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The Development of Beef Cattle Production in Korea
Kie-Jun Na
Livestock Experiment Station
Rural Development Administration
Republic of Korea, 1994-09-01

Abstract

The Korean national economy has grown very rapidly since 1970. The consumption of livestock products such as meat, milk and eggs in 1992 was two to four times greater than in 1970. Most Korean beef cattle are Korean Native Cattle, the Hanwoo. Most farms raise very small numbers, and meat productivity is quite low compared with that of foreign beef breeds. The facilities, and roughage production for raising Korean native cattle are not highly developed. Therefore, the production costs of Korean beef enterprises are higher than in more advanced countries. Important aims in Korean beef production are to increase productivity, improve beef quality, and reduce production costs through the development and extension of improved technology, better feed management and facilities, improved marketing systems, and greater utilization of livestock manure.

Abstracts in Other Languages: 中文, 日本語, 한국어

Introduction

The Korean economy has grown very fast since 1970, which has brought about a change in the Korean life-style. Since 1970, consumption of livestock products such as meat has increased by 4.6 times, and of eggs by 2.3 times. The per capita consumption of rice in 1992 was 17% lower than in 1970 ( Table 1).

Most Korean beef cattle are the traditional brown Korean Native Cattle, the Hanwoo. In 1975, the number of cattle raised was 1.56 million head, but this fell in 1985. In 1993, Korean farmers raised 2.26 million head of Korean native cattle.

The number of farms on which these cattle were raised fell from 1.27 million in 1975 to 0.57 million in 1993 ( Table 2). The average number of Korean cattle per household increased from 1.2 head in 1975 to 3.9 in 1993. The number of farms which raised more than 3-9 head per household also increased, from 2% in 1975 to 43% in 1993.

Until the mid 1970s, Korea was completely self-sufficient in beef. However, as a result of increased beef consumption in 1983, 49.4 thousand mt of beef were imported from foreign countries. In 1984, beef prices and beef consumption fell sharply and so the importation of beef decreased, but the level of self-self-sufficiency in beef still declined from 100% in 1975 to 44% in 1992 ( Table 3). Beef consumption per capita was 2.0 kg in 1975, compared to 5.2 kg in 1992, and was about 20-24% of total meat consumption.

The total number of cattle slaughtered increased from 0.53 million head in 1980 to 1 million head in 1987 ( Table 4). Thereafter, the number of slaughtered cattle fell sharply. Today, it is fairly stable at 0.54 million head. In 1987, 75% to 80% of the slaughtered beef cattle were Korean native cattle, and 16-17% Holstein Friesians, but from 1990-1992, only 56-64% were Korean native cattle while Holsteins had increased to 34-42%.

Beef Production in Korea

Historical Background

Korean native cattle originated from crossbreds of Bos indicus and Bos primigenius. They migrated to the Korean peninsular through the northern part of China and Manchuria in about 2000 BC. Traditionally, Koreans raised these cattle only for draft purposes. Korean native cattle are relatively small compared to foreign beef breeds, weighing 23-25 kg at birth. The bodyweight of bulls fed under farm conditions in 1992 was 178.9 kg at 6 months and 477.1 kg at 18 months ( Table 5). Females were 144.2 kg at 6 months and 308.7 kg at 18 months. Bulls selected according to performance tests weigh 10% more than the average population ( Table 6).

The average milk yield of the cows was 680 kg per lactation. This is quite low compared with foreign beef breeds, and is not even enough to suckle the calves ( Table 7).

Current Trends in Beef Production

Breeding System for Korean Native Cattle

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) controls the breeding system for improving the productivity of Korean native cattle. Since the early 1960s, there has been a program for improvement through purebreeding and crossbreeding. In the purebreeding system, superior bulls are selected by means of performance tests, and the semen from them is given to farmers. Performance tests are carried out in national and provincial breeding centers ( Fig. 1). The proven sires are selected from among the young bulls through progeny tests based on the meat productivity and quality ( Fig. 2). About 89.5% of Korean native cattle are artificially inseminated with semen of selected bulls ( Table 8).

The Korean Animal Improvement Association was established in 1969, mainly for registration, and by 1992 nearly 380,000 Korean cattle had been registered ( Table 9).

Since Korean cattle have been raised for centuries as a working animal, their growth performance is inferior compared to other breeds. From 1909 to 1919 they were crossed with Simmental. The body weight of crossbreeds at 18 months was 257 kg, 22% more than that of Korean cattle ( Table 10). From 1955 to 1965, Korean cattle were crossed with beef breeds such as Angus, Hereford, and Brown Swiss to improve the body weight. From 1971 to 1975, crosses of Korean cattle and Angus or Charolais were crossed with Holstein, which resulted in an improvement of both body weight and dressing percentage. ( Table 11).

Since 1978, Korean cattle have been crossed with Charolais bulls to make a new composite breed which is 5/8 Charolais and 3/8 Korean cattle. The breeding system and the consequent improvement of the breeds are shown in Table 12 and Table 13.

Feeding and Management of Korean Native Cattle

Growing period

As described above, since the milk production of Korean cattle is very low, sucking calves are usually fed a supplement (called a calf starter) containing 15.7% of digestible crude protein (DCP) and 76.6% of total digestible nutrients (TDN), to promote development of the rumen and better growth. Calves given a calf starter and hay during their 90 days sucking period were 19% heavier than calves given only hay during the same period.

Fattening period

The nutritional level of Korean cattle during the growing-fattening period is very important, not only for growth but also for reproduction. During this period, the cattle are fed only roughage, hay, grass and silage until they are 18 months old, and then fed concentrates for 5.5 months. However, in order to market the animals at a heavier weight and an earlier age, weaned calves are usually fed concentrates containing 12% of DCP and 71% TDN for four months after weaning. For the next 11 months, young cattle are fed concentrates containing 7.4% DCP and 63.9% TDN. When this feeding system is used, animals are ready for market sooner, and their ADG and feed efficiency is improved ( Table 14).

During the fattening period, as the body weight increases, the feed intake and nutrient requirements, including CP and TDN, increase while the ADG decreases ( Table 15). Experimental results showed that the optimal marketing weight of KNC was about 550 kg.

Rice straw is a common crop residue, and is often fed to Korean native cattle as roughage, but it is low in nutrients. Treating it with NH 3 improves the quality of the straw, and has a marked effect on cattle weight gain during the fattening period ( Table 16).

The pattern of beef consumption in Korea is changing, from an emphasis on beef quantity to one on beef quality. Beef quality needs to be evaluated according to the carcass grade. Korea has now developed a beef grading system and has been using it in large cities since 1992. There are three grades, based on the level of marbling, the color of the meat and fat, tenderness, and maturity. Results of experiments on extending the fattening period showed that the carcass grade improves with an increase in the fattening period ( Table 17). Steers also produce better quality beef ( Table 18).

A restricted feeding regime for steers improved the feed/gain ratio and produced better quality beef than feeding them ad libitum ( Table 19).

Future Outlook for Beef Production

Improved Productivity and Reduced Production Costs

Most farmers raise very small numbers of Korean cattle. The average number of cattle per household is only 4.0, while 78% of beef cattle farms raise only five head. It is very difficult to introduce new technology for improving beef productivity and quality, and reducing the production costs, when production is on such a small scale. The government projects that the number of Korean cattle raised will increase from 2,019,000 head in 1992 to 2,537,000 head in 2001, but the average number of Korean cattle per household is estimated to increase from 3.5 head to 12.6 head and large-scale farms will also increase from 4,000 to 20,000. At the same time, the number of farms raising Korean cattle is expected to fall from 585,000 to around 200,000.

The productivity of Korean cattle will be improved using new techniques such as multiple ovulation and embryo transfer, and selection will be based on more scientific procedures.

Management Techniques

It is very important to reduce the production cost of Korean beef production by improved management, for example by raising the optimal number of animals, improving reproductive efficiency, and using better facilities and machinery. Korean farms are very weak with regard to roughage production, and raise their beef cattle mainly on concentrates. This makes beef production costly, and in any case, too much grain and other concentrates are not suited to beef cattle physiology.

Older farmers do not usually want to adopt new techniques to improve cattle production. The Korean government plans to establish groups of young farmers who want to carry out beef production in rural areas. Marketing will also have to be improved. The livestock marketing system is not well developed, and the government has so far failed to control the price, demand, and supply of livestock products.

Conserving the Environment by Better Utilization of Livestock Manure

Livestock manure pollutes the environment. It is necessary to establish facilities to compost the manure, to stabilize it and make it pleasant to handle. It can then be used as a soil amendment and nutrient source for crops.

Some Successful Beef Enterprises

Some Korean farmers have organized themselves to produce high quality beef, using techniques developed by research institutes. By forming groups to buy feedstuffs and other inputs they reduce production costs, because they can purchase them at a lower price.

In some places, they have opened their own shops to sell the beef they produce, thus reducing marketing margins, and getting more control over prices. They obtain higher profits than farmers who follow the conventional practice of selling live beef cattle to merchants who send them to the slaughter-house. Some farmers sell their beef direct to large supermarkets.

References

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Statistics. 1970-1992. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery.
  • Annual Research Report. 1960-1992. Livestock Experiment Station, Korea
  • Annual Research Report. 1980-1992. Alpine Experiment Station, Korea.
  • Annual Report. 1992. Korean Animal Improvement Association. Korea.
  • Guideline for Korean Livestock Development Projects. 1993. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, Korea.
  • Short and Long-Term Research Plan. 1993. Livestock Experiment Station, Korea.
  • Trends in Korean Native Cattle Improvement. 1992. National Livestock Cooperative Federation, Korea.


Discussion

Dr. Wang pointed out that if a farmer has only a small herd of cattle, it is difficult for him to improve his stock. He asked Dr. Na if there were any plans to set up a breeding farm to produce Korean native cattle and extend animals to farmers. Dr. Na replied that there are already 200 special farming areas* in Korea which keep Korean native cattle for breeding purposes, and function in much the same way as a breeding farm. There are also 200 special farms for breeding Korean native cattle, each with a herd of around 400 head.

Index of Images

Figure 2 System of Progeny Tests for Proven Sires

Figure 2 System of Progeny Tests for Proven Sires

KNC:Koreanativecattle

Table 1 Trend of Livestock Products Consumed Per Capita in Korea

Table 1 Trend of Livestock Products Consumed Per Capita in Korea

Table 2 No. of Korean Native Cattle Raised, and Herd Size

Table 2 No. of Korean Native Cattle Raised, and Herd Size

Table 3 Production and Consumption of Beef in Korea

Table 3 Production and Consumption of Beef in Korea

Table 4 No. of Head Slaughtered and Body Weight of Korean Native Cattle

Table 4 No. of Head Slaughtered and Body Weight of Korean Native Cattle

Table 5 Changes in Body Weight of Korean Native Cattle with Age

Table 5 Changes in Body Weight of Korean Native Cattle with Age

Table 6 Growth Performance of Selected Bulls (1975-1990)

Table 6 Growth Performance of Selected Bulls (1975-1990)

Table 7 Daily Milk Yield of Cows Per Lactation

Table 7 Daily Milk Yield of Cows Per Lactation

Table 8 Rate of Breeding by Artificial Insemination

Table 8 Rate of Breeding by Artificial Insemination

Table 9 No. of Registered Korean Native Cattle

Table 9 No. of Registered Korean Native Cattle

Table 9 No. of Registered Korean Native Cattle

Table 11 Growth Performance of Crossbred Bulls during the Growing-Fattening Period

Table 12 System for Crossbreds

Table 12 System for Crossbreds

Table 13 Body Weight of Charolais Crossbreeds Raised on Farm

Table 13 Body Weight of Charolais Crossbreeds Raised on Farm

Figure 1 System of Performance Tests for Candidate Bulls

Figure 1 System of Performance Tests for Candidate Bulls

Table 10 Growth Performance of Crossbred Bulls under a Conventional Feeding System

Table 10 Growth Performance of Crossbred Bulls under a Conventional Feeding System

Table 14 Comparison of Feed Efficiency of Two Methods of Fattening Bulls

Table 14 Comparison of Feed Efficiency of Two Methods of Fattening Bulls

Table 15 Feed Efficiency of Korea Bulls during the Growing-Fattening Period

Table 15 Feed Efficiency of Korea Bulls during the Growing-Fattening Period

Table 16 Effect of Rice Straw Treated with NH<Sub>3</Sub> on Korean Cattle When Fed during the Fattening Period

Table 16 Effect of Rice Straw Treated with NH 3 on Korean Cattle When Fed during the Fattening Period

Table 17 Changes in Carcass Quality According to Body Weight of Slaughtered Cattle

Table 17 Changes in Carcass Quality According to Body Weight of Slaughtered Cattle

Table 18 Comparison of Carcass Quality of Bulls and Steers

Table 18 Comparison of Carcass Quality of Bulls and Steers

Table 19 Carcass Quality of Cattle Fed <I>Ad Libitum</I> Compared to Those with Restricted Feed Intake

Table 19 Carcass Quality of Cattle Fed Ad Libitum Compared to Those with Restricted Feed Intake

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