Year United States Soviet Union

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1950 20 5

1960 24 11

1965 33 31

1970 38 55

Source: Parker, 1972.

There were also some improvements in agricultural practice in the steppe zone of the USSR. The exploitative nature of Khrushchev's style of farming (Stalin, by contrast, was an advocate of grasslands, as it proved to be a substitute for chemical fertilizer), with its emphasis on grain and corn growing at the expense of soil conservation practices, was rejected. The bitter lessons of the virgin lands proved to the Soviet authorities that grain crops depleted the soil and actually promoted soil erosion, while grassland farming was soil conserving. The measures undertaken by the Soviet authorities relied on the experience of Western farmers, mainly from Canada. In the 1960s, in the virgin lands of Kazakhstan and Western Siberia, average yields reached 7 to 8 centners per hectare, while in the steppe districts of Canada an average yield was 16.7 centners per hectare at that time (Problemy sel'skogo khozyastva, 1967).

Firstly, the practice of fallow-land crop rotation was re-established. The dogma "Fallow land is lost land; erosion is a fiction" proved to be completely false. In the spring of 1966, many farms "were urged to sow fallow areas and eroded plateau" (Pravda, 1966). It was heralded as a victory for the healthy, creative forces of the people over "voluntarism" ("Pravda dissatisfied with virgin lands harvest", 1966).

It was already generally agreed that, in order to preserve the organic structure and fertility of soils in semi-arid marginal grain lands such as those to be found in Kazakhstan, an appreciable share of ground had to be left fallow each year. Canadian farmers left between 20 and 40 percent of their spring grain lands fallow each year, and Soviet soil specialists also recommended a share of up to one-third. With the soil conditions found in most of the virgin lands, regular setting aside as fallow is the single most effective measure for long-term stable yields. It controls moisture losses, keeps down weeds, and safeguards against wind erosion ("Rape of the virgin lands...", 1969).

The head of the chief office for grain crop and general problems of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR published the article "The development of agriculture in the USSR" in the magazine Economy of Agriculture (Ekonomika sel'skogo khozyastva, 1967). He argued that improper farming practice in the virgin lands had resulted in the loss of some million hectares of arable land. "We had to sow these lands in northern Kazakhstan and Western Siberia with perennial grass. These lands should be used as hayfields and pasture." The new area of land for grain was reduced steadily after 1964 by about six million hectares. Western specialists had long surmised that some of the grain lands would have to be taken out of production. Part of the reason may be due to the acceptance of the theory that about one-quarter of the land must lie fallow every year ("New statistics on the virgin lands..", 1972).

Secondly, a new method of soil cultivation was introduced in the steppe zone. In previous decades, many enterprises had ploughed up not only fertile tracts of land but extensive areas which yielded readily to the plough because of its mechanical properties, but then quickly became eroded. This was the result of being ploughed too deeply, as had been done for a long time in the traditional farm districts located in forest steppes and forest zones. The Canadian wheat-farming methods used in the prairies were studied and tested in field trials for several years by the USSR at the Grain Research Institute in Shortandy, Tseli-nogradskaya region. It was shown that stable harvests of grain crops, and of spring wheat in particular, could be achieved in the virgin lands, but the system of deep ploughing had to be replaced by one in which the soil retained its stability, thus preventing erosion and facilitating snow retention. When the snow blanket is thick, the soil does not freeze deeply, it thaws more quickly in the spring and absorbs more of the melted snow. Soil in those fields in which the stubble is retained holds twice as much spring moisture as that broken up by moldboard ploughs.

Local scientists proved the need to cultivate two varieties of spring wheat, each with a different growing period, on all farms. This is an added guarantee against crop failure and helps to reduce the strain on labor resources during the spring and, later, harvesting. Working jointly with engineers, members of the Shortandy research center developed and tested a series of new farm machines. At the same time, they put the new cultivation methods into practice. After many years of experimentation, valuable results were obtained at large pilot enterprises belonging to the institute. Over a period of eight years, from 1957 to

1964, the spring wheat harvest, from an area of 25,000 hectares, averaged 0.5 tons per hectare more than on state farms throughout northern Kazakhstan. Approximately the same result was obtained on many farms where systems other than deep ploughing were used. The institute obtained very high yields of wheat and other crops in 1966. It was hoped that using the cultivation system developed in Shortandy would ensure a rapid increase in yields (of approximately 50 percent) in the virgin lands. The new methods of cultivation were recommended for implementation throughout all steppe regions of the USSR (Moscow News, 1966).

These measures played a positive role in combating wind erosion in the virgin lands, which allowed the Soviet Union to further exploit them for grain production, although yields in the virgin lands remained the lowest in the country. The Soviet authorities saw this main function as being a buffer region. The probability of a drought that would cover all three major grain-producing regions in the country—the Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus and northern Kazakhstan—was low.

For traditional agricultural regions a special complex program for combating erosion was elaborated by the Soviet government. In 1967, the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers adopted a decision "On Urgent Measures against the Wind and Water Erosion of Soils". As the Soviet press noted, the decision was very important and is part of a comprehensive series of undertakings aimed at improving farming standards. Practical measures for implementing the resolution were the planting of windbreaks; the planting of trees in gullies, along the banks of rivers and reservoirs, and in sandy soils; terracing; and the construction of ponds and other reservoirs. Plans made to produce large numbers of special machines and funds were allocated for this work. Already by 1968 to 1970, windbreaks were being planted over an area of 324,000 hectares (Moscow News, 1967). Many scientific institutes were recruited to elaborate measures for the prevention of soil erosion. However, one should not overestimate the efficiency of these measures, since we know that erosion remained a serious challenge for the Soviet agriculture. The failure of another program for land reclamation, raising of soil fertility and irrigation, announced by the Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU in May, 1966, is more conclusive. The major targets of these costly large-scale irrigation projects were to radically increase rice and cotton growing areas in Central Asia, southern Ukraine (Crimea), Kuban and Don valleys (North Caucasus). From the

Table 8.4. The profitability of agricultural production after 1965


As of 1960 (kolkhoz)

1967 kolkhoz

1967 sovkhoz









Sugar beets




Sunflower seeds












Mutton and lamb












Source: Nove, 1969.

Source: Nove, 1969.

mid-1970s, these areas would suffer from salinization and pollution of soil, while catastrophic reduction of river flow in the Aral and Azov seas became the major environmental problem for the USSR.

In the mid-1960s, the principal question for the further development of Soviet agriculture was still the distorted prices for agricultural products that resulted in most crops and animal products being sold at very low rates of profitability. Here again some positive steps were taken in the course of the agricultural reform.

New purchase prices for agricultural products were announced at the March 1965 plenum. Basic procurement prices for wheat and rye were raised by an average of 12 percent for most regions. Supplements of between 32 and 36 percent were added to the price of meat purchased from kolkhozes and sovkhozes (but not from private producers). The state purchase price for milk rose by about 20 percent (Bush, 1974).

The initial effect of the producer price increases was to make the production of most grains and most other crops very profitable. For instance, the average profitability of growing grain on kolkhozes in 1967 reached 184 percent, while most livestock products now returned a small profit in place of the former losses. There remained a wide and variable gap between costs and profitability in the public sector of Soviet agriculture. Taking costs in 1963 to 1965 as 100, the changes in the allunion average state purchase prices are shown in Table 8.4. This shows that in 1965 the changes did not eliminate the wide differences in profitability, although they did reduce them.

It is important to note that the price reform of 1965 dealt with one specific problem for Russia and stemmed from the gap in the cost of grain production in forest and steppes zones (mainly because of the different quality of soils). In Stalin's time (or until 1958, to be precise), two major strategies were applied to extract a differential form of rent: varying the scale of payments in kind for the service of the Machine Tractor Stations (MTSs); and varying the quota for compulsory deliveries of produce at low prices (Nove, 1969). In the course of Khrushchev's price reforms, the natural disadvantages were to be corrected by varying the state purchase price from area to area. However, the cost variations remained very great. For example, the production cost of cereals in the USSR was 48 rubles per ton, while in Krasnodarsky krai (North Caucasus) the cost was only 19 rubles per ton; in Belarus the cost reached as much as 140 rubles (Pravda, 1963). The price reform of 1965 improved matters in one respect, in that the zonal differences in prices were increased considerably. Thus in the Northern Caucasus wheat prices were increased by 13 percent, while in the non-black belt the increase exceeded 50 percent (Nove, 1969).

The price reform also had an impact on the livestock sector. Following the 1965 reforms, most livestock products returned a small profit in place of the former losses. Labor costs rose quickly with the introduction of guaranteed pay and higher earnings for kolkhozniks and with increased wages for sovkhoz workers and employees. The growth in average earnings outstripped that of productivity, and this had the greatest impact, understandably, on the labor-intensive livestock sector. As a result, by 1969 the average profitability of livestock production on kolkhozes and sovkhozes had fallen to a negligible amount. The large and growing discrepancy in the profitability of crop and livestock products inevitably manifested itself in the structure of output and sales. Bearing in mind that it was 50 percent more profitable to sell grain to the state than to feed it to the pigs, it is hardly surprising that the output of pork in the public sector first stabilized, then fell, despite a growing demand (Bush, 1974).

The Soviet authorities reacted to the situation by announcing new changes in purchase prices during the period 1967 to 1969, and then in the first half of the 1970s. The revisions concerned grain and livestock production, although again bringing some advantage to the crop sector. For example, a very good bonus was proposed for above-plan grain production. The purchase prices paid for crops ensured high to very high profitability rates at current production costs for virtually all farmers, except in a few marginal regions (in the forest zone). Animal products had already brought a profit to practically all farms and regions, although in most cases the profit was not as high as the 45 to 50 percent deemed necessary by many specialists in order to ensure extended reproduction and high rates of planned growth (Bush, 1974). Official Soviet statistics show that in the early 1970s, the average profitability of beef production had already reached 21 percent and that of pork 30 percent, but milk production realized only 1.6 percent profit (Makarets and Makarets, 2002). In general, by the mid-1970s, after all the price revisions, most producer prices already promised a profit for each farm but rates of profitability varied from zero (for milk production) to over 300 percent (for sunflower seeds, for example).

The continuing large discrepancy between the profits to be obtained from selling grain to the state and those gained from feeding it to livestock suggested that farms would persist in choosing the former course unless ordered to do otherwise. Even specialized livestock farms reportedly grew grain in order to sell some at above-plan rates. Also, no seasonal price differentiation had apparently been provided, although, as was pointed out, this led to an overloading of the slaughter and processing facilities in the autumn and their under-utilization in the spring (Bush, 1974). To raise the profitability of the livestock sector the authorities probably relied on the implementation of a new, modern policy of the industrialization of livestock breeding through the construction of specialized, large-scale breeding complexes. These complexes were meant to bring a solution to the problem in the near future due to radical increases in productivity. Unfortunately, these hopes were never realized.

It is worth stressing that financial and material support from the state had brought a considerable improvement in the social climate of the Russian village. The reform of 1965 had important social aspects. On 1 July 1966, the Soviet government introduced monthly wages for kolkhozniks. Unlike in the Stalin and Khrushchev eras, when collective farms bore all the financial, administrative, and criminal responsibilities for failure of their activities, the state now covered the losses of farms and took responsibility for supplying farms with machines, fertilizers, seeds, storage facilities, etc. Thus the collective farms were gradually being turned into state farms (Goldman, 1968). Although the system that gave the state exclusive rights to plan agricultural activities for each of the millions of collective farms remained in force, there were some changes. The most important improvement was that, after 1965, kolkhozes introduced the principle of having a firm plan for grain deliveries for some years ahead. This allowed for the delivery to the state of only the marketable part of the harvest, and for the rest to be retained for their own needs. Among other actions taken was the decision to lift some of the restrictions regulating the use of the peasants' private plots. Realizing that produce from the private plots was an important means of improving consumption for the urban sector, the state actually encouraged peasants to bring more to market.

On the other hand, agriculture had become more and more state dependent. The investments, both direct and indirect, were huge. Although purchase prices had grown radically, state retail prices for all staple foodstuffs were left unchanged. This necessitated a large and growing annual subsidy, as was seen, in particular, on meat. Holding meat prices constant at the retail level set by Khrushchev in 1962 cost the Brezhnev regime about 12 billion rubles in 1975. The total subsidy bill for agricultural products in 1975 was an estimated 17.2 billion rubles, equal to 15 percent of annual retail food purchases (Severin and Carey, 1978). At the same time, the prices of specifically agricultural goods such as farm tractors, grain combines, and fertilizers, were deliberately left unchanged.

Moreover, during this period the Soviet Union became one of the largest food importers in the world. In 1975, the year of the worst drought, the USSR ranked as the world's fifth-largest importer of agricultural commodities. Agricultural products in that year accounted for 25 percent of total USSR imports. Almost all the imported grain came from hard-currency countries. Raw sugar, traditionally from Cuba, accounted for one-quarter of the total value of agricultural imports in 1975. When poor sugar beet crops coincided with low Cuban cane crops, Moscow also purchased substantial quantities of raw sugar from other countries, such as Brazil, Australia, and the Philippines. Meat imports reached record levels in 1974 and 1975, partly reflecting the program to improve nutrition but also in response to the wide availability of meat on world markets and favorable prices. The bulk of this trade consisted in frozen meat—mostly beef, mutton, and poultry. In 1966, this amounted to 120,000 tons, to between 50,000 and 60,000 tons in 1967 and 1968, to between 70,000 and 80,000 tons in 1969, to around 220,000 tons in 1971, to over 500,000 tons in 1974 and 1975, and to between 350,000 and 360,000 tons in 1976. Although the Soviet Union exported some

Figure 8.1. Estimated grain balance of the RSFSR, 1965-1975

Figure 8.1. Estimated grain balance of the RSFSR, 1965-1975

Source: Sel'skoe khozyastvo v Rossii, 2000.

agricultural products (cotton, sunflower oil, even canned meat), the international agricultural commodity trade became a serious drain on the country's balance of payments, particularly with hard-currency countries. In the 1970s, the agricultural trade deficit with hard-currency countries was at least half of the total Soviet hard-currency deficit (ibid.). The large food imports of the Soviet Union were becoming a factor in international policy, as poor harvests meant a less aggressive foreign policy from the Kremlin. According to the once popular saying: "If Russia has a good harvest, its foreign policy will be bold and aggressive" (Christian Science Monitor, 1970).

Here we see the major indication of the failure of the agricultural policy of the USSR in 1965 to 1975. Despite considerable growth in agricultural production, the country had to import growing amounts of grain and other staple foods (see Table 8.9.4.). The main cause of this situation was an imbalance between the grain and livestock sectors, as in the early 1960s. In an effort to meet the growing standards of food consumption among the Soviet people, the USSR launched a shift to a livestock economy through modernization and industrialization. Such a shift sharply escalated the demand for feed grain and caused the USSR to enter international grain markets as a major importer. It might be

Table 8.5. Grain production and estimation of the basic grain requirement in the RSFSR (millions of tons)













Grain feed demand












Food grain demand












Seed grain demand












Summary demand












Grain production












Source: calculated on the basis of Sel'skoe khozyastvo v Rossii, 2000.

Source: calculated on the basis of Sel'skoe khozyastvo v Rossii, 2000.

suggested that the Soviet Union deliberately admitted some imbalance, hoping to straighten out the situation in the near future when the modernized livestock breeding sector became more productive. Grain imports were regarded as only a temporary measure during the period in which the livestock sector was being reorganized.

As it was, the share of grain fed to livestock reached 47 percent of the average production (162.7 million tons) between 1965 and 1970, and in the next five years the proportion rose to 64 percent, even though average grain production also grew to 181.6 million tons. Figure 8.1. presents our estimations of grain demand (including food, feed, and seed requirements) for the Russian Federation between 1965 and 1975. For our estimation of the grain demand for feeding animals we use the following parameters: for feed grain 5 centners per standard unit for 1966 to 1968, and 7.3 centners per head for 1970 to 1976. Our estimates of the feed grain demand are confirmed by figures issued by M. S. Solo-mentsev, chairman of the RSFSR Council of Ministers, who stated that the average volume of feed grain consumed on the kolkhozes and sovkhozes of the Russian Federation was 33.2 million tons between 1966 and 1970, and 51 million tons during 1971 to 1973, with a planned 55 million tons for 1974 (Bryan, 1973). The size of the Soviet herd, measured in standard units, is estimated on the basis of a pig equaling 0.6 of the weight of cattle. The state also estimated a norm of two centners per hectare for seed grain, and a food demand of roughly 0.2 tons per capita per annum (Bryan, 1971) (Table 8.5.).

Figure 8.1. shows that the basic demand for grain (without taking into account the demand for industry, the state reserve, and exports to ally countries) increased too rapidly in comparison with grain production. Between 1966 and 1970, grain demand in the Russian Federation was estimated to have grown by 24 percent, and grain production by only about 9 percent. As a result, by 1970 grain demand had approached the average figure for grain production in the republic.

This overstretched grain balance suggests great instability for a country with a capricious climate. Already in 1971, although there was an average harvest that year, the USSR had to purchase 2.9 million tons of animal feed (corn, barley, oats) from the United States. Western experts reasonably concluded that it meant that the Soviet Union would become a net grain importer in the near future. Indeed, in December 1971, the Soviet minister of agriculture announced to United States officials during his tour of US farm states what he called a "long-term" need for corn and other feed grains in the Soviet Union, which he put in the framework of about "five or ten years" (Bryan, 1971). Thus from 1971, the Soviet leadership relied on imports of feed grain to support the livestock program. These grain imports reached a peak in 1972 and 1975, when severe droughts occurred.

The growth in grain demand between 1965 and 1975 was associated with a new policy for developing the Soviet livestock breeding sector. This policy started in 1968, when the October Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU urged for the complete industrialization of livestock breeding during the following three to four years. The plenum also moved for the development of a specialized meat production branch in the livestock sector (the majority of communal cattle were of a dual purpose variety, in which productivity is generally very low). In 1968, the livestock sector received equipment worth a total of 377 million rubles. This figure was three times more than that in 1966 (Pravda, 1969b).

The move was accelerated in 1970. The July Plenum of 1970 again demanded that the livestock sector develop in the form of large industrial complexes. This approach meant the full mechanization of all operations as well as the production of meat, milk, and eggs all year round. This was designed to lower production costs for livestock produce. The Central Committee of the CPSU announced a plan to construct 1,170 large state industrialized livestock complexes and to build or enlarge 585 poultry enterprises in the USSR (Pravda, 1971). It decreed that the construction of such large complexes should take no longer than three years. It also said that state complexes with a capacity of between 12,000 and 24,000 pigs and between 800 and 1,200 cows should supply their own feed. It was reported that the construction of such large complexes had already begun in Belgorod, Tambov (Central Black Earth region), Kharkov (Ukraine), and Grodno (Belarus) provinces, and Moldova. In the Ukraine, 514 large industrialized livestock complexes (for cattle and pigs) and 274 poultry complexes were under construction (Pravda, 1971b). In the eighth five-year plan period (1966-1970) the state gave out 2.5 billion rubles annually for the construction and equipment of the large complexes, and 5 billion in the ninth five-year plan period (Trud, 1979).

In November 1970, Pravda reported that industrialization had been achieved in the majority of sovkhozes. The largest pig-breeding complexes were under construction in Moscow and Gor'ky provinces. Their capacity was planned to be 108,000 head a year. One such complex would deliver 3,000 pigs to slaughterhouses a day. It was planned to complete the construction by 7 November 1971 (the anniversary of the Socialist Revolution of 1917) (Pravda, 1970c). It was calculated that the expenditure on the construction of such a complex could be covered in two to three years. Pravda stressed that the normal functioning of such large complexes would be achieved if the production of mixed feed as well as fish and bone meal was arranged.

Feed resources were the key problem in the implementation of the ambitious program of the modernization of the Soviet livestock sector. At the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU in July 1970, Brezhnev claimed that the "most important thing for progress in the livestock sector is feed, feed, and once more feed" (this expression was meant to remind Soviet people of the famous response given by Lenin to the question "What is the main task of a young Communist": "To learn, learn, and once more learn") (Pravda, 1970b). The Central Committee of the CPSU adopted the resolution "On measures to increase and improve fodder resources" (Pravda, 1970c). It was planned that large complexes located in the suburbs of major cities would be based on industrial supply techniques with concentrated feed. A complex feeding 108,000 head would need 25,000 hectares of agricultural land, but such acreage was not available in most regions of the country (Pravda, 1976a). The reliable transportation of the feed to the complexes became a major issue for the normal functioning of these complexes. Every large complex was to have its own facilities for the pro duction of mixed feed. As for smaller complexes, they would be constructed in areas where fodder resources were available. The availability of concentrated and other feed was the key factor when making a choice about the size and location of a complex.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the Soviet media carried many reports about the construction of livestock complexes in different regions, many accompanied by complaints about a shortage of fodder. Andreev, a member of the Agricultural Academy of the USSR (VASKhNIL), said that although the plenum in July 1970 had claimed that new livestock complexes should be working, as a rule, using their own fodder, no relevant measures had been adopted to create this fodder base for the large complexes. For example, one milk farm in the Moscow province with a capacity of 2,000 milking cows, which was supposed to supply its own feed, had only achieved 57 percent of what was required. In Leningrad province, large milk farms were able to produce only 50 to 60 percent of their own feed, with the remaining 50 percent having to be transported from outside. In many areas where industrialized milk plants had been constructed with a capacity of 1,000 cows, no "cultured" (improved) pasture had been planned. In Tomsk province (Western Siberia), the industrial production of milk was based on an all-year-round stall regime and there were no improved grasslands at all. Although Siberia was well known for its abundance of grassland, an increase in the fodder crop area and the transportation by truck of huge amounts of green feed were planned for supplying the new livestock complexes (Pravda, 1970f).

It is likely that the Soviet authorities, when faced with the problem of fodder shortage, sanctioned the allocation of excessive amounts of feed grain for the livestock sector from state reserves. Sovetskaya Rossia reported that kolkhozes and sovkhozes had been allowed to increase the consumption of feed grain by 35 percent (1970a). Soviet statistics show that the rate of annual growth in grain consumption for the livestock sector was about 7 percent between 1965 and 1967, and 13 percent between 1968 and 1969. Between 1965 and 1967, the average consumption of concentrated feed was 5.5 to 5.7 centners per head (standard livestock unit), which then jumped to 8.0 centners per head. Correspondingly, the feed grain demand rose dramatically in 1969-1970 (Table 8.5.).

The growing consumption of feed grain in the USSR was associated with the poor state of other available feed. The yearly Soviet norm for feed units per head of livestock was 30 to 35 centners (Ekonomika

Table 8.6. Feed consumption in the Russian Federation (millions of tons)









Pasture grass
































Incl. Silage
















Total (feed units)








Feed per head







Source: Narodnoe khozyastvo RSFSR, varoius years.

(feed units)

Source: Narodnoe khozyastvo RSFSR, varoius years.

sel'skogo khozyastva, 1972). The shortage of feed reached 20 to 30 percent throughout the whole period (Table 8.6.). To meet the targets announced at the July Plenum of the CPSU in 1970, the increase in fodder supply needed to reach 50 to 70 percent by 1975 (Izvestia, 1970a). The actual increase was only between 12 and 16 percent. This growth was achieved due to an increase in feed grain. Feed grain was the single exception in relation to the plan fulfillment. The production of concentrated feed was planned to reach 125 to 128 million tons by the end of the five-year period, and in 1974 a total of 128 million tons were produced (although the figure then fell because of a severe drought) (Sov-etskaya Rossia, 1972). There was also some growth, although modest in terms of feed unit, in the succulent fodder available for livestock due to an increase in the sowing area under fodder crops.

The major failure was in the production of pasturage and hay. From 1965 to 1975, the amount of green grass and hay had decreased even in absolute figures (Table 8.6.). The North Caucasus, the main grain-growing region, was very problematic in this respect. In Krasnodarsky krai, because of the lack of grassland, livestock had to be kept in stalls all year round. Farmers had to supply wheat for feeding purposes. Green feed had to be cultivated and then transported to farms from other districts at great expense.Yields of hay differed enormously: in some areas 50 centners per hectare were obtained, but in others less than 2 centners per hectare (Komsomolskaya Pravda, 1969b). The same poor state of pastureland was reported from other provinces of the North Caucasus, including Dagestan, Stavropol, Astrkhan, and Rostov oblast (Pravda,

1970d). The main pasturelands were located in Kalmykia, and all other provinces used them for winter grazing. However, the deterioration of the pastureland could already be seen. In order to restore the winter pastures, they had to be left fallow from 1 April to 15 October, but in 1969, for example, there were 472,000 sheep and 7,000 cattle grazing on these lands in the summer. The number of sheep overwintering on the lands had been continually on the increase from 1960. This meant a demand not only for more productive pastureland but also for great reserves of hay, which was already transported from distant districts (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1970c).

Another problematic region was the Volga basin. In some provinces the share of arable land reached more than 80 percent of the total area, which faced extreme shortages of hayfields and pasture. The yield from these grasslands was very low—even in good years it did not exceed 4.1 to 4.4 centners of hay per hectare, resulting in unsatisfactory feed rations for the local livestock. The herds did not receive hay at all, the main coarse feed was straw. Vitamins and proteins were in short supply in their feed rations (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1971b).

The productivity of natural grasslands remained very low because of their poor condition. Official statistics show that in 1969 the total area of hayfield and pasture in the Russian Federation alone reached more than 84 million hectares, but the radical improvements planned were for an increase of 311,000 hectares. Only 19,000 hectares of grassland was irrigated in the USSR (Komsomolskaya Pravda, 1969b). According to the annual plan for 1970, there was to be a radical improvement of 1.668 million hectares of grassland, but only 20 percent of the plan was fulfilled. Pravda named Volgograd, Lipetsk, Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, and Omsk provinces, where not one hectare had been improved during the first half of the year (Pravda, 1970c). A land improvement plan for the five years between 1971 and 1975, including the irrigation of pas-turelands, was very ambitious. All in all, more than 8 million hectares of pasture and grasslands needed to be "radically improved" (Izvestia, 1970a). However, there were no indications of any improvements as compared with 1966 to 1970, in relation to the melioration of grasslands.

The lack of storage capacity qualified as an important problem requiring government resources to bring about improvements. At the beginning of 1971, there were still only 123,000 silos with a maximum capacity of 22 to 23 million tons of processed silage (moisture and waste removed). In fact, the amount of silage and cured hay produced in the

USSR was 160 million metric tons. Therefore, a deplorable 85 percent of the country's silage was inefficiently stored (Ekonomika sel'skogo khozyastva, 1971). Much of this extra silage was simply piled by the roadside or put into barns and sheds, where it soon rotted. Almost one-third of state-procured silage was estimated as being spoiled the previous year and more than half of its feed value was lost.

Besides poor development in terms of fodder varieties, there were some specific reasons for the excessive waste of feed grain in the USSR. Most feed grain was still consumed in an unprepared ("unbalanced") way. Soviet planners hoped to improve the situation by expanding the mixed-feed industry. The interrelationship between mixed feed, productivity, and the profitability of the livestock sector had been widely publicized by the Soviet press. The year 1965 can be considered as the beginning of the operation of the Soviet mixed-feed industry. In that year, 15.2 million tons were produced by Soviet feed plants. In 1969, the figure was 21 million tons. This meant that only 26 percent of feed grains was delivered in the most digestible form. By 1975 it was planned to increase the share of mixed feed to between 45 and 55 percent of the total feed grain amount (Pravda, 1971a). This remained out of reach. Although the rate of growth in the mixed-feed industry was remarkable, the share of mixed feed reached less than 35 percent (about 40 million tons) of the total amount of grain consumed by Soviet livestock in 1975 (Foreign Agricultural Circular, 1979).

In general, the development of the livestock breeding sector (as for the whole of agriculture) in the USSR between 1965 and 1975 is rather controversial. There were some positive changes due to an increase in the amount of feed grain available and the provision of some economic stimuli for farmers. Official statistics show the considerable growth of the livestock sector, including a 50 percent increase in meat production and a 25 percent increase in milk production (Table 8.7.). The ninth five-year plan period envisaged that between 1971 and 1975, average meat production was over 14 million tons and average milk production 92 million tons (Materialy XXIV c'ezda KPSS, 1971). For the first time in the history of the USSR, meat and milk production, even if it did not meet the plan targets, came close to them. It should be borne in mind that the plan targets for 1971 to 1975 were unusually modest. The realistic character of the plan targets was particularly stressed by Leonid Brezhnev in his speech at the XXIVth Congress of the CPSU. Average meat production, at 14 million tons, would give only 54 kilograms per capita, while the Soviet norm for meat consumption was estimated at 82 kilograms per capita. The statistics also indicate that the growth in meat production was achieved to a large extent as a result of the growth in livestock productivity.

On the other hand, the livestock sector was still characterized by very low productivity. Annually in the RSFSR about 9 million heads were slaughtered, with an average carcass weight of only 300 kilograms (compared with 370 to 380 kilograms produced on some advanced farms). Many farms delivered pigs with a very low weight of between 70 and 80 kilograms (compared with the 100 to 105 kilograms produced by some advanced farms). As for milk production, about 2,250 kolkhozes and sovkhozes of the RSFSR, or 10 percent of the total number, produced less than 1,700 kilograms per cow per year, while between 3,000 and 3,200 kilograms per cow were needed in order to provide the farmers with any profit (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1973). The major reason was the paucity of the (green) diet of Soviet livestock.

The same statistics indicate the unstable character of the development of the sector during the decade. There were years of decline in livestock numbers (1967-1969, 1973, 1976), in meat (1973, 1976), and milk production (1969, 1972, 1975, 1976). Although the direct reasons for these decreases were different they were all associated in some way with a new policy to create large industrialized and specialized livestock complexes. For example, in 1967 and 1968 the number of pigs decreased to only 50.8 million. This happened after a record year, 1966, when fodder reserves were higher than in any previous year. The reason for the recession was associated with a move towards the enlargement and specialization of the livestock sector, in the course of which small pig-breeding farms were liquidated in many kolkhozes. Other recessions (in 1969, 1972, and 1975) were associated with an acute fodder shortage caused by unfavorable weather conditions.

The most successful story was in the poultry production sector between 1965 and 1975. Poultry keeping was the first livestock branch developed on an industrialized basis after a special decision was adopted by the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1964. The modernization of the branch was carried out on the basis of the UK experience. During the first four years the number of such poultry complexes increased fourfold. Specialization was well developed in the poultry sector, and already in 1973 about 90 percent of eggs were produced in large poultry units (Sovetskaya Rossia, 1973). Egg production was the sole branch

Table 8.7. The main parameters of the development of the livestock sector in the USSR, 1965-1976

Year Livestock inventory Livestock production Feed supply

Number Pigs Sheep Poultry Meat Milk Feed Concen- Total feed

Table 8.7. The main parameters of the development of the livestock sector in the USSR, 1965-1976

Year Livestock inventory Livestock production Feed supply

Number Pigs Sheep Poultry Meat Milk Feed Concen- Total feed

of cattle (millions)


and goats (millions)


(millions (millions of tons) of tons)

per head (centners)

trated feed (millions of tons)

(in oat equivalent) (millions of tons)



































































































































Sources: Severin, 1984.

Sources: Severin, 1984.

of the livestock sector in which costs of production decreased during the period. By 1975, poultry meat and egg production reached the planned targets (1.5 million tons and 50 billion units), but poultry meat represented only 10 percent of the total output of meat production in 1975.

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