The economics of Raramuri Criollo versus British crossbred cattle production in the Chihuahuan Desert

TitleThe economics of Raramuri Criollo versus British crossbred cattle production in the Chihuahuan Desert
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDiaz J, Torell A, Estell RE, Gonzalez A.L, Cibils AF, Anderson D.M.
Conference Name68th Annual Society for Range Management Meeting
Date Published01/2015
PublisherSociety for Range Management
Conference LocationSacramento, CA
ARIS Log Number309954

Preliminary research indicates Raramuri Criollo cattle may range significantly further and forage in areas where traditional breeds rarely venture. They are thought to impose a lighter environmental footprint compared to their mainstream British crossbred counterparts. These small-frame animals are well adapted to harsh environments and maintain productivity with minimal inputs and supplementation. The objective of this research was to compare the economics of range-fed beef production with Raramuri Criollo cattle versus production of Hereford X Angus (H x A) cattle typically found on Chihuahuan Desert ranches. Enterprise budgets were developed for a 150 AUY (Animal Unit Yearlong) ranch using production and cost data for herds maintained at the USDA Jornada Experimental Range near Las Cruces, NM. Based on limited studies about differences in forage requirements, animal foraging behavior, and the potential improvements in distribution and forage use, we assumed the Criollo herd could be maintained at 180 AUY, a 20% increase. With 2009-2013 average inflation-adjusted beef prices, net ranch returns from Raramuri Criollo cattle production was found to be 30% higher than H x A production ($22,085 versus $16,978). The assumed 20% increase in stocking rate was a major factor in the net return increase. Total cash costs were estimated to be 64% less for Criollo production ($265/AUY versus $411/AUY). Notable cost differences included supplemental feed costs ($42/AUY versus $128/AUY) and veterinary, medicine and vaccine expenses ($6/AUY versus $28/AUY). The major factor favoring Criollo production was a strong demand for breeding animals with all Criollo heifers sold as bred heifers in the budget comparison. This meant for the 5-year average prices considered, a 2-year old Criollo heifer was worth nearly $1,000/head, exceeding the $900/head finished steer value. A limitation for Raramuri Criollo production was the extended period required to produce marketable range-fed animals. The typical cow/calf ranch sells calves after 8 months, requiring about 1.35 AUY/mature cow. By comparison, Criollo steers graze for 30 months and heifers for 24 months before sale. The smaller Criollo animals have a reduced forage requirement but the extended grazing period increases the total forage requirement to about 2 AUY/mature cow.