Oregon Animal Scientists Help Uzbek Cattle Ranchers

by Laurence on 10/10/2004 · 1 comment

Oregon State University sent two extension service cattle experts, Ron Hathaway and Jay Carr, to help farmers raise better herds in Uzbekistan. And they have come back with a new appreciation of some the challenges facing the post-Soviet agricultural sector. From Bend.com:

Through the help of interpreters, Hathaway and Carr suggested to Uzbekistan farmers that if they had half as many cows that were better fed, they’d be generally in better condition, healthier and more productive. But, the scientists noted, it was difficult for the Uzbekistani ranchers to conceptualize feeding their cows more, since most are paying between 38 percent and 48 percent interest on funds borrowed to run their farms.

“They haven’t had enough experience with the economics of plenty,” Hathaway said.

The Uzbeks approach to raising cattle appears to be based on the concept that there’s safety in numbers.

“They are afraid that their cattle will get a disease, or something will happen to them,” explained Hathaway. “Because they want to keep more numbers but have a set feed resource, they’re way overstocked – at least twice. If they’ve got 15 head and lose half of them, they still have seven or eight.”

Hathaway and Carr said that many of the Uzbekistan cattle were in “less than desirable condition” by U.S. standards. “On a one-through-nine condition score – with one being emaciated and nine being obese-plus – most of the cattle we saw were twos and threes,” said Hathaway…

…Both OSU Extension animal scientists noted additional major differences in ranching in Uzbekistan, compared to the United States. Uzbekistan ranchers did not castrate their bull calves, and yet they had no selective breeding program.

“Every bull calf grows up as a potential breeder, which can lead to inferior traits being passed on and a mongrelization of their herd,” said Carr.

Technological knowledge is still present at the universities Carr and Hathaway visited, but they noted the lack of a communication system like the Extension Service to transfer or extend knowledge to farmers.

“It’s fallen by the wayside because there’s no one there to maintain the infrastructure,” Carr said. “That is the big missing link, something we just take for granted in this country.”

The Uzbeks were very inquisitive about the cattle industry in the United States.

“A couple of places we visited we spent more time answering questions about the U.S. than we spent asking them about their cattle,” said Hathaway.

The OSU scientists likened much of Uzbekistan to America prior to World War II, when most people, whether they lived in town or in the country, had sheep or cattle.

The point about lack of communication in the countryside is something I discovered when one of my students proposed setting up a website called “Farmer.Uz” to give information on prices, weather, and so forth to Uzbek farmers, based on American models. It was just a school project, so it never happened. But it would be good to put the computer terminals on the farms, and the information out there for the farmers of Uzbekistan, so they might better compete globally…

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{ 1 comment }

Nathan Hamm October 10, 2004 at 9:01 pm

Must… control… feelings about college rival…

It’s good to see Oregon Agriculture College (I can’t resist that dig!) doing things in Central Asia. About a year ago, the University of Oregon alumni magazine had an article about the work of an anthropology professor doing research in Kazakhstan. It might have been this woman, in fact, I’d put money on it.

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