Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles


Lithuania


 

by

R.G. Hamnett




1.    INTRODUCTION

2.   SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY

     2.1  Major topographical features

     2.2  Major soil types

3.   CLIMATE AND ECOLOGICAL ZONES

     3.1  General climate – effects of topography

     3.2  Agro-ecological zones

4.   RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

     4.1  Cattle numbers and production

     4.2  Dairy

     4.3  Beef

     4.4  Sheep and goat production

     4.5  Animal health

5.   PASTURE RESOURCE

     5.1  Forage crops grown

     5.2  Problems occurring

     5.3  Tethering of cows

     5.4  Haymaking on plotter holdings

     5.5  Silage production

     5.6  Seed production

6.    OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE RESOURCES

7.   RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS AND PERSONNEL

8.    REFERENCES

9.   GLOSSARY

10. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

11. CONTACTS


1. INTRODUCTION

With a population of 3.5 million, Lithuania occupies the western fringe of the East European Plain, covering an area of 6.5 million hectares. It lies between longitudes 21°and 27° east and latitudes 54° and 57° north, and borders Latvia in the north, Belarus in the south east and Poland and Kaliningrad Region in the south west (see Figure 1). Although a predominantly flat country with over 3000 lakes and numerous rivers (the biggest of which is the Nemunas), it has two broad bands of territory which exceed 150 m above sea level.

Figure 1. Map of Lithuania

Lithmap1.jpg (54067 bytes)

Of the 6.5 million ha. of land, the utilized agricultural area (UAA) is 3.5 million ha. (i.e. 54% of the total); arable land accounts for 2.95 million ha. (84.1% of UAA) followed by meadows and natural pastures (0.496m ha., or 14.2% of UAA). A high proportion of the arable land is in forage cropping, including temporary grassland (44.4% of crop area); approximately 1.8 million ha. are covered with forest while more than 1 million ha. of hilly and other land are not used for agriculture. About 50% of the UAA land is planted with cereals. Some land within the UAA is now abandoned and this has been estimated at 0.36m ha. or 10% of UAA (EU DG VI Report, 1998 and Rural Development Plan ,RDP, 1999).

In the Soviet period most agricultural produce came from collective and state farms. In total there were about 3000 collective farms, typically with around 1000 ha., and 400 state farms with an average size of 4500ha. Both groups together covered about 3.1-3.2 million ha. which amounted to about 90% of all agricultural land; household farmers used the rest.

Main crops such as cereals and sugar beet were grown on the large-scale farms, but the share of the small farms in livestock production was higher. Between 1970 and 1990 the household farms produced about 40% of the total amount of milk. At the beginning of this period their share in meat production also amounted to nearly 40%, but this figure declined to about 20% by 1990. Total meat production increased in this period from 390,000 tonnes to about 530,000 tonnes (carcass weight), whereas meat production on household farms declined; total milk production increased from 2.5 million tonnes to 3.2 million tonnes. The number of dairy cows was relatively constant, varying between 840,000 and 875,000 head. In the same period the annual milk production per cow increased from 2950 to 3800 kg.

Restitution of land to private owners began in 1989 under perestroyka. These new owners (known as "89’ers") gained a headstart over subsequent new private farmers because they had favourable terms for borrowing money; high inflation since has further reduced the original cost of their loans.

Lithuania gained independence from The Soviet Union in 1991 and since then restitution has continued at a faster rate. Where previous family ownership can be proved the new owners are known as "restitution farmers" but most land has been returned to village families, who have no prior ownership claims, in small lots of 2 to 3 ha.; these are known as "plotters". Much of this land is farmed by the new owners as household plots, but also a large proportion is retained by surviving former collective/state farms who pay rent for the land often in the form of produce rather than money. These farms have also been privatised and are now known as "bendroves" or joint stock companies and are often involved in ventures such as food processing and other trading activities. Their number is much reduced compared to former collectives/state farms. 

The 1997 situation is shown in table 1.

Table 1 – Farm Structure 1997*  

 

Number 

Average size 

ha 

% of UAA 

Family farms

196,000 

11.7 

42.1 

Household plots

342,700 

2.2 

24.5 

Agricultural companies

1660 

371.6 

18.1 

Other land users    

15.3 

* Source: Lithuanian Rural Development Plan (RDP,1999)

The whole process of land restitution has proved difficult and complex and has been delayed by several changes to the law since 1991. Physical restitution of land is well ahead of land registration so that a land market is slow to develop due to the difficulty of proving ownership. At the same time, however, there is an active lease market.

The structure of the cow herd changed dramatically with the disbanding/privatisation of the collective farms (bendroves), when much of the production was dispersed into small farms and family plots. The production and consumption levels in the dairy sector have since stabilised. Direct domestic consumption has increased, as has the number of household cows, while sales to dairy companies have declined.

Beef production is seen mainly as a by-product of milk production with the average weight of slaughtered animals low at around 300 kg. The decline in this sector continues due to the general drop in livestock numbers.

Sheep production has always been very limited with only 15,900 head recorded in 1999. Goat numbers are also very low but have almost quadrupled since 1992 as sheep numbers have declined (FAO database). Goats have become more popular as household animals for domestic milk production.

Livestock numbers since 1992 are shown in table 2; the dominance of cattle 

Table 2 - Grazing Livestock Numbers
  

 

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

 

‘000 head

Cattle

2197 

1701 

1384 

1152 

1065 

1054 

1016 

923 

898

748

Sheep

58.1 

51.7 

45.0 

40.0 

32.3 

28.2 

24.0 

15.8 

13.8 

11.5 

Goats

6.3 

8.8 

10.4 

12.4 

14.3 

16.9 

18.5 

23.7 

24.7 

23.0 

Source: FAO database 2002

production and also the decline in their numbers since independence in 1991 is evident.

Almost one third of the land is forested and this industry contributes significantly to the economy of Lithuania with the export of wood and wood products providing 10% of total export value.

The loss of markets in the former Soviet Union, the fall in domestic consumption and the complex process of land reform have combined to cause Lithuanian agricultural production to decline by 50% during the transition period to 1998 (EU DG VI Report); the decline in production is likely to have continued to the present.


2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY

2.1 Major topographical features

Although Lithuania is predominantly flat, it has two broad bands of territory, which often exceed 150 m above sea level: one is down the eastern quarter of the country, on the border with Belarus, reaching its highest levels in the Medininku Upland in the south east where the country’s highest point is located (Juozapines 294 m); the other band is the Zemaitija Upland, which spreads over much of the north west and reaches a height of 234 m. The River Nemunas is the biggest of Lithuania’s rivers, flowing north from Belarus to the centre of the country at Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city and former capital, where it is joined by the Neris flowing in from the capital, Vilnius, to the east. The Nemunas then flows westwards and forms the boundary with Kaliningrad as it nears the Baltic. 

Marshes and swamps are prevalent especially in the north and east, although much of the original wetlands have been drained for agriculture. More than 3000 shallow lakes remain, being most numerous in the north east.

Over 80% of the country has been drained using an underground tile drainage system feeding into open field laterals. This large-scale drainage programme, covering over two million hectares, was completed in 1991, but has not been well maintained. Nevertheless land which formerly was not suited to cropping because of waterlogging is now available for tillage.

The wetlands make up a large part of the Silute District to the south west. Some of this is below sea level and has been drained with a system of dykes and pumped drainage channels. They are part of the delta or flood plains on the northern banks of the Nemunas river. This was a major engineering project during Soviet times. 

Lithuanian also has large reserves of peat.

Lithuania’s Baltic coast extends for about 100 km, half of which lies along the Courland Spit (Neringa), a long, narrow sandbar 98 km long and up to 66 m high, but no more than four km wide. Behind this is a large freshwater lagoon running down into Russian Kaliningrad. The Nemunas empties into this lagoon which has a narrow opening into the Baltic at its north end at Klaipeda, Lithuania’s large seaport.

2.2  Major soil types

Soil types are varied. Low fertility acid soddy podzolic sandy loams as well as sands and drained podzolic gleys account for 63 per cent of soils. Fertile soddy calcareous, predominantly loams and drained soddy gleys cover 26 per cent of the area. The rest is occupied by boggy riverside and some other types of soils (Stuikys and Ladyga,1995)

Lithuania can be broadly divided into four regions in terms of soil types (Figure 2): the most productive soils are in the centre of the country; the western part has wetter acid soils; sandy hills and woodlands prevail in the east of the country; in northern areas there is a region of calcareous type soils and landscape where environmentally friendly farming methods are now being promoted in order to prevent contamination of ground water (McGlynn, 1996).

Figure 2 – Soil Map of Lithuania

lithmap.jpg (739200 bytes)

Source: Lithuanian Grassland Management Project Inception Report
 


3 CLIMATE AND ECOLOGICAL ZONES

3.1 General climate – effects of topography

The climate of Lithuania is transitional between maritime and continental; in the 12-15 km-wide coastal zone it is maritime and in the eastern part of the country it is continental. It is characterised by moderate heat in summer as well as by adequate humidity and a sufficient number of sunny days. The negative features include long autumns and winters, and a relatively short growing period (169 – 202 days). Winters tend to be overcast and variable in temperature and snow cover is by no means continuous because cold periods can be followed by sudden thaws. The average annual temperature is approximately 6° C with average January temperature of -4.8° C, and average July temperature of +17.2° C. The average annual precipitation is 626 mm; most rain falls in summer which often hampers farming operations such as haymaking and the harvesting of crops. The weather is generally very changeable and there is a significant variation in the rainfall patterns and minimum temperatures between the east and west of the country: the eastern half experiences colder winter temperatures and the western coastal areas experience higher precipitation levels due to the maritime influence of the Baltic. Figure 3 shows the difference between Klaipeda in the west and Vilnius in the east.

Figure 3 – Annual temperature variation at Vilnius and Klaipeda

lithfig.jpg (526350 bytes)

Source: Lithuanian Grassland Management Project Inception Report

3.2 Agro-ecological zones

Although Lithuania is low lying, the land is undulating to the east and west and very low lying to the south west and extreme north west. 

Separating these areas is a wide band of well-drained level fertile soil in the central area widening to the north west. This central plain is the main arable area and comprises nearly 50% of the agricultural land. Traditionally there have also been large dairy herds in this area, with forage crops providing the rotation with arable crops. Cereals dominate arable cropping, with spring barley the most widely grown, followed by winter wheat, rye and oats. Winter barley does not survive Lithuanian winters. Likewise oilseed rape is increasingly grown but only as a spring crop. Maize is increasingly grown but it fails to produce mature grain due to the short growing season and is used for forage only. Sugar beet is widely grown for sugar extraction and fodder beet is grown for animal feed. Buckwheat is cropped mostly in the sandy soils in the east of the country. Potatoes are widely grown and used for food (potatoes are regarded as the second ‘bread’), animal feed, and seed. National dishes made from potatoes, ‘cepelinai’ and ‘vedarai’, have gained wide popularity. 

Other notable zones are the Silute wetlands to the south west bordering the Nemunas delta. This area was drained prior to the second world war and during the Soviet period to leave fertile polders that were used to grow grass for drying, but in the absence of cheap oil supplies from Russia this practice has now been abandoned and much of the land remains unutilized.

Forest dominates the upland and sandy areas. Over a quarter of the land mass is forest which is well dispersed throughout Lithuania on land of lower fertility or poor drainage. There are also large forest areas east of Silute, west of Kaunas and north east of Vilnius. The largest forest, however, lies to the south west of Vilnius, centring on Varena, and extends in a wide band down to the border with Belarus.


4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

4.1 Cattle numbers and production

According to the national census of 1998 the cattle population was as per Table 3.

Table 3 - Number of cattle according to age and gender (thousands)
  

     

On all

Farms

On bendroves & enterprises

On farmers’ farms

(Private farms) 

On small households-plotters

Cattle total

1068,0 

271,8 

185,0 

611,2 

up to 

1 year –old 

bulls & heifers for slaughter 

105,5 

37,3 

20,9 

47,3 

for 

breeding 

Bulls

14,9 

1,3 

3,3 

10,3 

Heifers

92,1 

31,4 

15,7 

45,0 

from 1 

to 2 

year-old 

Bulls 

70,0 

35,5 

11,1 

23,4 

heifers 

for slaughter

19,4 

8,2 

2,5 

8,7 

for breeding

82,1 

32,0 

14,2 

35,9 

2 year- 

old 

or 

older 

Bulls 

17,3 

11,2 

1,9 

4,2 

heifers 

for slaughter

7,3 

3,8 

0,7 

2,8 

for breeding

36,5 

18,6 

6,2 

11,2 

cows 

Dairy

615,3 

86,5 

108,0 

420,8 

  for fattening

7,6 

6,0 

0,5 

1,1 

The main features are:

  • the dominance of the dairy sector
  • the high proportion of cattle on plotters holdings (57%)
  • the very low numbers of cattle for fattening
  • the high proportion of fattening cattle on bendroves

Table 4 shows how meat and milk production has varied over recent years.

Table 4 - Production trends (‘000 metric tonnes)
  

Year

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

Cows milk (fresh)

2421 

2067 

1896 

1819 

1832 

1950 

1930 

1714 

1725

1794

Beef and veal

226 

162 

116 

87 

83 

90 

81 

77

75

64

Mutton and lamb

1.7 

1.6 

1.7 

1.6 

1.4 

1.2 

1.2 

1.2 

0.9

0.9

Source: FAO database 2002

4.2 Dairy

There are two main cattle breeds, the Lithuanian Black-and-White (about 60% of cows), originally based on Dutch Friesians and the Lithuanian Red (about 40%). The Black-and Whites are noted for higher milk yields and the Reds for higher butter fat content. Recently there has been a trend towards crossing with Holstein / Friesians due to an increasing availability of semen from abroad. Very few bulls are kept on farms and there is an AI service available; however, the choice of semen for household cows is very limited.

Prior to transition, Lithuanian dairy herds were housed in large, tie-up stall houses which were fitted with milk pipelines and chain and conveyor muck disposal systems. Each house would normally have 200 stalls, with 50 cows per milker. Forage feeding was from a central passageway. Milk was delivered by pipeline to refrigerated bulk tanks. The system was typical of many former communist block countries. Many of these herds still exist on the majority of surviving bendroves and until 1997 very few of these farms had started to modernise housing and milking facilities. 

These herds are generally fed on poor quality forage based on silage supplemented with hay, straw, wet sugar beet pulp and fodder beet plus cereals and peas/ beans as a concentrate. By western standards the ration is of low energy and is inadequately supplemented with both energy and protein. The cereals and peas are often fed only once during the day. Extra supplementation with cereals would generally be cost effective but it is difficult to persuade financially hard pressed herd managers that the extra feeding is worthwhile. Cows are generally in poor condition and this delays milk yield response to improved feeding. 

Since 1997 a few bendroves have started to modernise production methods with the installation of the latest parlours and a change to loose housing with cubicles. On other farms, although the tie-up cowsheds have been retained, milking systems have been modernised by replacing old Soviet equipment with modern pipeline and new bulk cooling systems. In most cases the old buildings have been used as an umbrella for the refurbished interiors. Some of these farms have also purchased mixer feeder wagons to improve the speed, quality and accuracy of the feeding. 

As indicated earlier the majority of dairy cows are with plotters who typically keep two cows. These produce more milk than can be used by the households so the surplus is taken to village collection points where the milk is collected by tanker for processing. The feeding of the cows during winter is usually with hay plus fodder beet and cereal/pulses. Poor quality hay plus low levels of supplementation result in low yields. 

A major problem with plotters’ milk is that it is of poor hygienic quality due to a lack of proper cooling; storage of milk in wells is usually the cooling method employed. There are no cooling facilities at village collection points and milk is not treated until it arrives at the processing plants. Penalties for poorer quality milk are becoming increasingly severe so that unless plotters co-operate to acquire refrigerated cooling facilities it is likely that their milk will become progressively more difficult to sell. According to the RDP (1999) only 14% of total raw milk sold in 1998 was of grade A quality (EU standard). This is reported to have increased to 33% in 1999 (Kadzuilis – personal communication).

Tethering of cows for grazing is the norm for plotters’ cows. Water is brought by bucket to the cows two or three times a day and the cows are hand milked. Water restriction almost certainly reduces yields.

There is a steadily developing private dairy herd sector with a herd size of between 5 and 30 cows. These are generally hand milked but in these herds there is a steady move to machine milking and a trend away from tethered grazing. There is also an increasing number of refrigerated milk cooling installations on these farms. This is strongly encouraged by both dairies and the government, with the provision of limited preferential loans and subsidies. There is also a move to improve forage production through reseeding of grassland and conservation as silage rather than hay.

This private or family farm sector is seen as the major growth area to replace the milk from plotter’s production. Government policy is aimed at encouraging this growth with subsidies under the Rural Support Fund available for modernisation of such herds with the proviso that a business plan is prepared for growth of the herd size to 30 cows over a maximum 5-year period. As the funds are limited there is competition to access them. There have also been problems in obtaining loans from banks at reasonable interest rates. 

Table 5 - Milk Projections 

 

1996

1997

1998

2000

2003

Dairy cows (000’s) 

590 

586 

606 

618 

636 

Yield kg/cow/year 

3105 

3104 

3092 

3216 

3415 

Production (‘000 t)

1832 

1819 

1874 

1988 

2172 

Availability for processing (‘000 t) 

790 

822 

863 

907 

980 

Consumption (kg per population head) 

213 

222 

233 

245 

265 

Self sufficiency (%)

232 

221 

217 

219 

222 

Source: EU DG VI Report 1998

It is clear that an increase in production was anticipated in 1998 but this was before the Russian crisis. It is likely that production will now be less than these expectations. The RDP,1999 estimates that current production amounts to 208% self sufficiency, so clearly Lithuania needs to export to reduce its milk surpluses despite a high level of milk consumption per head of the population. So far it has been heavily dependent on exports to Russia, however a good proportion of Lithuania’s larger dairies have EU certified export licences.

4.3 Beef

There is no history of beef production from suckler cows in Lithuania. All beef production has been as a by-product of the dairy herd. During the Soviet period most bull calves were kept for beef production. Both the Lithuanian Red and Lithuanian Black and White were regarded as dual-purpose breeds. Most beef produced on the former collective and state farms under indoor feeding systems was based predominantly on cereals, with beef exported to Russia. There has never been any tradition of producing beef from grazing. 

There are very few statistics available on beef production both before and since Independence. Nevertheless it can be seen from the FAO statistics in Table 4 that there has been a dramatic drop in beef production since 1992 (the first available year’s figures within the database). It is well known that beef production in 1992 had already fallen from a probable peak in 1989/90. It can be seen from Table 3 that few young animals are kept back for slaughter i.e. most are for replacements. The figures demonstrate that most beef is derived from cull cows and this is confirmed by the fact that few former indoor finishing units for bull beef are now in use.

Government policy is to try to stimulate higher levels of specialist beef production with the aim of diversifying away from dairy production, and an extensive programme of subsidies has been created to support beef producing farmers. Young animals when slaughtered are now classified according to weight and subsidies are given when they have reached the minimum liveweight of 400 kg. Beef crosses also receive a higher subsidy than dairy breeds which has led to an increased interest in cross breeding. Pure beef breed animals, when sold for breeding purposes are also well subsidised, since they can contribute significantly to improved beef quality. 

There is a need to trial systems of beef production that are more reliant on forages and grassland as an alternative to indoor feedlot beef production. Experimental herds of suckler cows have also been established. So far these have been purebred herds using Hereford, Charolais and Saler breeds. Saler cattle imports are the most recent and a herd has been established at the Lithuanian Institute of Agriculture at Dotnuva. Charolais and Hereford herds have been established on the Silute wetlands where the most promising breed for the conditions there has been the Herefords (Prof D.C. Juckna, personal communication)

The EU funded Lithuanian Grassland Management Project produced a report on improving beef production in Lithuania (Schukking and Hamnett 1998), following a request from the Lithuanian Government to consider the need to diversify away from the heavy dependence on the dairy sector to utilize the extensive grasslands. Using UK and Dutch physical performance data and linking these to current Lithuanian input and output prices it was possible to make the following recommendations as quoted from the report:

  • since barley beef production seems to be a profitable system under the currently prevailing conditions in Lithuania, it is strongly recommended that experiments take place with this system, both in practice and on research institutes;
  • the same applies to fattening on maize silage, because there is only limited experience with this system. At the same time more attention should be paid to improving the management of maize growing;
  • there should be much more diversification of grazing livestock enterprises within Lithuania;
  • cattle for beef finishing should be reared and finished at grass on loose grazing systems as part of this diversification process adopting systems used in other countries. This would help reduce the present under-utilisation of grassland;
  • present progress towards the establishment of suckler herds should be accelerated. Replacement heifers for a suckler herd should be beef crossbreds born to the dairy herd;
  • the present system of subsidising beef production should be reviewed with a view to harmonising with the EU system; 
  • a system of beef premium headage payments similar to the EU system should be adopted; 
  • suckler cows should receive headage payments to accelerate expansion of the suckler herd;
  • pedigree beef suckler herds should also be encouraged, to provide a source of beef breeding stock. The bulls produced would be used as bulls for the suckler herd and for AI;
  • a system of independent performance recording (weight for age recording) should be considered to provide a measure of genetic merit for pedigree beef suckler herds;
  • consideration should be given to subsidising the erection of fencing in marginal areas; 
  • the ‘SEUROP’ EU beef carcase classification scheme should be introduced as soon as possible.

4.4  Sheep and goat production 

There is no tradition of sheep or goat production in Lithuania and numbers for both species are very low as shown in Table 2. Sheep are kept for meat and wool and are not milked; the local sheep breed is the Lithuanian Blackhead and there is only one sizeable flock of around 200 ewes near Seduva in central Lithuania. A few householders keep goats for milk and it is interesting to note that they now outnumber sheep.

The situation further emphasises the dominance of dairying as the only significant user of pasture/forage resources and underlines its vulnerability in the absence of further diversification.

4.5  Animal health

The animal health situation concerning OIE-List A diseases appears to be extremely good. No cases have been reported since 1993, whereas a few cases of OIE-List B diseases like Rabies and Enzootic Bovine Leucosis have occurred. The main obstacle to the trade of pigs and non heat treated pig products with the EU is the continuation of regular vaccination of 60% of the Lithuanian pig populations against Classical Swine Fever. Assistance is required to elaborate disease monitoring and surveillance plans as well as contingency plans.


5. PASTURE RESOURCE

5.1 Forage crops grown

Most Lithuanian grassland has been reseeded in relatively recent times with the oldest grassland probably resown within the last 15 years. Natural grasslands exist in the upland areas in the north west and south east. Reseeding of pasture has traditionally been through undersowing with cereals or sometimes with Italian Ryegrass in the spring. The mix may also include vetches or peas. The cereal crop may be cut early for silage but may alternatively be cut for grain. The aim is to use the cereal crop to smother the early growth of weeds. Traditional seed mixtures include grasses Phleum pratense, Festuca pratensis, Dactylus glomerata, Poa pratensis in order of popularity. Trifolium pratense and repens are also included but T. pratense is much more popular than T. repens, because of its high early yield. Lolium multiflorum is sown for early yield and to compete with early weed development as descibed above. L. perenne is also sown but traditionally has not been popular because of winter survival problems. With new varieties there is now more interest in L. perenne. Seed mixtures tend to contain several species. Dactylus glomerata has been popular and is now widespread through older grasslands. It is a problem since it flowers earlier than most species (mid May in Lithuania) and therefore is over mature when cut for hay. Natural spread is probably due to haymaking and its ability to shed mature seed before many other species.

Lucerne has also been a popular crop for silage production on bendroves and there is also interest in using it for grazing using specially developed varieties. Maize is also grown for silage production on some progressive bendroves and there is increasing interest in its use now that early maturing varieties, that can produce a good crop in most years, are available.

5.2 Problems occurring

Since independence in 1991 there has been a big drop in reseeding of pasture and a reversion to semi-natural grasslands. The situation in the Silute wetlands is typical of what is happening to much of Lithuanian grassland: previously this grassland was cut and artificially dried to produce grass meal for export to Russia; today the wetlands are divided among 12,000 farmers with small average farm size and the number of cows in the area is estimated to be less than 3,000. The grassmeal plants are no longer operational because of the high cost of fuel. Farmers do not have the machinery to harvest silage and the cost of hay machinery for hire is expensive. In an effort to reduce costs farmers have opted to sacrifice hay quality for quantity and are cutting the hay at a much later stage of growth in order to get higher yields. As a result the botanical composition of the wetlands is changing in response to the changes in grassland management, and woody vegetation is invading the area due to the reduced frequency of cutting. This change in botanical composition will reduce the productivity of these grasslands and may have a negative effect on the drainage rate from these lands (Gutauskas,1996).

It is generally agreed that most Lithuanian grassland is in urgent need of improvement, because of undergrazing and a lack of fertiliser application to maintain basic fertility. There is also a shortage of seed for resowing grassland. The low dairy cow yields indicated in Table 5 are mainly due to poor forage quality, which has resulted from the following factors:

  • the poor species mix 
  • a tendency to graze over-mature grass 
  • late cutting for conservation resulting in low quality winter feed 

5.3 Tethering of cows

It is estimated that at least 75% of Lithuanian cows are tethered (Schukking and Hamnett 1998). In theory this is a rotational grazing system that can lead to efficient use of grassland but in practice it is labour intensive because of the need to carry water, move the cows and milk cows in situ. Furthermore any wet weather usually leads to poaching damage to the pasture. The high labour requirement also conflicts with early season land work since most crops are spring sown. This leads to late turnout since there is less work while cattle are still indoors. Grass growth is very rapid in the spring from late April onwards because there is usually a sudden change from cold to warm weather. Late turnout fails to catch this flush of grass growth adequately so that cattle are soon grazing headed grass with low digestibility, and milk yield may also be lost because inevitably cows do not always have adequate access to water.

5.4 Hay making on plotter holdings

The poor quality of grassland is also due to the change in ownership, with much of the grassland and cattle in the hands of plotters who have little knowledge of grassland husbandry or feeding methods. The problem is compounded because they lack the financial and machinery resources to manage the grassland effectively. In the past the large co-operatives made a mixture of hay and silage for winter feed but the plotters now make only hay. Scythes are still in common use although cutter bar mowers are now the norm. It is then usually turned by hand and laid over hurdles to dry. This is an effective method, but very labour intensive. Horses are in common use to pull cutter bar mowers, turn and gather hay and to cart the loose, dried hay back to the barns. There are very few balers in use. The hay is usually cut from mid June onwards. 

5.5 Silage production

Silage is usually only made on the remaining bendroves. By western standards it is made too late, usually at the flowering stage. The consolidation at the clamp is often poor because the product is usually over mature and often too dry. Silos are usually sealed off with plastic sheeting but with inadequate attention to sealing at clamp sides and ends. High wastage and overheating are often the result. The emphasis is to achieve maximum harvest of dry matter rather to conserve earlier to maximise yield of digestible organic matter and feeding quality. Silage and hay quality is not helped by the indifferent quality of the swards from which they are made.

5.6 Seed production

The break up of the former co-operatives since independence has lead to a dramatic drop in seed production. Formerly Lithuania was a major producer of forage seed for the former Soviet Union, but production has decreased dramatically since 1989. For example, during 1996 legume seed production was down to 5% of the level in 1986 (Poisson, 1997); table 6 shows the trend for legumes and forage grasses in terms of numbers of ha. producing seed. The main reason for this decline has been the loss of organised production within the former co-operatives and a poor market for seed as farming has re-organised and stock numbers have declined.

Table 6 – Hectares in seed production   

 

1986

1992

1996

Legumes      
Trifolium pratense

43850 

1000 

1801 

Trifolium repens

3236 

569 

106 

Trifolium hybridum

1351 

80 

 
Onobrychis viciifolia

503 

 

51 

Others

1048 

24 

28 

Total legumes

49988 

1673 

1986 

Main grass species      
Phleum pratense

11883 

359 

625 

Festuca pratensis

5350 

415 

230 

Poa pratense

2311 

17 

100 

Dactylis glomerata

1708 

30 

52 

       
Total for main grass species

21252 

821 

1007 

Source: Poisson 1997

In 1996 the average seed production per ha. was approximately 25kg for T. pratense, 250kg for T. repens, 250kg for Phleum pratense and 500kg for Festuca pratensis. (Poisson, 1997). 

The only legume species which has maintained significant production is T. pratense. At present it would be advisable to sow T. repens, as this is more persistent. Although forage production with Medicago sativa has potential, seed production in the field is very difficult with only 40kg/ha produced. Galega orientalis is arousing new interest for milk production; the potential seed production in trials can reach 500 kg/ha but commercial production is not significant at present (Poisson, 1997).

Seed production of grass is relative to the level of usage with Festuca pratensis and Phleum pratense the main grasses. Dactylis glomerata is grown for silage and grazing but it is frequently under utilised while Lolium perenne has been considered too frost sensitive. 

The Lithuanian Institute of Agriculture has been very active in breeding and testing new grass and legume varieties. The expertise still remains. This is an opportunity for the future if Lithuania can gain OECD (Organisation for European Co-operation and Development) standards for variety registration and seed certification.


6.  OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE RESOURCES

At the request of the Lithuanian Government, an EU funded Phare project (‘Lithuanian Grassland Management Project’) began in late1994; the main partners were the Lithuanian Institute of Agriculture, the Lithuanian Institute of Animal Science and the Lithuanian Agricultural Advisory Service. The project contractors on behalf of the EU were International Project Partnerships from France. The project ended in December 1998.

The overall project objective was to improve the competitiveness of ruminant livestock production. This was split into more specific project objectives as detailed below:

1. Introduction of new and appropriate technologies on grassland and grazing management systems.

Appropriate technologies were identified as:

  • direct reseeding of grassland without necessarily using a cover crop;
  • a change from tethered grazing to free grazing;
  • continuous in place of rotational grazing for small herds;
  • the adoption of electric fencing techniques to confine animals;
  • the adoption of grazing height monitoring regimes;
  • variable stocking intensities adjusted to seasonal grass growth;
  • integration of grazing with cutting for conservation to achieve these appropriate stocking rates.

2. Introduction of grass fodder conservation systems which produce high quality winter feed and are suited to the different categories of farmers in Lithuania 

Appropriate technologies were identified as:

  • big bale silage making for adoption by agro-service organisations, bendroves or through machinery sharing arrangements;
  • silage making using forage wagons, particularly for small private farmers. Second hand forage wagons are available from western countries.
  • wilted rather than direct cut silage to reduce the reliance on additives and to minimize risk of water pollution;
  • use of improved cutting and tedding machinery; 
  • field clamps where silage bunker (tranche) facilities are unavailable;
  • improved sealing techniques for silos.

3. Development of grass seed and clover seed production systems which will allow Lithuanian forage seed producers to market quality seed in the domestic and international markets

The project was unable to directly organise seed production systems or international marketing. Encouragement to adopt appropriate technologies was organised through expert advisory reports after studies of the facilities and organisational structure in Lithuania. Inspection protocols were also critically assessed and recommendations for change made. Further stimulus to change was provided through a study tour of Denmark and Germany to view all aspects of seed production that currently meet OECD standards. 

Demonstration farms were established, mostly on emerging private farms; these were successfully used to show in practice the techniques advocated in 1 and 2 (above). Grasslands were successfully reseeded without undersowing, both in Spring and Autumn using mixtures containing cold resistant varieties of Perennial ryegrass and white clover. The demonstration farms cut grass for silage much earlier than usual in mid to late May at ear emergence stage and farmers gave up tethering cows in favour of free grazing systems using electric fencing. Silage was made using big balers, forage wagons and with precision cut forage harvesters. Field clamps were used as well as bunkers (tranches) for silage making. Forage analysis was also introduced to aid in the design of dairy cow rations to achieve better cow performance. The improved forage produced very good response in terms of better dairy cow performance (Hamnett 1998). 

The Dutch and Danish governments have continued with project support to improve dairy sector performance both in terms of cow performance and subsequent milk cooling and processing. Grassland management has remained a priority within these projects. Many leaflets and booklets on grassland management subjects have been produced by the LGMP and subsequently in conjunction with the Danish agricultural advisory service. As an example, a leaflet entitled ‘Pasture and Meadow Management’ has recently been produced by the Lithuanian and Danish advisory services, as shown below: 

Lithleaf.jpg (39353 bytes)

Lithtit.jpg (6172 bytes)

The fundamental problem remains an over supply of grassland for the stock numbers kept and a lack of machinery for good grassland establishment and its subsequent management. There are also no field boundaries. The utilisation of the grassland is over dependent on the dairy sector. Grazed beef finishing, suckler cows and sheep production, although encouraged by subsidies, show no sign of expansion from very low levels. Much of the land is agriculturally only suited to grass production so diversification of grazing livestock use is therefore needed. The other option is diversification into non agricultural use, such as forestry.

Nevertheless there is steady progress. This is likely to accelerate as a land market develops and plotter holdings are sold off to consolidate land into larger holdings held by private farmers whose technical expertise and resources will steadily improve. The Agriculture and Rural Development Plan 2000 – 2006 (RDP, 1999) has been submitted to the European Commission for approval to gain pre-accession aid under the SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) programme. If approved its successful implementation will help to address many of the problems highlighted within this text.


7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS AND PERSONNEL

      

    Establishment and contact details Some key personnel Research topics/responsibilites
    Lithuanian Institute of Agriculture Instituto av., 1

    LT-5051 Dotuva Kedainiai

    Tel. (370 57) 52657

    Fax. (370 57) 60996

    Dr Zenonas Dabkevicius Director
    Dr V Zemaitis Head of grassland department
    Dr J Gutauskas Grassland researcher – grassland management
    Dr J Slepytis Grassland researcher (plant breeding)
    Dr E Lemezis Grassland researcher (seed production)
    Prof. L Kadziulis Grassland researcher and Chairman of Science Council
    Dr Audrone Masauskiene Forage analysis
    Dangira Sidlauskiene Translation and Interpreter
    Grazing system experimentation, grassland management, forage conservation. Development of grass and legume varieties
    Lithuanian Institute of Animal Science, LT-5125 Baisogala, Radviliskis raj.

    Tel. (370 92) 53608

    Fax. (370 92) 53608

    Dr Jonas Jatkauskas Director
    Dr Romas Mankevicius Deputy Director
    Prof. Vytautas Tarvydas Animal Nutrition
    Dr Gintautas Sileika Forage conservation
    Dr P Bendikas Cattle management
    Dr V Uchockis Cattle management
    Forage conservation, dairy production, animal nutrition, animal breeding
    Lithuanian Agricultural Advisory Service, Stoties 5, LT 5051, Dotnuva, Kedainiai

    Tel. (370 57) 37856

    Fax. (370 57) 56936

    Saulius Cironka Director
    Virmantas Minkevicius Livestock Husbandry
    Darius Sakickas Livestock Husbandry
    Lithuanian University of Agriculture, Kaunas-Akedemija, LT-4324.

    Tel/fax. (370 7) 298255/296500

     

    Prof. Albinus Kusta

     

     

    Rector

     

    Prof. Spokas Forage machinery
    Forage conservation machinery development
    Lithuanian Veterinary Academy

    Kaunas, Tilves 18, LT-3022

    Tel. (370 7) 260384

    Fax. (370 7) 261417

    Prof. Vidmantas Bilokas

     

    Rector

     

     

    Prof. D.C. Jukna Beef production
    Animal disease, Animal nutrition, development of the beef industry
    Lithuanian Institute of Agrarian Economics, V. Kudirkos 18, LT-2600, Vilnius Prof. Donatas Stanikunas Director
    Agricultural policy research, farms and enterprise economics, rural development
    Lithuanian Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Raudondvaris, LT-4230 Kauno raj. Dr Vytautas Kucinskas Director
    Ministry of Agriculture, Gedimino av. 19 (Lalevelio G), LT2025, Vilnius

    Tel. (370 2) 391032

    Fax (370 2) 224440



8.  REFERENCES

EU DG VI Report (1998). Agricultural Situation and Prospects in the Central and Eastern European Countries – Lithuania, European Commission Report by the Agricultural Directorate (DG VI) (website)

FAO Database 2002 (website )

Gutauskas, J. (1996). Inception Report for the Lithuanian Grassland Management Project, Annex D, The Wetlands.

Hamnett, R.G.(1998). Final Report for EU Phare "Lithuanian Grassland Management Project", December 1998.

McGlynn, T. (1996). Inception Report for the Lithuanian Grassland Management Project. 

Poisson, C. (1997). Mission report for LGMP on forage seed production, October 1997.

RDP (1999). Agriculture and Rural Development Plan 2000 – 2006, compiled by Ministry of Agriculture of Republic of Lithuania, December 1999.(website)

Schukking, S. and R.G. Hamnett (1998). LGMP report "Proposals to Improve Beef Production in Lithuania", November 1998.

Stuikys, V. and A. Ladyga, (1995). Agriculture of Lithuania (in English and Lithuanian), Valystybinis Leidybos Centras, Vilnius 1995 ISBN9986-09-063-6


9.  GLOSSARY

EU European Union

EUROP Each letter indicates a carcase classification category based on based on E for the best to P for the worst

LGMP Lithuanian Grassland Management Project

OECD Organisation for European Co-operation and Development

SAPARD Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development

UAA Utilised Agricultural Area


10. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Much of the information used in this report was acquired by the author as resident project co-ordinator for the Lithuanian Grassland Management Project (implemented by IPP Consultants, St Germaine-en-Laye, France). This would not have been possible without the generous support of the staff at the counterpart organisations to the project and IPP personnel. Thanks are therefore very much due to the directors and staff at the Lithuanian Institute of Agriculture, the Lithuanian Institute of Animal Science and also, but not least, the Lithuanian Agricultural Advisory Service (LAAS). Special thanks are due to Virmantas Minkevicius at LAAS who acted as technical assistant, interpreter and editor for the profile. Special thanks are also due to Dr John Frame and Professor Leonas Kadziulis for similar editing assistance and contributions to the profile. 


11. CONTACTS

This profile was written in June 2000 and will be updated from time to time by:

Bob Hamnett 
33 Stankelt Road 
Silverdale 
Carnforth 
Lancs LA5 0TF 
U.K. 
Tel/Fax: 00 41 (0)1524 701394 
Email: R.Hamnett@farming.co.uk
Ham.gif (19562 bytes)

Livestock data updated by S.G. Reynolds in November 2002.