CountryPasture/Forage Resource Profiles

 

Mexico


By
Ricardo Améndola, Epigmenio Castillo & Pedro A. Martínez


1. Introduction
Indigenous population, colonization, independence and national organization.
Environment and agricultural production
Grazing livestock
Farming
2. Soils and Topography
3. Climate and Agro-ecological Zones
Climate
Agro-ecological zones and their major agricultural enterprises
Northern Mexico
Central Mexico
Southern Mexico
4. Ruminant Livestock Production Systems
Dairy systems in the Plateau and North of Mexico
The Tropical Dual Purpose system
Beef production systems in Northern and Central Mexico
Beef production systems in the tropics
Sheep production systems
Goat production
5. The Pasture Resource
Main vegetation zones
Northern Mexico
Central Mexico
Southern Mexico
Improved pastures and sown forages
Sown forages by agricultural regions
Sown forages in Northern and Central Mexico under temperate and arid or semiarid conditions with irrigation
Sown pastures in the tropics
Forage resources in the arid and semiarid region of Mexico
Crop residues
6. Opportunities for Improvement of Fodder Resources
7. Research and Development Organizations and Personnel
Northern Mexico
Central Mexico
Southern Mexico
8. References
9. Contacts

1. INTRODUCTION

Mexico (Estados Unidos Mexicanos is the official name) is in the southern portion of North America, between 14° 32´ and 32° 43' North and 86° 42´ and 118° 27’ West. It is bordered by the United States of America to the north, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Belize and Guatemala to the south-east and the Pacific Ocean to the south and west. (Figure 1). The total land area is 1,964,375 km² of which 1,959,248 km² are continental. Mexico is a federal republic with 31 States and one Federal District (Mexico City).

Figure 1. Map of Mexico with agricultural regions (after Arroyo, 1990); numbers identify states in the following order: 1= Baja California, 2= Baja California Sur, 3= Sonora, 4= Sinaloa, 5= Nayarit, 6= Chihuahua, 7= Coahuila, 8= Durango, 9= Zacatecas, 10= Nuevo León, 11= Tamaulipas, 12= San Luis Potosí, 13= Aguascalientes, 14= Guanajuato, 15= Jalisco, 16= Querétaro, 17= Michoacán, 18= Hidalgo, 19= México, 20= Morelos, 21= Tlaxcala, 22= Puebla, 23= Colima, 24= Guerrero, 25= Oaxaca, 26= Chiapas, 27= Veracruz, 28= Tabasco, 29= Campeche, 30= Yucatán, 31= Quintana Roo.

According to the 2000 Census, Mexico’s population was 97,483,412; population growth rate decreased from 3.4% in the nineteen-sixties to 1.8% in the nineteen-nineties and the proportion of rural population which was 49.3% in 1960 had fallen to 25.4% in 2000 (INEGI, 2003). Due to decreases in birth and death rates, the proportion of young people (age <15) fell from 44% in 1960 to 33% in 2000 (According to the World Factbook the July 2006 population was estimated at 107,449,525 with a 1.16% growth rate). Population density is very high in Mexico City and the State of Mexico (911 per km2), in other states of Central Mexico it is 153 km2, in Central West Mexico it reaches 80 per km2, is lower in Southern Mexico (49 per km2) and lowest in Northern Mexico (20 per  km2). Migration to the USA affects population dynamics; between 1990 and 2000 on average 300,000 Mexicans emigrated per year, of which nearly 75% were male and two thirds were from Central Mexico (INEGI, 2003). About 80% of the population is mestizo, 10% is of European extraction (predominantly Spanish) and 10% is native belonging to a large number of ethnic groups.

Indigenous population, colonization, independence and national organization
The territory of Mexico corresponded essentially to the Mesoamerican cultural and geographic region. In its most thriving period, the Mesoamerican borders were the Nicoya Peninsula in Central America and the Sinaloa River in North America. Highly developed cultures flourished in Mesoamerica, such as the Mayas in the southeast, the Mixtecos and Zapotecos in the south, the Olmecas and Totonacos in the Gulf of Mexico and the Teotihuacanos, Toltecas and Mexicas in the Central Plateau. These cultures shared several common features: agriculture as the basis of their economies; maize, beans, pumpkin, chilli and tomato as basic foodstuffs; polytheist religions; human sacrifices to honour their gods; the ball game as a religious ceremony; the building of pyramidal bases; ideographic writing and a vigesimal numerical system. The Mexicas (of Nahua extraction) rose by means of hard work, wars and alliances and by 1440 had built a great empire, ruled by a theocratic-military government, with Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) as centre. The Mexica (Aztec) empire grew and achieved the control of Mesoamerica. The nations conquered were autonomous in their political relations and religious practices, but submitted to the Mexica State by means of tribute.

In 1519 the Spaniards began their conquest of Mexico and in 1521 the Great Tenochtitlan fell into the hands of the conquerors and their native allies. Colonization started, giving origin to the Virreinato de la Nueva España (Viceroyalty of the New Spain) that lasted for three centuries. The Spaniards imposed their religion, values and ideas on the conquered nations; nevertheless the native cultural and religious roots lasted by means of syncretism. The economy was based on exploitation of the native people; it has been estimated that in less than one century of Spanish control, a third of the native population had perished, victim of mistreatment and diseases –such as smallpox - brought by the Europeans. The peninsular Spaniards and the “criollos” – of Spanish extraction but born in Mexico - were the dominant class; the natives, mestizos, the castes (mixtures of all racial groups) and the slaves were subordinate classes.

The Viceroyalty of the New Spain was the most important viceroyalty in the Spanish empire. Its natural resources - such as silver - and the high taxes that the Spanish Crown imposed on the population, flowed to the metropolis. Combined with this, absence of liberties and the political control exerted by the peninsular Spaniards, generated deep resentments among the population of the colony. Following the libertarian principles of the French Revolution, the struggle for independence started in 1810. After gaining independence in 1821, a long period of civil wars started between followers of two different ideas of nation: the conservative monarchy and the liberal federal republic. In this context of internal wars and extreme weakness, Mexico was the victim of three foreign interventions, one of which - the North American intervention between 1846 and 1848 - led to the loss of almost the half of its territory.

Between 1857 and 1867 clashes between liberals and conservative were very intense. The conservatives sought the support of the French emperor Napoleon III who prompted the establishment of the empire of Maximilian of Hapsburg in Mexico. The defence of national sovereignty was led by the liberal president Benito Juárez. The triumph of the liberals enabled social and economic reforms: the separation between the Church and State, the nationalization of all properties of the Church and the freedom of worship. Nonetheless, the liberals did not achieve their aim (following the model of North American farmers) of liquidation of the unproductive large landed estates and promotion of small properties.

Empowered in 1876, Porfirio Díaz established a dictatorship that lasted until 1911. His policy was based on modernisation of the whole country through building railroads, promoting mining, encouraging production of agricultural goods for export, giving support to henequen (Agave fourcroydes) and rubber plantations, upholding the extraction of precious woods, endorsing commerce and the banks and sponsoring the investment of foreign capital. His agrarian policy was directed at increasing large, landed estates at the cost of communal lands and small properties. These estates (haciendas) aimed to satisfy the demand of i) the internal market and ii) products for export.

The main beneficiaries of Diaz’s project were the agrarian oligarchy, the military elite, foreign companies and the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Social inequity, deprivation of lands and the exploitation of peasants and workers, caused constant rebellions and social struggles, which were repressed by the dictator. These conditions favoured the beginning of the revolution, which started in 1910 after electoral fraud against the opposing candidate Francisco I. Madero. The social and political reforms sought by the revolutionaries were expressed in the Constitution of 1917, establishing the principle of national sovereignty on all natural resources, agrarian reform, labour rights and free, obligatory, and secular education. This project of national capitalist development was accomplished during the government of Cárdenas (1934-1940) with measures such as agrarian reform, expropriation of oil companies, laws that guaranteed labour rights and the enlargement of the educational system. To achieve these reforms, Cárdenas mobilized labourers and peasants. He transformed the State into the driving force of economic growth and structured the internal market. Cárdenas consolidated the Mexican political system based on the president and the State Party; this was the origin of the PRI, the party that ruled Mexico until the end of the century.

Based on import substitution, the industrial development of Mexico started during World War Two; between 1940 and 1960 industrial production grew at annual rates of 7 to 8%. This growth was stimulated by protectionist policies, subsidies and increasing foreign investment. In the agricultural sector the government favoured commercial agriculture (big farmers) and sidelined the peasants. State support to capitalist agriculture was through the expansion of credit and state investments, governmental intervention in marketing and – together with international agencies such as the Rockefeller Foundation - the promotion of agronomic research known as the “green revolution”. The “green revolution” generated technological packages that included the use of improved varieties, fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, agricultural machinery and irrigation. This model of economic development became less fashionable in the nineteen-seventies: between 1971 and 1975, the deficit of commercial balance and the external debt increased 400 and 275%, respectively; inflation, devaluations, and dependence on incomes from oil exports were the most important signs of that crisis. The neoliberal model imposed since 1982 and the uneven North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and the USA caused a strong polarization of incomes and affected the development of the agricultural sector. Solutions for social conflicts generated by this situation, and the recently emerged demands of rights by the native population, are sought within the frame of the democratic development achieved in the last few years.

Environment and agricultural production
The Northern and Southern Plateaux are the main features of the physiography of Mexico. To the east and west, two mountain chains, the Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental, leave relatively narrow plains along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. This physiography leads to a variety of climates, with altitude exerting a dominant effect on temperature and the Sierra Madre Oriental precluding the circulation of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico towards Northern and Central Mexico. Therefore, dry to very dry conditions prevail in most of the country: arid and semiarid mostly in the north (47.7% of the territory), dry tropical mainly along the shores (16.3 % of the territory) and sub-humid temperate with a 7 month long dry season prevailing in Central Mexico (23.5 % of the territory), humid tropical climate share only 12.4% of the territory located in Southern Mexico, and in both mountain chains relatively small areas with humid temperate climate are found (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Agro-ecological regions of Mexico (after De Alba, 1976).
[Click to view full image]

These conditions set clear limits to the agricultural use of land, only 20.6 million ha (10.5 % of the territory) are cultivated of which 25% are under irrigation (SIAP, 2004). Pastoral use of land is widespread, particularly in arid and semiarid northern Mexico. Jiménez (1989) estimates that 50% of the territory (about 98 million ha) is occupied by vegetation types suited for use by grazing animals, such as natural grassland (pastizal), different types of shrublands (matorral), deciduous tropical forest and conifer-oak forests. The author quotes other estimates of area, which range between 75 and 130 million ha. According to Arroyo (1990) about 74.5 million ha (38% of the territory) are being used as grazing lands, of which 76% are in Northern Mexico.

After the nineteen-seventies, national agricultural production has been unable to cope with the needs of the increasing population and imports form an important proportion of domestic supplies (Figure 3). For dairy products the most critical period was between 1985 and 1994. In the cases of cereals and meat, after the onset of the NAFTA and when the economic crisis of 1995 was bridged, the proportion of imports in domestic supplies have been increasing at a rate of more than 2 percent per year. As a consequence the negative balance of trade reached a record amount of US $ 3,721 million in 2002 (FAOSTAT, 2004). The Gross National Income (GNI) per capita has been increasing and in 2002 amounted to US $8,970 (adjusted to US $ values of 1995), however the proportion of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in GNI decreased from 8% in 1990 to 4% in 2002 (Presidencia de la República, 2004). In 1982 the agricultural sector entered a crisis and since the second half of the nineteen-nineties that crisis has worsened. Mexican farmers receive little government support and as agriculture is further integrated in a multilateral trading system, Mexican farmers are being increasingly exposed to competition by highly protected (subsidised) agricultural systems of developed countries. This uneven competition is having adverse consequences on the development of the sector (Amendola, 2002; Gómez and Schwentesius, 2004), which shows in the small 1.6% annual growth (in terms of Gross National Income) for the period 1990-2002 (Presidencia de la República, 2004).

Figure 3. Imports as proportion of domestic supplies in Mexico, after data from FAOSTAT (2004).

The value of the main agricultural products in two periods, 1990-1996 and 1997-2002 is summarized in Table 1. By the beginning of the twenty-first century beef, fruits, vegetables, maize, milk, poultry, pork and eggs formed 80% of the value of agricultural products. Between the two periods considered, the overall value of agricultural products decreased by 7%, but the evolution in the past few years has been uneven. The value of crop products only increased in the case of vegetables and showed a dramatic 32% decrease in the case of basic crops (cereals, pulses and oil crops). The value of poultry products increased sharply (28%), those of dairy products and eggs showed modest increases (7%) while the sum of values of other products decreased 8%. Within the ruminant sector, cattle products account for more than 95% of the value.

Table 1. Value of agricultural products (1995 US$ per year) from data of SIAP (2004)

 

Period

Product

1990-1996

1997-2002

Maize

3,837

2,618

Fruits

3,013

2,830

Vegetables

2,347

2,622

Sugar cane

1,102

1,112

Other industrial crops

852

764

Beans

802

627

Wheat

756

436

Coffee

542

527

Potato

422

472

Oil crops

273

124

Other cereals pulses

172

166

Other crops

466

302

Beef

3,214

2,835

Milk

2,435

2,599

Poultry

1,840

2,346

Pork

1,892

1,870

Eggs

1,121

1,198

Goat meat

137

107

Sheep meat

100

98

Goat milk

48

43

Grazing livestock
Mexico’s ruminant sector has traditionally been dominated by cattle. For the period 2000 - 2001, SIAP (2004) reports 28.5 million head of beef cattle of which 30, 26 and 44% are in Northern, Central and Southern Mexico, respectively (FAOSTAT records the number of cattle in 2000 as 30.5M and in 2004 and 2005 as 31.5M head). European breeds (Hereford, Angus and Charollais) are dominant in Northern Mexico, in Central Mexico crosses of “criollo” (of Spanish origin) and European breeds are most frequent and in tropical climates, Zebu breeds and their crosses with European breeds dominate. For the same period SIAP (2004) reports 2.1 million dairy cattle of which 42, 48 and 10% are in Northern, Central and Southern Mexico, respectively. In Northern and Central Mexico Holstein is the dominant breed in specialised dairy farms and crosses of Holstein and “criollo” dominate in small farms. In Southern, tropical, Mexico crosses of Zebu with Holstein and Brown Swiss are the commonest breeds for dairy production. According to SIAP (2004) there are in Mexico 8.7 million goats (FAOSTAT 2004 figure is 9.0 M) of which 20, 58 and 22% are in Northern, Central and Southern Mexico, respectively. Goats are mostly “criollas”; nonetheless, crosses with Nubian, Alpino and Saanen are being introduced. Dairy goats are concentrated in Northern Mexico, two northern states and one central-west state (Coahuila, Durango and Guanajuato) concentrate 75% of the production. Regional distribution of goat meat production is less clearly defined as 66% is spread among eight states of Northern, Central and Southern Mexico. There are 6.1 million sheep (FAOSTAT 2004 and 2005 figure is about 6.8 M) of which 16, 60 and 24% are in Northern, Central and Southern Mexico, respectively. Sheep are almost exclusively for meat, and national production is insufficient to satisfy the high demand of Mexico City and surrounding states. “Criollo” and Rambouillet are dominant in Northern states, in Central Mexico Suffolk and Hampshire have been intensively introduced since the nineteen-seventies, while in tropical conditions hair-sheep breeds (Pelibuey, Black-belly, Kathadin) are increasingly being used.

Farming
Land tenure of agricultural land in Mexico is classified as private or belonging to the “social sector”. Within the social sector the main form of tenure is the Ejido; this was the form of land tenure chosen by the Mexican agrarian reform in the first half of the twentieth century; it allowed individuals to practice agriculture on allotted paddocks; the right concerned land use and was not equivalent to ownership, implying that Ejido land could not be sold. Nonetheless, the twenty-seventh article of the Mexican Constitution was amended in 1992 and since then Ejido land might (under certain circumstances) be converted into private ownership. The distribution of resources among the social and private sectors has historically been uneven, with the social sector being predominately characterised by lack of resources (Arroyo, 1990). Farm size (number of head) of cattle enterprises according to the Agricultural Census of 1991 (INEGI, 2003) illustrates that uneven distribution (Figure 4). A very high percentage or production units belong to the social sector in the category small and family-based (less than 20 head); these units only own a small proportion of the national cattle stock. On the other end, private enterprises in the category large and commercial (more than 100 head) which represent a very low proportion of enterprises, own a large proportion of the national cattle stock. Small farmers rely on unpaid family labour, which apparently reduces their production costs but they have several disadvantages. They lack capital, infrastructure and equipment and their productivity is low. Their degree of organisation and integration is very low which is a huge disadvantage because organised and integrated farmers have regular channels for the commercialisation of their products and are paid higher prices, pay lower prices for inputs, receive regular technical advice and have easier access to credit with preferential rates (Amendola, 2002).

Figure 4. Percentages of production units and the national cattle inventory according to farm size (number of head per unit), from data of the VII Agricultural Census of 1991 (INEGI, 2003).

2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY

This description is based on the document “Suelos” by Irene Sommers Cervantes and Silke Cram Heydrich, technician and researcher, respectively, of the Instituto de Geografía, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, which appears on line at: http://www.union.org.mx/guia/tesorosdelplaneta/Suelos.htm

It is very difficult to classify soils due to their extreme variability so several classification systems have risen throughout the years. In most cases, a soil classification is adapted to the expectations and usefulness they represent for a particular nation, making it difficult to establish equivalencies among classifications. However, the FAO in collaboration with UNESCO proposed a system simple enough so as to be applicable by any nation, regardless of the degree of in depth study that such soils had been subjected in the past.

This system was adopted by México through the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI, its Spanish acronym), and served as the basis to establish an inventory of soils of the Mexican Republic (see Figure 5 and Table 2). Recently, the Geography Institute of the National Autonomous University of México published the National Atlas of México (Instituto de Geografía, 1991) which updates part of the original information from INEGI, and is used here to establish the soil types and the area covered by each soil unit within the country and its climatic regions.

Since climate is one of the factors that exert the most influence on soil formation, they were grouped within the 11 climatic regions of México, as defined by the Geography Institute.

Then, the objective is to present a general overview of this subject in a short space. For this reason, it must be mentioned that our generalizations may not be valid if applied to any particular cases.

Region I:
The northeast covers the west coast of the Baja California peninsula, with a very dry climate and temperatures that vary from semi-hot to temperate and rainfall peaking in winter. It represents 2% of the national territory. The dominant soils are: Regosols, 49%; Calcisols (formerly xerosols and yermosols), 34%; and of lesser importance leptosols (10%) and solonchaks (7%). Regosols and calcisols have limited use for agriculture and the latter is used mainly for extensive grazing.

Region II:
Gulf of California comprises the east coast of the Baja California peninsula and its central part, the state of Sonora (except the extreme south) and south-western Chihuahua state. The climate is mainly very dry with temperatures from very hot to temperate. The rainfall pattern is intermediate. The climate becomes more humid inland, of the arid to semi-arid type and in the highlands it becomes sub-humid, with very hot to semi-hot and temperate temperature regimes. Rainfall pattern is also intermediate. This region covers about 14% of the area of México. The main soil units are: Regosols, 39%; calcisols, 24% and leptosols (formerly litosols and rendzinas; Instituto de Geografía, 1990 [map based on FAO, 1985]). Leptosols have little agricultural value because they are shallow and stony and associated with mountain zones, so it is preferable to keep them covered with vegetation. They are mainly used for extensive grazing. Other soil units are present in small proportions: feozems 5%; vertisols, 3%; cambisols, 2%; solonchaks, 2%; and luvisols 2%.

Region III:
Central Pacific comprises the states of Sonora (south), Sinaloa, Chihuahua (south-western extreme), Nayarit, and Durango (western side). The coastal plain has a very arid to semi-arid climate. Inland, temperature regimes are hot and become sub-humid toward the mountains. It has a summer rainfall pattern. This region covers 8% of the country. The main soil units are; regosols and leptosols that cover 33% and 14% of this region; feozems (14%), which have a high agricultural potential, are used mainly to grow vegetables and small grains, mainly under irrigations; cambisols cover 12 %; vertisols (10%) developed under tropical and sub-tropical climates with alternating rainy and dry seasons and are fertile most of times. Other soil units covering this region in smaller proportions are: calcisols, 8%; solonchaks, 6%; and luvisols and acrisols, 3%.

Region IV:
North. A very dry, semi-hot to temperate climate dominates this region. Along the border the rainfall pattern is intermediate and in the remaining area presents a summer rainfall pattern. Toward the mountains, and to the south, the climate changes to dry and semi-dry, with temperatures going from semi-hot to temperate. It is the most extended climatic region of México with 26.5% of the territory. This region covers the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila (western part), Durango, Zacatecas (northern part), San Luis Potosí, and the western extremes of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas, as well as the north of Aguascalientes, Guanajuato and Querétaro. The main soils of this region are those of dry zones like calcisols (37%) and leptosols (30%), with other less important soil units: regosols, 13%; feozems, 10%; cambisols, 4%;and solochaks, 2%. The castañozems occupy only 2% of the area, and because they support grassland vegetation, the organic matter content is high, thus showing a high fertility potential; besides, they present a soft A horizon. These soils are also used for extensive grazing. Planosols, luvisols and vertisols cover together, only 2% of this region.

Region V:
Centre. This regions extends across the states of Zacatecas (south), Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Nayarit (east), Jalisco (except the coast) and the Distrito Federal, as well as Michoacán (north), México, Tlaxcala and Puebla. A sub-humid climate, with some variations; temperatures are semi-hot or temperate and the rains peak in summer. This region occupies 9.7% of the country.

The soils that characterize this region are feozems (37%), regosols (16%), vertisols (14%) and luvisols (8%). Andosols (8%) are formed from volcanic ash, so they are associated with mountains. The surface layer is very loose and abundant in organic matter; with some frequency there is a hardened layer with a deficient drainage that makes the soil susceptible to erosion. Since these soils are distributed in temperate as well as in tropical climates their use varies significantly; forestry must be the preferred use, because they have some limitations for agriculture: they adsorb P and are relatively acid leading to Al toxicity; besides cultivation is not possible due to steep slopes. Andosols are present mainly along the volcanic axis of the country. Other soils present in minor proportions are cambisols (4%), calcisols (4%), and leptosols (4%). Another important soil unit is planosols, which are rare in México and mainly found along rivers and estuaries; their formation requires very marked and alternate dry/humid seasons. They have a hard layer close to the surface which causes flooding in the rainy season, which leads to a delayed decomposition of organic matter. These soils are poor in N, K and Ca and have very limited agricultural use. Castañozems, also present in this region, only occupy 2% of the area.

Region VI:
Northeast. This region includes the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and the eastern belt of Coahuila. The climate goes from semi-arid to arid and the temperature from semi-hot to hot. The rainfall pattern is intermediate in the border belt and in summer in the central and southern parts. It covers 9% of the Mexican Republic.The most abundant soils types are: leptosols, 42%; calcisols, 32%; and vertisols, 17%. Other, less abundant, units are: castañozems, 6%; regosols, 2%; and feozems, 1%.

Region VII:
Gulf of México. It covers southern Tamaulipas state and the eastern portions of the states of San Luis Potosí, Queretaro and northern Oaxaca; northern Hidalgo state; the states of Veracruz and Tabasco as well as northern Chiapas. The climate is predominantly humid or sub-humid with temperatures from semi-hot to hot. It presents intermediate or summer rainfall pattern and covers 9% of México. The vertisols cover 25% of this region. The gleysols (13%) are soils that are flooded for long periods (swamps) and for this reason aeration is deficient creating a reducing environment that only few crops tolerate. Artificial draining is necessary for agricultural activities. Its distribution within the country is limited but can be of high importance at the regional level. Gleysols are highly susceptible to pollution due to their close contact with water which is not possible to drain. Unfortunately in México they coincide with oil extraction zones that have a strong impact on them. The acrisol soil unit covers 11% of this region. These are very similar to the luvisols in that they present a B horizon, but the effects of drained water are more drastic. Many times they present a reddish coloration, indicative of good aeration. Its high acidity restricts the range of crops that can be grown on them. Besides, their nutrient reserve is scarce and the B horizon is susceptible of hardening, thus avoiding root penetration. Their tendency to erosion is moderate. They have been submitted to the slash-and-burn type of cropping, which due to population increments has become unsustainable. They are used for plantations like cocoa, pineapple and coffee, and also for artificial pastures. Luvisols (10%) are soils of humid climates with a well defined dry season. Under tropical climates, they form on recently deposited materials. The soil possesses an excess of water that flows through it as natural drainage, which carries with it clay material and an organic-mineral complex that accumulate to a certain depth (B horizon). In spite of the high drainage they have a relatively good nutrient reserve; although not as high as feozems, which also have a B horizon. The natural vegetation is forest; these soils are very prone to erosion. They can be used for crops if techniques to avoid erosion are used. Other soil units, already described, in this region are: Cambisols, 11%; leptosols, 11%; regosols, 7%; and feozems, 5%. Nitosols (3%) are soils that are only present in this region; they are soils of tropical climates with a well defined dry season. They present a strong clay accumulation in a B horizon; the parent material presents a strong basic reaction and present high concentrations of iron oxides (reddish colour indicating an oxidizing environment). They are used for cocoa and coffee plantations without the use of inputs. Other soils cover small areas, such as andosols (2%) and solonchaks (2%).

Region VIII:
Balsas – Oaxaca Valley. The climate varies from semi-arid to sub-humid with hot temperatures and a summer rainfall pattern. It includes the southern portions of the states of Jalisco, México and Hidalgo; the central belt of Michoacán state; and the states of Morelos, Puebla and Guerrero (except the coast) as well as the central belt of Oaxaca. It comprises 7.5% of the national territory. The soils covering this region have been described, and are: Regosols, 32%; leptosols, 21%; cambisols, 13%; and luvisols, 9%. Other, less extended units are: andosols, 7%; feozems, 7%; acrisols, 6%; vertisols, 4%; and calcisols, 1%.

Region IX:
South Pacific
comprises the state of Colima, and the coasts of the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, Guerreroa and Oaxaca. The climate is sub-humid and temperatures can be hot, semi-hot or temperate in the highlands. It has a summer rainfall pattern. It covers 4.2% of México. The most common soil is regosol, occupying 57%. Cambisol covers 28% and a minimal development, since a layer of fine material accumulation is barely perceptible (incipient B horizon); it is common in temperate zones, but in tropical areas they can be associated with recently deposited materials or steep slopes. They have good cropping potential, but their main limitations are shallowness and a stony surface. They have a low reserve of nutrients in the tropics, but not as low as that of acrisols. Other units present in low proportions are: Feozems, 5%; leptosols, 5%; and luvisols, andosols and vertisols with 5% altogether.

Region X:
Southeast. This region includes southern Chiapas state and the eastern extreme of Oaxaca State. The climate is humid, gradually decreasing to sub-humid in the highlands, with temperatures that can be hot, semi-hot and temperate. It has summer rainfall and covers 2.9% of the country. The main soil units are: Regosols, 29%; leptosols, 21%; and luvisols 18%. Other soils are: Cambisols, 11%; acrisols, 7%; vertisols, 7%; solonchaks, 4%; and planosols and andosols with 3%.

Region XI:
Yucatán. Peninsula comprises the states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo. The climate is sub-humid, with high temperatures. The western section has summer rainfall while the remaining portion is intermediate. It covers 6.7% of México’s land-mass. About 75% of the region is covered by leptosol (formerly rendzinas), which is dominated by calcareous material, so that the soil characteristics are very particular. Soils are shallow and very stony, but with a very dark and organic matter rich surface layer, which is also rich in nutrients. So these soils have a better cropping potential than other leptosols. Soils with more limited distribution in this region are: Luvisols, 8%; vertisols, 6%; regosols, 5%; solonchaks, 3%; and gleysols plus acrisols, 3%.

Conclusions

As shown by Table 2 and Figure 5, the soils with the widest distribution in México (65%) are shallow, less developed soils (leptosols, regosols and calcisols), with low cropping potential.

The more fertile and cropped soils (feozems, vertisols, cambisols and luvisols) occupy only 26% of the Mexican Republic. These soils are subject to intensive agricultural exploitation which compromises their potential productivity and sustainability.

The regions with the greatest soil diversity are the Centre and the Gulf of México. Both are subject to high population densities, which promote multiple pressures on the soil resource. Among them are: land demand for housing, roads and industry, as well as for refuse disposal (of both human and industrial origin).

Other productive activities that represent risks for soil resources are: mining that fortunately does not coincide with crop productive regions, but affects extensive areas and residues bury soils; oil production that generates large amounts of toxic substances that spill to soils which have no buffer capacity for this type of impact; and irrigation which leads to soil salinity (secondary impact) which is already affecting crop productive areas of the country like the Central Pacific and Northeast regions.

Table 2. Percent of the Mexican Republic occupied by soil unit and per climatic region.

Soil unit

Climatic region

%/unit

i

ii

iii

iv

v

vi

vii

viii

ix

x

xi

Leptosol

0.2

3.2

1.2

8.0

0.4

3.7

1.0

1.6

0.2

0.6

5.0

25.1

Regosol

1.0

5.4

2.7

3.5

1.6

0.2

0.6

2.4

2.4

0.9

0.3

21.0

Calcisol

0.7

3.5

0.6

9.8

0.4

2.9

-

0.1

-

-

-

18.0

Feozem

-

0.7

1.2

2.6

3.6

0.1

0.4

0.5

0.2

-

-

9.3

Vertisol

-

0.4

0.8

*

1.4

1.6

2.3

0.3

-

0.2

0.4

7.4

Cambisol

-

0.3

1.0

1.0

0.4

-

1.0

1.0

1.2

0.3

-

6.2

Luvisol

-

0.2

*

*

0.7

-

1.0

0.6

*

0.5

0.5

4.0

Acrisol

-

-

*

-

-

-

1.0

0.4

*

0.2

*

2.0

Solonchak

0.1

0.3

0.5

0.6

-

-

0.2

-

-

0.1

0.2

2.0

Andosol

-

-

-

-

0.7

-

0.2

0.5

*

*

-

1.6

Castañozem

-

-

-

0.6

0.2

0.5

-

-

-

-

-

1.3

Gleysol

-

-

-

-

-

-

1.3

-

-

-

*

1.3

Planosol

-

-

-

*

0.3

-

-

-

-

*

-

0.5

Nitosol

-

-

-

-

-

-

0.3

-

-

-

-

0.3

%/region

2

14

8

26.5

9.7

9

9.3

7.4

4.2

2.9

6.7

100.0

- Not present in the climatic unit.  * Present in a very small proportion.

 


3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES

Climate

[Click to view full image]

At a continental scale, tropical storms during summer and autumn (Figure 6) and cold polar fronts in winter and spring (Figure 7) are the main factors influencing climate in the Mexican Republic. However, relief has a major role in producing the climatic diversity of the country: There are two main mountain chains, Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental that run north-south along both coasts and meet at the Nudo Mixteco (Mixtec Knot) in the South of the country, close to the Tehuantepec Isthmus. There is a plateau between the two mountain chains, divided into a northern and a central plateau, the former being at a lower altitude than the latter; along the middle of the country, from west to east, there is a distinct volcanic mountain chain called the Volcanic Belt.

Therefore México has climates from the hot with mean annual temperatures equal or higher than 26 °C, to cold ones, with temperatures below 10 °C. However, temperatures range from 10 °C to 26 °C in 93 % of the territory. Hot humid and sub-humid climates cover 23% , temperate humid and sub-humid cover 21%, while dry and very dry ones cover 49% (Figure 8).

Due to its geographical location, the climate of México is tropical, with high temperatures (almost always above an annual mean of 18 °C), that vary according to altitude. Even though below 1,000 metres the northern zones of the country fall within the 20 °C annual isotherm, the thermal range is over 10 °C reaching sometimes 20 °C. On the contrary, below 20° N , the thermal range is less (frequently below 5 °C) and increases only inland at higher altitudes, never reaching 10 °C.

Rainfall varies to a great degree between the different regions; there is a humid region, to the east and south where annual rainfall can be above 800 mm and a dry region that extends to the west, centre and north. The rainy season is monsoonal, taking place in summer, and rains are convective. Since the country is located in the easterlies zone, there is a regional maximum rainfall to the east, but conditioned to a great degree by relief, since mountain chains isolate the central and northern plateaux from humid winds coming from the sea (Figure 9).

Another differentiating element is altitude, which determines the division into hot, temperate and cold areas. The hot areas go from sea level to 800 metres., where sugarcane, cocoa and rice can be grown; temperate zones are from 800 to 1,700 metres and coffee and citrus can be planted, although from the 1,500 metres there is a great risk of frosts; the cold lands start from 1,700 metres with three distinct levels: up to 3,250 metres where it is possible to grow wheat, potatoes and temperate fruits; up to 4,000 metres a conifer and grassland belt; above 4000 metres there is perennial snow.

The location of México within the inter-tropical zone of atmospheric circulation affects the climate significantly, since it is affected by the easterlies and the inter-tropical front, on one side, and the northern hemisphere tropical anti-cyclone, on the other. In summer, the anti-cyclone shifts up north and only covers the Baja California peninsula, the only dry region at that season. On the contrary, the inter-tropical front, hot and with abundant convective rainfall, covers the southern part of the country, while the easterlies hit the Gulf of México coast, penetrating inland toward the centre of the plateaux, where they collide with the tropical air-mass from the Pacific Ocean, creating the so called “Mexican front”, which aligns itself along both mountain ranges. This phenomenon results in a hot and humid summer in the whole country in most years. In winter, the tropical anticyclone invades México covering the central plateaux and the western coast, except northeast California, while the easterlies affect only the middle part of the east coast. Then, dry weather dominates over the whole country, without a great reduction in temperature, but in the high altitudes; only the more eastern part of the country gets some rains, although of a different origin.

According to the above, there are four main climates in México (Figure 10): hot, dry or desert type, temperate, and cold, with variations within each one of them. Figure 10 presents the areas covered by the three main types since cold types represent around 7% of the country’s area and are of little importance for animal production from grasslands.

Figure 10. Main climatic types
[Click to view full image]

The hot climates show high mean annual temperatures (18 °C to 21 °C for the coldest month) and rainfall above 750 mm/year, appearing in flat lands below 1,000 metres and to the south of the Tropic of Cancer. There are three main subtypes:

  • Humid with rain all year round, high temperatures, well distributed rainfall; located at the bottom of the Gulf of México in the south of the state of Veracruz and the States of Tabasco and Campeche.
  • Humid with monsoonal rains in summer. The temperature is high and uniform, but slightly lower (20 °C) and lower rainfall (1,500 mm to 2,000 mm). It is located in the south-eastern decline of the Eastern Mother Mountain up to 1,000 metres, the isthmus of Tehuentepec, and also the Pacific coast of the state of Oaxaca, and the southern part of the states of Campeche and Quintana Roo.
  • Sub-humid with monsoonal rains in summer. The annual temperature is above 18 °C, but with a higher thermal range (5 °C – 10 °C); there is a four to six month dry season in winter, and another one, very humid in summer with rainfall varying between 750 mm to 1,500 mm per year. It covers mainly the Gulf of México, to the north of the above subtypes up to the port of Tampico and in the Pacific coast from Oaxaca to Sinaloa states, in the river Balsas depression, and in the Yucatán peninsula, except in its northeaster tip.
  • The dry or desertic types receive less than 750 mm of rainfall per year. These present two subtypes:

  • Steppe or hot desert appears above 500 metres and north of the 20° N parallel. It extends through the northern flatlands, except in the central region where it penetrates in a spear point fashion by the basin of San Luis Potosí down south to the Tehuacán, Puebla plateau; it is also present in the inland hills of the state of Sonora and the north of the state of Sinaloa at the foot of the Western Mother Mountains; and the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. The annual temperature is higher than 18 °C, but the thermal range is over 10 °C; rainfall is below 750 mm/year, mostly in summer, which leads to high evapotranspiration which frequently exceeds rainfall.
  • Desert or Saharan. It is found at the lowest altitudes of the northern flatlands (Mapimí and Chihuahua deserts) where it is surrounded by the steppe subtype. It can also be found along the Gulf of California in the coastal tablelands of Sonora State and the central part of Baja California peninsula. It resembles the steppe subtype, but the thermal oscillation is greater and it is drier with rainfall lower than 400 mm/year, which falls mainly in summer. Rainfall drops to less than 300 mm/year in Sonora and Baja California, but its distribution is slightly better and peak rainfall occurs in winter.
  • The temperate climates are basically highland. The mean annual temperature is above 10 °C and the mean minimum is above zero for the coldest month and temperatures in July above 18 °C. The differences in amount and distribution of rainfall gives several subtypes:

  • Mediterranean. It covers a very small part of the country. It is a mere continuation of the Californian subtype and is present only in the north-eastern tip of the peninsula, the only part of México where rainfall occurs in winter (300 to 500 mm/year).
  • In Tamaulipas State and some regions of the states of Nuevo León and Coahuila there is a hot-temperate climate with scarce rains (400 to 800 mm/year), well distributed, that peak in summer.
  • The semi-hot or highland subtropical is the most important and extended. It appears from 1,000 to 2,400 metres and covers the Mexico City valley  basin, the river Lerma plateau, the southwest decline of both Sierras Madre and the mountains of southern México. It shows some characteristics of a hot, humid climate with rainfall above 600, and sometimes above 1,000 mm/year.
  • Mountain climates begin from 2,400 metres even though there is a subtype that can be present at lower altitudes which has low winter temperatures (some monthly mean below zero), an annual mean of 10 °C and abundant rainfall throughout the year (1,500 mm). It is found mostly in the high regions of the Western Mother Mountains.
  • The polar climate begins from 3500 metres and has two main subtypes:

    1. Tundra reaches 4,500 metres with mean temperature of the hottest month always below 10 °C. It is be found mostly in volcanic mountains of the volcanic belt.

    2 .Glacier or permanent ice always has temperatures below zero and only appears in Mexico’s highest volcanic mountains: Pico de Orizaba, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl.

  • This variability in climate conditions has shaped the type of cattle production system developed in the different regions of the country. Then, one can find dairy production in the highlands based on Holstein cows grazing introduced temperate species with little use of supplements, and intensive dairy based on similar cattle under housing and receiving total mixed rations (TMR) mainly produced entirely outside the farm, and also tropical dairies with crossed cows grazing tropical grasses (native and introduced).

    Agro-ecological zones and their major agricultural enterprises
    Mexico is a land of striking contrasts in terms of climate, vegetation, cultures and economic development. That makes the definition of agro-ecological regions a cumbersome task, an updated summary of agro-ecological regions at a national level (including major changes in the past few years) is not available. The FAO and the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA) in an extremely concise description of regions, used two different criteria for the definition of regions (FAO-SAGARPA, 2001). One criterion, based mostly on characteristics of climate, was used to define four ecological regions for animal production: humid tropical, dry tropical, temperate and arid-semiarid. The second criterion, based on groups of states was used for the evaluation of a governmental programme and divided Mexico in three regions: Northern, Central and Southern. These definitions reflect the two dominant approaches used in Mexico for the definition of regions, which are respectively led by publications by De Alba (1976) and Arroyo (1990). In the following, the approach of FAO-SAGARPA (2001) will be used for a wider description of regions and an updating of their evolution.

    De Alba (1976) identified five major agro-ecological regions establishing a link between climates, forage production and animal production systems: i) Arid and semi-arid, ii) Temperate, iii) Mountains, iv) Humid tropical and v) Dry tropical occupying 40%, 10%, 25%, 13% and 12% of the area, respectively (Figure 2). Arroyo (1990) based the identification of eight Agricultural Regions (Figure 1) in the major socio-economic regions identified by Bassols (1990): 1) Northwest (NW), 2) North (N), 3) Northeast (NE), 4) Central west (CW), 5 Central south (CS), 6 South Pacific (SP), 7 Gulf (G) and 8 Peninsula (P). Some ecological and agricultural characteristics of these regions are summarized in Table 3. There is a certain degree of correspondence between regions identified by De Alba (1976) and Arroyo (1990) as shown in Figures 1 and 2 and Table 2. Northern Mexico is predominantly arid and semi-arid, (about 20% of its area falls within the Mountains region of De Alba) Central Mexico is predominantly temperate and tropical climates prevail in most of Southern Mexico.

    Considering the development of agriculture Arroyo (1990) gathered regions into three groups, which agree with groups of states defined by FAO-SAGARPA (2001): i) Northern Mexico (NW, N and NE) characterized by high availability of resources (irrigated land, infrastructure), intensive adoption of high-input modern technology, high proportion of private property of the land and homogeneous in the degree of development, ii) Central Mexico (CW and CS), very important in terms of production but heterogeneous in the degree of development and iii) Southern Mexico (SP, G and P), where agriculture is mostly practiced by poor native peasants with low adoption of high-input technologies. Considering data from Table 3, the NW region appears far more developed than the rest of the country in terms of percentage irrigated agriculture, value of agricultural products per ha of agricultural land and high maize yields. The P region is at the other end of the range of development.

    The ratio between the value of crop and animal products in the past few years (calculated from data in Table 3) depicts the regional evolution of the relationship between agricultural production and animal production. The accent in NW and SP lies on crops, in NE, CS and G there is a slight dominance of crops, while in N and CW there is a slight dominance of animal production and P is clearly devoted to animal production. However, if the trend of changes of the past decade is kept during the coming years, within a decade only NW, SP and G should remain as clearly agricultural and in the rest of the regions animal production should be the dominant activity. Ruminant production prevails in N, NE, SP and G, while in NW and P pork production is most important and in CW and CS poultry production prevails (Table 4). Within ruminant products, cattle milk and meat production represented (in the average 1990-2002) more than 95% of the value of ruminant products.

    Table 3. Data on agricultural regions of Mexico.

       

    REGION

     

    NW

    N

    NE

    CW

    CS

    SP

    G

    P

    Total area 103 km²

    414.4

    593.3

    144.4

    250.8

    86.7

    238.5

    97.5

    141.5

    Temperate (%)

    12

    27

    12

    32

    52

    43

    9

    0

    Arid and semi-arid (%)

    73

    68

    74

    39

    25

    2

    0

    0

    Humid tropical (%)

    1

    0

    0

    3

    7

    26

    78

    62

    Dry tropical (%)

    14

    5

    14

    26

    16

    29

    13

    38

    Agriculture (103 ha)

    2,472

    3,200

    1,827

    4,540

    2,832

    3,360

    1,690

    1,014

    Irrigated agriculture (%

    70

    25

    26

    28

    18

    8

    5

    5

    Average yield of maize t ha-1£

    4.8

    1.6

    2.2

    2.5

    2.4

    1.8

    1.8

    1.0

    Value of agricultural products million US $ year-1 £

    3,044

    1,466

    688

    3,059

    2,057

    2143

    1439

    185

    Increase in value of agricultural products (%) ¥

    12.4

    -7.5

    -8.4

    4.2

    -7.5

    0.6

    16.0

    21.8

    Value of animal products million US $ year-1 £

    1,273

    1561

    445

    3736

    1,688

    838

    1,168

    477

    Increase in value of animal products (%

    15.8

    35.8

    35.9

    24.5

    24.4

    17.7

    7.2

    21.7

    £ Average 1990-2002, calculated from data reported by SIAP (2004)

    ¥ Change between averages of the periods 1990-1996 and 1997-2002.


    Table 4. Animal production in different agricultural regions. Averages for the period 1990-2002, calculated from data reported by SIAP (2004)

       

    REGION

     

    NW

    N

    NE

    CW

    CS

    SP

    G

    P

    Cow Milk (million litres)

    464

    2073

    57

    2,926

    1192

    467

    711

    34

    Beef (million kg) £

    193

    198

    89

    302

    94

    157

    248

    53

    Sheep meat (million kg) £

    2

    3

    1

    6

    13

    3

    3

    1

    Goat meat (million kg) £

    3

    8

    2

    11

    6

    7

    0

    0

    Goat milk (million litres)

    4

    76

    6

    42

    3

    3

    1

    0

    Pork (million kg) £

    181

    25

    25

    359

    130

    70

    58

    72

    Poultry meat (million kg) £

    75

    150

    67

    501

    277

    60

    155

    86

    Eggs (million kg)

    191

    117

    82

    522

    377

    25

    18

    74

    £ carcass weight

    The following description considers agro-ecological regions pictured in Figure 2 and an updating of statistical data (SIAP, 2004) based on agricultural regions depicted in Figure 1. Dairy production grew more quickly than meat production and the increase in ruminant products was related to the increase in area sown to forages other than rainfed permanent pastures (R² = 0.81). Therefore, the analysis of changes in the different regions is based on changes in the dominant ruminant products (cattle milk and meat) and changes in the area sown to forages. The areas sown to permanent rainfed pastures were not taken into account because statistical data of SIAP (2004) on those areas are rather incomplete, leading to underestimation. The descriptions of changes are based on the comparison of averages of two periods: i) 1990-1996 and ii) 1997-2002.

    Northern Mexico
    North of 21° 40’ N prevails the Arid and Semi-arid Region described by De Alba (1976). According to Jaramillo (1994a), most important vegetation types in this region are desert shrubland (matorral, 65 % of the area), native grasslands (pastizal, 26 % of the area) and forest (4% of the area). The area under grassing lands in the NW, N and NE regions which is in 7:1 proportion to agricultural land (Arroyo, 1990) indicates the importance of natural vegetation in Northern Mexico.

    Important proportions of N and to a lesser extent of NW and NE lie in the Mountain region described by De Alba (1976), located in areas with altitude higher than 1000 m above sea level. Forestry is of main importance in this region; however, traditional, low-input cattle and sheep production systems of low productivity are carried out (Cantú, 1990).

    According to De Alba (1976) and FIRA (1994), extensive cattle rearing is one of the main animal production system in Northern Mexico, most calves are exported to be fattened in feedlots in the USA and the rest remaining in the region to be finished in feedlots (sometimes with a previous phase under intensive grazing of sown pastures). Between 1993 and 2003, the N and NE regions plus the state Sonora in NW accounted on average for 94% of the calves exported to the USA; exported calves represented about 30% of cattle meat production of those states (SIAP, 2004). Intensive dairying based on sown forages is also an important system in Northern Mexico (Amendola, 2002).

    In Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango, intensive dairying displaced beef as the main animal production system and the increase in value of ruminant products was highest in this group of states (39%). The area sown to irrigated and rainfed forages increased strongly mainly associated with intensive dairying systems (R² between dairy production and sown area is 0.80). In Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nuevo León and Zacatecas the accent is on beef cattle, which is based on natural grasslands and rainfed annual forages and pastures; the growth of production was here much lower (20%). Nayarit is a rather different state because it is mostly tropical (67%) and also has a high proportion of area (33%) of temperate climate in the mountains; ruminant production systems are less developed in this state and the area sown to forages is very low. Tamaulipas also presents a different situation within Northern Mexico, it has an large area of highly developed agriculture and is by far Mexico’s biggest sorghum producer (51% of the total); much of the animal production takes place in its tropical areas (26% of the total area) resembling the production systems of Southern Mexico with a very low increase in value of ruminant products (5%). However, growing beef cattle on sown pastures is becoming an important system in this state.

    Central Mexico
    The Temperate Region described by de Alba (1976) prevails in Central Mexico occupying partial areas of ten states (Figure 2). It is between 19° and 22° N and 98° and 104° W with an altitude between 1,500 and 2,500 metres. Climate is temperate sub humid with summer rains and an annual rainfall ranging between 400 and 900 mm.

    Due to the high population density and the mixture of cultures, there are many production systems in this region . Traditional agriculture, with maize and beans as main crops, has always been important. In some areas commercial agriculture has also been important, with sorghum sharing an increasing area. The nearness of Mexico City encourages intensive production of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Intensive dairying based on lucerne  and forage maize is a major system; while family based dairy systems also play an important role (Amendola, 2002). Extensive cattle breeding is important in CW and it is practised in underdeveloped zones of CS by very small farms (Castelán et al, 1997). In the last two decades this region produced 27% of the national beef; feedlots where calves are finished play an important role therein (FIRA, 1994). Sheep production is important in this region, with a clear distinction between the phases of breeding and finishing (De Lucas et al., 1993). Concurring with data on Table 3, De Alba (1976) states that grains grown in El Bajío are partially used in this region as feedstuffs for swine and poultry.

    Grain maize, the traditional crop of Central Mexico, is being replaced by crops aimed for animal feed; comparing averages of 1990 - 1996 and 1997 - 2002 the area sown to grain maize was reduced by 146,000 ha, while that sown to forages and grain sorghum increased by 124,000 and 98,000 ha, respectively. Cattle production in Central Mexico is more clearly directed to milk production than in Northern Mexico (10.4 and 5.4 kg milk per kg meat respectively). As in Northern Mexico, differences in the development of ruminant production within this region have been closely linked to the accent on beef or intensive dairying. Jalisco leads animal production in Mexico and its evolution has been similar to those of three other states of the region: Guanajuato, Querétaro and Michoacán. Compared to the rest of the region, cattle production of this group of states is slightly more directed towards beef but the rate of increase of dairying (particularly in the very important dairy region of Altos de Jalisco) was almost twice as high as that of meat production. The evolution of Aguascalientes, with an important region of intensive dairying resembles that of the northern Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua. In Hidalgo, Puebla and Tlaxcala dairying is far more important than meat (77% higher value of products), but meat production increased at higher rates than dairying. Reduction of ruminant production in San Luis Potosí has been critical in the past few years (21% reduction in the value of ruminant products). The situation of Morelos is different from the rest of this region because 73% of its territory has a tropical climate, therefore its production systems, with little dairying and only 5.7% increase in beef production, resemble those of Southern Mexico. In Jalisco, Guanajuato, Querétaro and Michoacán, annual dairy production has been more closely related to the area sown to rainfed forages, while in Hidalgo, Mexico, Puebla and Tlaxcala has been more closely related to the area sown to irrigated forages. These differences and differences in the regression coefficients (kg milk per ha of sown forages) suggest that strategies of use of forages for dairy production vary substantially among states of this region.

    Southern Mexico
    More than 75% of Southern Mexico corresponds to the Dry and Humid Tropical Regions described by De Alba (1976). The Humid tropical region (Figure 2) occupies parts of Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí and the north of Veracruz (The Humid Huasteca), the south of Veracruz, the north east of Chiapas, the states Tabasco, Campeche, and Quintana Roo and relatively small areas along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. This region was characterized by the presence of evergreen forest originally over 80% of the area. In some parts the native forest has been replaced by induced grasslands of introduced species and in some other parts it has been replaced by short grasslands of native species (locally known as “gramas”). The Dry tropical region is composed of different areas in 15 states along the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Different types of deciduous forest are the characteristic vegetation of this region (originally in 90% of the area).

    The main animal production systems in the Humid Tropics are Dual Purpose aiming to produce milk and calves (Améndola, 2002) and the finishing on sown pastures of calves from the Dry tropical region (De Alba, 1976); in the past decade sheep production systems based on hair sheep (mostly Pellibuey) have been gaining importance (Olazarán and Rojas, 2001). In the Dry Tropics cattle systems are based on grazing the native vegetation (production of calves that are finished in the Humid Tropics), or sown pastures (Dual Purpose system).

    Areas of Veracruz, Puebla and Chiapas with annual rainfall over 1,000 mm are characterized by deciduous forests with Liquidambar styraciflua as main species; in some parts of these areas the forest has been replaced by pastures of Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) on which dairy and sheep systems are based. These systems are more intensive and productive than ruminant systems in other parts of the Mountain Region (De Alba, 1976).

    Contrasting with the rest of the country, in Southern Mexico the area sown to grain maize increased by 16% in the period considered. Cattle production in Southern Mexico is more clearly directed towards meat than in the rest of the country (2.6 kg milk per kg meat), and no changes in that emphasis on meat production took place in the last few years. Animal production systems in Southern Mexico have not been very dynamic in last few years with only 10 and 7% growth in dairy and beef production respectively. Even though irrigated forages are not yet important in Southern Mexico, their area increased 24%, revealing a trend of intensification of ruminant production systems. Within the SP region cattle production in Chiapas and Guerrero has been more dynamic than in Oaxaca and Colima. In the Gulf region, animal production in Veracruz (a very important producer) has been growing steadily while it stagnated in Tabasco. In the Peninsula region Campeche and Quintana Roo have been more dynamic than Yucatán.


    4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

    The description of animal production systems under temperate and arid or semi-arid regions will focus on cattle systems since those are by far the most important, representing more than 95% of the value of ruminant products.

    Dairy systems in the Plateau and North of Mexico
    Dairying in the Plateau and North of Mexico takes place under climates ranging from sub-humid and humid temperate to semi-arid and arid. Three characteristic dairy systems are predominant in these conditions: the Specialised System, the Semi-specialised System and the Family-based System. The main parameters of those systems are summarised in Table 5.

    Dairy production systems in the USA are paradigmatic for farms of the Specialised Dairy System; farms are large, cows (mainly Holstein) are of relatively high genetic merit and productivity is relatively high. Animals do not graze and nutrition is based on concentrates and cut-and-carry forage. Forage production and animal management are highly mechanised. Farmers are well organised and highly integrated. According to CEA (2000) this system is found in six major regions ("cuencas"): i) La Laguna (Coahuila and Durango), ii) Bajío (Guanajuato, Michoacán, Querétaro and part of Jalisco), iii) Altos de Jalisco-Zacatecas-Aguascalientes, iv) Chihuahua, v) Puebla-Tlaxcala and vi) Mexico-Hidalgo. Available descriptions of the system in La Laguna, Altos de Jalisco-Zacatecas-Aguascalientes and Mexico-Hidalgo show that there are some important regional differences.

    Table 5. Dairy systems in the Plateaux and North. Adapted from Sánchez et al. (1997)

     

    REGION

     

    Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas

    Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas

    Mexico City, Guerrero, Hidalgo, State of Mexico, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz

    Proportion of national milk production (%)

    24

    40

    27

    Attribute

    Specialised

    Family based

    Semi-Specialised

    Specialised

    Family based

    Specialised

    Productivity              

    (kg cow-1 lactation-1)

    7,725

    3,788

    4,395

    6,522

    3,989

    6,142

    Size (cows farm-1)

    601

    22

    60

    246

    16

    187

    Integration1

    54

    7

    9

    38

    19

    18

    Own forage 2

    32

    854

    18

    66

    52

    18

    Investment (US$ cow-1)

    3,197

    4,498

    3,755

    4,009

    5,6195

    3,895

    Profit (US $ litre-1)

    0.009

    0.045

    0.032

    0.036

    0.042

    0.041

    Profit (US $ cow-1 year-1)

    70

    172

    140

    237

    165

    204

    Price paid ($ litre-1)

    0.24

    0.24

    0.25

    0.24

    0.23

    0.24

    Costs ($ litre-1)

    0.23

    0.20

    0.22

    0.20

    0.18

    0.20

    Labour       (day-worker cow-1 year-1)

    Not reported

    38.4

    27.9

    17.6

    60

    12

    Technical assistance3

    Not reported

    14

    41

    83

    5

    71

    1 Percentage of farms belonging to a farmer's organisation or dairy enterprise, i.e. organised for selling products of buying inputs and services
    2 Percentage of farms producing (most of) consumed forage
    3 Percentage of farm receiving some kind of technical assistance
    4 Mixed farmers producing grains and by-products used in cattle feeding
    5 The value of land (in the vicinity of big cities) accounts for a large proportion of investments

    Amendola (2002) reports that dairy farms in La Laguna are the biggest in Mexico, and their size is still increasing; productivity in La Laguna is the highest in Mexico and has a high rate of increase. Production is evenly distributed throughout the year, which couples with the requirements of the company (LALA), as revenues rely mainly on sales of pasteurised milk. Feeding is based on cut-and-carry forages, silage, hay and concentrates. Main forage crops are lucerne , maize, forage sorghum, oats and annual ryegrass (Jiménez, 1989). Sánchez et al. (1997) concluded that forage production was one of the major differences between farms with highest profitability and average farms, growing (instead of buying) forage represents a considerable reduction of production costs. In the 1990s the amount of concentrates fed to cattle increased sharply, reaching 0.65 kg concentrates per litre of milk. As in most regions of Mexico, dairying in La Laguna is jeopardised by exhaustion of underground water used for irrigation; between 1972 and 1986, groundwater levels fell on average by 1.76 m year (LALA, 1995). The sustainability of the increase in production of La Laguna by increasing numbers of cattle as well as by improving productivity might be further questioned since it depends on imports of replacements and ingredients of concentrates.

    The states of Mexico and Hidalgo have always been an important dairy region due to the high demand from Mexico City. According to Amendola (2002), and concurring with data in Table 5, farms are smaller than in La Laguna, on average ranging from 150 to 450 cows per farm. Average diets appear to be lower in concentrate and lucerne hay, but higher in maize silage and fresh lucerne than diets in La Laguna. In a survey of dairy farms in Central Mexico, Cienfuegos et al. (2001) found that lucerne, maize silage and oats were used by 84, 72 and 45% of dairy farmers respectively; less important were forage sorghum and ryegrass used by 9% of farmers, while the use of wheat, clover and barley was only marginal. Farmers in these states rely more on purchased forage than farmers in La Laguna. Even though productivity per cow has grown steadily, it is still approximately 10% lower than in La Laguna. Levels of organisation and integration are clearly lower than in La Laguna.

    Reliance on family labour is a distinct attribute of the Semi-Specialised and Family-based Dairy Systems (Muñoz et al., 1995). However, there is a transition between very small farms that rely exclusively on family labour and big farms of the Specialised System where all labour is hired. Considering farms classified as Semi-Specialised and Family-based, the proportion of family labour decreases with increasing size of the farm. Agreeing with data in Table 5, Amendola (2002) states that with farms above 20 cows per farm, family labour begins to lose importance in the states of Mexico and Michoacán, while in Altos de Jalisco that figure is higher.

    Amendola (2002) summarised some of the differences among farmers of the Semi-Specialised and Family-based Dairy Systems. Small Family-based dairy farmers do not consider dairy production as the main source of incomes. In many cases of small dairy farms, arable agriculture appears to be highly integrated with dairy production, while bigger farmers devote all agricultural land to grow forages. Self-consumption appears to be an important aim of dairy production on very small farms, but that is not the case on bigger farms. In very small farms of the Family-based System buildings are extremely rudimentary and are generally in the backyard, milking is by hand and feeding strategies might vary even among communities of the same region, including grazing crop residues and roadsides, utilisation of local by-products, purchased concentrates, pastures and forage crops. On the other hand, on bigger farms of the Semi-Specialised Dairy System, animals are housed at least part of the year, buildings might include yards, cowshed, milking parlour and storeroom, and some farmers own a vehicle and a forage harvester; milking machines have already been incorporated in this kind of farm. Productivity on most farms of the Family-based dairy system is lower than 4,000 kg cow per lactation, whilst on most farms with more than 20 cows it is higher. Lower production in the dry winter of the Plateau has been reported for both systems.

    Production costs in dairy systems of the Plateau and North are high. Amendola (2002) reviewed reports of production costs and concluded that there were no important differences between systems in terms of feeding costs, which averaged US$ 0.20 per litre representing 57% of total costs. Those feeding costs amounted to 92% of average theoretical world price during the nineteen-nineties, so the competitiveness of Mexican dairy farmers is weak. This has led to research aimed to design systems of dairy production under grazing for temperate and arid or semi-arid regions to reduce feeding costs. In the nineteen-nineties, FIRA promoted technological packages to convert farms of the Semi-Specialised Dairy Systems based on permanent housing and pen feeding into a system based on grazing. These packages were based on research carried out by INIA-INIFAP – the National Institute for Agricultural Research, Chapingo University and FIRA on stations under irrigation in sub-humid to semi-arid temperate climates. Simultaneously, INIFAP worked on the improvement of the system used by small farmers in humid temperate climate and the University of the State of Mexico did the same in sub-humid temperate climate areas. A diversity of pastures was used, including lucerne  (Medicago sativa), white clover (Trifolium repens), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata), oats (Avena spp.), Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum), and native pastures. Essential descriptors of grazing systems such as stocking rate, productivity, use of concentrates and nitrogen fertilization show extremely high variability. Even though low production costs is a common feature of all reports, dissimilarity in criteria results in big differences in the estimates of costs. Low pasture growth during the winter – in some situations aggravated by the lack of persistence – appeared to be a common problem (Amendola, 2002).

    The Tropical Dual Purpose system
    This system aiming to produce milk and weaned calves simultaneously is dominant in the humid and sub-humid tropics; a survey at the beginnings of the nineteen-nineties revealed that it was practised by 79% of farmers in the tropic of Veracruz. Amendola (2002) summarised the attributes of the system (Table 5). Mexican dual purpose farmers are frequently relatively small farmers; however the average size of dual-purpose farms in Mexico is similar to average size of dual-purpose farms in other parts of the world. Dual-purpose systems around the word are biologically and economically inefficient and malnutrition is probably the major cause of low productivity and unsatisfactory reproductive performances (McDowell, 1996). Average values of productive and reproductive parameters (Table 6) indicate that the Mexican dual-purpose system is particularly inefficient.

    Table 6. Attributes of the Mexican dual-purpose system, averages from reports quoted by Amendola (2002).

    Attribute

    Average

    Size (cows per farm)

    33

    Stocking rate AU ha-1

    1.14

    Days in milk

    200

    Kg per cow per lactation

    866

    Calving interval (days)

    565

    Calving (%)

    56

    Weaning (%)

    50

    Litres ha-1 per year

    642

    Kg LW ha-1 per year

    78

    Age at weaning (months)

    7.2

    LW at weaning (kg)

    215

    Daily LW gain (grams)

    230

    The system is based on grazing native and sown pastures. Percentage of area with sown pastures decreases southwards from 94% in San Luis Potosi to 60 % in Tabasco. Cynodon plectostachyus and C. nlemfuensis are the most frequently used grasses. Low forage availability in the dry season is the main factor limiting milk production but very little is done about it; only 30 % of farmers provide supplementary feeding – mainly molasses – in the dry season, and only 1% of farmers grow forages for cattle during the dry season. Fertilization is used by only 10% of farmers. Other management practices such as weed control and some kind of organisation of grazing (rotational or by types of animals) had already been adopted by a majority of farmers. Over all management practices, adoption of technological innovation increases with farm size. Most cattle are zebu crosses with Brown Swiss, but the productivity of zebu Holstein crosses is higher. The proportion of incomes from milk is over 50 %, but reacting to price fluctuation, farmers might change that proportion by increasing or decreasing the proportions of cows that are milked. Different institutions have promoted technological packages supposed to increase the productivity of tropical dual-purpose systems. Rotational grazing is the main component of these packages, but adoption has been rather low (Amendola, 2002). Mc Dowell (1996) doubted the adequacy of extended technological innovations and stated that there were few, if any, reasonable technological paradigms for tropical regions of Mexico. Low quality of products, seasonal production and lack of organisation and integration of farmers appear to be the main constraints for the competitiveness of Mexican dual-purpose farmers. Most milk is marketed in the informal market as cheese made by small processors or as raw liquid milk; the remainder is collected by dairy industries, mainly Nestlé.

    Beef production systems in Northern and Central Mexico
    Based on statistical data corresponding to 1993, FIRA (1994) classified beef production systems of Mexico (Table 7) as clearly divided into two distinct phases: i) calf production which is called the cow-calf system and ii) finishing steers in pastures or in feedlots (with a transitional phase of pre-finishing under grazing of sown pastures as a usual feature).

    Table 7. Beef production systems per ecological region (FIRA, 1994).

    Region

    Arid and semiarid

    Temperate

    Dry tropical

    Humid tropical

    Production system

    Cow-calf, pre-finishing under grazing of irrigated sown pastures, feedlots

    Cow-calf, feedlots

    Cow-calf, growth under grazing

    Cow-calf, finishing under grazing of sown pastures

    Fate of products

    Export and national market

    National market and export

    National market after finishing in the dry tropics

    National market

    Proportion of 32.4 million head

    28.1%

    21.3%

    20.4%

    30.2%

    Proportion of 1.28 million ton

    27.0%

    17.0%

    23.0%

    33.0%

    Extensive cow-calf production is a major system in Northern Mexico under arid and semiarid conditions. Calves are mostly exported to feedlots in the USA; between 1993 and 2003, six states of the north (Chihuahua, Sonora, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas) which average 74% of their area under arid of semiarid climate, exported 0.91 million head per year to the USA, sharing 94% of the national export of that kind (SIAP, 2004). The system is mostly based on uncontrolled grazing of native vegetation. With a short period (90 to 120 days) of fair feed availability allowing the growth of the offspring and reasonable chances for the cow to conceive during the rainy season, the system depends on the sale of all male calves before the onset of feed scarcity (De Alba, 1976). Villareal (1994) identifies three periods in this system: i) between 1650 and 1950 uncontrolled grazing of native vegetation; ii) between 1950 and 1990 genetic improvement of cattle by crossing with European and Zebú breeds, adoption of some forms of rotational grazing and sowing pastures with exotic species; and iii) after 1990 adoption of some forms of more intensive rotational grazing (short duration – high stocking density). By 1991 already about 1.8 million ha had been sown with buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), increasing the carrying capacity of the system on average 2.8 times (Saldívar, 1991). According to FIRA (1986), with an average carrying capacity of 18 ha AU-1, defective distribution of watering places leads to simultaneous over and undergrazing; genetic merit of cattle is fair to low, production parameters and organisation of farmers are unsatisfactory; calving percentage ranges between 55 and 65%, live weight at weaning ranges between 160 and 170 kg and utilities per cow are lower than US $120 year-1. The system’s proneness to climatic hazards like the long-lasting drought between 1991 and 1996 (Ramos et al., 2000), is a main constraint which in Figure 11 is clearly depicted in the 25% reduction of the stock of Northern Mexico – excluding the partially tropical Tamaulipas and Nayarit. Feeding during the dry period is a key issue of the system. The use of supplementary feed is rare among small farmers of Central Mexico (Ramos et al., 2000), but for bigger farmers in Northern Mexico it is a regular practice amounting to 14% of production costs (Ramírez et al., 2003). Using small areas of irrigated pastures to complement range areas during the dry winter has proved to give sound biological and economical results (Sánchez et al., 2001; Ramírez et al., 2003).

    Finishing steers in feedlots has been gaining importance due to two factors (Saucedo, 2003): i) a shift in consumer preference for meat from younger feedlot-finished animals than those finished on pasture (which is more usual in the humid tropics) and ii) stricter sanitary import controls by the USA reduced the export of calves and that surplus is being fattened in Mexican feedlots. According to Saucedo (2003) this activity takes place near to grain producing areas, since grain (mostly yellow maize and sorghum) is the most important input. The states where finishing in feedlots has grown fastest are Sinaloa, Sonora, Nuevo León, Querétaro and Jalisco. Enterprises in Northern Mexico are bigger (ranging between about 300 and more than 4,000 head finished per year) and use more modern technology than those in Central Mexico. Diets are based on cereals, conserved forages, crop residues and industrial by products, the use of growth implants is frequent, liveweight gains are about 1.2 kg head-1 day-1. Grazing of irrigated pastures (e.g. Rodríguez et al., 2001) is usually practiced to bring weaned calves to a weight close to 300 kg in order to reduce costs of the finishing process; in these conditions liveweight gains range between 0.65 and 0.85 kg head-1 day-1

    Figure 11. Cattle stock of beef production systems in Northern Mexico excluding the partially tropical states of Tamaulipas and Nayarit (SIAP, 2004).

    Beef production systems in the tropics
    FIRA (1994) states that farms of the cow-calf system in the dry tropics have a very low technological level, with cattle of low genetic potential. Carrying capacity of sown pastures is between 0.3 and 1 AU ha-1 while that of native vegetation is as low as 0.08 AU ha-1, steers are sold at between 12 and 18 months weighing about 180 kg. A survey quoted by Ruiz (2004), reveals that the average size of enterprises is 117 cows, with a stocking rate of 0.36 cows ha-1, calving percentages of 55%, and 65 kg meat produced ha-1 per year. Animals are sold to middlemen.

    Cow-calf enterprises in the Humid Tropics on average own 91 cows with an stocking rate of 0.52 cows ha-1, calving percentages of 57% and 157 kg meat produced hectare-1 per year. Some enterprises have areas of sown pastures and in those enterprises the carrying capacity increases to slightly more than 1.5 cows ha-1 (FIRA, 1994). Calves are sold to finishing enterprises within the region or to middlemen, culled cows are usually sold for slaughter in nearby towns.

    Finishing steers on sown pastures (Cynodon nlemfuensis, Panicum maximum, Brachiaria spp.) in the Humid Tropics is losing importance since the consumer prefers animals finished in feedlots (Ruiz, 2004). Due to the low nutritional value of tropical grasses and low weight gain during “nortes” (between November and February), animals receive supplementary feeding in some enterprises. Daily liveweight gains might be as low as 0.4 kg per animal and the finishing period might last between 18 and 24 months (FIRA, 1994), which jeopardizes the quality of the product. Animals are sold to middlemen; however in Veracruz and Tabasco farmers are organized for selling their product.

    Sheep production systems
    Four states of Central Mexico (Mexico, Hidalgo, Puebla and Tlaxcala) contain more than 43% of national sheep production. Sheep production systems in Central Mexico are stratified in breeding and finishing phases (Vargas et al., 2004). Breeding takes place under extensive conditions, by small farmers and peasants with few resources. Dominant breeds are “Criollo”, Suffolk, Pelibuey (of recent introduction) and crosses of “Criollo” with Suffolk or Rambouillet. Feeding is based on grazing (sometimes partially transhumant) native grassland, roadsides and crop residues and limited use of supplementary feeding with chopped crop residues and maize grain during the second half of the dry season. The nutritional level of the herd is regularly very low. There is very low adoption of new technologies in aspects of nutrition, reproduction, sanitary measures and genetics. Reproduction is ruled by photoperiodic and nutritional responses of ewes and hence births group between January and March when feed availability is low, reducing the chances of lamb survival (mortality rates are as high as 25%). Weaning percentages are low (under 70%) with regularly only one birth per ewe per year. The main products of this phase are lambs of about 20 kg liveweight. Some are brought to slaughter weight (35-40 kg) by the same farmers, which, due to malnutrition, usually takes over a year. These lambs do no command high prices because the market wants lambs of that weight but with aged under eight months and in regular amounts. Most of the lambs produced in the breeding phase are bought at a liveweight of about 20 kg by commercial farmers of the finishing phase from nearby Mexico City (the biggest market). For finishing, lambs are kept in feedlots and fed diets high in cereals, sometimes using industrial by-products such as bread wastes. Liveweight gains are usually high and selling prices are high (about US$ 2 per kg liveweight). Sheep production is decreasing in San Luis Potosí and Chiapas, two states that were traditionally very important sheep producers, and is increasing at very high rates in Veracruz and Sinaloa. In Sinaloa the increase was due to an important governmental programme (import of 80,000 sheep from Australia). In Veracruz as in other states of Tropical Mexico, sheep production based on Pellibuey grazing sown pastures are expanding rapidly.

    Goat production
    Most goat production is carried out by very poor rural population, 73% of units owning 84% of the goats are Ejido peasants (Hernández, 2000). Goat milk production is concentrated (75%) in two regions, La Laguna in Coahuila and Durango and Celaya in Guanajuato; most milk in those regions is purchased by companies for making cheese and sweetmeats. There are some big specialised dairy goat enterprises, where animals of high genetic merit are housed, fed cut-and- carry forages and concentrates; products sold are milk and animals used in other enterprises for genetic improvement. However, a report quoted by IDRC (1999) reveals that in La Laguna most dairy goat production takes place under rather rudimentary conditions: i) herds smaller than 150 animals, ii)feeding with crop residues from irrigated areas, iii) feed shortages from December to May, iii) lack of meat marketing channels for kids and culled goats and iv) low proportion of production units practicing some health measures.

    The remaining goat production takes place under very extensive conditions. Most goats are kept for home consumption of meat of adult animals and occasional milking (mostly for domestic use). Adult animals are sold, but not on a regular basis; in drier areas kids weaned young (two months) are the main product. According to Hernández (2000) and UAS (2004) main attributes of this dominant system are: i) small herds of less than 50 animals, although herds of 1,200 have been noted, ii) feeding is based on grazing and browsing native vegetation and road sides, iii) animals are herded during the day (6 to 10 hours), generally following regular routes and during the night are brought back to very rudimentary shelters, iv) supplementary feeding is rare and only includes maize crop residues and chopped Agave spp., v) males (3 to 10% of the herd) run with the females all year long, vi) no artificial weaning, and high mortality rates of kids, vii) no health measures, viii) lack of specific marketing channels, usually selling to middlemen at very low prices, ix) almost no technical assistance and access to credit, x) variable weaning percentages between 53 and 90%, xi) very low daily liveweight gain, on average 0.05 kg animal-1 with adult weights ranging between 35 and 45 kg, xii) first mating at an age of 12 to 18 months and xiii) milk production between 100 and 140 kg in lactations ranging between 180 and 210 days.

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