Brazil is known for its rich agricultural resources and thriving cattle industry. Its ag production is growing and the nation produces some of the same crops that American farmers produce and export.
Like Nebraska and other states in the U.S., Brazil suffered mightily from drought in 2012.
At the Water for Food conference in Lincoln this week, Brazilian rancher Antonio Ferreira told the audience that Brazil lost about 5 million head of cattle to drought last year and ag losses totalled about $1.8 billion.
Unlike Nebraska, most of the acres of Brazil that could be irrigated, are not, he said. Government policies and electricity rate structures that are prohibitively expensive impede full implementation of irrigation, he said. Of the 30 million acres in Brazil that could be irrigated, about 5 million are, he said.
Another limitation in cattle ranching in Brazil is the cost of making beef cattle beefier. In Brazil, cattle top out at about 1,200 pounds per head, he said. By contrast, U.S. cattle can be brought to 1,400 pounds to 1,500 pounds per head, Feed costs make that extra 300 pounds or so impractical to achieve he said.
The cost-effectiveness of getting cattle to 1,500 is among the gains in U.S agriculture, a subsequent speaker said. Rancher and Nebraska State Sen. said cattle on his familiy's ranch now can be brought to 1,500 pounds, he said. Back in the day, the ranch was happy with 900-pound per head cattle.
A benefit of beefier cattle, he said, is that ranchers can then raise fewer head of cattle.