Soviet Union Table of Contents
Because it is less restricted by climatic conditions, livestock raising is more widely distributed across the Soviet Union than is the cultivation of crops. For example, in the cooler, wetter northern regions of the European part of the country, where few cash crops can be grown, dairy farming is profitable because of the proximity to urban markets and the ready availability of fodder. In the 90 percent of the country considered nonarable, various forms of animal husbandry are practiced, such as reindeer herding in the Arctic and sheep, goat, and cattle grazing on the grasslands of Central Asia and Siberia. Nevertheless, it is the fertile triangle that has always accounted for the bulk of the nation's animal products.
Animal husbandry has received special attention since the late 1950s, and a primary goal of Soviet agriculture has been to increase the production and consumption of meat, milk, and eggs (see table 38, Appendix A). This effort has resulted in significantly larger numbers of livestock. For example, the number of cattle more than doubled between 1955 and 1987, rising from 56.7 million to 121.9 million head. During the same period, the number of hogs rose even more dramatically (from 3.9 million to 80 million head), and the number of sheep grew by half to reach 141.5 million head. The number of goats and horses in 1987 stood at 6.5 and 5.8 million head, slightly higher than in 1980 but well below the 1955 figures of 14.0 and 14.2 million head, respectively. Indeed, throughout the Soviet period, the number of horses steadily declined as agriculture became more mechanized.
Larger numbers of animals notwithstanding, food output per animal continued to lag far behind Western standards. For example, milk production per cow averaged roughly half that reported in Finland, where the climate is certainly no more favorable. And even though the Soviet Union had achieved a ratio of cattle-to-human population comparable to that of the United States, beef production per head in 1986 was 35 percent lower. Similarly, pork output per head fell some 30 percent below the figure for the United States. According to Western analysts, this low livestock productivity resulted from inadequate feed supplies in general and a deficiency of protein in feed rations in particular. Domestic producers of protein supplement from cotton and sunflower seeds and pulses were unable to meet demand, which the government did not satisfy through imports. This decision took a heavy toll on livestock productivity.
To streamline livestock raising, a new type of production entity emerged in the 1960s and became increasingly prominent-- industrialized livestock enterprises outside the traditional kolkhoz and sovkhoz system. These specialized factory-like operations purchased their feed and other inputs from outside sources, to which they enjoyed priority access. In 1986 they accounted for about 20 percent of pork, 5 percent of beef and milk, and over 60 percent of poultry and egg production.
In the thirty-five years between 1950 and 1985, per capita meat and fat consumption increased some 135 percent, reaching sixty-one kilograms per year. During the same period, consumption of milk and dairy products climbed by nearly 88 percent, and egg consumption rose by an impressive 334 percent. Still, demand for these products far exceeded supply, and in the late 1980s their availability in state stores remained very limited.
Data as of May 1989