Brazil has become home to the world’s second-largest population of cattle following a decade of rapid expansion. Data on the Gro Intelligence platform enables users to track the Brazilian cattle industry’s continuing growth, broken down for each of the country’s 5,000 municipalities, at a time when global meat trade flows are increasing.
Brazil’s cattle herd size has soared by more than 30% since 2010, to 244 million head, which is second only to India. By contrast, the world’s cattle population in total is basically flat, up less than 1%, in that period. Brazil’s expansion has taken advantage of rising global demand for protein. Recent severe pork shortages in China, brought on by the spread of African swine fever, has amplified that country’s need for meat imports.
The symbol map of Brazil on the left, created from IBGE data on the Gro platform, shows the relative size of cattle herds broken down by state. On the right, Pará is only the fifth-largest cattle producing state, but it is home to the country’s biggest cattle-raising municipality, São Félix do Xingu. In the past 20 years, the cattle herd in São Félix do Xingu has grown nearly 10-fold, as deforestation has transformed the town from a remote outpost to a busy farming hub.
Gro data also enables users to track global beef consumption and production, trade flows, and to analyze various other aspects of the cattle industry.
Gro’s platform features bovine herd size data from IBGE, Brazil’s main government provider of data and information. The data allows users to home in on the top cattle-raising regions. Mato Grosso has long been the top cattle-rearing state, raising more than 30 million head 2018. Goias state came in second, at 23 million head.
Pará state is only the fifth-largest cattle producing state, but it is home to the biggest cattle-raising municipality in Brazil, São Félix do Xingu. In the past 20 years, the cattle herd in São Félix do Xingu has grown nearly 10-fold, and in 2018, more than 2.2 million head were raised there.
At the same time, São Félix do Xingu has been marred by controversy, as Amazon deforestation has transformed the town from a remote outpost to a busy farming hub. Indeed, some studies have concluded that cattle ranching is responsible for as much as 80% of Brazil’s widespread deforestation in recent years, which adds to global greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle-rearing accentuates that trend, as bovines are estimated to account for half of all global agricultural emissions.
Gro previously described a methodology for modeling greenhouse gas emissions, which can be combined with herd size data in Brazil to identify the major sources of emissions.
As Brazil’s cattle herd continues to grow—the USDA forecasts a 2% head increase in 2020—and beef export demand increases, the cattle industry is adopting more efficient animal-raising practices. Brazil’s cattle are traditionally pasture fed. But a recent survey by Royal DSM showed that the number of cows slaughtered after finishing in feedlots is expected to grow 2% to 5.3 million head in 2019. Feedlot finishing can cut fattening time from a year down to three months.
Brazil’s cattle herd size (green line) has soared by more than 30% since 2010, to 244 million head. Only India (orange line) has more cattle. By contrast, the world’s cattle population in total is basically flat, up less than 1%, in that period.
Related Insights from Gro Intelligence:
Monitoring Brazilian Beef Supplies With Gro as China Strains Demand
Brazil Heads for Record Soybean Crop Amid Plans for Further Expansion
How African Swine Fever in China Is Shaking Up World Trade Flows
Saving the Planet, and Your Big Mac Too