The beef cattle industry in Vietnam can be divided into three main farming systems:
- Extensive cow-calf grazing system (usually 1 to 2 head) is practiced by smallholder farmers in Northern Mountains and Central regions, accounted for 70%-80% of cattle in Vietnam. This system requires little labour as farmers normally do not feed their cattle with compound, concentrate or manufactured. Seasonal crop residues e.g. rice straw are often used to feed cattle at night. Farmers generally use cattle for draught purposes and keep them as a source of savings. This low input system is characterised by low output and poor reproductive performance.
- Specialised fattening system (usually 2 to 10 head) is practiced by market oriented crop-livestock producers in Central Highlands, Central Coast and Southern provinces, accounted for 20-30% of cattle in Vietnam. Fatteners buy light cattle (preferably with high growth potential) from other cattle farmers for fattening. The farmers grow their own forage (e.g. elephant grass, legumes) and usually use locally made concentrate (e.g. rice bran or cassava meal) to feed their cattle. The motivation of the farmers is commercial sale of finished cattle.
- Large-scale feedlots (usually more than 100 head)are mainly located in the south eastern provinces of Binh Duong, Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, accounted for 1-2% of cattle. These commercial operations often import cattle from Australia and other countries. They have more competitive advantages over the smallholder farmers, as they feed cattle with by-products from food processing units, compound and concentrate to provide high quality beef to Ho Chi Minh market. However, they are very sensitive for feed costs and access to cattle inputs.
While production systems can be described through these three categories, and specialisation in cattle enterprises is occurring, much of the Vietnamese cattle herd, especially in North and South Central Coast and Central Highlands regions, is produced in “mixed” production systems, where farmers hold breeders and offspring are fed and sold out of the system at slaughter age.