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Unravelling the rationale of 'overgrazing' and stocking rates in the beef production systems of Central Brazil using a bi-criteria compromise programming model

Costa, F. P. and Rehman, T. (2004) Unravelling the rationale of 'overgrazing' and stocking rates in the beef production systems of Central Brazil using a bi-criteria compromise programming model. Agricultural Systems. ISSN 0308-521X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2004.02.011

Abstract/Summary

In Central Brazil, the long-term sustainability of beef cattle systems is under threat over vast tracts of farming areas, as more than half of the 50 million hectares of sown pastures are suffering from degradation. Overgrazing practised to maintain high stocking rates is regarded as one of the main causes. High stocking rates are deliberate and crucial decisions taken by the farmers, which appear paradoxical, even irrational given the state of knowledge regarding the consequences of overgrazing. The phenomenon however appears inextricably linked with the objectives that farmers hold. In this research those objectives were elicited first and from their ranking two, ‘asset value of cattle (representing cattle ownership)' and ‘present value of economic returns', were chosen to develop an original bi-criteria Compromise Programming model to test various hypotheses postulated to explain the overgrazing behaviour. As part of the model a pasture productivity index is derived to estimate the pasture recovery cost. Different scenarios based on farmers' attitudes towards overgrazing, pasture costs and capital availability were analysed. The results of the model runs show that benefits from holding more cattle can outweigh the increased pasture recovery and maintenance costs. This result undermines the hypothesis that farmers practise overgrazing because they are unaware or uncaring about overgrazing costs. An appropriate approach to the problem of pasture degradation requires information on the economics, and its interplay with farmers' objectives, for a wide range of pasture recovery and maintenance methods. Seen within the context of farmers' objectives, some level of overgrazing appears rational. Advocacy of the simple ‘no overgrazing' rule is an insufficient strategy to maintain the long-term sustainability of the beef production systems in Central Brazil.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
ID Code:8418
Uncontrolled Keywords:Decision-making, Farmers' objectives, Compromise programming, Pasture degradation

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