India’s massive cattle herd is primarily due to the sacred role that cattle have in the Hindu religion. Indeed, much of the production of beef in India is from the large buffalo herd (carabeef), which provides a very lean source of protein.
Despite having over 300 million head of cattle, India’s beef production in 2012 is forecast to only reach 3.265 million MT. This compares to Australia’s forecast of 2.18 million MT with 28.8 million head.
In global markets, Indian beef is comparatively very cheap and predominantly shipped to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
The growth in demand from these markets in recent years has helped to fuel the rise in shipments, with exports between 2007 and 2011 rising 62 percent.
According to USDA forecasts, by the end of this year Brazil’s cattle inventories are expected to reach nearly 204 million head, and 2012 beef production has been forecast to rise by 2 percent.
Increased exports, continued growth in domestic demand and higher consumer purchasing power are expected to factor into the growth in beef production.
Annual live cattle exports have been forecast to rise, with increased shipments expected to Venezuela and Suriname due to competitive prices.
But despite a drop in cattle exports in 2011, the Brazilian meat packing industry officially submitted a request for a 30 percent export tax on live cattle exports to the federal government.
Meanwhile, an animal welfare disaster resulting in the death of more than half the 5,000 cattle on board a Brazilian-owned live export ship bound for Egypt in March has prompted renewed calls to ban the live cattle marine export industry.
Global animal rights groups described the incident as one of the worst shipboard disasters the live export industry has seen in many years.
Ventilation problems on the recently converted livestock vessel, MV Gracia Del Mar, reportedly caused the deaths of more than 2,500 cattle on board after the ship left South America for Egypt in late February as the ship was anchored in the Red Sea for over a week.
The specially built live cattle export vessel was refused port access in a number of countries including Egypt, where the cattle were originally meant to be offloaded.
No reason was given for the refusal, but speculation is that concerns over possible foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) contamination caused animal health authorities to not allow offloading.
Animal rights groups say the disaster was another example of the inherent risks of transporting animals by sea. Nine years ago 5,000 Australian sheep perished on board the MV Cormo Express after country after country refused to allow it to berth.
A rope and a good sturdy branch are no longer an option or an effective deterrent for stealing cows in the Canadian province of Alberta.
Cattle rustling still occurs in the not-so-wild West, with more than 6,000 head stolen annually by thieves prowling the prairies. According to a report from Meat Trading Daily, with beef prices soaring, the number of animals vanishing is on the rise.
“If you do the math, I’ve lost pretty close to half a million bucks, when you figure cows that would have calves and so on and so forth,” said Aaron Brower, a rancher and victim of repeated episodes of rustling.
“Since 2004, when we first started noticing it, there have been 25 calves here, 30 bred cows there. I’m at 164 losses so far, with 44 head this year alone.”
Stories like Brower’s are the reason Canada’s Western Stock Grower’s Association announced the reward for nabbing Alberta cattle thieves will immediately increase by up to 5,000 percent.
The old reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of cattle crooks wasn’t cutting it. Therefore, the association is establishing the new reward, which will be doled out through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Crime Stoppers.
Brower, a director with the stock growers, says he suspects Alberta’s rustlers are well organized, snatching up breeding cows and calves for sale out of province.
But modern agriculture crime still relies on old-fashioned methods and Brower says it would take some traditional thieving tactics to round up cattle on his remote ranch, south of Medicine Hat.
“It’s pretty rough terrain out here, only one road in and out and I’m pretty sure they’re not using it,” said Brower. “They’re probably going in on horses – probably horse and dog, I would assume.”
Clint Peck is the owner of Global Beef Systems, LLC.