China Beef Production Growth Challenged: Economist

With more cattle than the US, China’s beef production struggles to keep up, and increasing production was seen by one agricultural economist as challenging.

Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist, said in the Extension Service’s newsletter “Cow/Calf Corner,” that China’s beef production has the greatest potential to expand in the major agricultural regions of Central China where there are resources for cattle production.

However, cattle production will compete with increasing demand for crops and other agricultural production to meet China’s growing food demand, Peel said.

Extensive but drier areas of Western China have less competition from other agricultural production but face inherent limitations from climate and land productivity.  The area also could suffer from degradation of some grazing areas, he said.




USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service data showed that China is the fourth largest beef producing area in the world behind the US, Brazil and the EU.  Chinese production this year was estimated at 7.3 million tonnes, about 58% of projected US beef production of 12.4 million.

Yet China has an estimated total cattle herd of 96.85 million head, slightly larger than the current US herd of 94.4 million.

Peel referenced an assessment of China’s cattle industry by an expert in Beijing.  The bulk of China’s cattle production consists of an assortment of native beef breeds, known collectively as Yellow cattle, concentrated in the North China Plain, the northeast and the extensive grazing lands of the northwest.

The Chinese cattle industry also includes yak production on the high Tibet Plateau in the southwest and water buffalo production in the south and southeast, the Beijing expert said.

The central region of the North China Plain is the largest beef producing region where production takes place in and around intensive crop production.  Most producers here usually own fewer than 10 head.

Productivity is relatively low with cows typically producing two calves every three years.  The once-common dual-purpose animals generally have given way to specialized dairy and beef production, Peel said.




While Yellow cattle account for roughly 70% of China’s beef production, there is growing use of European breeds by themselves or for cross breeding with Yellow cattle.  In mountainous areas, moderate-sized Yellow cattle have the advantage, but elsewhere traditional systems also are giving way to feedlots with corn-based rations, Peel said.

China’s beef industry so far has received relatively little attention from the Chinese government, compared with pork, poultry and dairy, where large investments in modern, large-scale production facilities are rapidly changing and increasing production, he said.

It appears that Chinese cattle and beef production has the potential to be enhanced significantly with complementary use of different genetics, improved management and larger-scale production systems, Peel said.  But how much and how fast beef production there will grow will depend on beef demand there.




No cattle sold Wednesday on the Livestock Exchange Video Auction.  One pen sold last Wednesday at $112 per cwt, up $6 from the last sale three weeks previous.

Cash cattle traded last week at $112 to $113 per cwt on a live basis, up $2 from the previous week, and at $178 to $180 on a dressed basis, up $5.

The USDA choice cutout Wednesday was down $0.01 per cwt at $204.64, while select was off $0.37 at $197.58.  The choice/select spread widened to $7.06 from $6.70 with 139 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Tuesday, was $148.17 per cwt, down $0.10.  This compares with Wednesday’s Aug settlement of $152.82, up $0.07.