Traditional characteristics of Thailand’s bovine sector are outlined and its changing nature and structure are considered. Cattle numbers have increased absolutely in relation to buffalo numbers which have declined. Whereas in the early 1980s buffalo numbers considerably exceeded those of cattle, cattle stocks now exceed buffalo stocks which nevertheless are still substantial. The keeping of bovines for meat rather than draught purposes has become more important and since the mid-1980s Thailand has expanded the number of its dairy cattle considerably. Nevertheless, it remains a larger net importer of beef and dairy products. Because of a number of constraints outlined in this paper, it seems that Thailand is likely to remain a substantial net importer of these products and in fact its net imports can be expected to rise. While some avenues exist for increasing domestic supplies, these possibilities e.g. improved control of livestock disease and improved breeding of cattle, are unlikely to be sufficient to reduce greatly Thailand’s import dependence for these products. Unlike the case of poultry and pig production in Thailand, where the commercial sector has become dominant, most of the production of bovines is accounted for by villagers with very small herds. Beef production in most cases is a sideline activity utilising crop by-products and wasteland.


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