Vietnam has experienced rapid economic growth and achieved remarkable poverty reduction since the introduction of economic reforms in 1986. Agricultural growth, at over 4 percent per year, has contributed significantly to this outcome. Within agriculture, the expansion of smallholder livestock production has been a major contributor to increasing farm incomes and reducing rural poverty in Vietnam.
The agriculture sector currently accounts for 21 percent of GDP and about 58 percent of employment. The livestock sub-sector accounts for 27 percent of the agriculture output value (GSO 2014). Beef cattle production is an important industry in the livestock sub-sector, being the third largest industry after pigs and poultry.
Traditionally, cattle were reared by smallholders for draught purposes. Cattle were only slaughtered for consumption when they were unproductive. Today, mechanisation is gradually replacing the animal draught power, which reduces the need for smallholders to keep draught cattle.
The demand for beef as a superior product, particularly in urban areas in Vietnam, has been growing rapidly in recent years due to income increases and population growth. With constrained supply, prices for cattle and beef have thus increased sharply. This, together with regional integration, provides opportunities for smallholders in rural areas of Vietnam to become increasingly specialised in beef production to supply quality beef to urban markets.
Today the beeft industry in Vietnam is still based on smallholder production of one to four head per household, and this pattern is expected to continue in the future. However, there are an increasing number of households that specialise in cattle fattening for slaughter in central and southern Vietnam.The beef industry was able to meet around 70 percent of current domestic demand in 2013 (MARD 2014)