Armenia is an ancient country. The ancestors of modern Armenians lived on the Armenian plateau over a vast territory, between Asia Minor and the Iranian upland. Human footprints detected in the area go back to the Old Stone Age. During the Palaeolithic period there was primitive farming on the plateau, and in the Neolithic and the early Bronze Age, animal husbandry developed. Armenia is one of the ancient centres of metal culture/industry; already in the 5th - 4th centuries BC there was copper working in Armenia. Between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC stock-rearing became a major occupation. The tribes of the Armenian plateau unified to create unions like Uruatri, Nairi, Dayani, and others. Based on these unions the state of Urartu was created, which at the end of ninth eighth centuries BC considerably expanded its boundaries. In the seventh sixth centuries BC, in the valleys of the Armenian mountain ranges, crop production and viticulture were largely developed. On a Babylonian world map (fifth century BC) Armenia was included and in the second half of the second century the Armenian nationality was finally shaped.
Being between the greatest conflicting powers of East and West (Persia, Rome, Arabic Caliphate, Byzantium and others) Armenia became an arena of incessant war-fare. It strove for independence for many centuries. In the fourth century BC the basis of the Armenian state was strengthened. Later Christianity was declared the state religion and Armenian national culture flourished. With the emergence of the Dynasty of Bagratids (tenth century) and the Armenian State of Kilikia (eleventh century) medieval society prospered, and the full flowering of its national attributes occurred. In the 12th century Armenia was divided between Turkey and Iran. In the course of the three succeeding centuries Armenians were involved in a liberation movement against the Turkish-Persian powers.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Eastern Armenia joined Russia. However a large part of its territory remained under the sovereignty/control of Turkey. On November 29, 1920 Armenia was declared a Soviet Socialist Republic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Armenia regained its independence.
The majority of the population are Armenians. In addition there are Russians, Yezidis, Azeris, Georgians, Kurds, Greeks, Assyrians, Ukrainians, Jews and others. According to the World Factbook the July 2006 population was estimated at 2,976,372 with a growth rate of -0.19%.
Geographical location Armenia is in the south of the Caucasus, latitude 380 51´ to 41o18´ North and longitude 43o29´ to 46o37´ East. It occupies the south-eastern part of the Armenian mountain range and the central part of the Small Caucasus. To the north it is bordered by the Republic of Georgia, to the east and south-west by the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the west by Turkey and to the south by Iran. The territory is divided into 37 regions, which after gaining independence in 1991, were regrouped into 10 regions, the so-called "marzes": Aragatsotn, Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Lori, Kotayk, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush and Vayots Dzor. The capital of the country is Yerevan.
The total land area is 297, 000 sq km and it is 270 km wide and 279 km long. The total area of agricultural land is 1,391,377 ha, 494,689 ha of which are arable, 63,766 are perennial plantations, 138,907 ha are grasslands and 694,015 ha are pastures.
Livestock. The total number of cattle in 2001 was 497,300 (Table 2) of which 264,900 were cows; also there were 540,000 small ruminants, 68,900 pigs and 11,400 horses. In 1998 some 462,000 tons of milk, about 86,000 tons of meat and 1,922 tons of wool were produced. This production was not sufficient for domestic needs and some products were imported from abroad (Iran, Turkey, India, United Arab Emirates, etc.). By 2004 livestock numbers were 565,800 cattle (including nearly 300,000 cows), 628,500 small ruminants, 85,400 pigs and 12,500 horses; production was 535,831 mt of fresh milk, 54,027 mt of meat and 1,200 mt of wool. Imports of meat and milk in 2004 had increased to 31,051.2 mt (total meat) and 53,962.5 mt (milk equivalents) respectively (Table 3).
For full details of livestock numbers and imports see section 4. and
Tables 2 and 3.
SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY
Topography. Armenia is the most mountainous of the Caucasian republics (see Figure 1). It is distinguished by its complex relief and varied natural conditions. The average altitude is 1,800 m. More than 90 percent is above 1,000 m. The highest point, the top of mount Aragats, is 4,095 m while the lowest point is at 380 m in the north-east where the River Araks flows out of Margi gorge.
Figure 1 Map of Armenia
The diverse shapes and types of mountainous relief are conditioned by the complexity of geological structure as well as by physical and geographical conditions. The prevalence of volcanic relief is a characteristic feature. It is represented by mountain ranges (Kharabakh, Javakhet), shield-shaped ridges (Gegam, Vardenis) and large isolated cone and dome-shaped ridges (mountains Aragats and Arayee). A substantial area is occupied by folded ridges: Pambak, Areguni, Murkhuz, Zangezur, having different directions and extensions. Low mountains and foot-hills are fragmented by a dense network of ravines and gorges and mudflow creeks. On the whole the relief of the republic is complex and fragmented, and with many landslides and active erosion processes, tillage and agricultural activity is hampered.
Soils. Soil cover is very varied. Here all kinds of zonal soil types, shaped in mountainous districts of the Great Caucasus, can be encountered. Throughout the territory there are 5 classes, 15 genetic types, 33 pseudo/sub-types, several hundred appearance/form types of soil as well as soils of 135 origins. Zonal expansion is characteristic of 8 (types) out of the identified 15 genetic types. They occupy 91 percent of the territory. The remainder is covered by intra-zonal and azonal soils.
The most common of the zonal types are: mountain-meadow, mountain-meadow-steppe, mountain brown forest-soil, mountain chernozem, mountain chestnut and mountain-brown soils. In the areas where zonal types of soil were formed, the intrazonal types are also spread: fluvial-swamp, fluvial-grassland, irrigated meadow-brown, meadow-chernozem, turf-carbonated soils. Despite apparent vertical zonality being characteristic of soil cover, all soil types depend on the altitude of the district.
The vegetation is represented by many types, from steppe and semi-steppe to alpine. The diversity of species covers two extremely different floristic provinces: Ponto-Girkanic mesophyl and Iranian xerophyll. The vegetation of the lower zone is semi-steppe with expanded halophyte vegetation in steppe areas with the prevalence of Artemisia in semi-desert areas.
In the foot-hills of the Ararat valley frigonoid vegetation with a predominance of thorny shrubs that form hummocks, (Astragalus, Acantholimon), as well as xerophythe undergrowth perennials from the family of labiates are commonest.
Higher up, where the mountain-steppe zone starts, the vegetation is Stipa and Festuca. In some of the more arid parts xerophyll- mixed grass vegetation is mixed with tragacanth (Ferula) steppes.
Most of the north-east and south-east region is forest, which explains the comparatively regular climatic conditions. Together with shrubs, forests comprise 12 percent of the territory. The altitude of forests in the north-east reaches 1,900-2,100 m, in Zangezur up to 2,400 m and comprises mainly eastern beech, oak, and hornbeam. Xerophyll sparse woods, juniper and deciduous forests are widespread.
Above the tree line, sub-alpine, alpine and nival vegetation is common. Mountain-meadow steppes, sub-alpine and alpine meadows serve as summer pastures. High mountains and the tops of the mountains are tundra. On stony talus and alluvia, sparse cushion-vegetation grows. There are some glaciers.
Water resources are rivers, lakes and underground water (see Figure 2). Annually rivers bring in six billion m3 of water. An appropriate use of this amount would suffice to irrigate the low and foothill regions. The northern river network drains to the Caspian sea and includes about 450 rivers and streams extending for more than 10 km. Rivers of Southern Armenia drain to the basin of the River Araks (about 74 percent of the river net).
Figure 2 Water resources of Armenia
Maximum floods occur in May, by September they become less. Most rivers in their lower stretches are subject to mudflows, and sudden and intense floods especially in spring. These are accompanied by the washing down of a huge amount of mud and stones. Because of the fast flow rivers do not freeze. Seasonal distribution of river flow is uneven. Thus, the flow in the cold half of the year from September to February is only 25 percent of the total, while that in the warmer half is 75 percent. The flow in the warm season is distinguished by a substantial variability.
The biggest and deepest river is the boundary River Araks which stretches through Armenia for only 200 km. Its major tributaries in Armenia are the Akhuryan, Hrazdan, Azat, Vedi, Vorotan, Vokhchi, Megri, etc. The River Sevjur is remarkable for being mainly fed by underground water. The rivers of the Koor basin have their source in the northern, damper part of the country and are consequently deeper. One of the largest tributaries of the River Koor in the Republic is the River Debed formed by the joining of two rivers, Dsoraget and Pambak.
There are more than 100 minor mountain lakes, most of them above 2,000 m, that typically are used for watering pastures. Lake Sevan is of national significance (about 35 billion m3), its water being intensively used for irrigation and energy generation. Among minor lakes, the following: Arpa, Akna, Lori, and Cars have been used recently not only for irrigation but also for fish farming.
Swamp and marshlands are mainly in the north-west of the Lori plateau, Shurabad basin, Masrin and Ararat valleys; most have already been drained and are used for agriculture. In the north of Armenia swampiness is favoured by high rainfall, a flat land surface and the presence of underground water, while in the south it is favoured by the ancient river-beds of the River Araks.
|3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES
Armenia is on the northern edge of the sub-tropical zone, in latitudes characterized by a manifestly arid and continental climate. Due to a complex mountainous relief the climate is very varied. For example, the Ararat valley has an arid continental climate, however only 10 km to the north on the mountain of Aragats mountain tundra with glacial formationscan be observed.
Solar radiation, the most important climate factor, is very intense. At noon in the Ararat valley, each cm2 of the surface receives on average 1.46 calories of heat per minute. The intensity of solar energy increases in line with the increase in altitude. At 3,000 m it increases to 1.54 cal/cm2. The annual duration of sunlight in the Ararat valley and Sevan basin reaches about 3000 hours; in the mid-mountainous forest areas of the north about 2000 hours.
High fluctuations in annual and daily temperatures are characteristic of the climate. In July-August in the lowlands, air temperature is about 22-26° C, in mid-mountainous country 16-20° C, in the highland zone it does not pass 10° C; the absolute maximal temperature ranges from 42° to 20°. In January, depending on the altitude of the territory and the peculiarities of the relief, the mean daily temperature ranges between +1° and -13°, absolute minima range from 200 to 450 C. Large daily temperature fluctuations occur in summer in the Ararat valley where the air temperature rises to +42o C in day-time, and falls to +20o C at night.
The relief greatly affects the duration and the features of the seasons. The frost free period in the lowlands and the foothills is more than 220 days, in mid-mountainous areas about 150 days, and in highland zones 60 days. The longest season in lowland regions is summer (4-5 months), in mid-mountains the seasons coincide with calendar seasons, while in the highlands winter lasts for six months.
The highest precipitation is between May and June. The annual precipitation fluctuates over a wide scale: from 250 mm, in arid regions, to 1,000 mm in the highlands. The distribution of snow cover is also unequal. In the foothill zone of the Ararat valley a stable snow cover is not observed every year and its height does not exceed 10 cm, whereas in the highlands the duration of stable snow cover is 5-6 months and its height reaches 2 m.
Changes in the direction of air flows are conditioned by the very rugged relief, so the republic is distinguished by diverse wind speeds and direction. The strongest winds are in the highlands in winter. In summer, mountain-valley winds appear in the valleys and hollows. To sum up, Armenia has a vertical zonality and diversity of climate.
The republic is subject to vertical zonality, the latter being very varied.
Abrupt changes of natural zones go in line with altitude changes. The
following agro-economic natural zones can be defined (see Figure 3):
Figure 3 Natural zones of Armenia
The hot summer and dryness of the air result in rapid evaporation of soil moisture, which in turn leads to salt accumulation in the soil upper levels. Semi-desert soil cover varies according to its composition, salt level, physical characteristics, steepness, etc. Semi-desert is extensive within the complex relief. Absolutely flat land, as well as slopes of different steepness and exposures can be found. In semi-steppes all changes in vegetation are conditioned by relief changes.
Since the climate is continental there is no dense and lush natural cover. The vegetation is mainly represented by two extremely different eco-types xerophytes (Hordeum crinitum, Kochia, Euphorbia marschalliana, Astragalus, Bromus inermis, Androsace, Festuca sulcata, etc.) and ephemerals (Bromus tectorum, Bromus squarrosum, Androsace, Geranium tuberosum, Hordeum crinitum, etc.) and ephemeroids (Poa bulbosa, Chenopodium humile, Carex stenophilla). In areas of intense salinisation solonetz or alkali soil the vegetation is Salsola.
The basic vegetation is Artemisia, turf grasses (Bromus tectorum, Bromus squarrosum, Hordeum crinitum, Festuca sulcata), ephemerals (Bromus tectorum, Bromus squarrosum, Androsace, Geranium tuberosum, Hordeum crinitum, etc.) and ephemeroids (Poa bulbosa, Chenopodium humile, Carex stenophilla). Semi-deserts mostly serve as pastures for cattle and small ruminants.
Natural environmental conditions: heat, light and ground salt, favour the development of horticulture and fruit growing in this area which suits cultivation of excellent types of grape, apricot, peach, etc., which cannot be grown in other zones. Farming is all irrigated.
The steppe. Occupies a substantial territory at an altitude of between 1,000-2,200 m. The relief is extremely complex. Here all kinds of transitions can be found: from mountain plateau to plain, from slight and flat slopes to steep and abrupt ones. In some parts the relief is complicated by uneven landscape with multiple minor ridges of various size and shape.
The climate is mainly dry and warm. In terms of temperature effects, two sub-zones can be identified: the upper or moderately warm sub-zone, situated at an altitude above 1,800 m and the lower or warm sub-zone, characterized by a higher temperature in summer and by a longer duration of the growing period. The annual precipitation is 450 mm to 600 mm. Annual distribution of precipitation is uneven. The maximum precipitation level is in spring and the beginning of summer. July and especially August are very dry. The continental climate is conditioned by comparatively high temperatures in summer and low temperatures in winter. The soil cover is particularly varied with frequent transitions from light chestnut to chernozem.
Among steppe vegetation groups dry-steppe and genuine steppe vegetation can be identified. Turf grasses prevail within the vegetation cover of dry steppe. Typically the grass is not high; it is sparse, and of pasture type. Steppe plant groupings are characterized by a well-developed turf-forming processes and intense growth of mixed forbs, grass, Achillea, Circium, Euphorbia, Alchemilla, Taraxacum, etc., and legumes (Vicia, Trifolium repens, Lathyrus, etc.); in the spring ephemerals are more abundant. Nevertheless turf grasses predominate among steppe vegetation. They determine the character of steppes at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.
The steppe zone is typically agricultural. Major crops are grains wheat, barley, and oats. Here livestock-raising and fruit-growing is also well developed. Crops are both irrigated and rain fed: in the lower sub-zone it is irrigated, in the upper sub-zone field crops can be cultivated without any irrigation. Steep land is used for fodder production and pastures; pastures prevail.
Steppe-meadow zone. At certain altitudes steppes change into steppe-meadows. They form a transition between the steppes and meadows and are characterized by features that are common to both steppe and meadow phytocenoses. Steppe meadows occupy a considerable territory at a range of 1,500 1,800 m above sea level, in some parts the altitude reaches 2,000 2,300 m. They are remarkable on account of extremely diverse vegetation. The correlation between steppe and meadow vegetation varies, depending on the type of the steppe-meadow. In lower parts, steppe plants (sheeps fescue Festuca sulcata, Phleum phleoides, Agropyron, Bromus, etc.) are predominant, while in higher parts, meadow vegetation (Phleum pratense, Dactylis glomerata, Festuca pratensis, etc.) prevails. The grass cover is dense.
The climate differs from the climate in steppe areas by a damper and warmer summer in the case of a comparatively even distribution of precipitation during the vegetation period. In the lower sub-zone the unevenness of precipitation levels is rather apparent. The annual precipitation level exceeds 600 mm, in the upper zone it reaches up to 700 mm. In summer, thunderstorms accompanied by hail are frequent. The frost-free period continues for up to 4 4.5 months. Frosts start from September and last till the end of May.
Soil types are varied. There are various mountain chernozem and mountain meadow soils. On the plains and lesser slopes melkozem soils are distinguished by a high production level. Rarely, rocks of original types, like crags, cliffs and alluvial deposits are encountered. Steppe-meadow zones, as well as the steppe zones are mainly agricultural. Because of a damper climate, crops are rainfed. The main crops grown are cereals, potato, perennial and annual grass etc. Uncultivated land is used for grazing and fodder. Steeper and stonier slopes are used only for grazing.
The forest zone. Armenia is less well endowed with forest than the other republics of the Caucasus. Its forest area comprises 411,000 ha, about 288,000 ha of which are actually covered by forests. Forests are unevenly distributed: they mainly occur in two regions. The first is the larger, situated in the north-east. In other regions forests can also be encountered in the form of small islands. The central part of the country is almost without forest. The composition of forests is diverse and rich. Among the most common trees the following should be mentioned: Quercus, Fagus, Carpinus, Tilia, Acer, Ulmus, Fraxinus, Carpinus orientalis, Betula, Pinus, Juniperus. The major forest trees are Fagus, Quercus and Carpinus. Forests are typically in the mountains and valleys. In the lowlands, plains, and plateaus there are none at all. The steepness of forest slopes ranges from 20-25° to 30-35° and above.
Being mostly in mid mountains and foothills, forest regions occupy a moderately cold, climatically-speaking, mountain strip. The climate is characterized by comparatively small annual fluctuations: 22-24° C; mean annual temperature ranging from 4 to 9° C and mean precipitation level from 400 to 800 mm. Winter is very gentle; the mean temperature in January being 1-2°.C. The climate of southern Armenia is especially arid, since the upper forest border is of significantly high altitude. The mountains are at an altitude of 500 to 2300 m. However, in some regions forests are situated at an altitude of 2600 m and above.
Cleared forest zone. Incorrect forest felling in the past and the overuse of forest have radically reduced forest area. Cleared forest lands are either abandoned or used as grasslands and pastures. The incidence of cleared forest zones is directly linked to the incidence of forest itself throughout the country. An especially large area of cleared forest occurs in northern Armenia. A small expansion of the zone within the southern part of the country is explained by climatic and relief peculiarities of this part. The climate here is arid, the relief is highly rugged, forest slopes are steep and abrupt. The combination of these characteristics leads to the fact that after de-forestation these areas are converted into steppes and mountain xerophytes but not into meadows.
The cleared forest zone mostly occurs on comparatively gentle reliefs, on mild slopes; the reason for this being the fact that more available (in terms of relief) forests have been logged by the population. In regions with rugged landscape, cleared forest extends over very different relief conditions and is often on steep slopes.
Sub-alpine zone. At an altitude of 2,300 to 2,800 m a distinctly
definable zone is situated on all significant mountain ridges and tracts.
The borders here referred to are rather vague. They merely identify the
region where there is the maximum development of sub-alpine meadows. Sometimes
in damper regions, along northern slopes, it descends to an altitude of
1,900 m; in dry regions of central and especially southern Armenia on
the southern slopes of certain mountain tracts distinctly defined sub-alpine
meadows are encountered only at an altitude of 2,700-2,800 m. The grass
Phleum pratense, Dactylis glomerata, Festuca pratensis,
etc. is tallish, the natural cover is dense with a high level of turf
formation. Geological stages are apparent. The high location results
in climate severity. Summer here is moderately cold and brief; already
at the end of August there are frosts. Annual precipitation levels exceed
650 700 mm. Moderate slopes and plains are rare. The sub-alpine
zone, situated on Zangezur ridge and its spurs is especially remarkable
for its rugged relief and steep slopes.
The soil of the sub-alpine zone resembles the mountain-meadow type and is distinguished by a greater capacity and considerably high level of humus and dead roots. As a result of severe climate and sparse vegetation, seasonal farming and cultivation of field crops are excluded. Sub-alpine meadows are mainly for mowing. Only areas on very steep and stony slopes are used as pastures.
The alpine zone occupies a vast territory and is pronounced on all more or less significant mountains. It is found at an altitude of 2,700 to 3,500 m. On northern slopes it may descend to 2,500 meters, whereas on southern slopes it can ascend above 2,900 m. Environmental conditions of the alpine zone are unique. The relief is diverse. Along with broad plains, situated on high plateaus, multiple steep slopes of various ridges and cones can be encountered. There are many parent rocks and outcrops here. A considerable territory on major mountain slopes is occupied by rubble scarps and embankments (talus), fixed and in motion.
The climate is distinguished by its severity. Short growing period, rarefied air, abrupt variations of temperature between day and night (in summer), considerably high level of (atmospheric) precipitation, and winds are the basic characteristics of the alpine climate.
Alpine meadow soil is characterized by a substantial level of humidity, especially in spring and autumn. Large sheets of snow, melting throughout the whole summer, nourish rivers and streams. In northern high areas and sheltered depressions, large sheets of snow remain from the previous autumn. On many mountain ridges the rugged relief does not allow the melt to flow down to the lower zones. The stagnation of these waters in higher parts for a long period of time results in the emergence of rather large lakes. The highland zone Aragats is especially rich in lakes. Here one can encounter not only sheets of eternal snow but also huge glaciers. Severe thunderstorms accompanied by massive hail are very common during the vegetation growing period. Night frosts can occur in any summer month. Even in July and August, in the higher alpine zone, cases of snow falls (melting instantly) have been observed.
Farming in the alpine zone is impossible, since no field crop could grow in such severe environmental conditions. Mowing of most vegetation is not possible either because of the short vegetation height. Thus, alpine meadows with pasture characteristics serve as an important natural fodder base for livestock-breeding in summer.
Considering the natural and economic conditions, as well as production specialization, nine agricultural zones can be identified. Generally, an agricultural zone represents a production-area combination, specialized in certain types of agricultural production, distinguished by a specific combination of agricultural activities and land use.
The zone of Ararat valley is specialized in wine production, vegetable and fruit-growing, plus well-developed dairy and meat production, and poultry keeping on an industrial basis. A considerable part of the zone is considered to be a suburb of Yerevan which affects the distribution and specialization of agricultural production. The major part of the zone is characterized by homogeneous climatic conditions. It represents a plain at an altitude of 800-1000 m surrounded by mountains on most sides. This is a zone of irrigated crop husbandry, with highly developed agricultural production, remarkable for its high productivity per hectare.
The foothills of the Ararat Valley are a zone of viticulture and fruit growing with developed dairy and bovine meat production, pig-breeding and poultry-keeping on an industrial basis. The population living high in the mountains is involved in sheep-breeding, cereal crops and tobacco cultivation. The central zone has a developed dairy and beef industry and sheep breeding. Depending on its climate the zone is divided into: dry-steppe (1,400 1,800 m) and mountain-steppe (more than 1,800 m above sea level). Field husbandry is typically rainfed; animal-husbandry produces 55 percent of the total agricultural production of the zone.
The Sevan basin is a zone of stock-breeding and potato growing. The leading occupation among stock-breeding activities is dairy and beef production and meat-wool-dairy sheep-breeding. In the lower part of the zone at 1,400 2,100 m field husbandry is mostly irrigated. At 1,400 2,500 m rainfed field husbandry prevails. At an altitude above 2,500 m there are open grazing lands.
In the north-eastern zone tobacco cultivation, cattle breeding and fruit growing prevail with developed viticulture and pig-breeding. The zone is represented by two sub-zones: woodless plain, situated up to 900 m and mountain-forest more than 900 m.
Lori-Pambak is a dairy and livestock-breeding zone with developed potato-cultivation. There are two sub-zones in Lori-Pambak: mountain-forest (up to 1,500 m) and mountain-steppe (more than 1,500 m). This is mostly a zone of rainfed farming.
Shirak is a zone of dairy and beef production and meat-wool-dairy sheep-breeding with developed grain growing. Shirak occupies the north-western part of the republic. The zone is divided into two sub-zones: dry-steppe and mountain-steppe, situated at an altitude of 1,800 m and more than 1,800 m respectively. In the first sub-zone farming is mostly irrigated, in the second sub-zone it is rainfed.
Daralagyaz is a zone with developed viticulture and fruit-growing.
Zangezur is a zone of cattle-breeding and sheep-breeding with developed tobacco cultivation and viticulture. Zangezur occupies the south-western edge of the republic. The zone is divided into three sub-zones: lowland, (up to 1,400 m), wooded steppe (1,400-2,000 m) and mountain-steppe (more than 2,000 m).
|4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
Pastoral systems are very essential for pasture grazing management. Two pastoral systems are applied in Armenia: "nearby" and "remote". The "nearby" system is when the pasture is close to the farm-yard or household. In that case the animal is driven to the farm-yard for milking and nights lodging, as well as for feeding and drinking.
If the pastures are far from the household, the animal is driven there for the whole grazing period and during all that time the animal stays in the remote pastures; this system of pasture grazing is called "remote". This system is also called "summer camp grazing". In Armenia seasonal pasture grazing is also applied to sheep. In some regions, if the conditions permit, starting from early autumn till late spring the sheep graze in winter pastures of semi-desert zone. As the weather gets warmer the sheep are gradually driven up to the highland. In summer time they are kept in alpine and sub-alpine zones. With the approach of cold weather they are gradually driven down to lower zones.
Crop production. The diversity of climate in Armenia has contributed to the development of multiple types of agriculture. The total area of agricultural land comprises 1,391,377 ha of territory (see Figure 4), 494,689 ha of which are arable, 63,766 ha are perennial plantations, 138,907 ha are grasslands and 694,015 ha are pastures. Grassland is used for feeding the animals in winter, while pastures are used for grazing from early spring till late autumn. The above figures may vary year to year, except for those related to grasslands and pastures.
Figure 4 Agricultural and forest lands
Field husbandry is characterized by a large variety of cultivated crops.
Basic crops are winter and spring grains, potatoes, gourds and vegetables,
horticultural crops, fruit, etc. In Soviet times the cultivation of the
above plants was highly developed. The cultivation of industrial crops,
like geranium, sugar-beet and tobacco, was also developed. It was carried
out through central planning in the fields of sovkhozes and kolkhozes.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Armenia gained independence. Reforms
were carried out throughout the country. They were implemented in agriculture
The privatisation process of land, farm animals, tools and machinery
started. The land was divided into small plots (from 0.2 ha - in the regions
of intensive field-husbandry - to 1.5 ha - in the highlands) and distributed
among the farmers. Only pastures were privatised. Farmers began to cultivate
small plots of land. The scarcity of tools and machinery, absence of fertilizers,
seeds, chemicals, and fuel wood had a negative effect on land use. Much
of the area under crops was under-utilized and some of it was eventually
abandoned. The system of agricultural management had a negative impact
on crop production as well.
Currently, 170,000 to 195,000 ha of arable land is annually sown to grain crops, of which 80 - 90 percent are wheat and barley. Wheat is mostly used for bread, barley for brewing. Lack of adequate agricultural technology is the reason for their low productivity. Winter wheat yield varies from 18 to 22 quintals per hectare; but in 2000 because of severe drought it was only 5.9 quintals per hectare. The productivity of winter barley varies from 11 to 17 quintals per hectare, that of spring barley from 6.7 to 13.1 quintals per hectare.
A substantial area is occupied by gourds and vegetables. Major vegetables cultivated are tomato, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, onion, garlic, carrot, etc., as to gourds, water melon and melon should be mentioned. Potato is one of the most important crops grown in the mountainous regions. Each year it covers 32,000 34,000 ha of land. Even so, for potato cultivation adequate agricultural techniques are not used. The scarcity and high prices of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides also affect production cost. Potato productivity ranges from 87 to 134 quintals per hectares.
Each year from 3,000 to 4,000 ha of land is given to cabbage cultivation. Early cultivars are grown in the Ararat valley, later ones in mountainous regions. The average yield of cabbage per hectare varies from 167 to 248 quintals.
Armenia is remarkable for the finest varieties of grape and apricot. The area under grape comprises 21,800 ha. Because of the low purchasing power of agricultural enterprises many territories were ruined and converted into arable lands. Currently there are 15,000 ha of vineyards in the country. The average yield per hectare varies from 61 to 78 quintals.
The most common stone fruits are: apricot, cherry, sweet cherry, plum, etc. Of the standard tree fruits the following are worth mentioning: apple, pear, quince. In the lowlands (Megri, Noyemberyan, Ijevan) a few sub-tropical crops are common in small areas, like fig, pomegranate and others. The list of the crop types is illustrated in the table below (Table 1):
Table 1. Basic agricultural crops and their average productivity in Armenia
One of the major preconditions for the development of livestock breeding and animal production is the expansion of the fodder base. In this respect sowing of fodder is very essential. Fodder is divided into two groups: fodder received from annual crops and fodder from perennial crops.
Among annual fodder crops, maize, fodder-beet, swede, oats, vetch, pea, sunflower, etc. are grown. Sunflower and maize are mainly for silage. Apart from silage, maize is cultivated for grain and green fodder. The yield of green maize varies from 109.3 to 189.6 quintals/ha, while the grain yield is from 22.3 to 46.2 quintals/ha. Livestock not herded in remote pastures, especially milk cows, together with those grazing in nearby pastures, are given additional green fodder.
Oats, vetch and pea are sown mixed (vetch + oat, pea + oat) as green fodder. Some farms use oats for silage. The average yield varies from 27.2 to 97.1 quintals/ha. With the expansion of agriculture, the yield is decreasing from year to year. Edible roots are grown for milk cows. The average yield is 141.7 246.8 quintals/ha. For milk cows in the early spring in the Ararat valley edza (rape-Brassica napus) is cultivated.
Basic perennial fodder crops are, Medicago sativa, Onobrychis viciifolia, Trifolium pratense, Dactylis glomerata, Festuca pratensis and Phleum pratense. Legumes are sown both separately and mixed with grasses; while grasses are sown mixed. In lowlands, where the crops get heat and water, the basic crop is lucerne, which is harvested 4-5 times in the vegetation period and from 1 ha 150 160 quintals of hay is obtained. In arid non-irrigated regions sainfoin is cultivated, in the high mountainous regions sainfoin and clover. The hay is used for the winter/cattle-shed period. The average yield is 32.9 to 52.8 quintals/ha.
In Soviet times, along with seed production, fodder seed production was also developed. There were special farms involved in seed production as their major activity. In general Armenia provided itself with seeds and seedlings, nevertheless a certain amount, especially legume seeds, was imported from other former Soviet Republics. After privatisation all the seed producing farms collapsed. Only a few private farms began producing lucerne and sainfoin seeds. In recent years lucerne seed has been produced in Armenia. The price of imported seed is rather high and most farmers cannot afford it. This has led to the reduction of areas sown to fodder crops. Currently major fodder sources maintained are natural grasslands and pastures.
Livestock-raising . Livestock is a leading branch of Armenian agriculture, people are involved in it in all the villages. In the Ararat valley and suburban areas dairying is especially developed. In the mountains and foothills, along with cattle breeding, sheep rearing is also developed. Pig keeping is developed in the mountain forest zone, however at present there is new growth in pig breeding, and poultry keeping is being developed in many places. Currently horse breeding is acquiring a special importance, explained by the lack of small-scale machinery and the high cost of fuel.
In the first two decades after the establishment of the Soviet command
economy there was a considerable decrease in the number of cattle. This
became even more marked during the Second World War. Later, up till 1985,
increases in poultry and animal stock was quite tangible. This was conditioned
by the tendency for stock-rearing to become more industrialized. Due to
the application of improved feeding and breeding, animal pedigrees were
radically improved; new breeds with a high production capacity were created,
such as Caucasian brown cattle, fine wool and semi-fine wool sheep, Yerevanian
hens, Armenian pigs, Marder rabbits and semi-coarse-haired sheep types.
Table 2 - Animal numbers: (head-count in thousands): selected years 1985-2005, FAOSTAT, 2006.
In 1991 the number of stock fell because of poor marketing. The drastic decrease in animal numbers since 1985 (except for horses) is explained by irregular, arbitrary and poorly managed reforms. Not only did animal numbers fall (Table 2), but at the same time animal production (Table 3) was substantially reduced and breed improvement ground to a halt. While in 1985 gross milk production was 544,800 tons, meat (slaughter weight) production 144,000 tons; wool (actual net weight) 4,524 tons and there were 570,800,000 eggs; in 1997 1998 milk production fell to 425,000 434,500 tons; meat 50,100 52,100 tons; wool 1309 - 1279 tons, respectively (with no figures available for eggs). By 2004 fresh milk production had increased to 535,831 mt, meat production to 54,027 mt while wool had declined further to 1,200 mt.
Table 3. Livestock production and imports, selected years 1985-2005
Source: FAO STAT 2006
n.r. = no record;
The only scientifically justifiable way to increase the production of
these products is intensification of livestock breeding and fodder production.
THE PASTURE RESOURCE
The total grazing land area is 832,922 ha (see Table 4), of which grass lands occupy 138,904 ha and pastures 694,015 hectares. All the grasslands are of the mountain type. A great diversity of climatic conditions has created vertical transition of the vegetation. Pastures and grass lands are zonally allocated in semi-desert, steppe, steppe-meadow, post-forest, sub-alpine and alpine zones. Within each zone there are also azonal grazing lands (such as swamps with excessive moisture), their total area being about 8,700 ha.
Predominant zonal types of grasslands are sub-alpine ones. They comprise about 37 percent of total grass land. Then come post-forest 23 percent, steppe-meadow 22 percent, etc.
Predominant zonal types of pastures are again sub-alpine meadows. They occupy about 33 percent of the total pasture area. These are followed by steppe-meadows 20 percent, alpine 18 percent, post-forest 14 percent, steppe 11 percent and semi-desert 5 percent.
The typological composition of grass lands and pastures is extremely diverse. It is conditioned by vertical zonality. The formation of natural mountain grasslands and their vertical location is influenced by the relief, the altitude and slope steepness, shape and exposure. A significant impact on changes in highland vegetation is caused by human interference: grazing, mowing, fodder production, irrigation and other practices have altered the nature of grassland and pasture vegetation to such an extent that currently there is no way to tell indigenous types from secondary ones. Numerous highland bio-climatic factors creating a vertical zonality for vegetation develop a great diversity of natural types of grass lands and pastures.
Semi-desert range lands occupy the Ararat valley and the enclosed foothill plains. They can be encountered on a small scale in other regions as well at an altitude of 500 1,300 m. This zone is characterized by an insignificant precipitation level (200 300 mm), an uneven seasonal distribution of the latter, high temperatures in summer and low in winter; thus preventing the vegetation from fully exploiting the potential soil fertility. This results in the fact that semi-desert vegetation is not dense. The vegetation is represented by two major divergent ecological types: xerophytes (Chondrilla, Hordeum crinitum, Kochia, Euphorbia marschalliana, Astragalus, Bromus inermis, Androsace, Festuca sulcata, etc.) and ephemerals (Bromus tectorum, Bromus squarrosum). In areas, where highly saline soils solonetz and solonchak are formed, the vegetation is represented by halophytes.
The basic vegetation is Artemisia, turf grasses (Bromus tectorum, Bromus squarrosum, Hordeum crinitum, Festuca sulcata), and ephemeroids (Poa bulbosa, Chenopodium humile, Carex stenophilla). Semi-deserts are mainly used for grazing and serve as spring-autumn and winter pastures for sheep. The total area is over 36,000 ha.
Steppe lands occupy a substantial territory at altitudes between 1,000 to 1,500 m and sometimes up to 1,800 m. The relief of this zone is extremely varied: gentle slopes, plateaus, valleys, as well as steep and abrupt slopes can be encountered. The climate is typically dry and warm.
Among steppe groups dry-steppe lands and genuine steppe can be identified. Turf grasses are predominant in the vegetation of dry steppes. Abundance of ephemerals in spring grass cover is a characteristic feature of dry-steppe groupings. The grass is typically low, sparse, of pasture type. As a rule the soil is very stony and compacted, less melkozem with low capacity, brown or chestnut. The total area of dry-steppe groupings comprises 22,100 ha.
Grazing lands on indigenous steppes occupy extended territories at an altitude of 1,200 to 1,500 m sometimes up to 1,800 m. They appear on plateaux with well developed and high capacity melkozem soil, also on steep and slight slopes; this resulting in diverse and vari-coloured vegetation types. Steppe groupings are characterized by highly developed turf-formation processes, and extensive development of mixed grass and legumes; in spring, ephemerals are more or less abundant. Nevertheless turf grasses predominate, affecting the appearance of steppes at the end of summer and the beginning of winter. The total area of steppe groupings comprises about 77,100 ha.
Steppe-meadows occupy considerable areas at altitudes between
1,500 1,800 m sometimes up to 2,200 m and more. The climate
of this zone is distinguished by a comparatively damp and less warm summer,
and more equal distribution of precipitation levels in the vegetation
period. In summer there is frequent hail. The frostfree period lasts for
4-4.5 months. Steppe-meadow vegetation creates a clearly defined zone
in almost all mountainous terrains. It is more vivid in southern-facing
slopes but it can also be encountered on slopes with other exposures.
Steppe meadows are particularly developed on slighter slopes, sometimes
they emerge on plateaus with almost flat relief. The total area of steppe-meadow
groupings is about 169,300 ha.
Cleared-forest grazing lands are encountered predominantly under gentle relief, on flat and gently sloping areas, in regions distinguished by intersecting relief and often on large steep slopes. The grass cover is dense, with different tiers, comprising both meadow species (Rumex acetosa, Cephalaria tatarica, Agrostis vulgaris, Trifolium pratense, Trifolium ambiguum, Poa pratensis, Koeleria gracilis, Dactylis glomerata, Phleum pratense, etc.) and forest species (Vicia balansae, Deschampsia caespitosa, Arrhenatherum elatius, Agrostis planifolia, Agropyron caninum, Festuca gigantea, etc.). Meadow species are typically predominant. Sometimes meadow species are mixed with forest shrubs or grass. Forest trees: Quercus, Fagus, Carpinus, Tilia, Acer, Ulmus, Fraxinus, Carpinus orientalis, birch Betula, Pinus, Juniperus etc. Nevertheless, beech, oak and hornbeam can be met in almost all types of cleared -forest grasslands. The total area comprises 128,400 ha.
Table 4. Zonal distribution of natural grazing lands of Armenia (,000 ha)
Sub-alpine grazing lands occupy a considerable territory and are the major lands in the country used as grasslands and pastures. Both are used in all seasons except winter. It should be mentioned that the tall vegetation (Phleum pratense, Dactylis glomerata, Festuca pratensis, etc.), are used in summer for hay, while the short ones (Festuca ovina, Bromus inermis, Koeleria, Taraxacum, etc.) are used from spring till autumn for grazing.
The sub-alpine zone represents a clearly defined zone at an altitude of 2,200 2,800 m. The relief of this zone is diverse: slight and steep slopes, often abrupt ones can be encountered. The climate is montane, the average annual temperature fluctuates from 50 to 20 and below. Annual precipitation level is 800 900 mm. The highest level of rainfalls are observed in early summer and late spring. The vegetation is very rich and diverse which permits the distinction of a great number of diverse species of vegetation groupings. This results in the diversity of pasture land types used as grass lands and pastures.
The species of all vegetation groups within the given zone are affected by human interference fodder production and grazing. This has resulted in the emergence and successful growth of many vegetation types, which are actually alien to this mountain range, and has made the diverse vegetation of this area even more complex. The composition by type of sub-alpine hay meadows is very rich; many vegetation groups comprise 120 130 and more species. The major turf-forming and the most predominant plants are grasses. The vegetation of sub-alpine hay meadows is typically rather tall. The soil cover is complete with a high level of sod. The total area is 277,800 ha.
Alpine pastures occupy a substantial area and create a clearly defined zone in nearly all areas at altitudes of 2,700 to 3,500 m. The relief is diverse: along with vast valleys and highland plateaus, multiple steep slopes of various exposures, cliffs and parent rocks can be encountered. Vast areas on steep slopes are occupied by talus (stony scarps) and embankments. Typical alpine meadows expand only on slopes and plateaus covered by more or less melkozem soil of mountain meadow type. Alpine vegetation, due to the damp climatic conditions, is low and dense (although somewhat patchy in places) and this is why the upper melkozem layer of mountain meadow soil appears to be densely tied, bound by numerous clusters of roots and secondary tufts. There are few annuals in the alpine zone. Most perennials are distinguished by a fast growing rate. They manage to blossom and fruit in a very short vegetation period and having sprouted up they winter with green leaves.
Considered from a floristic point of view alpine vegetation is comparatively poor in species, however it is rich in the groups composing it. This diversity is intensified by regular grazing. The latter has resulted in modification of the appearance of alpine meadows and in the emergence of secondary type vegetation. Because of characteristic features, alpine meadows are purely pasture. Grasses are the most prevailing plants. The height of the grass is low 20 to 25 cm for rich species. Soil cover is complete. The total area comprises 122,200 ha.
The current state of pastures
Pasture improvement and its proper utilization
Cultural measures. A substantial area of pastures, especially in the forest zone is covered by low forest and shrubs. Often due to inadequate utilization tussocks appear. Shrubs and tussocks decrease the useful area, reduce the yield and complicate the grazing and movement of the livestock. Such pastures need to be brought into a proper cultural state: the shrubs cleared, and tussocks, stones and litter (the remnants of plants not eaten by animals remain and the following year they form a litter layer that impedes the reproduction of the plants) removed. The removal of stones can expand the useful area by more than 10 20 percent and can increase land productivity. However, the pastures on mountain slopes, gullies and washes should not be entirely cleaned up, since in such places shrubs and stones are protecting the slopes from erosion. Thus, on dry areas a complete removal of shrubs may undermine the water regime, and dry up the soil and the grass during the hot summer period.
Pastures covered by tussocks often occupy large areas. The emergence of tussocks in pastures is caused by various factors, such as being trampled by livestock in the case of excessive grazing on a damp soil; the emergence of dense patterns of shrubs; the existence of shrews, etc. The size of tussocks is 25 40 cm and more, the length is 10 16 cm. It would be appropriate to destroy them separately, if the territory they occupy exceeds 30 percent of the terrain. In case it is more than that, then radical treatment is required.
Each year the yield takes out a considerable amount of nutrients from the soil (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, etc.) and the latter is gradually impoverished. Along with this the grass yield is also reduced. Provided fertilizers were regularly applied, it would be possible to achieve a higher yield and to improve the vegetation in a short period of time. The best time for applying fertilizers is in early spring, when the soil contains a sufficient amount of moisture.
One basic way to improve the vegetation and achieve better quality feed is the eradication of weeds. They grow quickly supplanting fodder grass and noticeably diminishing grass quality. Fertilization and the organization of adequate grazing schedules are very effective weed control measures. In certain cases it is possible to decrease greatly the amount of weeds by chemical weeding through herbicides. In certain situations the best treatment against intense infestation by the worse weeds is a deep ploughing and cleaning up of cut weeds.
On thinned areas, in addition to the removal of tussocks, shrubs and stones, it is necessary to sow seeds of valuable meadow grass. A tangible effect can be achieved by sowing seeds picked from plants on the same plot. In order to get the highest quality fodder it is necessary to use many legumes while sowing, especially white clover (creeping) which is very common in all pasture zones. Pasture improvement measures can be highly effective if they are followed by further natural resource management practices.
Natural resource management measures. Pastures and fodder are especially significant for the development of animal production. Due to the high proportion of animal feed derived from pastures the rational utilization of pastures is becoming an important issue. The role of pastures and pasture fodder is increasing due to the extension of the pasture period. In north-west and south-east Armenia it lasts for 7-8 and sometimes even 10-11 months. Considering the important role of pasture grazing, the problem of undertaking organizational and management measures acquires a special urgency. The adequate utilization of pastures and grasslands increases their productivity greatly.
Livestock grazing also has tangible effects on soil and vegetation. Grazing is conducive to changes in the vegetation affecting the quantity and quality of species. In the case of inadequate utilization of pastures a number of less valuable species emerge, while fertility levels decline. It can be inferred from the above that the proper utilization of pastures will sharply decrease or eradicate the damage caused by livestock.
Grazing time,duration, and the appropriate utilization of pastures are important. The establishment of proper grazing schedules, respecting the starting and closing times are of the utmost importance in their effect on pasture grass cover. If grazing takes place too early or too late, the soil may becomes impacted, thus impeding the further development of plants, affecting also the quality of the grass and soil fertility. This may result in their early degradation. Early grazing sharply impedes the normal process of accumulation and consumption of nutrients by the plants. However, grazing should not take place too late either since the fodder value of the grass declines with the age of the pasture.
Cessation of grazing in autumn is also very important. In cases when pasture grazing is caried on late in the autumn the grass productivity may be affected in succeeding years.
It would be appropriate to start spring grazing for the livestock 15 20 days after the plants start growing and to stop it 25 30 days before the end of the vegetation period.
For the appropriate organization of livestock grazing it is necessary to be well aware of pasture capacity, i.e. to define how many head can be grazed per hectare of land in the course of the pasture grazing period.
Further, the grazing time, appropriate pasture grazing techniques, the grazing schedule, pasture rotation, etc. are also very important in pasture utilization and management.
|6. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF FODDER
For the promotion of agricultural growth, the improvement and expansion of agricultural production and the efficient utilization of pastures and grasslands, it is necessary:
|7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS
Director Hrachik Hovsepyan.
Address: Isi- Le-Mulino 1str., Echmiadzin, Armavir region, RA
Tel.: (374-031) 5-34-54
Director Hunan Khazaryan
Address; Isakov str.24, Yerevan, RA
Tel.: (374-1) 77-88-90
Director Kim Abelyan
Address: Hubarashen 2, Yerevan, RA
Tel.: (374-1) 47-34-00
Director Sergey Khazaryan
Address: Furmanov str.39a, Yerevan, RA
Tel.: (374-1) 23-45-28
Director Rafik Harutyunyan
Research activities: selection and introduction of new bee types and high honey quality
Address: Aringe, Kotayk region, RA
Tel.: (374-1) 62-66-52
Dean Arshaluys Tarverdyan
Address: Teryan str.74, Yerevan, RA
Tel.: (374-1) 52-45-41
Fax: (374-1) 151-930
Authors: The profile was prepared in May July 2001 by the Professor of the Armenian Academy of Agriculture Dr. Robert Tumanyan who will update it from time to time. He is a specialist in fodder production, particularly of hay meadows and pastures, on which he has been working for about 39 years. He has authored 38 scientific works on fodder production, pasture and grassland improvement.
Address: Tigran Mets str.13, apt.5,Yerevan, Armenia 375010
The section on livestock raising and breeding was compiled by the Head of the Department of Private Livestock Breeding of the Armenian Academy of Agriculture, Prof. Shavik Nersesyan. He is an author of 75 scientific works on livestock breeding, particularly cattle breeding and horse-breeding in Armenia.
Address: Arabkir str.21, apt.35, Yerevan, Armenia 375051
Translator: Karine Avagyan
Address: Lvovyan 19str., apt.74, Yerevan, Armenia
[The profile was edited by J.M. Suttie and S.G. Reynolds in September 2001 and slightly modified by S.G. Reynolds in October 2006]