Vietnam ought to convert ineffective rice cultivation areas into grass fields for raising beef cattle, since intensive livestock farming is significantly more profitable, Chairman of the Vietnam Animal Feed Association Le Ba Lich said.

He continued to say that while Vietnam is encountering difficulties in seeking rice export markets, it imports about 200,000 heads of cattle every year.

There are only 45,000 hectares of grass across the nation at present. Based on Australian models, raising one cattle requires one hectare of grass, and as such Vietnam is currently only able to feed 45,000 cattle, he added, well below the domestic demand.

Sharing the same view, Chairman of the Animal Livestock Association of Vietnam Nguyen Dang Vang said about 70 million tonnes of agricultural by-products like straw, bagasse, and corn stalk, which can be turned into animal feed, are already produced in the country each year. If each kilogramme of beef needs 6-7 kilograms of fodder, the country can produce one million tonnes of beef using only 20 million tonnes of by-products.

He urged the enhancement of agricultural residue processing to ensure fodder supply for livestock.

Another reason for underdeveloped beef cattle farming in Vietnam is that up to 54 percent of the cattle population is local unproductive breeds, according to the Department of Livestock Production (DLP) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Vietnam has previously crossed local cattle with the Sindhi breed to generate hybrids weighing 220 kilograms each. Vang said hybrids can weigh up to 330 kilograms each if new technology is applied and local cattle are crossed with such breeds as Angus or Droughtmaster.

DLP Director Hoang Thanh Van said under the Prime Minister’s Decision No. 50/2014/QD-TTg on assisting animal husbandry between 2015 and 2020, Vietnamese farmers will be supported with high-quality cattle sperm to hybridise their livestock. Cutting-edge fodder producing technology will also be transferred to make the best use of agricultural residues.

A number of domestic businesses have recognised the observable profitability of raising beef cattle. The DLP said the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group plans to rapidly develop its beef cattle herds in the Central Highlands provinces of Dak Lak, Gia Lai, and Kon Tum. In late 2014, the Daso Group’s Delta farm in Ho Chi Minh City imported nearly 1,800 cattle from Australia to raise. There has also been a growing number of farms with over 100 heads of cattle in the Central Highlands and eastern southern provinces.

The sector aims to raise the proportion of hybrid cattle to 70 percent and a beef output of 319,000 tonnes (equivalent to nearly 5.6 million heads) by 2020. It will also develop small- and medium-sized livestock areas in suitable grass-growing regions such as northern mountainous areas, northern and central coastal areas, and the Central Highlands.

In 2014, Vietnam had about 5.16 million heads of cattle with a beef output of 297,400 tonnes – a 4.2 percent increase from a year earlier. It imported roughly 300 million USD worth of live cattle and 50 million USD worth of frozen beef.-VNA