the reception of raw materials or for the composition and mixing of the diets to be offered (filling the beats either in trucks or in stationary mixers). It is also essential to consider the food storage location (grains and roughage), have shed for machinery and equipment, and structure for the collection, storage, and disposal of the manure produced (solid or liquid).

Overview of livestock confinement.  Fattening or Termination.  Source: Rogério Domingues.

Well prepared Nutritional Plan: in this topic, we can highlight:

Formulation: a diet for maximum profit is the main objective of a good nutritional plan. Using foods that have an adequate supply in the region, or even alternative foods or by-products/residues from the agribusiness can reduce the cost of the diet.

It is of fundamental importance since the feed management of confined cattle is considered the factor with the most significant impact on the final production cost since it represents about 70% of the total cost. Thus, it is necessary to adopt techniques that seek greater biological efficiency (such as the use of additives and promoters of manipulation of ruminal flora), and nutritional management, which has since the purchase goals with the reduction of costs in the acquisition and transport, until storage and distribution of the same in the form of the diet.

The practical example of the impact of the cost of a diet can be seen when it is possible to reduce the cost by only 5%, that is, in a cycle with animals of average weight 465 kg (initial weight of 390 kg or 13 @ and with slaughter weighing 540 kg or 20 @, considering a carcass yield close to 56%); and with an average consumption of 2.30% of live weight, for 95 days of confinement and dry matter cost of the diet of 0.650 / kg, we would have savings of R $ 165,000.0 for the confinement of 5,000 heads.

Animal feeding on feed.  Fattening or Termination.  Source: Rogério Domingues.

Adaptation: in the new environment, once the change from pasture to confinement occurs, the animal will be exposed to significant changes beyond the replacement of a diet rich in fiber by another more concentrated (ruminal adaptation). At this stage, in addition to the formulation, there are still other challenges in reaching confinement, such as regrouping, health management (injectable drugs, such as vaccines and prophylactics), corral processing (containment, weighing, identification), climate (when coming from different regions ), and human presence and machines, among others.

Supply: After the animal is already in the feedlot, we could not fail to highlight the planning and control of the diet supply, called “trough management,” which aims to reduce variations in animal consumption. This step has the main objective of adjusting leftovers, minimizing waste without limiting animal ingestion potential. Trough management always involves three necessary procedures: “trough reading,” observation of the animals’ ingestive behavior, and recording feed supply and consumption.

Management and total control over the production processes:  the termination of beef cattle presents numerous variables to be considered and controlled, requiring strict control in managing the information collected daily. Otherwise, the leading causes of this activity’s losses are hardly detected at the end of the fattening period. Among these factors, the main ones responsible for the reduction of profits or even loss in the finishing of beef cattle can be listed, such as batch formation (weight, race, sex); climatic factors (how to deal with the occurrence of dust or clay, mainly); choice/application of effective health protocols; effectuation of the formulated diet; food stock; wagon loading and treatment distribution (predetermined times and frequencies); adjustments of forage dry matter content; waste (trough management); tract routines; among others.

But I would like to highlight the zootechnical control as the primary tool that allows us to know in depth the costs and expenses, facilitate economic analysis and identify the most expensive factors, and locate the bottlenecks of animal production.

Among the essential variables that must be evaluated in the finishing of cattle are daily weight gain (GPD), cost of the arroba produced ($ / @), weight gain yield (RGP), and feed conversion (CA). To obtain these indicators at the end of the fattening period, it is essential to obtain the following information at the beginning of the process: initial and final weighing (PI and PF), dry matter consumption (CMS), carcass weight (PC), total cost ( food and operational).

Qualified Manpower: People Management (workforce training) is essential for all of the above items to be achieved. Most failures within a production system are due to human error, either at the operational, technical, or managerial level.

Failures can occur due to several factors such as inexperience, ignorance, inability, incompetence, and lack of motivation. Thus, people who have not received adequate training, or who are unmotivated / poorly paid, with low qualifications can put an excellent project in check due to the losses generated. The success of the operation is impossible without the adjustment and elimination of such management-related factors.

AG: What are the possible causes of these obstacles, the impacts, and how can we alleviate them?

RD: I believe that the leading causes of the obstacles and problems found in the finishing or fattening systems is the failure to observe the items previously described. Having an excellent technical consultancy for project development, in the elaboration and development of strategies and food and marketing planning, are mandatory conditions for the operation’s success.

The purchase of inputs, animals, and the sale of live cattle are exposed to market fluctuations that can put the operation at risk if there is no adoption of tools/information to mitigate these risks and protect against this price volatility. In this case, the objective is always to guarantee the margin due to the high cost of the operation as a whole. Several cases of failure in containment activities occurred due to the lack of an essential factor: the activity’s technical/financial and managerial knowledge. This reminds me of a phrase by the famous stock market analyst Márcio Noronha, where in the first paragraph of his book “Is that all?”, Referring to the performance of inexperienced people on the stock exchange says “(…) 90% of people who start investing in the stock exchange leave behind a trail of blood and pain (…)”;

AG: Fattening on pasture is the most common in Brazil; however, fattening in confinement shows excellent results and has grown significantly in the last decades. Which is the most advantageous?

RD: Pasture confinement has been an alternative in Brazil, mainly as a “pasture management tool,” in fattening or even full-cycle farms. This is because the confinement period coincides with the dry period of the year, a season that, due to climatic conditions (mainly temperature and precipitation), forages have low nutritional value, low or almost no growth rate, severely limiting animal consumption and performance.

Animals feeding on feed.  Source: Rogério Domingues.

At that moment, there is the possibility of concentrating the animals in certain areas that have undergone a prior/strategic planning for the accumulation of forage (deferral), where the animals will have access to the fibrous material accumulated in the summer period and the concentrated diet in low doses for that the finish of the housing is possible. It is an essential technology and allows many producers, mainly on a smaller scale, to complete the property instead of sending the animals to partnerships or Boitel.

From this perspective, total confinement is a natural evolution from confinement to pasture, when scale becomes a factor of great importance.

With the growth of activity and animals’ concentration, there is a more significant efficiency gain, mainly from an operational point of view. The paddocks for fattening on pasture are getting increasingly distant from the factories and handling of dietary inputs.

Other points, such as high investments in water distribution networks, roads, and management of lots at times for processing in the corral, increase the risk of accidents due to long distances. The control and concentration of operations in a single location give more dynamism and facilitates the review of decisions because it is easier to observe errors. However, in the case of migration to total confinement, it is essential to analyze the bulky fraction of the diet. It knows which roughage should be produced, depending on the characteristics of climate, soil, and machinery available on the property or in the region, which are the excellent or limiting points in roughage production.

A quality roughage can reduce the dependence on grains in a specific year, with very high prices. However, the poor planning of the bulky fraction and the search for alternatives during confinement, such as the purchase of low-quality bulbs (for example, sugarcane bagasse) or the need to increase the concentrated fraction, which will be purchased outside the best season, impact the financial and zootechnical result negatively. In short, I do not believe that there is the most advantageous option, but the one that best fits the scope of work of each property, depending on scale, operational capacity, production of bulky, among others.

AG: What are the producers’ main points to know that it is time to think about setting up a feedlot?

RD: Professional livestock has a natural evolution. Usually, the activity will show optimistic return scenarios over time. The entrepreneur will see opportunities at certain times, such as the growth of external and internal markets, or even by opening new markets as happened recently with China, which caused the ox’s sign to surpass historical price levels due to the high demand. At this moment, those who are well-positioned “ride the wave” of the high market.

The best time to think about setting up containment is when all the production system factors are reaching their potential limit. That is, if the property has excellence in the production of arrobas on pasture, combined with supplementation, in its various levels of supply (from low consumption proteins in the breeding to rations with 2.0% of live weight in the finishing) and has nowhere else to grow, confinement becomes a powerful tool to increase the efficiency of the entire process.

Animals feeding on feedlot.  Fattening or Termination.  Source: Rogério Domingues.

Welfare aspects of beef cattle production systems

Calves.  Photo: Adriano Garcia.


The beef cattle herd can suffer a range of influences that cause stress. As a result, low-quality meat production and lower productivity gains. Breeders who value the well-being of their flock will also be valuing the excellence of their production. Therefore, it is essential that the breeder knows the different aspects that can cause stress to his animals and what measures can be taken to overcome this situation.

Environmental Aspects

According to the Terrestrial Animal Health Code – OIE 2014.

In a thermal environment, herds can adapt to the environment; however, sudden temperature changes can lead to stress caused by heat or cold. 

1.1 Heat stress

Thermal stress in herds is related to the environmental and inherent factors of the animal. Among the environmental factors, air temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed can be highlighted. Among the animal’s inherent factors are the breed, age, body conditions, metabolic rate, color, and coat density.

Herd keepers must be aware of the risks related to heat stress and be prepared to make adjustments to the herd’s routine if this happens. In cases of milder heat, keepers can use tactics such as reducing the movement of animals. Suppose this risk of stress reaches more critical levels. In that case, animal keepers should institute an emergency plan that could include reducing population density, providing shade, free access to drinking water, and cooling by spraying water that penetrates the hair.

1.2. Cold stress

In cold stress, the most affected animals in the herds are newborns and young cattle, and others that are physiologically compromised. To do this, keepers must use protection against extreme weather conditions, provided by natural or human-made shelters. During icy weather conditions, it is also important to institute an emergency plan to provide the herd with shelter, adequate food, and water.

2. In lighting

In lighting cases where the herd does not have access to natural light, it is necessary to provide supplementary lighting following a natural periodicity to standardize the natural behavior and allow an adequate inspection of the herd.

3. Air quality

Good quality air is necessary for the herd’s welfare, and several factors influence it. These factors include gases, dust, microorganisms, management (particularly in intensive systems ), population density, herd size, floor quality, bedding, waste management, construction design, and ventilation system.

Adequate ventilation is directly related to thermal stress. As in places with adequate ventilation, there is more effective heat dissipation. Also, a well-ventilated location prevents the accumulation of NH 3 (ammonia) and effluent gases. Therefore, low air quality and ventilation are risk factors for respiratory diseases and discomfort.

4. Noises

Although animals are, in general, adaptable to different levels and types of noise, exposure of the herd to loud and sudden noises can lead to stress and fear reaction. Therefore, whenever possible, such noises should be minimized.

5. Nutrition

Regarding the herds’ nutritional requirements, the energy content, minerals, and vitamins that should be contained in the diet should be highlighted. These nutrients are the main factors determining growth, feeding efficiency, reproductive efficiency, and body composition. The herd must have access to the appropriate quantity and quality of balanced food, adapted qualitatively and quantitatively, and meets their physiological needs.

Knowledge about the herd’s proper body condition is essential, as keepers must not allow the body condition to exceed the acceptable range. In cases where supplementary feeding is not available, measures must be taken to avoid fasting.

Food and ingredients for animal feed must have the satisfactory quality to meet their nutritional needs. The livestock diet in an intensive production system contains a high proportion of grains (corn, sorghum, barley, grain by-products) and a lower proportion of roughage ( hay, straw, silage, husks, etc.). However, balance is essential since diets with insufficient roughage can contribute to abnormal oral behavior in finishing cattle, such as excessive tongue movement. As the amount of grains in the diet increases, the relative risk of cattle’s digestive problems also increases.

Imbalance in climatic factors, diet composition, sudden dietary changes, and digestive problems can negatively affect acidosis, tympanic, liver abscess, laminitis, and others. Therefore, keepers must understand the impacts of the imbalance of these factors and when it is appropriate to consult a specialized nutritionist for advice on the formulation of rations and feeding programs.

The entire herd needs adequate supply and access to palatable water, which meets their physiological needs and is free of contaminants harmful to their health.

6. Floor, beds, resting surfaces, and outdoor areas.

Is essential that all animals in the herd have access to a well-drained, comfortable place with enough space for everyone to lie down and rest at the same time. The management of the corral floor in intensive production systems can significantly impact the animal’s well-being, so it is essential to maintain a quality space for this purpose.

A slope must allow the water to drain away from the eaters and not accumulate in excess in corrals. These environments should be cleaned whenever possible (at least once after each production cycle). Concrete surfaces must be furrowed or textured appropriately to provide the proper balance for the animal.

7. Social environment

Several problems can be associated with the social environment of the herd, among them: exacerbated sexuality, intimidating behavior, a mixture of heifers and steers, feeding animals of different sizes and ages in the same pens, high density gave the population, insufficient space in the feeders, access insufficient water and mixture of bulls. Such factors are directly associated with stress and animal welfare, so these animals’ handling must take into account social interactions within groups.

The animal handler must understand the dominance hierarchy that develops within different groups and focus on high-risk animals, such as very young, ancient, small, or large in relation to the group, paying attention to harassment and behavior. Exacerbated sexuality, as well, must understand the risks of increased disputes between animals, particularly after mixing groups. Bovine animals that exhibit intimidating behavior or excessive breeding behavior should be separated from the group. Bovine animals with and without horns should not be mixed due to the risk of injury.

Adequate fences must be provided to minimize any animal welfare problems caused by inadequate mixing of cattle groups.

8. Population density

The population density must be managed so that the agglomeration does not negatively affect the herd’s normal behavior. This includes the ability to lie down freely, without the risk of injury, move freely around the corral, and have access to food and water. In herds where the population density is high, an increase in injuries may occur and negatively affect the growth rate, feed efficiency, and behavior. Changes in behavior may be related to locomotion, rest, food, and water intake.

If abnormal behavior is observed, corrective measures must be taken, such as reducing population density. In extensive systems, the population density must be adjusted according to the availability of food.

9. Protection from predators

The herd must be protected from predators whenever possible.

Losses in production without animal welfare

The hormonal imbalance caused by excessive stress directly affects weight gain, health, and lactation of sows in herds, but its consequences can go much further. Situations like these cause the animal to trigger an inflammatory cascade, diverting nutrients that would be used in production (meat and milk) to combat stressors, which ends up causing several other problems, such as greater susceptibility to diseases (low immunity) and a decrease in reproductive performance, which leads to significant economic losses.

Problems related to improper handling with bruises onboarding for slaughter lead to bruising on the carcasses. Areas of carcasses with bruises are condemned in the slaughterhouses, leading to considerable financial losses for the producer.


The lack of commitment to the welfare and the lack of care for animals in these phases can lead to low-quality meat production and massive financial losses. Just as there are many causes for stress in livestock, several solutions can be taken to reduce their negative impacts. In common with all of them, the fact that the producer must continually value animal welfare. Proceeding in this way, he will always be on the right path.

Animal welfare of farm animals

Image of the matrix and its offspring.  Animal welfare.

Animal welfare is a broad concept and is related to the conditions offered to farm animals to have the quality of life. An animal is in a good state of health if it is healthy, comfortable, well-fed, safe, able to express its normal behavior, and is not in pain, fear, or distress.

Animal welfare requires disease prevention, veterinary treatment, nutritional management, adequate facilities, and finally, a humane slaughter or euthanasia. The World Veterinary Association has adopted “Five Freedoms” considered requirements for animal welfare:

  1. Be free from hunger and thirst. That is, every animal must have access to adequate water and food according to its needs;
  2. Be free of discomfort, having an adequate environment that allows rest and shelter;
  3. Be free of pain, illness, or injury, and if necessary, receive the care and support indicated;
  4. Have the freedom to express the species’ natural behaviors, that is, conditions to follow their instinct in the environment in which they are inserted;
  5. Be free from fear and stress.


It has been scientifically proven that animals feel emotions in the face of the situations they are exposed to. Thus, the premise that animals are seen only as resources for production and profit has been questioned about the welfare perspective to achieve these objectives.

In addition to the moral aspect, ensuring an environment with less stress on animals generates a better quality product and food. It is necessary to pay attention to genetics, quality of facilities, bioclimatology, and all other factors involved with the quality of life, always thinking about the animal species in question.

For a long time, it was believed that animal welfare and high productivity could not go together. Still, studies have shown that animal management with suffering and stress hurts the quality and productivity of food and increases the incidence of disease. However, it is known that the increase in animal welfare can lead to increased costs for the producer, so it is essential to make use of new technologies aimed at increasing production and also providing a satisfactory degree of animal welfare, always emphasizing that a product of superior quality will be more valued in the market.

Consumers’ view of animal welfare

There is a social tendency towards greater awareness of animal welfare and the quality of their food. They prioritize means of production that minimize or avoid chemical or hormonal treatments while preserving human health, in addition to more humanized animal management techniques. This reflects a conflict between animals and humans’ interests, and it is up to society to make this choice.

Consumers who choose and “can choose” by paying more for a product that adds the ethical component will lead ranchers to eliminate the adoption of stressful breeding techniques for animals. Even if the cost of production is higher than the market value will also be. There is a part of the population, mainly related to the international market, that is willing to consume superior quality products and come from a production system that takes into account ethical and environmental issues.

Animal welfare facilities and management

The factors related to stress during animal management are genetics, individual differences, and previous experiences. These stressors can reduce weight gain, poor reproductive performance, reduced resistance to diseases, and, therefore, a product of inferior quality.

The habitat in which the animal is inserted also interferes with its stress; for example, pens with an inadequate structure generate negative influence. Well-structured and planned pens, considering animal behavior principles, are safer, more efficient, and less stressful.

Drinking troughs and troughs of the right size, fans that allow good airflow to grid floors that do not damage feet and hooves are technologies present in the equipment to provide and preserve animal comfort.

Trough protected from rain and with a roof for animal welfare

Another stressor that deserves to be highlighted is the warm environments. That’s why practices are emerging to reduce such discomfort. Simple practices, such as adequate water supply and animals’ access to shade, are the first steps that must be considered.

Environmental enrichment

Some current intensive farming systems, mainly poultry and pigs, use high-density production methods and management methods that aim to reduce costs without considering the welfare of the animals. In these systems, animals cannot express their natural behavior, leading to frustration and aggression.

For these cases, there is conduct to improve animal welfare known as “environmental enrichment,” which consists of introducing improvements in confinement, of making the environment more suitable to the animals’ behavioral needs. These improvements consist of placing objects, conditions, and materials for comfort. Some examples of this behavior are placing straw on the floor, the use of farrowing cages for the sows, with enough space for the matrix to turn around, among other practices that aim to make the habitat as suitable as possible.

Oxen in confinement

Ensure quality nutrition

Nutrition is one of the practices that deserve more prominence about animal welfare. The offer of a balanced diet with the necessary nutrients is essential for the final product’s quality. This is because the quality of the food is directly related to the digestibility of the animals. The greater its digestibility, the greater its food efficiency, that is, its ability to convert nutrients into a quality product. Also, a good diet ensures more vigor and health, reducing the need for medications.

Maintain sanitary status

The health of animals is an indispensable prerequisite. The vaccination must be up to date, and diseases should be treated as soon as possible. Sick animals should be immediately isolated from herds and herds and treated separately. The property must be clean and controlled by zoonoses and the employees and must be adequately healthy and dressed.

Invest in team training and quality

Well-informed employees are more efficient and make a positive contribution to animal husbandry. They must know the particularities of the species they deal with and know acceptable management practices.


Even if the management of the breeding aiming at the animal welfare leads to an increase in costs for the producer, it must put the benefits in the balance. Currently, there is a tendency for consumers to increasingly value goods produced ethically and sustainably and are willing to invest in this idea. The application of these practices leads to higher quality products. Thus, a producer that invests in animal welfare is also investing in its profit.

Boi Gordo and Commodities Futures Market: 7 basic precautions

Sunset with ox

There are 7 necessary precautions in the Future Market of Boi Gordo and Agricultural Commodities that producers and chain agents should be aware of. Many people have used the Commodities and Futures Exchange (BM&F) to protect their agricultural operations. However, we often see some confusion in their goals. BM&F is a market that can generate significant, high-risk gains/losses when used as speculation. It is widespread for people to enter these markets, focusing on using their commercial intuition in the sector to seek to profit from speculation. Many end up being frustrated because the future market does not always react as expected and generates losses, fear, and fear.

Before we address this article’s purpose, let’s clarify what a speculative transaction and a hedge transaction is.

Speculator: The agent (individuals/investment funds/companies) seeks to use the future market to seek results with the asset’s directional movement. These agents are not seeking to protect the outcome of a physical asset (ox, grain, etc.), but only to profit from the asset’s direction. For example: if someone buys an ox contract on the stock exchange, he expects prices to rise, and he can sell this more expensive contract a few days later, profiting from this movement. He has no real investments in the sector. He has no oxen in the pasture and is not interested in the ox market but the prices’ direction.

Hedger: are agents (companies, trading, rural producers, etc.) connected with the commodity’s production chain. These people seek the Exchange to protect the profitability of their businesses from market fluctuations. They are not focused only on the direction of prices but on protecting the profitability of their physical operations of buying and selling the commodity. They produce and have a commodity that will be ready at any given time in the physical market and will be bought/sold by the next link in the production chain. These agents have real investments in the sector (farms, cattle, industries, warehouses, etc.) and should be made profitable by physical operations, which is the main focus.

This article will explain why it is so common to fall into these errors and the risks involved with these actions.

7 primary care in the Oxfam and Commodities Futures Market.

  1. Enter the Futures Market to hedge and become a speculator.

This is the first of 7 necessary cares to use in the futures market. It is very common to find people looking for BM&F to do hedge transactions, but they act with more speculator characteristics than hedgers.

One of the futures market characteristics is the daily adjustment of positions through a deposit in the broker’s current account. This is an adjustment of the gain/loss position between the agents, who must deposit the difference of the position assumed on the Exchange the next day after the day’s close.

Example of daily adjustment: a fat cattle contract was purchased at R $ 100 / @ on day 1. If the market rises to R $ 105 / @ on day 2, this agent will receive R $ 5 / @ in your brokerage account on day 3. We have to remember that for every contract purchased, there is a seller. Therefore, another agent sold this contract and deposited R $ 5 / @ with the broker to cover his position.

This movement is common and also occurs in the physical, but without the transfer of money. The producer/industry/trading arrobas also fluctuate with market variation, and the loss/gain on the part of these agents also occurs daily. The difference is that it only occurs financially in the act of commercialization and not in day-to-day operations like futures.

This simple financial characteristic affects the cash flow of hedgers, who already have cash committed to the operation and need to make available cash to cover adjustments. This causes two immediate effects for those who are not prepared to act as a hedger.

Risk of people who are not prepared to hedge:

a) become speculators; due to these operations’ characteristics to generate results very quickly, and without investments, it easily turns hedgers into speculators.

b) giving up trading in the future market; as there is a demand for cash and the need for planning and preparation to operate in the future market, many potential hedgers in the chain end up being left out of this tool. Not enjoying its benefits and being exposed to market fluctuations.

Believe that the Futures Market is a price forecasting tool. Often, when speaking or in our Webinars, we are asked about the future market’s expectations as if they were a certainty of the market. A few days later, the future market takes on a new trend, and people are lost with these fluctuations.

We understand that the future market is not a forecasting tool; there is no analysis model behind the quotes presented. They are simply a reaction to an expectation of the agents acting at that moment or new entrants. It must be remembered that for the same number of people who managed to capture the price trend, other people are betting against or making mistakes in their analysis.

To exemplify the analysis’s error potential, let’s look at these examples, remembering that they have been repeated many times over the years.

1st Example

Looking at the figure below, we can see that on March 17, 2020, the futures market (blue line) pointed to an amount of R $ 176 for October 2020 maturity. In less than 6 months, this forecast rose to R $ 254 / @. Also, note that he did not pay a premium on the Esalq Index (green line). That is, there is no benefit to fatten the ox for October. Practically, Bolsa’s projections were pushed by the Esalq do Boi Gordo Index throughout the year.

This is not a new fact. Several examples throughout the history of the futures market demonstrate that this is not a tool for predicting prices. However, it is an excellent tool for generating well-founded business opportunities. Just imagine a person who made a purchase transaction at the beginning of the market turn, which assumed an upward trend generating gains in the transaction.

3. Follow the mass movement without being based on sound analysis.

The mass movement is known in the stock, futures, and options market. The movement that a stock market asset (stocks, futures market, etc.) reacts to a new trend (high/low) with great force, causing the entry of several speculators seeking to benefit from the movement. It is also reinforced by the “losers stop” mentioned above.

This behavior can generate enormous profits for those who have positioned themselves in the right trend before skyrocketing. And it can be used by four types of market players.

Market players

  1. opportunists

They are the best-informed agents on the market. They are usually equipped with useful analysis and fundamentals. They are continually looking for assets with great potential for reaction and begin to position themselves slowly in the market when the fundamentals of a previous trend begin to weaken and take on a new direction with great potential. These agents have clear loss/gain objectives. They do not bother to lose a little, as long as their premises continue to be confirmed. They are also the first to start making gains, usually at the end of the mass movement, when losers are entering.

  • the smart

They are people who have good relationships and can see the movement of opportunists. They are often graphic analysts with great experience and intuition. Generally, they start to enter the market after the beginning of the new trend, but before the mass movement. In this way, they can capture a large part of the potential gain of the trend. Here it is essential to distinguish between those who are experienced and those who claim to be. Experts have clear rules and objectives; the inexperienced are lost along the way, as they have not defined the objectives and rules.

  • followers

They are usually following a market movement, a tip, a news story, or a rumor. They already have a little experience in the market and are in the middle of the mass movement. They are the cause of mass movements and cause significant reactions. They often enter after being published in important media and are already behind in the movement. Entering the market at this time, there is a significant risk of loss and less potential for gain. The opportunists and the smart ones are already alert to check when the mass movement starts to lose strength when the bullish potential runs out. Their objectives have already been reached, and they are looking for the moment to realize their positions at the end of the mass movement.

  • losers

In general, they are new to the market and have not sought qualifications, training, or experienced professionals’ support. Sometimes they win, but sometimes they lose, and they fail to generate long-term results. After the rumor or news has spread, they enter the market, seeking the trumpeted gains in the media. They often follow the tips of inexperienced financial institution managers or brokers. They have no objective and have not set goals for gain or loss. They enter at the end of the mass movement, and, if they are lucky, they end up capturing some market gain. If you are in this position, it is that moment where you hear from everyone around you that the market is going to rise much more or that it is the end of the world …… at this moment, get out of this medium and look for someone experienced.

Never imagine that each of these agents is always a winner, they all lose and make mistakes, but the most experienced ones have clear rules and objectives. They have stories of gains and losses.

4. Not having a result goal to be achieved.

This is where we define the difference between opportunists and smart followers and losers in the futures market. The first two have clear rules and goals to be achieved.


The Hedger

The hedger is focused on profiting from its physical operation and uses the future market tools to achieve its goals. Know the market tool and the chain where it operates. It knows its long/short position in the physical market and uses the futures market to protect profits from positions taken in the physical. It does not make positions more extensive than the position assumed in the physical market. Uses the physical and futures markets to seek opportunities. Sometimes, you need to load some open positions to take advantage of them.

These professionals are aligned with the company’s long and short-term results objectives. They know that they need to maintain an operating result to make the investments made in physical operations profitable. They know the company’s indebtedness and have the responsibility to generate results to pay them. As well as generating profitability for shareholders. In other words, the focus is on profit from the activity, and they do not bother to pay adjustment if the operation is exceeding their goals.

The hedger seeks its opportunities in the production chain, buying inputs or raw materials at the ideal time and negotiating their production with customers. The futures market is just another trading tool to achieve your goals.

The Speculator

The speculator is focused on making a financial profit on the position taken. It does not aim to profit from a physical commodity. He knows the sector in which he is operating and has good relationships. It has a clear objective of the market’s potential for gain and rules for losses if the market moves against its premises.

These professionals work in different markets to pursue their goals. As they do not have a physical chain and know that specific markets can stay with stable prices or with low volatility for a long time, they are obliged to seek the opportunity in markets showing volatility. They want to win fast and get out of position.

Those who do not have their goals and rules are likely to get lost in the swings’ physical and futures markets, trying to win in both markets. Candidates are likely to participate in the “losers stop.”

5. Use only graphical analysis to make decisions.

Graphical analyzes are well-known analysis models in the futures and stock markets. They perform an analysis of the price movement of the selected asset. They seek to capture the change in the direction of prices, trends, and mass movements.

These tools are exciting, as they use statistical models to capture these changes. Opportunists and smart ones usually use these tools to find their opportunities. The difference is that opportunists also use fundamentalist analysis in their analysis, reinforcing graphical analysis’s power. The smart ones get experience with some graphic tools and look for opportunities in the market.

The significant risk of using only graphical analyzes is that they also emit dubious signals. When the market is stable or changing fundamentals slowly, they do not capture this information. Making a simplistic analysis of price movements only and not of fundamentals can send out the wrong signals. For this reason, they demand a great deal of experience to capture the signals emitted by the prices of the assets.

Another challenge is that several analysis tools and some work well on some assets and are not good on others. This forces the graphic analyst to test various tools for each market and, with his experience, to choose the ones that generate the best results for his objectives. Generally, more than one model is used to analyze the same asset.

6. Do not analyze the commodity’s production chain. 

They work with a sectoral analysis. They know the production chains and their behavior (competitors, substitutes, customers, and suppliers). They are attentive to external factors (exchange rates, crises, etc.) and how they impact chains. They have data to analyze the impact of climate, supply/demand, and the forces that influence these chains.

They do not have long-term goals. As I mentioned earlier, many of the agents that are operating in the futures market do not have long-term goals. They enter the futures market to protect their physical operations (hedge) and end up becoming speculators. They did not plan and are surprised by the daily adjustments.

On the other hand, those who organize themselves and focus on their goals start to obtain significant results. I will cite the example of an Agromove customer who aligned his market objectives with the company’s long-term objectives.

Note: for reasons of confidentiality, we will change the names of the company and people.

In early 2020, “Agropecuária 3A’s” became a customer of Agromove. They had already worked with the future market, but the focus was often on protecting themselves from the “end of the world,” as Dr. Renato (owner) used to say. The objective was to avoid a market disaster.

The farm works with breeding and fattening in confinement, with a volume of purchases and annual sales above 5,000 heads, in addition to the need to purchase inputs for containment.


The company’s history showed a few future market operations. Often, when the market had already fallen, they put options operations (buy put off the market) to avoid a greater disaster. This operation (price insurance), for those who do not know, protects the producer from a fall in the market if market prices fall below the option value.

Sometimes, to make these options cheaper, they sold call options ( call out of the market). This operation is known as a “fence,” and the producer receives a fee for the option’s sale. It is an operation where you establish a limit of gain and a limit of loss, with the advantage of having a very cheap cost to do this operation. However, it limits your gain if the market goes up again.

For example: if the futures market is priced at R $ 200 / @, this operation could establish a loss limit below R $ 190.00 and your gain above R $ 210.00 / @, without having a cost for this. . If the market falls below R $ 190 / @, the producer receives the difference in his brokerage account. And only if it rises above R $ 210 / @ it will sell its products on the market and deposit what is above this value in the brokerage. Among these values, the producer is at market risk.

The Treasury result was that, in large fluctuations, the market changed direction, rising above the option limit (R $ 210.00 / @), and they ended up not benefiting from the increase. Also, they suffered from the effect of high replacement.


When we started working with Dr. Renato, the first activity was to define the plan to obtain results in 2020. This involved knowing all the buying and selling activities outside the gate. Understand the number of products and raw materials they would have to buy, when, and the estimated values. As well as understand when sales would occur and what the profit target is.

Initial goals:

  • Replacement: R $ 1,900 / cab. from October.
  • Sales: above R $ 115 / @ starting in July.
  • Corn for feedlot: below R $ 42 / bag in SP (equivalent to R $ 32 / bag in the Fazenda region).
  • Expected Operating Profit (EBIT): R $ 1,600,000.00.
  • Rate of return: 2.4% per month.

In less than 30 days (Feb./2020), news of the coronavirus arrived in Brazil, and many doubts about the budget and goals. The market continued to bring alarming news about the impact of the pandemic. In April, futures market prices for October maturing fell from R $ 215 / @ to less than R $ 180 / @ in just 20 days.

Our goals are over! Dr. Renato called me, asking if we should not take out the “end of the world” disaster insurance !!


We sat down, reviewed the scenario with the fundamentals of the physical market, and concluded that it was an opportunity to protect part of the replacement. There was no basis for the market to continue to fall !!

We set up a purchase position at BM&F of 30% of the total need for animals for replacement, with a market value of R $ 192 / @. A few days later, the market fell a little more and reached R $ 180 / @. We were losing R $ 10 / @ in our position !!

In less than 20 days, the market returned to R $ 200.00 / @, and we closed the position with a profit of R $ 30 thousand. We believed that the market could rise further, but there was still a lot of uncertainty, and we decided to guarantee profits.

As of July / 2020, the market rose above R $ 215.00 / @, and we started our sales strategies in the futures market and options for the future.


Strategy management is the essential part of the market. An important lesson is that:


We have not yet finalized operations, but we already have more than 70% of the strategy completed. Below is a summary of the projections until the time of publication of this article.

Current result projection:

  • Expected Operating Profit (EBIT): R $ 2,200,000.00. The minimum value of the options guarantees this EBIT projection. If the market continues to rise, we still have room to improve results.
  • Replacement: R $ 2.300,00 / cab. This EBIT already considers an increase of R $ 1,000,000.00 in the replacement cost to be purchased. We are taking advantage of the higher result this year to dilute the high replacement cost and start 2021 with a cheaper inventory.
  • Rate of return: 3.0% per month.
  • Stock exchange adjustments are already considered in the result: negative R $ 500 thousand. This value represents less than 2% of the company’s revenue or a loss of R $ 3.50 / @ sold. If we consider that the market varied between the high and low R $ 66 / @, this adjustment value is insignificant.
  • The projections for production and productivity did not change during the period.


To conclude this article, we will make some critical observations.

1st – Don’t lose your cool with market fluctuations. Focus on the fundamentals and goals. Note that we were calm to analyze the fundamentals and explore the opportunities despite the significant uncertainties that occurred throughout the year. Opportunists work with goals !!

2nd – We are not concerned with needing to change the strategy, but with improving the result. Identifying opportunities and managing the strategy is the essence of a good manager.

3rd – Although we initially paid for adjustments, as soon as we realized that the market was more robust, we changed the strategy. The good hedger is focused on the result of the operation and not on the future market !!

4th – Note that there was no change in productivity, only in the market in the entire projected scenario. In other words, productivity did not affect the scenario at any time. There were changes in diets, but it was not the biggest challenge. Today’s technologies allow producers to correct production challenges quickly.

Lesson: the future market is not a useful tool for predicting prices, but it can bring great opportunities for the “opportunists” who are watching.

Beef Cattle: Everything the farmer needs to know

Photo extensive beef cattle production system

Producing quality meat in large quantities has become one of the main challenges for ranchers worldwide. Many advances have already been achieved due to improved genetic improvement techniques, management, and beef cattle nutrition. These techniques have made animals much more efficient at converting nutrients received via diet into the meat. And it has been helping beef cattle to thrive worldwide.

The term beef cattle refers to the rearing of sheep, goats, and cattle capable of producing meat. Although sheep and goat farming are essential activities, the most massive production is still due to cattle exploitation. Beef cattle is a widespread and well-established activity worldwide. It is characterized by the creation of cattle to produce meat and its derivatives. Several essential characteristics have made this activity unique and responsible for improving economic rates in several countries. In addition to being an essential source of animal protein for the population.

In this text, we will talk a little about the main characteristics of this activity. Understand a little why today it is one of the flagships of the economy of several countries. And yet, it is one of the great hopes to supply the need for food for the coming years for a population that grows every day.

  • The largest beef cattle producers in the world
  • The production of beef cattle in Brazil in numbers
  • Most used beef cattle breeds in Brazil
    • Nellore
    • Tabapua
    • Brahman
    • Guzera
  • After all, who is responsible for producing beef cattle?
  • The breeding system in beef cattle is key to productivity
    • Extensive System
    • Semi-Intensive System
    • Intensive System
  • Management is differentiated in each production phase
    • Create
    • Recreates
    • Termination
  • Nutritional and food management
  • Health aspects
  • Aspects of animal welfare and behavior
  • Adequacy of facilities to the needs of animals
  • Staff education and training

The largest beef cattle producers in the world

India, Brazil, China, the United States, and the European Union have the largest cattle herds globally. In India, it is expected to find the largest herd of cattle due to its culture. But having large herds is not always synonymous with highly productive and efficient herds.

Despite having a smaller herd than India, Brazil appears as the second-largest meat producer in the world. According to the USDA (North American Department of Agriculture), there is an expectation of 63 million tons of beef in 2019, 1% more than in 2018. And Brazil has a prominent place in this ranking. The projections for 2018 showed that the country should reach the number of 232.35 million heads of cattle, emphasizing the creation of Zebu cattle. For 2019, there is the hope of a 3% increase in production and 5% in exports ( USDA, 2018) of red meat.

The production of beef cattle in Brazil in numbers

In Brazil, 80% of beef cattle are Zebu cattle. The success and expansion of these animals in the national territory was mainly due to their adaptation in tropical climates and made the country one of the world leaders in meat production. With an emphasis on Mato Grosso, the Midwest region has the largest heads of about 30 million animals ( IBGE, 2016). Despite this, the northern region of the country deserves its due mention, as, in recent years, there has been a massive jump in meat production, and today, it represents around 22% of the national herd.

Most used beef cattle breeds in Brazil

It is possible to produce quality meat in large quantities from north to south of the country. From the states of São Paulo to the Rio Grande do Sul, most animals are of Taurine breeds such as Charolais, Angus, Bradford, and their crosses with Zebu breeds.

However, the predominance of Zebu cattle is undeniable and deserves to be highlighted. They are more rustic animals, translating into lower nutritional requirements and more excellent resistance to diseases than European cattle. The main breeds produced in the country are:


It is the most produced breed of beef cattle in Brazil. They are animals that have adapted very well to the country’s climatic conditions. And those who invested more money and research in genetic improvement and understanding of their nutritional requirements.

Nelore Beef Cattle Photo: Miguel Rudes
They are animals that stand out in livestock production due to their maternal ability and high fertility. 
It is the only breed of zebu developed in Brazil. 
And it has been receiving a lot of attention from farmers and researchers in recent years.
Tabapuã Beef cattle.  Photo: Associação Goiana do Tabapuã.


They are animals that have excellent feed conversion (kilos of meat produced per kilos of food consumed). Females have a short calving interval compared to other breeds and are excellent milk producers. This results in weaned calves with good weight gain.

Brahman beef cattle.  Photo: Casa Branca Agropastoril.


They are animals of double aptitude (cut and milk). Because the calves are low birth weight, females have an easy calving. In addition, this breed is the genetic basis for many industrial crossbreeding of zebu beef cattle in the country.

Guzerá Beef Cattle Photo: José Maria Matos

After all, who is responsible for producing beef cattle?

As previously mentioned, meat production involves a very complex and dynamic system managed by a rancher. He is responsible for thinking about the day-to-day life of the farm and has a long list of tasks such as:

  • motivate employees
  • calculate production costs
  • buy inputs
  • assess the efficiency of animals
  • interpret data together with consultants (Zootechnicians, Veterinarians, and Agronomists)
  • evaluate the main zootechnical and economic indexes of the property

The role of the rancher is fundamental to the beef cattle chain.

The breeding system in beef cattle is key to productivity.

There are three production systems where beef cattle can be allocated for their exploitation. 

Extensive System

The extensive system is characterized by animals’ creation in large extensions of pastures with little inputs, equipment, and labor. In this regard, Brazil stands out, as around 75% of its bovine herd is produced in this system. The main advantage of this is the low cost of production. The big problem is the seasonality imposed by the adverse climate conditions in the country. During the water season, food is abundant in the field. During the drought, the pasture becomes of low nutritional quality and scarce, leading the animals to lose weight, which increases the time for slaughter and the activity’s profitability. Rising land costs also hamper the continuity of extensive activity. 

Extensive beef cattle production system.

Semi-Intensive System

This system can be applied in different situations. The most common is the termination of the animals. Thus, cattle raised in the field receive reinforcement of food in the trough. Supplementation can be either energetic (ground corn or citrus pulp, for example) or bulky (mainly corn silage ). This will accelerate weight gain and improve the profitability of the rancher. Another situation in which semi-confinement is widely used is when there is a lack of forage or low nutritional value, which happens in periods of drought. The diets used must be formulated following the same principles as those used for confined cattle.

Photo semi-intensive beef cattle production system.  Photo: Rafael Anselmi

Intensive System

This breeding system is considered the most modern and brings the best results for production efficiency. This system is used mainly for finishing animals and results in well-finished carcasses, with good deposition of subcutaneous and intramuscular fat. A disadvantage of this system is the high cost of implementation and production costs since the system is guided by the purchase of inputs such as corn and soybean meal and animal replacement. Despite this, high levels of productivity and the opportunity to slaughter animals all year round made this system a success and helped increase red meat production.

It is essential to mention that the breeding and recreating phases are carried out in extensive and semi-intensive Brazil systems. Termination can be carried out either in these two systems or in confinement. What will decide this is, mainly, the price of corn, the potential for appreciation of live cattle, and their relationship with the price of live cattle when livestock will enter the feedlot. For example, when the price of a bag of corn falls, this is an incentive for ranchers to fill their feedlots. Otherwise, the animals are finished on pasture or in semi-confinement.

Photo confinement / intensive beef cattle production system.  Photo: Rafael Anselmi.

Management is differentiated in each production phase.

As previously mentioned, beef cattle’s production cycle is divided into breeding, rearing, and finishing. Let’s talk a little bit about each one.


This phase extends from birth until the weaning of the calves that lasts six to eight months. The mothers play a significant role since part of the offspring’s nutrients are the mothers’ milk. Animals can reach between 25 to 50% of their adult weight during this period, and this is due to the high efficiency of the offspring that result in optimal feed conversions. Ideally, these animals should be weaned, weighing between 5.5 and 7 arrobas.

In this phase, the main challenges are to reduce mortality rates, which are around 15%. This occurs due to the inefficient healing of the umbilicus and colostrum (secretion produced by the cow in the first two to three days after calving that has antibodies, essential for the calf’s excellent development) poorly performed. Unfortunately, this low colostrum is often associated with the mother’s lack of maternal ability, especially first calves.

Breeds beef cattle.  Photo: Carlos Lopes.


After calves are weaned, the withers enter the growing or growing phase, which will extend until puberty. This phase lasts an average of 12 months, and the animals reach around 10 to 12 arrobas. This period’s objective is to exploit the genetic potential of the steers to the maximum to obtain animals with good structure and uniform carcasses, of course, in the shortest possible time. This is the phase in which the diet has the most significant influence on the development. Therefore, it is necessary to use the right supplementation strategies to avoid adult animals with low production rates.

Breeds beef cattle.  Photo: José Maria Matos.


This phase, also known as fattening, is carried out on pasture or in confinement. In Brazil, animals are traditionally finished on pasture with no supplementation. Due to forage seasonality and higher maintenance requirements for animals kept in this breeding system, they are slaughtered older and have smaller carcasses. Contrary to this, cattle finished in feedlot achieve better carcass finishing (deposition of subcutaneous and intramuscular fat), depending on the high energy diet they receive. The cattle remain an average of 80 to 90 days in confinement and reach between 16 and 18 arrobas.

Finishing beef cattle Photo: José Maria Matos

Animals at different stages of life and in different rearing systems respond to the management developed on animals. Each phase and system has different needs for balancing diets and food supply, health, and well-being. Not to mention the reproductive management carried out in the sows.

Nutritional and food management

Beef cattle raised on pastures are more demanding in maintenance energy since they need to travel to capture the field food. The most widely used tropical forages in Brazil have low nutritional value, mainly in energy and protein. Combined with pasture seasonality, cattle raised on pasture have low weight gains and longer time to slaughter. This problem can be partially corrected when supplementation with energetic foods such as ground corn and protein such as soybean meal. Already in confinement, although the results in weight gain are better and if we have the opportunity to obtain heavier and better-finished carcasses, there is a great challenge that is to prevent animals from suffering from metabolic diseases and also the seasonality of the price of the inputs and the replacement of the animals.

Aspects of animal welfare and behavior

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recommends five principles that must be observed within the farms so that it can be affirmed that aspects of well-being are being respected, they are: 1) avoid hunger, thirst or malnutrition; 2) avoid fear and anguish; 3) avoid physical and thermal discomfort; 4) avoid pain, injuries and diseases and 5) create conditions for animals to express their natural behavior. These requirements tend to increase as Brazil increases the proportion of animals exported and serves more demanding markets.

Adequacy of facilities to the needs of animals

It is necessary that all the animals, such as corrals, pens, pastures, stables, are clean and in the ideal storage capacity. All of these areas must be provided with shade, which can be artificial with shades or natural, from the use of trees.

Staff education and training

This is a fundamental issue in the sense of seeing the quality of beef cattle breeding. The training of employees, regardless of their role within the farm, is essential for animals’ performance and to avoid accidents at work. Engaged people are responsible for the success of the farm. To work with animals, it is necessary to understand their behavior and, through rational management, try to meet the needs to express their natural behaviors.

The beef cattle industry is quite complicated and requires trained professionals to be ahead of the flocks. With the aid of new breeding techniques, genetic improvement, nutrition, and optimization of the facilities, it was possible to increase the efficiency of meat production and the improvement of quality aspects. New challenges still need to be overcome, but the need to increase food production means that new technologies are launched every day. Therefore, much study and dedication are still needed to improve beef cattle’s productivity indexes in Brazil and worldwide.