Brazil is an agricultural country, with 190 Mha of pastures sustaining 209 million cattle. Fewer than 10% of the cattle are fattened in feedlots, whereas cattle reared on pastures have a competitive advantage for export, eliminating the risks presented by the mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and considerations related to animal welfare. Brazil has been the world’s largest exporter of beef since 2004 and has the largest commercial herd in the world. In 2011, 16.5% of its production was exported, and the livestock sector contributed 30.4% of the gross national product from agribusiness and 6.73% of the total GNP. Many forage breeding programs, mainly at Embrapa, have contributed to the development of improved pastures, and cultivars of Brachiaria brizantha, B. decumbens, B. humidicola and Panicum maximum are the main pastures used in the country. All have apomictic reproduction, which means there are few cultivars occupying very large, continuous areas, thus suggesting a risk to the productive system. Such is the case of B. brizantha cv. Marandu, which occupies around 50 Mha. The Brazilian tropical forage seed industry is also important, and Brazil is the main seed exporter, supplying all Latin American countries. Due to pasture degradation, around 8 Mha is renovated or recovered each year. Forages are also used and planted each year in integrated crop–livestock and integrated crop–livestock–forest systems. Nowadays, these systems occupy 4 Mha. Improved pastures are thus a major asset in Brazil not only for the beef production chain but also for the dairy industry.
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Vol. 65 • No. 11