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Prior to 1895, cattle production was a thriving industry, with more than 3 million head and regular exports of live cattle to neighboring islands. The Cuban War of Independence, however, was almost fatal to the industry. From 1895 to 1898 about three-fourths of the cattle disappeared, leaving less than 700,000 head. During the American occupation of the island beginning in 1898, the shortage of beef was so severe that stock had to be imported from the United States and Venezuela, but by 1910 the number of cattle in Cuba had again been built up to about 3.2 million and, according to census data, reached about 5 million in 1923. Census data show that numbers declined somewhat after that date but reached 5.3 million in 1940 (fig. 37). There are reasons to believe, however, as indicated by the sharp decline in imports, that the number of cattle in Cuba has actually increased.
Soon after the World War Cuba began to export cattle, as many as 10,000 a year, but when importing countries raised tariff rates this trade was curtailed, and Cuban producers were forced to rely on the local market. A packing industry was developed, and in 1927 Cuba raised its import duties on meat, giving further stimulus to the industry. Consequently, imports, almost entirely in the form of jerked beef, declined from a former level of 45 million pounds a year to practically none after 1932. Exports of fresh beef, which were begun on a small scale in 1936, reached 12 million pounds in 1940 and 42.5 million pounds in 1941.
Cuban cattle are of mixed breeds, consisting principally of the old native breed crossed with the Zebu, or Brahman (fig. 38), from India, to increase the hardiness and resistance to pests and diseases. Improved breeds, such as Shorthorn, Hereford, Aberdeen Angus, Holstein, and Brown Swiss, have also been introduced, but the wide influence of the Zebu is most readily apparent. Breeding stock from the United States frequently dies when introduced into Cuba unless it is immunized and acclimated. Several factors have been responsible for the development of the present type of cattle. The domestic market prefers lean meat rather than the marbled beef preferred in the United States. The cattle must be hardy, immune to tick fever, and adaptable to living in the subtropical climate and to existing entirely on a range pasture. Furthermore, the type must be suitable to supply oxen for farm draft work.
The cattle industry is principally in the central and eastern part of the island, the three eastern Provinces having three-fourths of the total number. Camagüey and the adjacent part of Oriente have large areas of relatively poor land unsuitable for cultivation but providing extensive grazing the year round, although pastures run short during the dry winter season. Many cattle are also pastured in the hilly and mountain regions. The most common grass in the plains region is Paraná (Pará), but guinea grass is also widely distributed. It is estimated that about one-half of the cattle are produced on large ranches and about one-half by small farmers. The cattle are usually sold for slaughter direct from pasture, without any fattening and without receiving any grain or other feed. Cattle prices are too low to permit the purchase or importation of expensive feeds. Cuba produces no feed grain except corn, and only enough of that for human consumption and some for hog feeding. Relatively large quantities
of molasses and some peanut meal could be used for feed if the price of cattle justified their use.
The number of cattle slaughtered annually, as recorded by official Government statistics, is about 475,000 head (table 54), but a considerable number in addition are probably slaughtered on farms and in local communities, so that the total slaughter, including that for export, may be between 600,000 and 750,000 head. Animals are usually slaughtered at a weight of near 1,000 pounds and produce dressed carcasses weighing about 580 pounds.
Prices of live cattle at the central markets in Habana vary from about 2.5 to 4.5 cents a pound,53 but at times have varied more
FIGURE 38.-Zebu, or Brahman, bull. Zebu cattle have commonly been crossed with native cattle in Cuba.
widely. Freight costs from the eastern producing areas to Habana are from one-third to one-half cent a pound. Prices for beef have been controlled by the Government since 1935. In 1941 the maximum wholesale price of beef was fixed at 6.35 cents a pound, and in February 1942 at 7.25 cents a pound. The maximum retail prices according to quality vary from 6 cents for third-grade to 10 cents (11 cents in 1942) for second-grade and 14 cents (16 cents in 1942) for first-grade. These maximum retail prices apply to all cuts except fillet.
Recently chilled beef has been exported to the New York market. This consists largely of whole or quartered carcasses, usually graded Utility on the United States market, and brought about 14 cents a pound wholesale, at prices current in the summer of 1941.
63 A decree on July 16, 1941, fixed the minimum price for cattle at 3.2 cents a pound, f. o. b. Camagüey, and the wholesale price of beef in Habana at 6.35 cents a pound. A subsequent decree on February 14, 1942, fixed the maximum Camagüey price for cattle on the hoof at 3.8 cents per pound.
TABLE 54.-Livestock slaughtered commercially in Cuba, 1928-39 1
1 This table includes only the officially recorded commercial slaughter for domestic consumption and does not include considerable private slaughter in rural areas or slaughter for export. In the case of hogs these data are much too small because, until recently, there was no tax on hog slaughter and consequently there was no incentive to record all commercial slaughter.
Official Government statistics.
The semitropical climate of Cuba is not well adapted to hog production. Suitable feed for hogs is not as abundant or as cheap as pasture for cattle. Furthermore, reports state that gains from feeding a specified quantity of feed are not as great or as rapid as in the northern part of the United States. The relatively higher costs of hog production compared with beef production are reflected in the Habana prices of 6 to 8 cents a pound for hogs when cattle prices were about 3 cents.
Few farmers specialize in hog production or feed systematically. Most farmers keep a few hogs and usually permit them to run about the farm and pick up most of their feed. Palmiche nuts from the royal palm are an important source of protein and oily feed, but the supply of palmiche is limited. Imported grain is usually too expensive to be used for hog feed, but some domestic corn is fed.
The native type of hogs is the criollo, or chino (fig. 39). These are rangy and adapted to the climate and to finding their own feed, but do not produce rapid gains. Imported breeds, especially the Hampshire, have been crossed with the native type until now the criolloHampshire cross is the most common type in Cuba.
There are probably about 1 million hogs in Cuba. Table 54 shows about 230,000 hogs slaughtered commercially in 1940, but trade estimates place the number at nearer 400,000.54 The industry has increased during recent years, but both pork and lard are still on an import basis. Quantities imported during recent years, especially of pork, were materially smaller than they were 10 to 15 years ago.
Consumption of pork products in 1937 is estimated (19) at 20.5 million pounds of fresh pork, 18 million of bacon, and 4.5 million of ham, totaling 43 million pounds, of which about 5 million are imported. With some further increase in production and better feeding
54 Until recently, slaughtered hogs have not been subject to an excise tax, and consequently there has been no accurate record of numbers.