Since 1970, the cattle herd has grown at the rate of about 5% per year in this region.
In 2006, the Brazilian Amazon had 50 million cattle..
In 2006, there are still 60 million hectares dedicated to livestock pasture.
Since the 1970s we have witnessed a development of the cattle herd in Brazilian Amazon region. Formerly owned by large landowners, cattle are now mainly owned by small family farms with less than 500 ha, thereby becoming an important (if not the only) source of income in this period of massive rural exodus. These farms combine dairy and suckler cows: young calves grow up with their mothers and are sold for fattening while young heifers are kept to increase the herd size.
Feeding of livestock solely by pasture grazing is the main feature of this region. There is no stock stored for the “bad season”. These pastures are set up on deforested surfaces obtained by burning, and become monospecific plots Brachiaria spp.
These plots do not remain usable for very long. They are quickly invaded by weed flora (“weeds”), leading inexorably to their degradation and uselessness. Farmers than proceed with deforestation of other plots to which they apply the same treatment, leading to the gradual deforestation of the Amazon.
By preventing the weed invasion of pastures, it would be quite possible to avoid burning, the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
Knowing the importance of primary forests like Amazon for maintaining and protecting biodiversity, as well as fixing carbon dioxide (whose over-presence in the atmosphere accelerates the greenhouse effect and thus global warming) it is crucial to deal with this problem.