Quality Cattle Helps Reduce Poverty

A challenging project in the Eastern Xingu region of  the State of Mato Grosso (Brazil) managed to alleviate poverty in one of the poorest municipalities and to protect the environment in a region that was once famous for its deforestation.

In partnership with ABCZ – Associação Brasileira dos Criadores de Zebu (Brazilian Association of Zebu Breeders) and with Aliança da Terra

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Xavante Marawaitsede Chief Damião and his herd.

Many families in the region used to sell their plots after 7 to 10 years to move deeper into the forest in order to continue their cycle of subsistence living. By improving livestock productivity in the settlement of Santo Antonio da Mata Azul,  a community of more than 300 families, and in Maraiwatsede Indigenous Reserve in Xingu river basin, the Farmer Support Programme (FSP) used the beef market to inch these families towards a better future.

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Zebu cattle bred to “cabeceira”, not genetically controlled bulls.

During the three-year implementation period of this project, the main achievement was the genetic improvement of the herd through AI (artificial insemination) and sire sales. The project partnered with ABCZ – Associação Brasileira dos Criadores de Zebu (Brazilian Association of Zebu Cattle Breeders), who promoted the first Sire Sales Event in the region. This was a very important and relevant (pro-genetics) event for the region because it facilitated the acquisition of high quality genetic bulls by local producers, enabling them to improve cattle quality.

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Native pasture are flooded for part of the year.

Breeding for better results

The project achieved 6,732 artificial inseminations during this three-year project. With an average pregnancy rate of 35%, more than 2,500 calves were born. In addition, an extra 1,280 calves were born from natural breeding as the result of the purchase of the “Pure Origin” bulls.

Through this project, calves with improved genetics had a better quality and a weight increase of 20% per Nelore calf, resulting in an 80% average increase in their sales price: from USD250 to USD450 per calf. This had a huge impact on regional economics. Before smallholders used to be exploited by price-setting middlemen who had a near monopoly. Now with the increase in opportunities this vicious circle of middleman paying whatever price was broken. Ranchers are earning more money now, alleviating poverty.

The Xavante cattle herd had a 5% increase, towards 671 animals and 202 calves. Throughout the project time, the field team monitored and assisted during the vaccinations and health care of all animals. Overall the field team provided technical assistance in animal husbandry and herd health to all smallholders benefiting from this initiative.

Access to financial services

An important bottleneck for the small-scale producers turned out to be the limited access to credit lines by settlers to improve their productive infrastructure, mostly due to the absence of clear land titles. Consequently, project staff managed to negotiate and agree on a credit line extension to Mata Azul smallholders with Banco do Brasil.

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An environmental diagnosis was concluded on more than 270,000 hectares in the region, which consists of an important buffer between cultivated areas and the Araguaia State Park. The region is considered as one of the most important ecological sanctuaries in Brazil, located in the transition zone between the Amazon and the Cerrado with highly diverse fauna and flora. During part of the year, pastures are flooded, giving way to special grass species.

Knowledge and experience acquired by these producers will be carried on to other community members. The Mata Azul Association is now a member of the Grupo de Trabalho de Pecuaria Sustentavel (the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Beef) and is leading the way for other small-scale producers to be well represented in the political arena.