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Agriculturists are well-aware the world’s population growth is expected to rise exponentially as global population advances to around 9 billion people by 2050. The majority of this growth will occur in developing countries, with Africa and Asia projected to experience the largest population expansion.

IMG_1500Over the past 3 years, with growing world population in mind, I have spent a portion of my time with a team from Texas Tech University working to enhance beef production systems in developing countries in Central America, with the majority of our work focused in Honduras. Working within the dynamics of developing countries is challenging. Limitations are often brought about by corrupt governments, limited production resources, and educational and environmental barriers. Beef production systems are complex anyway, and establishing sustainable and efficient systems in developing countries in the face of the constraints mentioned above only adds to the complexity.

Herd health issues are another underlying hindrance for achieving production efficiencies in many developing countries. For example, in Honduras, tuberculosis and brucellosis are not controlled. It is not uncommon for cowherds to have annual conception rates of 30% compared to 80-90% in developed countries, like the United States. Efforts have been made to coordinate the eradication of these diseases, however, government inefficiencies seem to prevent successful implementation.

Limitations are often brought about by corrupt governments, limited production resources, and educational and environmental barriers.

Each time I return from working abroad, I am always thankful for the “little things” that are common practice in U.S. beef production. For instance, the ability to understand and measure dry matter content of feedstuffs, grain processing capabilities, mechanized systems for feed delivery, a general overall healthy U.S. cowherd, and progressive genetics. These are just a few of the common elements that are routinely employed to continually improving beef quality and production efficiency. Abroad, the capacity for improvement is great. The smallest concepts, like educating producers that a 1000 lb steer can consume more than 10 lb of feed daily, go miles towards increasing food production in these countries. As developing countries implement new production systems, they’ll help meet world demand for food in the future. Working with these countries toward these improvements is very rewarding.

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I write this article as a point of perspective. In the U.S. we have advanced beef production to the point that the big “game changers” in production technology and management have already been discovered. The opposite is true in developing countries where big strides are made when even basic production strategies are implemented. In the U.S. we are currently working at a deeper level of detail to discover more subtle changes to improve beef production. We are at a point where new technologies will probably not yield the same consistent response as the “game changers” in all scenarios, but when new products or new management strategies are well-researched and application is fully discovered, benefits can be realized.

IMG_1499Although our system is ever-changing and still needs growth and improvement, the international opportunities I have been a part of have provided me a much deeper appreciation of our U.S. beef system.