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Cuban Journal of Agricultural Science

Print version ISSN 0864-0408On-line version ISSN 2079-3480

Cuban J. Agric. Sci. vol.52 no.3 Mayabeque July.-Sept. 2018  Epub Sep 01, 2018


Animal Science

Typology of cattle farms in a peasant community from southwest of Holguín, Cuba

Y. F. Peña-Rueda1  * 

D. Benítez2 

J. V. Ray2 

Yulien Fernández-Romay3 

1Centro de Estudio para Agroecosistemas Áridos, Universidad de Holguín. Avenida de los Libertadores # 287. Código Postal 80100. Gaveta Postal 57, Holguín, Cuba

2Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias “Jorge Dimitrov”. Carretera Central km 16, Vía Manzanillo. Código postal 85100. Gaveta postal 2140. Bayamo, Granma, Cuba

3Universidad Politécnica del Chimborazo, Riobamba, Ecuador


Facilitating processes of innovation and technology transfer in order to increase meat production led to create a typology of cattle farms in a peasant community from Southwest of Holguín. Data was taken from 21 farms, with variables: annual milk production, herd size, productivity, body condition, natural grass area and amount of paddocks. These variables were processed by principal components analysis in order to use factorial punctuations in a hierarchical cluster and k-means analyses. Four groupings were obtained, which describe typified farms as small (38.1 %), milk medium-sized (9.5 %), medium without specialization (19.0 %) and large (33.4 %). These last, besides natural grass Surface, milk production and meat productivity as reproducer, are different due to their contribution to animal welfare and to the relationship of production regime with the agroecosystem. Cattle farming in this region has proper infrastructure for milk production, so its functioning does not take into consideration many of the aspects that facilitate the organization of productive and reproductive processes of herd and the effective preparation to guarantee efficiency and avoid environmental degradation. It is suggested that agricultural extension activity focus on this diversity and complexity for generating programs that allow reaching an environmental balance, and, at the same time, strengthen cattle rearing in these communities.

Key words: Classification; cattle; south agroecosystem; rural development; cluster analysis

Understanding specificities of each cattle farm is important for identifying and designing valuable intervention actions for producers, which could be relevant for extension programs and sensitive for policy making. Therefore, typologies have been used for characterizing cattle production systems in several countries by their ability to adapt to extreme conditions in the United Kingdom (Morgan-Davies et al. 2014); in the rural environment in Colombia (Rocha-Rodríguez et al. 2016); meat production in Canada (Alemu et al. 2016) and Spain (Escribano et al. 2016); and in areas of high natural values in Ireland (Mack and Huber 2017).

Researchers usually make a difference among large, medium and small producers. However, differences are not only in the size of the farm because, even small producers are heterogeneous (Garrett 1986), have different priorities, sometimes work wiyh more complex interactions and, at the same time, perform other tasks in different sociocultural contexts (Chambers and Jiggins 1987).

There are evidences that technologies used by small farmers are varied in agroforestry and other sustainable systems for soil use (Tavernier and Tolomeo 2004), and even differ in the preference of information sources they use (Sutherland et al. 2017).

For these reasons, it is important to know the functioning of the farmer scheme in Cuba, which has demonstrated higher flexibility to recover from climatic events and their productions have an important function in food supply for the population. It is important to highlight that usufructuaries, owners and farmers from cooperatives use 49.7 % of the cultivated surface of the country (ONEI 2016a) and, during 2015, they produced 65.1 % of cow milk and 28.6 % of bovine meat (ONEI 2016b).

In the north region of Cauto river basin, there is Calixto García municipality, in Holguín province, where 71 settlements are located, which gather more than 17500 cattle heads. The regional agroecosystem shows a progressive deterioration of natural conditions with the increase of soil salinity, decrease of general productivity, and evolution to aridity, affecting water sources by scarce precipitations and indiscriminate use of soil by lack of sustainable models of exploitation (Oquendo 2006).

The objective of this research was to produce a typology of farms dedicated to cattle rearing in a peasant community from southwest of Holguín (Cuba), in order to facilitate innovation and technology transfer processes to increase meat production.

Materials and Methods

Experimental procedure. Data were taken from a previous research in Sabanaso, peasant community from southwest of Holguín, located in the north region of Cauto river basin, Calixto García municipality, Holguín, Cuba, with a sample of 21 farms dedicated to cattle rearing.

Information about annual milk production (kg), herd size (LAU), productivity (kg of liveweight of weaned animals per reproducer per year), body condition of reproducers (points), natural grass area (ha) and amount of paddocks was analyzed by the statistical method of impact measuring of innovation or technology transfer in agricultural and livestock field of Torres et al. (2008).

Statistical procedure. A factorial analysis (FA) was conducted with Varimax orthogonal rotation to extract principal components of eigen value higher than the unit, with significant sfericity test of Bartlett (P<0.05) and proper Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin index (KMO>0.5), which indicates that data fulfill` the assumptions of the test (Hair et al. 2010). Factorial punctuations obtained by regression in the FA were stored as new variables and used simultaneously in the hierarchical cluster analysis with Ward grouping through Euclidian squared distance and in non-hierarchical cluster of k-means. The amount of classes graphically obtained in the hierarchical cluster, by the essay of five thresholds of selection, every 10 % of the re-scaled distance in the dendrogram were contrasted with the amount of classes obtained by iteration and non-hierarchical classification of k-means.

Finally, the optimal number of groupings was selected by the highest value of F (P≤0.05) calculated in the analysis of variance of the classification of k-means, which underwent an χ2 analysis to determine if frequencies obtained by both methods were consistent among them. Definitive classes were ordered by size of the farm and were described by measures of central tendency and dispersion for obtaining the typology.

Statistical techniques of FA, hierarchical and k-means cluster, χ2 analysis, as well as determination of descriptive statistics were performed through software property of IBM SPSS Statistics ver. 22 (IBM 2013).

Results and Discussion

The fact that hierarchical and non-hierarchical groupings coincided in the formation of four clusters demonstrates that there was consistency in the resulting grouping, which could be appreciated under the cut line, located in the unit 10 of the re-scaled distance (40%), in figure 1.

Figure 1 Hierarchical grouping of cattle farms in the peasant community of Sabanaso 

One of the aspects in common of groupings is that all the found production systems in the community are inadequate regarding the ecosystem, which emphasize on milk production with Zebu genotypes and its crossings, even when evidences on the south agroecosystem of Holguín demonstrate that these plains with dry environments and clay soils are appropriate for cultivating sugar cane, minor fruits and rearing and fattening of bovine cattle (Oquendo 2006).

It is an extended practice of this community the use of natural grasses, of low availability and possibility of selection during grassing, especially in the dry period, with stocking rates superior to two LAU/ha and without considering environmental sustainability. Even when stocking rate is the management technique of higher incidence in the performance of grazing herds, it would be advisable for producers to estimate availability of grassland and weight of animals in order to calculate grazing pressure, which is an indicator that expresses a narrower relationship between grass and animal performance (Senra 2005).

Compensation areas (x=2.4ha), although keep proportion with surface of farms, generally are limited, so it is recommended their increase in arid, semiarid and sub-humid regions due to their contribution to survival of herd in periods of meteorological drought. In this sense, farmers should not only be focused on grazing to achieve productive results, it would be also convenient to adopt strategies for facing this environmental uncertainty (Sabatier et al. 2015), as with the sowing of more volumes of sugar cane, the use of protein plants or silvopastoral variants.

There is low number of trees, which affects water retention in paddocks and fences, so any of the farms have more than 2 ha of natural shade and spend up to 12 hours without water during grazing. This has a negative effect on regulation of body temperature of animals and does not contribute to reduce the negative effect of climate on animal welfare (Cattelam and Martinez do Vale 2013).

Several factors limit forage biomass production. It is frequent the appearance of weeds, with predominance of Dichrostachys cinerea (marabú), which acts against quality and productivity of grasslands (Muñoz et al. 2010). There are also areas with bad drainage, which requires a different management, because, in Valle del Cauto, 100 % of soils for cattle use have a bad drainage and 40 % of the area tends to flooding (Benítez et al. 2007).

The formed clusters group small farms, where the highest total surface is 26.8 ha. Even though, from the size of the farm and regarding the performance of the selected variables, they received the name of small, milk medium-sized, medium without specialization and large, in order to facilitate their characterization (table 1).

Small farms represent 38.1 % of the sample and mainly dedicate to milk production but have relatively high levels of productivity of meat from reproducers (up to three times superior from the rest of the farms). These farms have subdivisions in the grassland that allow certain regulation of grazing and a herd (total and of cows) that guarantees a proper total stoking rate, which is favorable for guaranteeing the required rest time of grasses and do not affect other productive indicators of grassland and animals.

These farms have female reproducers with acceptable body conditions, null calf mortality and a birthrate two times superior to the rest of groups. This is good because it represents a correct attention to calves, their rearing and to heifer, which are starting points for different purposes and indication of a growing herd.

Table 1 Description of quantitative variables by types of farms found in the peasant community of Sabanaso 

Although the amount of trees is not enough for providing proper natural shade levels (4.6 trees/ha) and diminishing the effects of five hours that remain without water every day and do not have more than 8 % of the total area dedicated to guarantee forage for dry period, it is evident an incipient tendency towards ecosystemic services that these fragile and degraded environment demand.

Milk medium-sized farms represent 9.5% of the total and produce milk volumes that double or triple yields per area of the rest of rearing systems in the community (917 L•ha-1). However, productivity of meat from reproducers is the lowest, which indicate that prioritize production and give less attention to calves, even when mortality in this category is lower than 10 % and surpasses two and three times the rest of the farms with higher total surface. This also affects reproduction because birthrate is less than the half of the needed for the herd to grow.

These farms have between two and three paddocks, which allows a more intensive management of grasslands in these fragile and degraded ecosystems, with a high global stocking rate (2.6 LAU/ha), which have a strong pressure on the environment, even when some could take animals to grass outside the farm. It is the biggest herd that is managed in this region and it is one of the reasons that guarantee their milk production levels, due to the proportion of reproducers that surpasses half of the cattle mass and have a good body condition. However, these farms have between 1/2 and 1/3 of the trees of all groups, which limits animal comfort, even when the period without water is 4h.

Medium without specialization farms form a group with 19.0% of the analyzed cases. They have the second place in total surface. However, they seem to have a tendency to subsistence because they have only one paddock and milk volumes they produce represent half (420 L•ha-1), compared to the value of milk means. In this sense, it is important to mention that, even when their herd have similar amount of heads, the proportion of producer females is practically half, so the rest of animals are distributed in the categories of calves, yearlings, heifers and steers, which explains that their reproducers have 2.6 more meat productivity.

These farms have the double of trees in the fences than the other group of medium farms, but practically half of those from large and small ones. Therefore, they have low natural shade, which, together with the scarcity of water during the period of permanence in the paddock, infestation of the areas by weeds that restrain the size of grazing area and a relatively high total stocking rate (2.0 LAU/ha), affect the animal welfare and make them contributors to environmental degradation within Cauto basin Large farms are cattle rearing systems that constitute 33.4 % of the existing in Sabanaso. They have a continuous management of the grassland, even when they have more than one paddock. The herd fits the area they occupy with a cow proportion near 40% of the cattle mass. They own the second place in milk production (562 L•ha-1) and have a lower body condition than the rest of groups, which influences on deterioration of reproduction and, consequently, on meat productivity per reproducer, with a birthrate at least five times lower than the other groups. Mortality of calves is between two and three times superior than the rest of the farms, which indicates a deficient attention to calves.

It is difficult to create a unique farm proposal to adjust it to the conditions of the north region of Cauto river basin because it is necessary to examine the elements of adaptation to the conditions of the agroecosystem, and technical, economic and social elements that were not the objective of this study because the objective in cattle farming are more related to subsistence and preservation of family patrimony, while in enterprises, there is a commercial and social approach, and regarding technologies, those developed by large and medium do not have to be necessarily appropriate for the small ones (Garrett 1986).

In addition, rearing systems detected in the farming sector in the southwest of Holguín have deteriorated indicators that require an increase of innovative ability of their owners to revert the productive state and environmental situation, and, in this process, techniques to make a simple representation are important for the farmer, despite they use imprecisely determined indicators and that, in the future of agricultural research and extension, every time more participation of researchers, technicians and farmers would be required (Delmotte et al. 2016) and maybe, the inclusion of information and communication technologies will be necessary for suporting decision making (Capalbo et al. 2017).

It can be concluded that typology of farms dedicated to bovine cattle rearing in the peasant community of Sabanaso, at the southwest of Holguín province, has four classes, typified as small (38.1 %), milk medium-sized (9.5 %), médium without specialization (19.0 %) and large (33.4 %), and have marked differences in their management for adapting their feeding regime to the agroecosystem, in their ability to lead the cattle effectively and towards making them efficient with technologies that combine the traditional actions of farmers with the conventional actions required by cattle rearing.

Cattle rearing in the north region of Cauto river basin has no appropriate infrastructure for current productive orientation, so for their functioning they do not take into consideration many of the aspects that facilitate the organization of productive and reproductive processes of herd and effective preparation to guarantee efficiency and avoid environmental degradation.

In order to facilitate innovation and technology transfer processes that allow to increase meat production, which is unfavorable in this region, it is recommended the agricultural extension activity to be focused on this diversity and complexity to generate programs that allow the farmer to reach a balance among the elements efficient cattle production-agroecosystem approach-lower environmental impact in their farm. At the same time, they should adopt practices to strengthen the development of a cattle rearing knowledge focused on improving lives in these communities.


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Received: January 24, 2018; Accepted: August 07, 2018

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