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China Table of Contents


Animal Husbandry

In 1987 China had the largest inventory of hogs in the world. The number increased from about 88 million in 1955 to an estimated 331 million in 1985. Hogs are raised in large numbers in every part of China except in Muslim areas in the northwest. Most hogs are raised in pens by individual farm households, but in the mid-1980s the Chinese were constructing large mechanized feeding operations on the outskirts of major cities. Before the 1980s the state's major goal was to increase output with little regard to the ratio of meat to fat. In the 1980s consumers became more conscious of fat content, and breeders and raisers were shifting to the production of leaner hogs.

Draft animals are important sources of motive power in rural areas. Draft animal numbers increased steadily from about 56 million in 1955 to 67 million in 1985 despite rapid increases in the number of tractors and trucks in rural areas. Animals that provide draft power for crop cultivation and rural transportation include water buffalo, horses, mules, donkeys, oxen, and camels.

Sheep and goats are China's most important grazing animals. Most of these animals are bred in the semiarid steppes and deserts in the north, west, and northwest. The number of sheep and goats has expanded steadily from about 42 million in 1949 to approximately 156 million in 1985. Overgrazed, fragile rangelands have been seriously threatened by erosion, and in the late 1980s authorities were in the midst of a campaign to improve pastures and rangelands and limit erosion.

The dairy and poultry sectors of the livestock economy grew most rapidly in the 1980s. Dairy cows numbered just under 500,000 in 1978 but tripled to around 1.5 million in 1985. Consumers with rising incomes demanded more fresh and powdered milk for infants and elderly people. A large part of this increased demand was met by individual farmers who were permitted to purchase and own their animals. The government supported increased milk output by importing breeding animals and constructing large dairies and processing facilities. Most poultry was still grown in farmyard flocks, but reforms encouraged individuals and groups of households to invest in confined feeding operations. Egg output, especially, increased rapidly in the 1980s.

China's first modern feed mills were constructed in the 1970s, followed by many mills equipped with imported technology. Production of mixed and compound feed grew rapidly, reaching more than 12 million tons in 1985. This development supported the growth of animal husbandry.

Data as of July 1987