Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Current breeding strategies for cattle, sheep and pigs in Croatia - P. Caput

P. Caput
Professor, Faculty of Agriculture, Zagreb University, Zagreb, Croatia


Croatia has a long-standing tradition in livestock breeding. It was in the late 19th century that progressive breeders started importing high-quality breeding animals from European countries.

The period from 1898 to 1974 was marked by permanent importing, skillful utilization and spreading of high-quality livestock. Organized and well-planned breeding based on the, imported animals started with the establishment of cattle breeding associations (Pinzgau breed, 1904; Simmental breed, 1906) and an institution for breeding programs (19 13).

First herdbook was established in 1939 and A.I. was introduced in 1948.

A more comprehensive and significant work on cattle breeding in Croatia started after World War II by application of A.I., bull progeny tests, spreading and testing pig breeds and more productive sheep breeds. In Croatia the 50’s and the 60’s large state farms were established and peasants’ herds neglected. Peasants, for example, owned 97 % of cows producing only 60-65 % of milk for the market (dairies). The average milk production per cow in the 70’ was about 6000 kg on large farms and about 2000 kg from peasant herds.

Current state

The national program of cattle breeding has been applied in Croatia since 1974. The main characteristics are domestic breeding, connection with foreign populations through selected bulls. The spread of A.I. to about 70% of the heifers and cow population and the utilization of modem methods in the assessment of breeding qualities stopped mass imports of female animals. In the 80’s, elements of modem breeding programs were introduced in respect of sheep breeding, pig breeding and other livestock branches.

In the last few years more imports of breeding cattle have been observed because many farms were destroyed during the war and a large number of cattle were killed. Quite a significant number of breeding heifers have been imported from Germany and Austria and sheep from Australia. These imported animals are of no significance as regards breeding. They are rather a substitute for the livestock killed or an insurance for production but less for breeding purposes. The price of imported heifers (DM 2000-2500) endangers domestic breeding because of financial stimulation of the exporting countries.

The government has been tying to stabilize the domestic livestock production by several measures. The most significant of them are milk production premiums (purchasing price which is quite high for the producers, DM 0.55/l with 3.6 % milk fat), financing testing programs, premiums for breeding herd-book animals, taxes on imported meat and milk, and others.

These and other state measures have not had much effect on reviving domestic production because it is blocked by other factors: high cost of inputs like petrol, seed and fertilizers (monopoly of state companies), market disorders, particularly, imports for the sake of importers’ needs"; lack of work habits and training of young people in livestock breeding, the prevailing opinion that "nothing is worth doing" and that the government must solve all the 43 problems; limited land ownership, very unfavorable rural location of farms (scattered villages), etc..

Croatia has been known as a traditional country of baby beef for Italy and other western markets. Now it is flooded by cheap crossbred calves and yearlings from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The consumption per capita dropped from 18 kg in the eighties to 12 kg at the beginning of the 90’s. In 1992 milk consumption, including dairy products, averaged 182 litres per capita.

In sheep production it is quite obvious that Croatia should develop breeding for meat (especially lamb) and partly for cheese. Importing "merinorized" sheep should be looked at according to the saying "do not look a gift horse in the mouth" rather than from the breeding policy.

Pork occupies the first place in the overall meat consumption (41 kg per capita in 1985).

Self-sufficiency in pork reached 80 per cent in 1990 and increased slightly during the war years because of reduced consumption.

In the past years there was a high increase of natural consumption.

The absence of market facilities such as auctions and commodity exchanges has contributed to the persistence of the comparatively widespread natural consumption of livestock products.

Breeding strategy for cattle

Croatia possesses a very small number of cows both with respect to agricultural land and to the number of inhabitants (5.5 cows/l00 inhabitants).

Table 1. Cow number and performance structure (HSSC, 1994)




Total cows (estimation)

265 000


On dairy farms (20)

5 178


In private herds (88.000)

259 822


Herd-book cows (A4, AT)

33 741


Field record (Z)

10 488


The proportion of cows under performance recording is unsatisfactory. The main reason for this is the distribution of cows over large areas and a significantly small number of cows per peasant farm Con average about 2.5 cows) making the control expensive.

Performance recording is carried out by the internationally acknowledged methods. Since 1993 Croatia has been a member of ICAR. The results are used for selection (performance and progeny test) and for technological purposes (feeding) as farmers get feedback in the form of processed three monthly and annual milk yield control.

As regards productivity control, the greatest difficulty is the shortage of funds. Substantial financial subsidies from the budget are unpopular, while the interest of breeders and the processing industry has so far not been reflected in any form on subsidies. In view of present circumstances and of the uncertainty of breeding material markets, breeders are not prepared to set aside money to cover the costs of the control.

The milk yield control results are processed in the central information system (HSSC) and published annually.

The milk yield control results are processed in the central information system (HSSC) and published annually.

The herd-book organization consists of 20 dairy farms (former state farms) and 12,O 19 breeders organized in 87 Simmental, 27 Holstein and 4 associations of Brown cattle.

Three breeds have been systematically raised in Croatia. The Simmental breed predominates (79 %), while the Holstein-Friesian (15 %) and the Brown Swiss (6 %) are more modestly represented.

The professional and technical staff for performance recording are organized in districts (15 units) and the head institution for managing breeding and selection is the Croatian Livestock Breeding Centre. Training the personnel and providing technical equipment for regional services are in progress, with the aim of applying the required methods in the control of production (milk ingredients, meat quality, estimation of live animals, computer technology, breeding value estimation and others).

Although the cattle breeding program in the Republic of Croatia (accepted by the Government in 1991) envisages national schemes for all the three breeds, new ideas of a possible independent breeding program are justified only for the Simmental. Other breeds are small in number, not promising additional genetic progress by independent state programs. It seems a good idea to connect the breeding strategies for Holstein-Friesian and the Brown Swiss with the effects of breeding programs in the domestic countries, i.e. with the effects of breeding programs (USA, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and others).

The Simmental cattle is highly valued on family farms for milk production and good quality beef. Economic circumstances indicate a system of "low cow input" or "low husbandry input" making the Simmental very suitable as a dual purpose breed.

The main drawbacks of the Simmental are: mammary index, milk flow and bone percentage.

The structural issues of breeding program are: Bull-dam; BV - h2 (PC -) for milk performance and partly for milkability; secondary traits (linear scoring).

Bull performance testing (120-365): I = Wl x BV (G) + 0.5 W2 BV (Mm) + 0.5 W2 BV

(Sm) + W3 BV (sec.traits by linear scoring)

Bull propenv testing

Milk: BV and RBV for milk and milk fat

Beef: BV and RBV for daily gain (200-500 kg), carcass cold and muscles percentage, as equalized RBV.

Progeny tests are calculated by modified contemporary comparison method and the BLUP technique for milk progeny test.

Breeding strategy for sheep

This type of livestock breeding is not so well developed, it is mostly of the extensive type and is found on small farms. There is a small number of big farms with several hundreds of sheep, connected with the milk-processing industry, and they have separate breeding programs.

Field production of sheep covers the Pramenka, the crossbred Pramenka (sheep found on the islands and on the northern Adriatic coast), and fewer purebred varieties (the Wurtemburg, the Sardinian, the Awassi...) as part of the intensive agricultural production program.

Table 2. Sheep breed structure and performance recording

- Under control


breeders no.


- Breeds (%)

Wurtem berg










A significant place in livestock breeding is given to sheep and goat breeding, since Croatia has large open spaces (in the mountainous and karst regions), where the sheep and goats can compete with any other types of stock.

In sheep breeding it is necessary to increase the parent stock as well as the concentration of animals per farm and to go on crossbreeding of domestic breeds with more productive ones so as to increase the production of lamb meat and sheep milk.

This program also considers the use of grazing sheep to maintain the environment, modify the landscape and prevent fires in southern regions of Croatia.

The introduction of medium-size flocks on small farms is the model of sheep breeding of the future.

The considerable number of farms owned and cultivated by old people, in particular in the mountainous and coastal regions and on the Adriatic islands is the limiting factor.

On the eve of the war (1990) in Croatia there were 75 1,000 sheep. The same year 12,000 tons of live weight and 18 million litres of sheep milk were produced. During the war more than 340,000 sheep were killed.

Breeding strategy for pigs

The pig breeding program envisages the construction of production facilities for the largest possible quantity of meat with the least possible fodder consumption. The best known beef breeds are, the Large White, the Swedish, German and Dutch Landrace and the hybrid pigs.

Valid testing can be carried out on the large pig breeding farms. In the private sector pig breeding is highly fragmented and the number of high quality pigs is negligible. In view of the economic significance of pig breeding in Croatia, the program is expected to meet certain requirements, especially as regards the content and quality of pork. The results of sow productivity and boar tests are processed in the central information system and published annually.

The new pig breeding program in Croatia (1995) recognizes more important elements in the breeding programs of the countries with developed pig breeding (Germany, France, Denmark and others) and the programs of the leading companies (Pig Improvement Company and SCAN):

- forming nuclei of pure breeds and selection pyramids;
- crossbreeding for achieving heterosis effects;
- application of accurate methods for line assessment of breeding value

Table 3. Number of sows and performance results (1990)


Number of sows

227 000

- in pig breeding companies

50 000

- in private husbandries

177 000

- average number of litters per sow


- weaned piglets per sow


- weaned piglets per litter


- Meat percentage in halves


The sow population of 1990 is expected to be renewed soon; during the war about 50 000 sows were killed.

The breeding program sets four mating line in hybrid pig production. For all the four lines (ABCD) animals for reproduction will be selected according to the highest breeding standards.

For parent line mating (AB x CD) maximal use of the genetic effects will be ensured for meatiness and food consumption. In forming the CD and pig nuclei the Swedish Landrace and Large White will be used.

New regulations are being prepared for classification of pig halves to comply with the Regulation on establishing joint scheme of trading grades for pig halves (EWG, 3220/84). The EUROP grades are established on the participation of muscle tissue (estimation %) in the mass of primary processed halves.

Changes planned in the organization of breeding activities

In the process of establishing new, more effective associations and institutions, and of transforming the existing ones, special emphasis must be given to the following aspects:

- finding ways of making breeders take a more active part in developing the kind of associations and activities that will meet European standards and requirements;

- having competent and creative people involved in livestock production, breeding and reproduction, people who will serve the interests of breeders;

- developing an efficient organizational network of state and country associations and institutions that will only deal with matters of general interest, drawing up breeding programs at the national (state) level, central herd-books, central system for production control, livestock identification, testing, cooperation, membership and agency services in other countries, while all other organizations will be set up at country level;

- ensuring that all matters of general interest at state level are financially supported by the State, while all local activities at country level are financed by breeders and companies making profit from livestock breeding and trade;

- in the process of transformation of livestock production introducing methods and standards, which will fully meet the requirements for the admission of Croatia in the European Union. The standards and criteria must be defined in the new laws and regulations on livestock breeding, which will replace the 1979 Law on Measures for the Promotion of Livestock Breeding;

- in livestock breeding improvement so far a small number of breeds within a species have been favored. Primitive breeds of autochthonous origin have, as a rule been neglected. Genetic variability is essential for successful implementation of the breeding program.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page