Livestock and Poultry
Livestock raising represented an important part of agricultural output and grew significantly throughout the 1980s. Livestock was produced primarily for domestic consumption and was one of the few agricultural products found throughout the country. Although animal husbandry was widespread, it was generally practiced on small plots of land.
The Costa and Oriente produced mainly beef cattle with dairy cattle found mostly in the Sierra. Cattle were grazed on Costa land otherwise unsuited for agriculture, such as the hilly terrain in Manabí Province, seasonally flooded river plains, or semiarid parts of the far south. Dairy production in the Sierra typically was carried on in fertile valleys, particularly between Riobamba and the Colombian border. Beef cattle were fairly new to the Oriente, although large parcels of land were suitable for grazing. The beef industry in the Oriente suffered a serious setback in 1987, however, when the earthquake damaged roads used to transport the beef to markets. Ecuador had about 3.7 million head of beef cattle in 1986.
The 1980s saw an improvement in stock with the introduction of European and Asian breeds. The native criollo breed represented about half of all cattle, with the rest a cross between criollo and Holstein, Brown Swiss, or Jersey for dairy, and criollo and Santa Gertrudis or Charolais for beef. The absence of veterinarians and medicines remained a problem, however, and diseases and parasites plagued many herds.
Besides cattle, livestock included pigs, sheep, and a small number of goats. The number of pigs increased dramatically in the 1980s to about 5 million in 1986; they were raised nationwide but the greatest concentration was in coastal areas. Sheep numbered 2 million in 1986 and were generally found in pastureland higher than 3,000 meters in altitude. Analysts estimated that Ecuador had fewer than 300,000 goats in 1986.
Poultry raising was another rapid-growth area in the 1980s, although floods in 1983 from El Niño caused a sharp drop in production. Chickens were raised both for eggs and for meat, and in 1986 there were more than 45 million birds. Historically, peasant families raised chickens, but the 1980s saw the establishment of large-scale poultry enterprises near larger cities.
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