Panama was virtually self-sufficient in livestock production, which included cattle, pigs, chickens, eggs, and milk. Beef was by far the most important product and output was growing slowly in the 1980s. Between 1981 and 1985, the number of cattle slaughtered rose from 239,000 to 295,000; during the same period, the total stock of cattle increased only slightly, from 1.43 million head to 1.44 million head. Milk production remained steady between 1981 and 1985, averaging 89,140,400 liters a year.
Cattle raising for both meat and milk was common on land on the Pacific watershed and was concentrated in the provinces of Chiriquí, Los Santos, and Veraguas. Most ranches produced both meat and milk, although some specialized in dairy farming. The majority of ranches had fewer than 100 hectares. Cattle were almost entirely grass fed. The grasslands were not particularly productive, lacking added nutrients and other improvements; on average, more than one hectare is required for each head of cattle. Low government credits, competition from regional cattle producers (especially Colombia), and United States market restrictions have hindered the growth of Panama's cattle production.
From 1982 to 1985, poultry production grew rapidly, from 4.5 million chickens to 6.1 million. During the same period, annual egg production also increased, from 28,859 dozen to 31,205 dozen. Pork production has remained steady; the number of pigs in 1985 totalled 210,000.
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