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SHEEP AND GOAT HUSBANDRY IN THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC

Margetín, M. Michalík, .
RIAP - Sheep and Goat Experimental Station Ministry of Agriculture
Trenín, Slovak Republic Bratislava, Slovak Republic

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ABSTRACT

In Slovakia there were 418 800 sheep as of 1 January 1997, out of which 283 600 were ewes. The number of the sheep remained more or less stable during the last four years. The number of goats rose steadily in Slovakia after 1989 (26 147 goats by 1 January 1997; besides that 10 000 are kept by small-scale producers). The Improved Valachian breed is the most represented sheep breed (approximately 42 percent) and the proportion of the Tsigai breed is approx. 38 percent. The most numerous breed in goats is the white short-haired goat. There is a gentle increase of sheep flocks (in comparison with 1990 and 1996) although at this time the total number of sheep and ewes has decreased. The number of goat herds in this time increased, as well as the total number of kept goats. There is an increased number of herds with a lower proportion of sheep (up to 300 animals) and a decreased number of herds with more than 500 animals. The highest proportion of sheep is concentrated in enterprises keeping 200-300 animals. The number of goat herds with less than 50 animals increased, as well as the number of herds with more than 100 animals. The extensive or semi-intensive system of breeding prevails with most of the sheep breeders, and the semi-intensive system in goat breeding. The interest in more intensive forms of sheep breeding has risen during the recent period.
Sheep breeding in Slovakia can be divided essentially into two production systems (aimed at meat and milk production - 80 percent, and aimed only at meat production - 20 percent). Breeding of goats is aimed mainly at milk production. From the viewpoint of the breeding economy, the proportion of sheep milk sales (or lump cheese) represents 50-60 percent, 35-45 percent is represented by slaughter lamb sales, 4-5 percent by the slaughter sheep sales, and 3-5 percent by the wool sales with the milk type of sheep. The sale of slaughter sheep decreased (2 985 tonnes of live weight in 1996). The export of milk lambs (8-18 kg live-weight) represents the main point in sheep breeding for foreign trade. In Slovakia there is a long tradition in the production of sheep lump cheese. Total sale of sheep lump cheese was 1442 tonnes in 1996. There are approximately 3 500 000 litres of sheep milk heat treated in ten specialized dairy plants. The export of sheep cheeses have had a rising trend since 1993 (the export rose to 269.1 tonnes in 1996). Production and sale of sheep wool is only of peripheral importance from the viewpoint of the economy of breeding.
The technical and technological equipment is not of the required level. The proportion of sheep milked by machines does not exceed one percent, but the interest in milking parlours and machine equipment is rising. The situation in goat breeding is more favourable. The profitability of sheep breeding can be achieved only with allocations obtained from the state. The proportion of allocations in total proceeds with dairy sheep create approximately 44 percent, and with types without milk production approximately 26 percent.
The advanced sheep and goat breeders have great problems with the increasing price disparity between the inputs and receipts. The lack of investment means for development programmes and introduction of progressive breeding systems results in low or average performance in sheep and goats, with low labour productivity. One of the great problems of the new breeders at present is the purchase of genetically valuable biological material for a reasonable price. The Association of Sheep and Goat Breeders (ASGB) tries to help the sheep breeders in the problematic spheres. The Slovak Agricultural and Food Chamber (SAFC) with its regional workplaces also plays an important part in enforcing the interests of sheep and goat breeders. The scientific and research basis with its workplaces have an important position in the sphere of extension and partially of service, too. The government and Ministry of Agriculture SR pay attention to the development of sheep and goat breeding.
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INTRODUCTION

In Slovakia there were 418 800 sheep as of 1 January 1997, out of which 283 600 were ewes. The number of sheep has remained more or less stable during the last four years. The number of goats rose steadily in Slovakia after 1989 (26 147 goats by 1 January 1997; besides that 10 000 are kept by small-scale producers). The Improved Valachian breed is the most represented sheep breed (approximately 42 percent) and the proportion of the Tsigai breed is approximately 38 percent. The most numerous breed in goats is the white short-haired goat. There is a gentle increase of sheep flocks (in comparison with 1990 and 1996) although at this time the total number of sheep and ewes has decreased. The number of goat herds in this time increased, as well as the total number of kept goats. There is an increased number of herds with a lower proportion of sheep (up to 300 animals) and a decreased number of herds with more than 500 animals. The highest proportion of sheep is concentrated in enterprises keeping 200-300 animals. The number of goat herds with less than 50 animals increased, as well as the number of herds with more than 100 animals. The extensive or semi-intensive system of breeding prevails with most of the sheep breeders, and the semi-intensive system in goat breeding. The interest in more intensive forms of sheep breeding has risen during the recent period.

THE SIZE OF SHEEP AND GOATS INDUSTRY, THE STRUCTURE OF FARMS, THE STATUS OF PROPERTY, PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

The number of sheep and goat

The sheep husbandry in Slovakia (SR) is determined by natural conditions mainly in mountain and sub-mountain regions. The number of sheep and their production are permanently subject to marked fluctuations which are influenced by the created macro-economic conditions and all-around suitability of the breeding environment. This reality was felt markedly in Slovakia after the change of political and economic systems in 1989, when the liberalization of the market came about. Problems arose mainly with sheep wool; and the transformation of agriculture was in progress at the same time. The unfavourable situation made itself felt in the gradual decrease of sheep numbers kept in Slovakia (Table1). The decrease in sheep numbers was the second highest (following cattle) in Slovakia after 1989. There were 621 400 sheep kept in Slovakia on 1 January 1990, out of which 356 800 were ewes; the number of sheep decreased to 418 800 (index 67.4 percent), out of which 283 600 were ewes (index 79.5), by 1 January 1997. The highest decreases were noticed in 1991 and 1993. The number of sheep has remained more or less stable during the last four years. The proportion of reproduction categories of sheep (hoggets, lamb-ewes) rises gradually and therefore a slight increase in sheep stock is expected during the coming years (450 000 sheep and 291 000 ewes in the year 2 000).
The number of goats rose steadily in Slovakia after 1989 in comparison with sheep (Table 1). However, in the beginning of 1989 and 1990 the numbers of goats were the lowest in this century (e.g. there were 145 232 goats in Slovakia in 1962). A relatively heavy increase of the number of goats set in after this period (the heaviest in 1992). It has slowed down during the last few years.
Table 1. Numbers of sheep and goats (as of 1 January 1 of the respective year)

Year

Sheep total +1

Ewes

Goats and billy goats total+2

Goats over 6 months (mothers)

1989

647 846

369 274

9 641

5 831

1990

621 405

356 782

9 460

5 848

1991

600 426

355 477

10 322

6 182

1992

531 263

367 596

16 676

10 470

1993

494 310

334 503

20 287

12 917

1994

411 442

286 448

24 974

15 586

1995

397 043

278 826

-

-

1996

427 844

295 911

25 046

17 599

1997

418 823

283 628

26 147

18 599

+1 The data about sheep and goat numbers in Slovakia are processed centrally in the Statistical Bureau SR (since 1994 the selected set only is observed).
+2 The given statistical data do not contain the number of goats kept by small-scale producers; it is estimated that there are 10 000 animals at present.

The breed structure

Breeds of sheep and goats given in Table 2 are kept in Slovakia at present. The Improved Valachian breed is the most represented sheep breed (approximately 42 percent out of the total number of sheep kept in Slovakia). The proportion of the Tsigai breed is approximately 38 percent, the Merino type comprises 19 percent, and other breeds together make up approximately one percent. All Tsigai and Valachian sheep in Slovakia are milked and a part of the Merino sheep are milked, too. The lowest decrease in number was noticed in the Valachian sheep, and greater interest in specialized milk and meat breeds is expected.

Table 2. Sheep and goat breeds kept in Slovakia

Sheep

Goat

    Merino
    Tsigai
    Improved Valachian breed
    East Friesian breed
    Lacaune
    Suffolk
    Ile de France
    Berrichon du Cher
    Oxford Down
    Charollais
    Texel
    Romanov sheep

    White short-haired goat (Saanen type)
    Alpine goat
    Mohair goat
    Kashmir goat

+ includes also the sheep of Meat Merino, Ascanian Merino, the Caucasus Merino and others

The most numerous breed of goats is the white short-haired goat. Milk performance was tested in 29 herds of this breed (1780 goats are in the test). Milk performance was also tested in six herds of the Alpine goat (210 goats are in the test) imported to Slovakia from France. The goats of production type, of various phenotypes, which cannot be joined to the given breeds represent quite a large proportion. The Mohair and Kashmir goats were imported to Slovakia at the beginning of the1990s,and their number decreased quickly during the last period.

The farm structure

There are neither official statistical data about the number of enterprises in which sheep and goats are kept in Slovakia at present, nor data about their structure and acreage (the Statistical Bureau SR does not follow these data). There were 36.6 percent sheep out of the total number (427 844 animals) in co-operative forms of ownership (agricultural co-operatives, farmer co-operatives, agricultural shareholders co-operatives and the like), 9.1 percent were owned by various companies (stock companies, Ltd. and the like), and 54.4 percent sheep out of the stock were in the hands of private smallholders and small-scale producers according to the data of the Statistical Bureau SR (SB SR) in 1995. There were 20 740 private smallholders in Slovakia as of 30 June 1997 according to the Statistical Bureau SR (the proportion of the sheep and goat breeders is not known).
According to the study carried out in 45 out of 79 districts in Slovakia with the co-operation of Slovak Agricultural and Food Chamber, in the last few years there was a gentle increase of sheep flocks (an increase by 24 percent in comparison with 1990 and 1996) although for this time the total number of sheep and ewes in the selected file decreased (by 33.8 percent and 20.9 percent, respectively). The number of goat herds for the years 1990-96 increased by 114 percent in the selected file as well as the total number of goats and mother goats kept (an increase by 447 percent and 604 percent, respectively). The presented study included 50 percent sheep stock, 55 percent ewe stock, 35 percent goat stock and 38 percent stock of mother goats out of the total number of sheep and goats kept in Slovakia.
According to the data from performance testing in sheep for the period 1995-1996 (Table 3), there were 117 nucleus herds with the ewes totalling 36 020 heads (average number per herd - 333 animals), and 37 multiplication herds with total number of ewes 11580 animals (average number per herd - 312 animals). The data about the number of commercial herds are not available.

Table 3. Number of herds of performance tested ewes, by breed

Sheep breed

Type of herds

Parameter

   

Number of herds

Number of ewes

Average number of ewes per herd

Merino sheep

Nucleus herds

31

9 156

296

 

Multiplication herds

7

1 840

262

Tsigai

Nucleus herds

31

9 860

318

 

Multiplication herds

15

5 462

364

Improved Valachian breed

Nucleus herds

47

18 645

396

 

Multiplication herds

15

4 228

281

Other

Nucleus herds

8

1 359

169

Total

Nucleus herds

117

39 020

333

 

Multiplication herds

37

11 530

312

According to the presented study carried out with the co-operation of the Slovak Agricultural and Food Chamber, there is an increased number of herds with a lower proportion of sheep (up to 300 animals) and a decreased number of herds with more than 500 animals (Table 4).
According to our estimate, the highest proportion of sheep are concentrated in enterprises keeping 200-300 animals, and 300-500 animals (approximately 35 percent of the sheep stock). In Slovakia there are about 50 breeders keeping more than 1000 animals (35 percent of the stock). Approximately 20 percent of the sheep stock are in herds with more than 500-1000 animals. Breeders of less than 50 animals own approximately 5 percent of the sheep stock, and there are approximately 5 percent of the stock in herds with 50-200 animals.
There are no statistical data available about the acreage of agricultural enterprises with sheep breeding. Most of the agricultural co-operatives, as well as other agricultural subjects, are not specialized only in sheep husbandry as this branch is a part of a larger agricultural production (predominantly combined with cattle husbandry). In Slovakia there are few agricultural co-operatives specialized in sheep breeding. The proportion of specialized sheep farms owned by private smallholders is higher than in agricultural enterprises.
Official statistical data about the number, structure, size and intensity of goat farms are not available in Slovakia at present (the Statistical Bureau does not observe these data). Table 4. shows that the number of goat herds with less than 50 animals increased, as well as the number of herds with more than 100 animals. The structure of goat flocks depends on the number of kept animals, as was determined in the selected file (presented in Table 4). In Slovakia there are more than 70 goat herds with an average number of 50-300 animals currently aimed at market production of milk, according to our knowledge. In these agricultural enterprises approximately 5 000 animals, mostly with a very good genepool (one part represents the goats imported from France, Denmark and mainly from the Czech Republic), are kept at present. Milk recording is performed in 29 herds of the white short-haired goat (the average number per herd - 94 goats), and in 6 herds of Alpine goats (the average number per herd - 35 goats) at present. Milk recording is performed mostly in goats kept in co-operatives, and less in goats kept by private smallholders, small-scale producers and companies (stock companies, Ltd. companies). The semi-intensive system in goat breeding prevails in Slovakia, a few breeds can be characterized as intensive or extensive ones. Intensive breeding with more than 30 goats prevails with private smallholders and with some co-operative enterprises. In these enterprises, the mothers are kept in stables during the greater part of the year, with balanced feed ration (or the goats are grazed on intensive pasture lands), goats are milked by machines, and the produced milk is subsequently processed either in an independent production unit or it is sold to processors of goat milk.
Table 4. The structure of sheep and goat flocks depending on the number of animals kept

The number of animals

Sheep

Goats

 

1990

1996

1990

1996

 

abs.

%

abs.

%

abs.

%

abs.

%

1 to50

279

43.06

325

40.42

159

98.15

385

90.80

50 to 100

12

1.85

65

8.09

1

0.62

22

5.19

100 to 200

11

1.70

83

10.32

1

0.62

8

1.89

200 to 300

47

7.25

106

13.19

0

0

5

1.18

300 to 500

106

16.36

110

13.68

0

0

4

0.94

500 to 1 000

101

15.59

71

8.83

1

0.62

0

0

1 000 to 3 000

78

12.04

41

5.10

0

0

0

0

3 000 to 5 000

12

1.85

2

0.25

0

0

0

0

5 000 to 10 000

2

0.31

1

0.12

0

0

0

0

More than 10 000

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

648

100

804

100

162

100

424

100

The intensity of sheep breeding

As regards the intensity of breeding, the extensive or semi-intensive system of breeding prevails with most of the sheep breeders, if we judge the intensity of breeding by the level of nutrition, organization of breeding during the winter and summer season, and according to the level of technological equipment of farms mainly in connection with machine milking of sheep. The interest in more intensive forms of sheep breeding has risen during the recent period, directed mainly at milk as well as meat production. Also the interest of breeders is increasing in genepools with higher production level than in the native breeds, in modern methods of feed conservation, in biotechnological methods (artificial insemination), and in technological lines to gain and process milk.
In dairy sheep, mainly the Tsigai and Valachian ones, the mating period is more or less traditional, i.e. the larger part of ewes and hoggets are mated in September, the lesser part in October and November (lambing in January, February, March). Most breeders adjust the beginning of mating to the term of the Easter holiday in the next year (production of milk lambs). A similar mating scheme is also used in Merino herds, mainly in herds with milked sheep. The Merino ewes were traditionally mated in July and August. Regarding the fact that Merino sheep breeding is not profitable (also with respect to low production and reproduction parameters) the animals are mated more often in some herds (three times in two years), or the mating of ewes is organized to produce one part of the slaughter lambs before Christmas and one part before Easter holidays. The proportion of herds with mating more frequent than once a year is very low world-wide; it does not reach one percent. Hormonal preparations are used in synchronization and stimulation of oestrus in ewes out of season, and more and more often during the season as well (the purchase of synchronization and stimulation preparations is partially allocated - as explained later).
In commercially oriented herds with milk goats mating and wearning is the same as with milk sheep (mating mainly in September and October, yearning - January, February). In some herds the hormonal synchronization and stimulation of oestrus are also used.
The available areas for growing forage crops could provide nutrition for a larger number of sheep than are kept in Slovakia at present. Out of the total area 256 000 ha of meadows and 566 000 ha of pastures, only 200 000-250 000 ha are used for sheep breeding. This state is alarming, in particular from the viewpoint of landscape creation and ecological aspects, if we take into account the marked decrease in the number of cattle which was noticed in Slovakia during the last years.
Sheep and goat breeders provide for the nutrition of sheep mainly from their own resources during the summer period and during the winter period, as well. They buy, first of all, the complete feed mixtures for raising and fattening lambs, and complete feed mixtures for nursing ewes. Some of the breeders produce the feed mixtures in their own facilities because the purchase price of feed mixtures is relatively high (feed mixture for ewes - approximatley 600 Ski/q*, i.e. US$17.70/q, and for lambs approximately 850 Ski/q, i.e. US$25.10/q). The proportion of costs for purchased feeds represents roughly 15 percent - 20 percent out of total costs for feeds. An enquiry was performed during the last two years in some agricultural enterprises with sheep breeding, and it was found that the proportion of costs for consumed feeds (self-produced and purchased ones) out of total costs was higher than 25 percent. The assortment and quality of the purchased feeds do not fulfil fully the requirements of breeders, neither does the quality of roughage, the quality of the preserved ones in particular is often not convenient, and it makes itself evident in low performance of sheep all over Slovakia.

The status of property

According to accessible data, most of the private smallholders farm on leased land with leased sheep or they use leased stables. According to our estimate only a small part of private smallholders farm on their own land and own their sheep. These are mostly the family farms. Breeders with larger numbers of animals engage seasonal workers (milking). The number of private smallholders is rising only slowly. The co-operative form of farming (co-operatives of owners and shareholders) prevails. As far as personnel is concerned, the situation has grown worse during the last years. In some agricultural enterprises there is unqualified management; however, the more urgent problem is lack of qualified sheepmen, the number of which is decreasing steadily. The consequence is the decrease of labour productivity. Some sheep breeders have problems getting qualified staff because the working and living conditions of sheepmen are not adequate to meet the demands of modern people and are not comparable with conditions in analogous production branches. In fact, education of master sheepmen does not exist.

__________________________________________
1 q = 100 kg
THE MAIN PRODUCTS OF SHEEP AND GOAT BREEDING AND CHARACTERIZATION OF MARKET

Sheep

Sheep breeding in Slovakia can be divided essentially into two production systems, namely breeds aimed at meat and milk production (dairy types of sheep), and breeds aimed at meat production (types without milk production). The dairy types of sheep comprise approximately 80 percent of the total number of sheep, whereas types without milk production make up approximately 20 percent. From the viewpoint of breeding economy the proportion of sheep milk sales (or lump cheese) represents 50-60 percent, 35-45 percent are represented by slaughter lamb sales, 4-5 percent by the slaughter sheep sales, and 3-5 percent by the wool sales with the milk type of sheep. Proceeds from the sale of breeding material (30-40 percent out of total sales) represent an important proportion in nucleus herds which produce breeding rams or lamb-ewes for multiplication and commercial herds. The above-mentioned data show that the decisive products from the viewpoint of the economy of dairy sheep breeding are the production of sheep milk or cheese, and the production of milk lambs which are produced mainly before the Easter holidays (or Christmas holidays). The proportion of funds from the sale of slaughter lambs represents approximately 80 percent, from the sale of slaughter sheep approximately 8 percent, and from the sale of wool approximately 5 percent; the rest are mainly sheep kept for breeding and are the type without milk production. The sale of breeding animals, mainly rams, creates an important proportion in the nucleus herds specialized in meat breeds. The sale of sheep-skins takes only a minimum share in the total sales because most of the slaughter sheep and lambs are sold alive.

Production of slaughter sheep

It is complicated to express in numbers the total production of slaughter sheep in Slovakia, as there are not available data about production in breeds of private smallholders and small-scale producers. The sale of slaughter sheep is observed by the Statistical Bureau SR and is given in Table 5.

Table 5. The development of production and sale of slaughter sheep in SR

Year

Production

Sale

Self-supply

1993
1994
1995
1996
Prognosis for 1997

6 770
4 510
4 280
3 985
3 900

5 770
3 689
3 280
2 985
2 900

1 000
821
1 000
1 000
1 000

Source : Statistical Bureau SR (SB SR)

From Table 5 the decrease in the sale of slaughter sheep is evident, which affects mainly the slaughter lambs (only 799.2 tonnes were sold in 1996). During the first six months of this year, 1831 tonnes of slaughter sheep (live) were sold. The export of milk lambs (8-18 kg live-weight) for prices acceptable to breeders (before the Easter holidays the price was more than 100 Sk/kg, i.e. US$3.00/kg live-weight), represents the main point in sheep breeding for foreign trade. As far as the sheep export is concerned it created 746.0 tonnes converted to meat, out of this 79.2 percent were exported alive and 17.1 percent were exported as meat (1050 tonnes alive and 109.6 tonnes in meat) in 1996. The most lambs are exported to Italy (94.8 percent in 1996). The sale of lambs is settled on the basis of association agreements with the EU countries which allocate the export quota to SR. However, they are used to only 60-65 percent. The home consumption of lamb meat (mutton) is very low in Slovakia because of high prices. It decreases year after year and according to the estimate of the SB SR it decreased to 0.29 kg per inhabitant. Prices for slaughter sheep paid to producers have increased yearly by 13-19 percent in SR since 1993. The average purchasing prices for slaughter lambs were 81.07 Sk/kg (i.e. approx. US$2.40/kg) in 1996 (Table 6).

Table 6. Average prices paid to producers for slaughter sheep and lambs

Category

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997+1

Slaughter sheep

372.2

404.3

473.3

535.3

546.0

Slaughter lambs

925.4

1 601.3

1 993.8

2 392.9

2 654.4

Source: Statistical Bureau SR +1 prognosis 1 US$ = 33.88 Sk

Milk (cheese) production

In Slovakia there is a long tradition in the production of sheep lump cheese (cream-finished product for the production of Brenda [cottage cheese], requires on average 4.5 kg of sheep milk to produce 1 kg of lump cheese), and the production of raw sheep milk which is processed in specialized milk factories increased during the last years, too. Total production and sale of sheep lump cheese is given in Table 7.

Table 7. Production and sale of sheep lump cheese (in tonnes)

Year

Production1

Sale2

1993

1 900

1 496

1994

2 020

1 643

1995

2 132

1 586

1996

2 006

1 442

Prognosis for 1997

2 029

1 446

Source: Statistical Bureau SR 1 includes small-scale producers
2 without small-scale producers

According to the estimate of the Slovak dairy association there are approximately 3 500 000. Litres of sheep milk heat treated in ten specialized dairy plants in Slovakia for the production of much asked for cheeses (Fetter, Ramada, Luanský cheese, Kaskaval and others). Brenda, the cheese in barrels, and during the last years also some sorts of industrially produced sheep cheese are traditionally exported from Slovakia. The export of the last-mentioned cheeses have had a rising trend since 1993, the export rose to 269.1 tonnes in 1996. Out of this amount 52.3 percent were exported to Hungary, 24.1 percent to Saudi Arabia, 11.2 percent to Kuwait, 10 percent to Lebanon, and 2.4 percent to the United Arab Emirates. From the data of the customs statistics it is not evident which proportion of the exported cheeses are cheeses produced from the sheep milk only, and which proportion are cheeses produced from blended milks.
Consumption of Brenda on the home market has a declining tendency according to the statistical data after 1990. It is caused mainly by the rising consumer price. The home consumption of Brenda per inhabitant is on the level 0.3 kg, i.e. about 1 700 tonnes are consumed totally. The prices for sheep lump cheese which are paid to producers have a rising tendency; however, the speed of increase has gradually slowed down (1 kg sheep lump was sold for approximately US$1.67 in 1996, for US$1.84 in 1997). Raw sheep milk was purchased by dairy plants for approximately US$0.38/litre. The given purchasing prices of sheep lump and milk are without allocations (as explained later).

Wool production

Production and sale of sheep wool is only of peripheral importance from the viewpoint of the economy of breeding. Receipts from the sale of wool from one sheep very often do not cover the costs of its shearing. According to the data of SB SR more than 1 000 tonnes of greasy wool are produced in Slovakia (1146 tonnes in 1996), statistically recorded sales comprise approximately one-half (629 tonnes in 1996; it does not include the sale of wool from small-scale producers). The import over export in foreign trade still prevails with sheep wool in Slovakia (Table 8). It is estimated that there will be 2 600 tonnes imported and 2 000 tonnes of sheep wool exported in 1997.

Table 8. Foreign trade with sheep wool (in tonnes)

Parameter

1993

1994

1995

1996

Six months of 1997

Import

3 118

1 845

1 818

2 169

1 445

Export

1 318

1 061

1 422

1 924

1 122

The import of wool to Slovakia is dominated by Australia (83.8 percent production), then New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and so forth. The wool is imported to Slovakia without customs restrictions.
Sheep wool was exported during the first six months of 1997 to the Czech Republic in the first place, with 39.8 percent, 33.6 percent to FRG, 13.6 percent to Hungary, etc. The average purchasing prices of sheep wool paid to sheep breeders were within US$0.70-0.75/kg during the last four to five years. The price of imported and exported wool is markedly higher and it will be necessary to take measures to protect the home producers.

Goats

Breeding of goats is aimed mainly at milk production in Slovakia. Breeding of Kashmir and Mohair goats is negligible in Slovakia, and their breeding is declining because of unprofitability. The sale of goat milk from individual breeders with larger numbers of animals (approximately 30 milk goats) is performed through six larger goat milk processors at present. It is expected that in these herds approximately 1 400 000 litres of milk will be produced in 1997, and the given six processors will take approximately 85 percent production (i.e. 1 120 000 litres ). The purchasing price of raw goat milk paid to breeders approaches 9-11 Sk (US$0.26-0.33) for one litre. There were problems with goat milk processing and with the sale of goat cheeses in Slovakia in 1996 and 1997. It is caused by difficult sales of cheeses and products from goat milk. Consumption of goat cheeses on the home market is low and it is the consequence of traditionally lower consumption and relatively high prices in the network of markets (250 Sk/kg - i.e. US$7.38/kg). From the statistical data it is not possible to find out which proportion of goat cheeses are exported and in which composition; however, according to the estimates it is approximately 90 percent. The export is directed to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and to the Arab states.
Slaughter kids from larger breeders are mostly exported before Easter together with the milk lambs (alive). This year's price was about 105-107 Sk/kg live weight., i.e. US$3.10/kg. The license commission of MA SR permitted the export of 65 tonnes of kids (alive) this year. The sale of culled adult goats and billy goats remain problematical.

Characterization of equipment and machinery on the farms

The technical and technological equipment in sheep breeding is not of the required level, and it is one reason for the prevailing extensiveness of breeding. The fences (fixed as well as electric ones) are used too little during the grazing period with dairy sheep and the sheep without milk production as well (the so called Carpathian system of breeding is performed). The expected rate of increase of fenced areas is not being fulfilled (the aim is to achieve 15 percent out of grazing grounds acreage by the year 2000). There are a number of firms which offer various systems of fences in Slovakia.
The situation in the sphere of machine milking of sheep is also unsuitable. The proportion of sheep milked by machines does not exceed one percent in Slovakia. However, the interest in milking parlours and machine equipment is rising. One of the reasons is the lack of qualified sheepmen who are able and willing to milk by hand approximately 100 sheep two to three times a day at the present level of their wages in agricultural co-operatives. The offer of various types of milking parlours (abreast, rotary milking parlours for small-scale and large-scale farmers from various firms) is sufficient. However, the relatively high prices are the limiting factor for breeders. Therefore the farmers, irrespective of their type of property, cannot buy the parlours.
The situation in goat breeding is more favourable in the sphere of technical and technological equipment. There are approximately 60-70 percent of goats machine milked in larger herds (over 30 dairy goats), and the raw milk is processed (cooling boxes, or pasteurization of milk) or sometimes processed to final products by some breeders. The proportion of fenced grazing land is also higher with goats. With the rising proportion of raw sheep milk purchased, the proportion of breeds with cooling boxes (in order to collect the milk once in two days) also rises. The machinery owned by sheep and goat breeders is more or less outdated and physically worn out, as not all enterprises have financial means to buy new machines and technologies. There is an acute lack of technical equipment to produce good-quality preserved feeds (haulage, silage). The purchasing prices of the technical equipment are relatively high, and with regard to their insufficient utilization during the whole year, the breeders do not buy them in necessary quantity. The production of preserved feeds performed by service could be a solution. However, it either does not exist or it is only sporadic. The problem to get good-quality preserved feeds also concerns the goat breeders with market production of milk.
State supports for the farmers, breeding associations and services for the farmers

The yearly increase of costs in sheep breeding was approximately 10 percent during the last years. Receipts from the sale of products from sheep breeding do not cover the costs at adequate levels of performance either. The profitability of sheep breeding of dairy and non-dairy type breeds can be achieved only with allocations obtained from the state. The proportion of allocations to dairy sheep amounts to approximately 44 percent of the total proceeds, and with types without milk production (predominantly Merino sheep), it is approximately 26 percent.
In 1997 the following tools were applied to support sheep breeding and to control the commodities from sheep breeding :

a) Allocations (subsidies) to support farming under the most difficult natural conditions, i.e. in mountain and sub-mountain regions. This will be determined (per one hectare of agricultural land) differently according to the classification of enterprises into price groups, subgroups and bands of official prices of the agricultural land. The allocations will be granted to applicants who will fulfil the criteria settled by the decree of MA SR. This allocation claim refers to all breeders of farm animals, mostly in mountain and sub-mountain regions (not only sheep and goat breeders).
b) Allocations to support sheep breeding, at the most 600 Sk (US$11.70) per animal, for the average yearly number of sheep older than one year upon the condition that the breeder had at least 10 sheep.
c) Allocations to preserve the genepool of the original Valachian breed, to 1000 Sk (US$29.50).
d) Allocations for the purchase of breeding animals from abroad (rams and insemination doses from rams for insemination stations - up to 70 percent of first cost; breeding sheep for nucleus herds - up to 40 percent of first cost ).
e) Allocations to support home production and the purchase of top quality genetic stock in SR, i.e. breeding rams and hoggets in elite classes - up to 40 percent of first cost.
f) Allocations for the establishment and keeping of herd-books of the recognized breeding organization (to 50 Sk/animal entered in the herd book, i.e. US$1.48/animal).
g) Allocations for performance testing, progeny testing, testing and support of breeding intensity (to the breeder for performing the milk recording in sheep - up to the amount of 440 Sk (US$13.00) per animal and to the keeper of the Testing Station of Fattening Capacity and Carcass Value).
h) Allocations for the sold sheep milk or for products processed in the farmers'own facilities according to the technical standard - in the amount of 5 Sk (US$0.15) per litre of milk or 23 Sk (US$0.68) per kg of cheese in first quality class.

The given allocations are granted out of the state budget of the Ministry of Agriculture SR (Decree MA SR No. 307/1997-100 from 18th February 1997).
The allocation claim given in point a) relates also to the breeders of goats. Point b) is also applicable to goats, the only difference being that the allocation of 600 Sk (US$11.70) is for every breeder for a young goat older than 6 months. The allocations claim in points d), g), and h) refer also to breeders of goats.

According to the individual allocation claims for sheep and goat breeding, the allocations were granted as follows :

Allocations claim

Year 1995
(ths US$)

Year 1996
(ths US$)

Year 1997 - estimated
(ths US$)

par. 5 - support of farming under the most difficult natural conditions

97 936.5

97 546.9

10 5371.9

par. 6 - support of sheep and goats breeding

3 772.2

4 353.6

4 722.6

par. 13 - support to preserve the gene pool and growth of genetic potential in farm animals (total)

159.6

412.0

436.3

Preservation of gene pool of original Valachian breed

4.8

4.4

4.3

Purchase of breeding sheep of specialized meat and dairy breeds

24.8

41.7

8.9

Purchase of breeding goats from abroad

37.4

2.2

-

Purchase of local breeding rams and lamb-ewes

10.8

236.1

236.1

Purchase of local young breeding billy goats and young nanny goats

4.6

14.2

14.3

Tests of paternity in breeding animals

9.6

12.9

20.7

Purchase of preparation for oestrus synchronization in sheep

5.6

5.8

11.1

Milk recording in ewes

41.1

65.1

70.8

Milk recording in goats

19.8

27.6

31.0

Completed meat efficiency test

0.3

0.3

1.5

Purchase of material prizes and valuation of animals at ram auctions

0.9

1.6

4.3

Purchase of insemination doses

-

-

0.1

Establishment and keeping of herd book

-

-

33.2

par. 15 support of milk quality increase (total)

734.4

673.3

1 475.8

Sheep milk

677.6

638.0

1 328.2

Goat milk

56.8

35.3

147.6

Totally (without par. 5)

4 666.1

5 438.8

6 634.6

The Association of Sheep and Goat Breeders (ASGB) co-operative with its seat in Banks Bestir tries to help the sheep breeders in the problematic spheres. The range of its activities covers the whole territory of Slovakia. The main mission of the association is to protect and enforce the interests of sheep and goat breeders in relation to buyers and processors of sheep products as well as in relation to the Ministry of Agriculture and to other central organizations. ASGB controls and co-ordinates the breeding of sheep and runs the herd book. The rearing station(s) of breeding rams and insemination station(s) shall start their activities under the auspices of ASGB in the near future. There is a discussion among the specialists at present as to whether the performance testing in sheep and goats will be performed by employees of the State Breeding Institute Bratislava (as it was until now) or whether it will be performed by employees of ASGB. Besides the mentioned association, some smaller breeders organizations of more or less local importance exist in Slovakia. The Slovak Association of Small-scale Producers, within the framework of which the Commission for Sheep and Goat Breeding also acts, protects first of all the interests of small-scale producers who keep primarily the East Friesian sheep and performance tested breeding goats. The Slovak Agricultural and Food Chamber (SAFC) with its regional workplaces also plays an important part in enforcing the interests of sheep and goat breeders. SAFC is a self-governing organization in SR which protects the interests of agricultural enterprises against the state, mainly in the sphere of the state budget. SAFC together with ASGB, organize various seminars, training, breeding days, and participate in support of publishing activity, etc. The scientific and research basis with its workplaces have an important position in the sphere of extension and partially of service, too.

Characterization of difficulties in development of sheep and goat breeding

During the last two years the interest in sheep breeding has risen in Slovakia, mainly in the Improved Valachian (IV) and Tsigai (T) breeds, i.e. in breeds with better profitability at the present level of allocations. During this period it was very difficult to buy breeding lamb-ewes or hoggets of T and IV breeds for reasonable prices (at least 2000 Ski for lamb-ewe and 4000 Ski for hogget, i.e. US$60 and US$120, respectively). Interest in the purchase of specialized milk (East-Friesian, Lacaune breeds) as well as meat breeds (Suffolk, Ile de France, Charollais, etc.) has also risen. However, the populations of these breeds are very small in Slovakia, and purchasing prices of these sheep are relatively high abroad (inclusive of veterinary costs). In addition there was an embargo placed on the import of sheep from some EU countries (because of BSE). From the above-mentioned points it follows that one of the great problems of the new breeders is, at present, the purchase of genetically valuable biological material (at home or abroad) for a reasonable price. Similar problems with the purchase of suitable genepool also exist for potential goat breeders.
The established sheep and goat breeders have a great problem with the increasing price disparity between the inputs and receipts, although the price cuts slowed down in 1996 (within the whole of agriculture). Many agricultural enterprises (with sheep breeding also) are insolvent, and the situation with capital assets is complicated in many enterprises. It is difficult for the sheep and goat breeders to get at the credit resources, which are often with very high interests (approximately 15 percent). The lack of investment means for development programmes and introduction of progressive breeding systems (e.g. from the viewpoint of nutrition, technical and technological equipment in breeds) results in low or average performance in sheep and goats, with low labour productivity. The receipts from sale of the main products from sheep and goats breeding often does not cover the costs of their breeding at low performance level.
Sheep and goat breeding is irreplaceable mainly in mountain and sub-mountain regions of Slovakia. It fulfils not only the production function but also an extra-productional function as the breeding of small ruminants is an important environmental factor in these regions. This branch is underestimated in spite of many factors which give evidence of positive effects, mainly of sheep breeding on landscape creation in protected landscape areas, emission areas, and areas with groundwater protection. Financial means to promote the branch of small ruminants were not obtained from the Ministry of Environment Protection SR. Sheep breeding played an important social role in the past in many regions with breeding traditions (Liptov, Spi_, Orava, _ari_, the Low Tatras, etc.); and it should play an important role at present, as well (maintaining the employment of rural population in regions with lack of employment opportunities).
There is a lack of objective information about the economic effectiveness of agricultural enterprises with sheep and goat breeding with regard to the form of ownership or the number of sheep or goats kept. The branch of sheep or goat breeding, is in most agricultural co-operatives, only a supplementary branch of animal production. Incomes from sheep breeding within receipts from animal production comprise 2.3 or 2.5 percent in the most important regions with sheep breeding, i.e. in the region of central and east Slovakia. There are few agricultural co-operatives specialized in sheep breeding in Slovakia. Agricultural co-operatives which are profit-making as a whole also have profit-making sheep breeding. Losses with many sheep breeders depend to a certain degree on the high proportion of overhead costs, which represent approximately 16-18 percent out of total costs in agricultural co-operatives. The most simple way to economic efficiency in commercially oriented sheep and goat breeding, and to the improvement of their profitability is through consistent utilization of genetic potential of sheep and goat breeds in our country; many breeders use only to 60-70 percent of this potential. Hitherto experiences show that the state promotion of sheep and goat breeding in the form of allocations is necessary, at least at the present level (see above). The last years indicate that the present production of slaughter sheep, the milk lambs in particular, does not cover the demands of the inland and foreign markets. Consumption of lamb meat and sheep and goat cheeses in Slovakia is very low when compared with the previous years. High-quality sheep and goat cheeses find their place on the native as well as foreign markets. The goat milk is a greater risk for producers and processors from the commercial point of view in Slovakia. There arises a need for minimum granted purchasing prices for goat milk, which would provide certain stabilization of goat breeding in Slovakia.
The government and Ministry of Agriculture SR pay attention to the development of sheep and goat breeding. The Conception of Sheep Breeding Development and Conception of Goat Breeding Development were approved by the board of the Ministry of Agriculture SR in 1993. The Conceptions were up-dated in 1995 (sheep) and in 1996 (goats), and there the objectives of breeding which should be achieved in the year 2000 are specified, such as livestock population, production, technical equipment and personnel. There are also specified the needs for feeds, veterinary services, etc. The discharge of tasks and measures which follow from the above-mentioned Conceptions for breeders, breeders associations, the executive and scientific and research basis is performed every year.

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