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Summary of Sessions and Conclusions
K.J. Peters, Humboldt - University Berlin, Germany
J. Renaud, EAAP, Rome, Italy
The meeting was attended by 82 participants: 46 of them were from 15 Eastern/Central European countries and 32 from six Western European ones. Three International Organizations were represented.
A keynote opening address on the overall situation and perspectives of the livestock sector in Central and Eastern European Countries was delivered. It stressed, inter alia, the importance of supplying the market in abundance with animal products, the need for ensuring the availability of breeding animals as well as for defining and implementing adequate breeding strategies and for passing appropriate regulation in connection with these countries joining sooner or later the European Union.
Subsequently three main papers were presented, respectively on "The prospects of animal product markets", on "The economic position of livestock in the farming systems of CEEC" and on "The recent development and trends in national and international trade of breeding stock" in these countries.
Fourteen country statements on the situation of the livestock sector and on breeding policies already being implemented or, in number of cases, still to be introduced in CEEC were presented.
Two Working Group meetings, respectively on cattle and sheep on the one hand and on pigs on the other hand were held. They offered ample opportunities to the participants to exchange views on breeding policies matters, on their implications as well as on present situation in this respect in the various Central and Eastern countries.
Details on the discussions which took place during these Working Group meetings and on the conclusions which were reached are to be found in the chapter on Session 3 of these proceedings. The conclusions of the Working Groups were further endorsed by the Workshop.
Summing up the debates, the Chairman pointed out that the discussion focused mainly on the principles which should be observed in the countries of former socialist Europe when setting up and implementing a proper breeding program.
In the various Central and Eastern European countries, although the problems concerning the livestock sector are very different from one country to another, basically the major ones are of structural, economic and regulatory nature and some of them can be found everywhere.
Differences between countries also affect the various species and breeds and an important problem is to consider the preconditions required for achieving the breeding objectives in relations to the breeding programs. In this connection one tends to loose sight of the problems of decisive importance in respect of breeding objectives and strategies and of the type of selection which should be carried out.
Farm structure is a major problem. In some countries like Ukraine and Russia, large scale farming units from the period before the political changes have remained large units even after they have been privatized and still play a major role in the animal production sector, both in respect of cattle and pigs. An important part of production will continue to come from these large units and specific breeding programs are required.
It was felt that in CEEC, new breeding structures and breeding organizations may be set up although often it is still to be decided.
Some countries have started drafting laws on animal breeding and work on the basis of new legal requirements. However, under this new approach the control of breeding orientations is no longer assured by the state but more and more through animal breeding organizations. Actually in their efforts to update regulations the CEE countries should take account of the principles which are being applied in the EU as in the near future these problems in Europe will have to be tackled in a common way.
The economy is of vital importance when setting up breeding programs and objectives.
Before, these programs were authoritatively decided upon by the Ministry of Agriculture, whereas to date the breeding objectives have to be in tune with the economy and to be market oriented. When talking about breeding strategies and intensity or level of production a decisive role is played by the prices of specific feeds, for instance the ratio of the price of concentrate to that of other fodders. One should also consider that in the European countries, the price of grain is very high, hence it is a limiting factor to production increase. Moreover, the orientations of breeding programs are influenced by the difference of income when selling for instance milk or calves; therefore the selection of breeds is of importance.
It was felt also that when defining a breeding program one should carefully proceed step by step as the plan commands and it was suggested that at the base one more step should be introduced - the very first one - which would take into consideration the "existing conditions in the various countries", i.e.: the size of agricultural units, the mentality of people, the behavior towards the nutrition of animals, the situation in respect of market and consumption, etc.
It was stressed that the effective protection of animal health by specialized state services is an essential prerequisite to the successful development of breeding programs.
Many participants recognized the importance of the assistance given by advanced countries to help set up new breeding organizations and programs. They rely on it and expressed the hope that cooperation will continue in this respect.
Sheep breeding has lost much of its importance in number of the CEE countries as, inter alia, the price of wool dropped. A market decrease of the sheep population had been observed which in some cases reached up to 60 percent of the flock.
However, in some of these countries the sheep population is already in the process of being reconstituted and there is little doubts that sheep raising can still provide a valuable complementary income to small farmers. Therefore, it has a role to play in those countries where the reduction of the population was particularly important. A reorientation of production objectives may require new breeding programs.
As regards pigs, number of the aforementioned remarks apply also to this sector. However the meeting reviewed in depth some specific aspects which are of particular importance to pig production.
The farm structure aspects in - in all Central and Eastern European countries represented at the meeting one finds a certain proportion of small units for household pig production, which are intended mostly for family needs and are not market oriented. Besides, large units, by Eastern standards, i.e.: former co-operatives or state farms with 1000 sows or more are numerous, whereas farms with 20 to 100 sows - which are commonly found in Western Europe - are rather scarce in CEE with the exception of Slovenia where they account for 20 per cent of existing farm. Breeding programs would be required for each type of structures.
The organization of breeding - it was recognized that all countries have some sort of pedigree breeding organizations with traditional testing centres, traditional identification methods and traditional or sophisticated systems of data collection and indexes calculation. Artificial insemination is used in all countries, although to a different extent which may vary from 15 percent in some of them to nearly 100 per cent in some others at the large breeding farms.
Anyhow, artificial insemination techniques are available to breeding programs in all countries. Official hybrid breeding programs exist in these countries or at the development stage: crossing systems, often rotational crossbreeding programs, are applied. Moreover experiments supervised by research or development agencies are being carried out to show the benefits of crossbreeding. In all countries the major world breeds such as large white, Landrace, etc., can be found.
The market conditions - Quality grading of animals is a very important incentives for quality breeding and if there is no grading on quality it makes it difficult for the breeders to find a justification to their making efforts in this respect. In all the countries which participated in the Working Group on pigs there is some movement towards quality breeding. Some of them have already enforced the EUROP system and others tried to introduce it. However, none of these countries are paying on quality, although some sort of quality grading would be necessary to define a good breeding strategy aimed at producing better pigs.