Table 95 Sown area of main cereal crops in the Russian Federation 19701987 percent





Food cereals: Winter wheat Spring wheat Winter rye Rice

Buckwheat Feed cereals: Winter barley Spring barley Oats Millet Legumes Corn

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Source: Kruchkov and Rakovetskaya, 1990

One specific Soviet problem was the unsatisfactory structure of cereal crops. Agricultural statistics on food and feed grain for 1970 to 1980 show that food grain production prevailed over feed grain, despite a much higher demand for the latter (Table 9.5.). In the late 1970s, the feed grain demand was 120 to 140 million tons, while the demand for food grain was 50 to 60 million tons. Thus more than 70 percent of the total grain demand was for feed grain. It is reasonable to expect that the overall structure of cereal crops should have reflected this ratio. Although the problem of crop structure was widely discussed in the Soviet Union, no radical change had taken place since the late 1970s. In 1987, half of the sown area under cereals was still used for food grain. At the end of the 1980s, the Soviet media were still calling for the replacement of wheat with barley in feed rations (Pravda, 1988b).

The reason was that, in order to meet their plan targets, the administrations of provinces, districts, and collective farms preferred to sow crops that promised higher harvests. Wheat was the most favorable crop as it was less labor intensive and had a relatively good selection of varieties in comparison with many feed cereals (for example, barley). On many farms, wheat grain was widely used for feeding. In some areas 45 to 50 percent of the wheat harvest was fed to livestock. Wheat is exclu-

sively a food grain and is the most unbalanced among cereals in terms of animal feed quality. The digestibility of wheat protein is very low compared with barley or oats. According to Soviet agricultural experts, in order to satisfy the daily needs of pigs in certain nutrients, three times more wheat grain has to be consumed than other cereals. According to some estimates by Soviet agricultural experts, the total over-consumption of concentrate reached 25 million tons (in the USSR) annually in pig-breeding and poultry-producing farms, and one of the reasons for this was the use of wheat as feed (Kommunist, 1985). The allocation of considerable amounts of wheat for feeding purposes explains why the Soviet authorities had to import large amounts of better quality wheat from Western countries.4

Another problem was the poor preparation of mixed feed. An emphasis on mixed feed production was one of the tactics tested by the Soviet Union in its longstanding drive to increase the efficiency of feed grain. By 1980, less than half of the grain used for feed had been processed into mixed fodder, the greater proportion of grain landing unprocessed in the feed lots, thus constituting a much less efficient feed ("A preliminary look at Soviet agriculture." 1980). On 16 July 1981, Izvestia called mix feed the chief reserve for the saving of feed grain (1981b). It argued that if all feed grain were processed into mixed feed, it would save 12 million tons of feed grain in the Russian Federation.

Unfortunately, the increase in the production of mixed feed during the 1980s was accompanied by a fall in quality. In 1985, the official journal Kommunist criticized the poor quality of mixed feed produced in the country. In Vinnitsk province (Ukraine), 22 inter-farm plants for producing mixed feed (for several local farms using the farmers' own grain) were in operation and provided as much as 60 percent of grain for livestock as a mix. The problem was that the mixed feed was of poor quality. Kolkhozes complained about the low quality of the mixed feed, which was also one and a half times more expensive than the grain they had delivered to the inter-farm plants. Because of the poor quality, the total expenditure on fodder in livestock production did not decrease but still reached 1.7 feed units per liter of milk and 10 feed units (oat equivalent) per kilogram of weight gain for pork. The journal pointed out that these figures were the same as in the 1950s, but that then the main feed had been cheap, coarse vegetation rather than expensive mixed feed. The journal argued that half the pig farms in the province were unprofitable (Kommunist, 1985).

On 12 May 1988, in the era of Gorbachev's glasnost (openness), Pravda published some interesting details about the development of the Soviet mixed feed industry (1988b). Before 1977, mixed feed had been produced according to relatively strict standards. After 1977, new, lower standards were implemented and caused a deterioration in quality. Only four parameters were checked: moisture, temperature, fineness, and the presence of certain toxins. However, such an important parameter as protein content was not checked. This meant that the mixed feed plants of the Ministry of Procurement functioned only a little better than the inter-farm plants5 (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1991).

The primary cause of the excessive consumption of feed grain in livestock production was the unsatisfactory development of other categories of feed, primarily hay and pasture. The Soviet authorities certainly understood that a radical increase in the production of non-grain feed would be the key to solving the problem of the low productivity of Soviet livestock and the excessive consumption of grain. In 1980, at the March Plenum of the CPSU Central Committee, a decree was adopted on additional measures for increasing the production and quality of fodder. The decree pointed out "to party, administrative, and agricultural bodies, that the shortage of coarse and succulent fodder is one of the chief causes of low productivity in stockbreeding, and led to a considerable over-consumption of grain, which cannot be tolerated in the future" (Radio Moscow, 1980). Shortages of protein supplies in feed were claimed to be the single most important problem confronting the Soviet livestock economy.

The decision was adopted to increase the area of cultivation of clover, alfalfa, soy, and other fodder crops rich in protein. The inclusion in the feed ration of soy, the richest in protein, would allow a reduction in feed grain consumption by 25 to 30 percent (Izvestia, 1981d). In the Russian Federation, the share of legumes within the total crop area under cereals reached only 4 percent in 1980. The problem was that legume crops (peas, soy, beans, and lentils) need a longer period of high temperatures and good soils than can be found in many regions of the Russian Federation. Soviet peasants were reluctant to increase the area of these crops. The authorities admitted that high-protein crops such as beans and lentils were sometimes difficult to cultivate. By the late 1980s, the area under legumes had increased only slightly (see Table 9.5.).

The problem of the poor state of hayfields and pastures was one of the most difficult to solve. In the 1980s, in the United States, the hay harvest reached 140 to 150 million tons, while in the USSR it reached only 56 to 70 million tons. In the United States, livestock were supplied with pasturage of 270 to 295 million tons, and in the USSR only 68 to 70 million tons. Both countries had approximately the same livestock inventories. Thus in the Soviet Union, the availability of hay and pasture grass per head of cattle was 2.5 and 4 times less than in the United States (Pravda, 1989). In fact, hay production in the USSR remained at the same level as it had been in the Russian Empire at the beginning of the twentieth century (about 50 million tons).

In many regions of the USSR, the shortage of hay supplies was chronic and farmers had to utilize all possible areas for producing hay. A deficit of hay and pasture grass could occur even in an average year. For example, in 1978, which was optimal in terms of weather, the resolution "On additional measures for the fulfillment of harvesting, agricultural products provision, and the production of fodder in 1978" was adopted. The resolution called for the full utilization of valleys, forested areas, areas alongside roads (waysides), and other places for the production of hay (Pravda, 1978b). Needless to say, in years with more problematic weather the situation became much worse.6

In the forest zone of European Russia, the availability of hay and pasturage had deteriorated by 1980. In this zone there were about 18 million hectares of hayfields and pastures, but more than 7 million hectares (about 40 percent) of them were overgrown with bushes or waterlogged. The small size of grassland plots and their distant location were obstacles to their efficient utilization (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1977). The reduction of the area of grassland went along with rural depopulation and the amalgamation of collective farms. In some areas, hayfield areas decreased by one and a half times between 1970 and 1980. Also, yields from grasslands had decreased. Another problem was the distant location of pasturelands from farms in the forest zone. It was impossible to move a herd over 5 to 10 kilometers for grazing. A further problem was the small area of the pastures. They were too small to graze 100 to 150 animals (Izvestia, 1981c). The Soviet press also stressed the low quality of the hay. In 1979, only 30 to 35 percent of hay was recognized as of first-class quality (Trud, 1979).

In the steppe zone of European Russia, the situation was even worse. A typical sight in the North Caucasus was trucks filled with straw moving to the east of the region. These trucks transported straw over 100 kilometers throughout the whole winter and sometimes into the spring. The straw cost from 100 to 150 rubles. Vast areas of hayfields had been ploughed in the course of the virgin lands campaign. Pasturel-and had also been ploughed, although traditionally the herd was fed on grass from early spring to late autumn. Attempts to restore grassland provided little benefit. Meanwhile, the number of livestock had grown and the gap between feed production and demand had widened dramatically. In some areas, feed production reached only 30 to 40 percent of demand (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1987).

It is true that the Soviet Union launched special programs for the radical improvement of hayfield and pastureland, but they did not prove successful. In 1974, a program for the non-black earth (forest) zone, including land reclamation projects (irrigation and drainage) as well high rates of fertilizer application to improve hayfield and pastures, was adopted. The Food Program adopted in 1982 was designed to "radically improve" 21 million hectares of hayfields and pastures (out of a total of 300 million hectares) between 1984 and 1990 (about 3.5 million hectares a year) (Izvestia, 1983a). However, plans for hayfield improvement were not met, year after year. For example, in 1982 the Ministry for Improvement and Water Resources of the RSFSR failed to fulfill its plan in every province of the republic. In the non-black earth zone the improvement plan for hayfields and pastures was only 25 percent fulfilled. Local bodies of the Ministry were extremely reluctant to help with hayfields and pastures because these works were unprofitable for them (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1983).

Table 9.6. shows that during the 1980s the diet of Soviet livestock hardly improved. In the Russian Federation, the consumption of hay grew by 15 percent following the decreases in 1975 to 1980. However, this growth was much less than the 50 percent increase planned for 1981 to 1985. According to Soviet norms, hay consumption per head of cattle should have been 1.1 tons of feed per unit per year (three kilograms per day), but the actual figure was half that (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1978). The consumption of succulent fodder increased by 32 percent rather than the planned 80 percent (Ekonomicheskaya gazeta, 1978). The growth of hay and root crop production was achieved due to an increase of 20 percent in the sown area under perennial grass and of 41 percent in the area used for roots. A bleak situation emerged in the production of pasturage, which had been in steady decline for many decades. Between 1975 and 1987, the consumption of pasturage fell by 25 percent. According to the food program, during the eleventh five-year plan period (1981-1985) total

Table 9.6. Fodder consumption per head of livestock unit in the Russian Federation (tons per year)








Pasture grass




























Incl. Silage














Feed per head







(centners of feed units)

Source: calculated on the basis of Narodnoe Khozyastvo v RSFSR v 1987, 1988.

(centners of feed units)

Source: calculated on the basis of Narodnoe Khozyastvo v RSFSR v 1987, 1988.

fodder consumption should have increased by 25 percent. The actual total growth in fodder consumption was only 11 percent between 1981 and 1985 and 4 percent in the second half of the 1980s. The average fodder consumption per head of standard livestock was 26 to 27 centners of feed units, while the norm was established at 40 to 45 centners. On the whole, improvements in livestock feeding in terms of quality of diet and quantity of grain fed were negligible in the Soviet Union. This meant that the problem of the excessive consumption of grain per unit of livestock production was still unresolved. There was no change in grain consumption per head, and, as the total number of livestock had increased, the total amount of grain fed to the livestock caused excessive pressure on the grain production sector where no increase in productivity was seen.

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