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Animal Husbandry

Cattle on way to pasture. Courtesy Regina Genton.

From prerevolutionary times until well into the 1970s, animal husbandry was the mainstay of the Mongolian economy. In the traditional economy, livestock provided foodstuffs and clothing; after the 1921 revolution, livestock supplied foodstuffs and raw materials for industries and for export. Mongolia had 9.6 million head of livestock in 1918 and 13.8 million head in 1924; arad ownership was estimated to be 50 to 80 percent of all livestock, and monastic and aristocratic ownership to be 50 to 20 percent. Policies designed to force collectivization in the early 1930s met with arad resistance, including the slaughter of their own animals. Reversal of these policies led to a growth in livestock numbers, which peaked in 1941 at 27.5 million head. World War II brought new commitments to provide food and raw materials for the Soviet war effort (see Economic Gradualism and National Defense, 1932-45). With the levy of taxes in kind, livestock numbers fell to about 20 million in 1945, and they have hovered between 20 million and 24 million head since then. Collectivization and advances in veterinary science have failed to boost livestock production significantly since the late 1940s. In 1940 animal husbandry produced 99.6 percent of gross agricultural output. The share of animal husbandry in gross agricultural output declined after World War II, to 71.8 percent in 1960, 81.6 percent in 1970, 79.5 percent in 1980, and 70 percent in 1985. The rise in crop production since 1940 has accounted for animal husbandry's decline in gross agricultural output.

Shearing sheep, Hovd Aymag. Courtesy Steve Mann.

Nevertheless, in the late 1980s, animal husbandry continued to be an important component of the national economy, supplying foodstuffs and raw materials for domestic consumption, for processing by industry, and for export. In 1985 there were 22,485,500 head of livestock, of which 58.9 percent were sheep; 19.1 percent, goats; 10.7 percent, cattle; 8.8 percent, horses; and 2.5 percent, camels. In addition, pigs, poultry, and bees were raised. In 1985 there were 56,100 pigs and 271,300 head of poultry; no figures were available on apiculture. Livestock products included meat and fat from camels, cattle, chickens, horses, goats, pigs and sheep; eggs; honey; milk; wool from camels, cattle, goats, and sheep; and hides and skins from camels, cattle, goats, horses, and sheep. In 1986 exports of livestock products included 15,500 tons of wool, 121,000 large hides, 1,256,000 small hides, and 44,100 tons of meat and meat products.

In the late 1980s, differences existed in ownership and productivity of livestock among state farms, agricultural cooperatives, and individual cooperative members. For example, in 1985 agricultural cooperatives owned 70.1 percent of the "five animals" - camels, cattle, goats, horses, and sheep; state farms, 6 percent, other state organizations, 1.7 percent; and individual cooperative members, 22.2 percent. State farms raised 81.4 percent of all poultry; other state organizations, 3.3 percent; cooperatives, 12.9 percent; and individual cooperative members, 2.4 percent. State farms accounted for 19.1 percent of pig raising; other state organizations, for 34.2 percent; agricultural cooperatives, for 12.5 percent; and individual cooperative members, for 34.2 percent. Survival rates of young livestock were higher in the cooperatives than on state farms; however, state farms produced higher yields of milk and wool. Fodder for livestock in the agricultural cooperatives was supplemented by production on state fodder supply farms and on state farms, which had higher output and yields.

Despite its economic importance, in the late 1980s animal husbandry faced many problems: labor shortages, stagnant production and yields, inclement weather, poor management, diseases, and the necessity to use breeding stock to meet high export quotas. The Eighth Plan attempted to address some of these problems. To alleviate labor shortages, the plan called for higher income, increased mechanization, and improved working and cultural conditions in rural areas to retain animal husbandry workers, particularly those with technical training. Measures to raise productivity included increased mechanization; improved breeding techniques to boost meat, milk, and wool yields and to cut losses from barrenness and miscarriages; and strengthened veterinary services to reduce illness. Additional livestock facilities were to be built to provide shelter from harsh winter weather and to fatten livestock. More efficient use of fodder was sought through expanding production; improving varieties; and decreasing losses in procurement, shipping, processing, and storage. Pastureland was to be improved by expanding irrigation and by combating pests.

Overcoming poor management was more difficult. Local party, state, and cooperative organizations were admonished to manage animal husbandry more efficiently, and cooperative members were requested to care for collectively owned livestock as if it were their own. In addition, more concrete measures to improve the management and the productivity of animal husbandry were adopted in the late 1980s. The individual livestock holdings of workers, employees, and citizens were increased to eight head per household in major towns, sixteen head in smaller towns, and twenty-five head in rural areas; households were allowed to dispose of surplus produce through the cooperative trade network and through the state procurement system. Auxiliary farms run by factories, offices, and schools were established to raise additional pigs, poultry, and rabbits, as well as to grow some vegetables. Family contracts concluded on a voluntary basis with cooperatives or with state farms were reported by the government to increase high-quality output, to lower production expenses, and to enhance production efficiency.

Last Update: 2010-12-07