Improving cattle production in Myanmar

More than 80% of people in Myanmar’s Central Dry Zone live in rural areas, with a large proportion of those reliant on smallholder agriculture to support their livelihoods. The Central Dry Zone is an important agricultural region with more than 60% of Myanmar’s sorghum, oil seeds, peas, onions, cotton and maize produced in Magway, Sagaing and Mandalay. Cattle are used to provide draught power, transportation, and manure to fertilise crops, and around half of Myanmar’s 15 million cattle are located in the Central Dry Zone. While less than 10% of households currently own a hand or 4-wheel tractor, Myanmar is undergoing significant transformation, and it is expected that mechanisation will quickly reduce the need for draught animals over the next decade. This transition from draught cattle to mechanisation has been accompanied by an increase in regional demand for beef.

Draught cattle in Myanmar. Photo credit: Di Mayberry.

If farmers in the Central Dry Zone follow the development path of farmers in rainfed areas of other countries such as Thailand and Cambodia, many of the farmers in the Central Dry Zone will replace their male draught cattle with cows to produce calves. This has the potential to substantially increase the number of beef cattle available for export as the Myanmar government updates policies relating to the sale and slaughter of cattle. However, this switch to beef production requires a significant change in the way farmers breed, grow and fatten cattle in the Central Dry Zone. This project will attempt to answer critical issues associated with this change and develop successful smallholder beef cattle production models that can be extended to farmers in the Central Dry Zone. The project will build on previous Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) research in the Dahat Pan project (AH/2011/054) that characterised current livestock production systems, identified several issues limiting cattle reproduction and growth rates, and began initial testing and evaluation of improved forages for livestock.

Our ACIAR funded project aims to improve cattle production in the Myanmar Central Dry Zone through improved animal nutrition, health and management. In consultation with local partners we developed four main objectives:

  • Identify the opportunities and constraints for smallholder farmers to develop a beef enterprise
  • Develop feeding systems to support breeding and growing cattle
  • Develop cattle health and management systems to meet farmer production goals
  • Use whole-farm modelling and participatory approaches to quantify potential impacts of improved forage and animal management packages on household livelihoods

This project supports the development of Central Dry Zone smallholder farmers in the Myanmar beef industry through improved forage-based feeding systems, animal health and animal management.

Partner Organisations:

  • University of Melbourne (Australia)
  • Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (Myanmar)
  • Yezin Agricultural University (Myanmar)
  • University of Veterinary Sciences (Myanmar)

Contact Di Mayberry or Alison Laing for more information.