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Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles

BOLIVIA

by
Dr. Ral R. Vera
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FAO 2006
3

CONTENTS

1. INTRODUCTION 5

2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY 6

3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES 7


Altiplano 8
Yungas and other valleys 8
Eastern lowlands 8

4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS 9


Altiplano 9
Yungas and other valleys 10
Eastern lowlands 10

5. THE PASTURE RESOURCE 11


Altiplano 11
Yungas and other valleys 13
Eastern lowlands 13

6. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE RESOURCES 14

7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS 15

8. REFERENCES 15

9. CONTACTS 16

10. AUTHOR 18
Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile 5

1. INTRODUCTION

Bolivia is a landlocked South American


country of 1 098 581 km2 in size (see
Figure 1). Its population amounts to
6 420 792 inhabitants according to INE
(1992), with 8329000 estimated for 2000
(CEPAL, 1999) and with a growth rate of
2.33% (according to the World Factbook
the July 2006 population estimate was
8989870 with a growth rate of 1.45%).
The urban population is 65% of the total
(2000 estimate) growing at a rate of
1.8%, versus 0.5% rural (CEPAL, 1999).
Approximately 55% of the population
are believed to be of pure indigenous
Indian descent, 25-30% mestizo and 15%
European.
Land uses include 33% agricultural,
of which 5% is arable, 93% pastures,
and a negligible percentage is irrigated
(Table 1). Bolivia is divided by two
parallel Andean ranges or cordilleras,
on a roughly northsouth axis, into
three distinct ecozones: a vast semi-arid
Altiplano plateau between the western Figure 1. Map of main topographic characteristics of
range (Cordillera Occidental) and the Bolivia
eastern range (Cordillera Oriental), with
Lake Titicaca on its northern end; semi-tropical Yungas and temperate valleys of the Cordillera Oriental;
and eastern lowlands (Oriente), including the semi-arid Chaco.
Agriculture is an extremely important sector, with 60% of farmers in the highlands and 20% in
relatively fertile valleys. The arable land was estimated at 2.3 ha per person in 1993 (Dirven, 1999). Of
the total area, 51% (mainly in the eastern lowlands and northeastern flanks of the Cordillera Oriental)
is covered by forest. Agriculture accounted for 23% of GDP in 1987. It employed about half (46%) of
the official labour force in 1986 and accounted for only 15% of total exports in the late 1980s. Coca
growing, a long standing customary crop, has become a major social problem.
Bolivia has the second largest population of South American camelids after Peru, and a large
number of sheep and cattle (Table 2). The lowland Departments of Beni, Santa Cruz and Pando account
for 54.2% of the ruminant stock, the Altiplano Departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potos have 26%,
and the remaining 19.8% is found in the inter-andean Departments of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and
Tarica. Despite a growing production of beef and milk (Table 2) the country is a net importer of both
commodities (Table 3), although for beef and veal by 2003 there were more exports and for milk
products the gap was closing.
Land tenure across the country varies very greatly. In the eastern lowlands properties tend to be
large and the sector is dominated by large farms and ranches, whereas small farmers predominate in the
valleys and foothills. Land tenure patterns in the highlands are complex, but communal areas and very
small farms tend to predominate as described in section 4 in relation to ruminant production systems.

Table 1. Land resources of Bolivia, 1000 ha


Land area Agricultural Arable Permanent Permanent Arable, % Agricultural land
area area crops pastures agricultural area, %
108 438 36 034 1 974 229 33 831 5.5 33.2
Source: FAO databases, estimates for 1998.
6 Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile

Table 2. Bolivia: statistics for livestock numbers, meat and milk production for the period 19962005
Years 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Stocks/Products
Cattle (,000) 6 118 6 238 6 387 6 556 6 725 6 457 6 576 6 680 6 822 6 822
Sheep (, 000) 8 039 8 232 8 409 8 575 8 752 8 902 8 902 8 596 8 550 8 550
Goats (,000) 1 500 1 496 1 496 1 500 1 500 1 500 1 501 1 501 1 501 1 501
Other camelids (,000) 1 838 1 850 1 850 1 900 1 900 1 900 1 900 1 900 1 900 1 900
Beef and veal (Mt) (,000) 143.2 147.3 150.2 155.3 159.8 160.9 164.6 168.2 172.0 172.0
Goat meat (Mt) (,000) 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8
Sheep: mutton and lamb 14.2 14.6 14.8 15.3 15.7 16.3 16.9 17.6 18.0 18.0
(Mt) (,000)
Meat of other camelids 2.4 2.4 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.8 2.8 3.0 3.0 3.0
(Mt) (,000)
Cow mil, fresh (Mt)(,000) 195.1 202.2 191.1 230.7 231.5 170.0 291.0 240.0 233.7 233.7
Source: FAO databases 2006.

Table 3. Bolivia: Imports and exports of beef and veal, milk, and wool, metric tons
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Beef and veal Imports 0.1 0.7 1.2 0.2 0.3 0.8 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.0
(,000)
Exports 0.5 0.4 0.1 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.6
Milk equivalent Imports 41.9 61.0 58,5 73.4 57.4 68.0 61.2 54.8 57.9 37.9
(,000)
Exports 4.7 1.3 3.4 4.4 4.6 19.4 21.2 24.1 31.1 24.8
Wool, greasy Imports 3 3 0 1 1 10 11 18 0 0
Exports 89 356 226 152 60 203 153 156 101 15
Wool, scoured Imports 0 1 0 0 10 0 0 0 0 0
Exports 12 12 35 8 3 0 0 8 8 1
Source: FAO databases 2006.

2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY

A brief mention of the main topographic features was made above. The Andes define the countrys three
geographic zones: the mountains and Altiplano in the west, the semi-tropical Yungas and temperate valleys
of the eastern mountain slopes, and the tropical lowlands or plains (llanos) of the eastern lowlands, or
Oriente. The Andes run in two great parallel ranges or cordilleras. The western range (Cordillera Occidental)
runs along the Peruvian and Chilean borders. The eastern range (Cordillera Oriental) is a broad and towering
system of mountains stretching from Peru to Argentina. Between the two ranges lies the Altiplano, a plateau
1100 km long and 120 to 160 km wide; the Bolivian portion of the Altiplano is 800 km long.
Bolivian soils are extremely varied and reflect the variable topography and slopes of the landscape.
Table 4 shows some of the characteristics of soils in a few of the land systems identified by Cochrane
et al. (1985) in Bolivia. It is
Table 4. Soil characteristics in a number of Bolivian land system
clear from the data quoted
pH OM P Ca Mg K
% ppm meq % meq % meq % that the alluvial soils of the
agricultural region closest to
Sta. Cruz, well drained 7.2 (usually 1.6 4.9 13.2 0.7 0.20
lowlands, 020 cm (1) contain the city of Santa Cruz, in
moderate Na the Bolivian lowlands, are
concentrations)
relatively most fertile despite
Beni, poorly drained 5.2 n.a. 5.0 3.3 2.2 0.46
lowlands 312 cm (2) their low organic matter con-
Cochabamba, 4.7 n.a. 10 n.a. 0.9 0.1 tent . The latter are the soils
interandean region, that have supported the rapid
alluvial soil, 115 cm (2)
expansion of soybeans and,
La Paz, highlands, 5.5 n.a. 7 0.9 1.0 0.2
512 cm (2) to a lesser degree, sown trop-
(1) Martnez (1992). (2) Cochrane et al. (1985). n.a. = not available ical grasses, in that region.
Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile 7

3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES

Although Bolivia lies entirely within the tropics, climatic conditions vary widely, from tropical in the
lowlands to polar in the highest parts of the Andes. Temperatures depend on elevation and show little
seasonal variation. In most places rainfall is heaviest in summer, and yearly amounts tend to decrease from
north to south. Northern lowland areas have a tropical wet climate with year-round high temperatures,
high humidity and heavy rainfall. Daytime highs average above 27 0C all year round in most locations.
Rain often falls as brief thunderstorms, sometimes accompanied by strong winds and hail.
Central lowland areas have a tropical wet and dry climate. From October through April, northeast
trade winds predominate and the weather is hot, humid and rainy (Figure 2) From May through
September, however, dry southeast trade
winds take control and precipitation is
minimal. During this season clear days
and cloudless nights allow higher daily
maximums and lower nightly minimums
than during the rainy season. Occasional
strong winds from the south, called
surazos, reach the region in winter and
bring low temperatures for several days.
The Chaco has a semi-tropical, semi-
arid climate with extreme temperatures.
Northeasterly winds bring rain and hot
humid conditions only from January
Figure 2. Monthly rainfall and temperature in Sta. Cruz,
through March; the other months are dry eastern lowlands of Bolivia
with hot days and cool nights. Record
temperatures reach 47 0C.
Temperatures and rainfall in moun-
tain areas vary considerably. The
Yungas, where the moist northeast trade
winds are pushed up by the mountains,
is the cloudiest, most humid and rainiest
area, receiving up to 1520 mm annually.
Sheltered valleys and basins throughout
the Cordillera Oriental have mild tem-
peratures and moderate rainfall, aver-
aging from 640 to 760 mm (Figure 3). Figure 3. Mean monthly temperature and rainfall,
Temperature drops with increasing Cochabamba, Andean valleys
elevation, however. Snowfall is possible
above 2 000 m and the permanent snow
line is at 4 600 m. Areas over 5 500 m
have a polar climate. The Cordillera
Occidental is a high desert with cold,
windswept peaks. The Altiplano, which
also is swept by strong, cold winds, has
an arid, chilly climate, with sharp differ-
ences in daily temperature and decreas-
ing amounts of rainfall from north to
south (Figure 4). Average highs during
the day range from 15 C to 20 C, but
in the summer tropical sun, tempera-
tures may exceed 27 C. After nightfall,
however, temperatures drop rapidly to Figure 4. Mean monthly rainfal and temperature,
just above freezing. Lake Titicaca exerts La Paz, Bolivian highlands
8 Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile

a moderating influence but, even on its shores, frosts occur in almost every month, and snow is not
uncommon.
Agro-ecological zones are discussed below, in relation to topography.

Altiplano
The Peruvian-Bolivian Altiplano is a plateau 1100 km long by 120160 km wide that runs between the
cordilleras at an average altitude of 4000 m (Quiroga, 1992).The Bolivian portion is 800 km long, with
a total area of 123000 km2 and contains most of the Departments of La Paz (capital city of Bolivia),
Oruro and Potos. Although the Altiplano covers only 12% of Bolivias land area, it has 35% of its
population, including 42% of the urban population and 24% of the rural inhabitants. The Altiplano is a
high altitude basin, which includes a plain known as Puna, and a series of mountain ridges. It is covered
with sediments of disappeared lakes, partially dried lakes (e.g. the Titicaca) and residues of other large,
salty, lakes. Humidity in the Altiplano decreases from north to south, and salinity of the existing lakes
increases in the same direction. The geology of the region, and the existence of various basins within the
Altiplano, explain its variability; interested readers will find a detailed ecological description in Quiroga
(1992) among others.

Yungas and other valleys


Temperate and subtropical valleys abound throughout the Andean region. The northeastern flank of the
Cordillera Real is known as the Yungas, from the Aymara word meaning warm valleys. This land is
among the most fertile in Bolivia, but poor access has hindered its agricultural development.
The eastern slopes of the Cordillera Central descend gradually in a series of complex northsouth
ranges and hills. Rivers draining to the east have cut long narrow valleys; these valleys and the basins
between the ranges are favourable areas for crops and settlement. Rich alluvial soils fill the low areas,
but erosion has followed the removal of vegetation in some places. The valley floors range from 2000 to
3000 m above sea level and this lower elevation means milder temperatures than those of the Altiplano.
Two of Bolivias most important cities, Sucre and Cochabamba, are located in basins in this region.
The valleys cover 15% of the Bolivian territory, and have 24% and 36% of the urban and rural
population of the country, respectively. Farms in the valleys tend to be very small, frequently under one
hectare each. The valleys generally have Mediterranean climates, with rainfall concentrated in a few
months and ranging between 200 and 600 mm, and have traditionally been dominated by very small
landowners (minifundistas). Strong farmers associations have developed since the 1980s, and offer
a variety of services (information, inputs, milk marketing, training and education) to their members.
Crops, roots, fruits, vegetables and sown forages are grown and, if irrigation is available, more than
one cropping season is feasible. Nevertheless, intensive utilization of land in small farms has led to
widespread erosion.

Eastern lowlands
The eastern lowlands include all of Bolivia north and east of the Andes. They represent 63% of the
Bolivian territory and have 32% and 18% of the urban and rural population, respectively. Thus, although
comprising two-thirds of the national territory, the region is sparsely populated and until the late 1980s,
it played a minor role in the economy. Differences in topography and climate separate the lowlands into
three areas. The flat northern area, made up of Beni and Pando departments and the northern part of
Cochabamba Department consists of tropical savannahs and rainforest. Mean altitude in Beni is 155 m,
mean temperature is 27 C (940 C), and average rainfall is 1800 mm distributed between November
and May. Because much of the topsoil is underlain by a clay hardpan, drainage is poor, and heavy rain
periodically converts vast parts of the region into swamp. Heavy clay soils have a pH of 5.1 on average.
The central area, comprising the northern half of Santa Cruz Department, has gently rolling hills and
a drier climate than the north. Forests alternate with savannah and much of the land has been cleared
for cultivation, mainly for soybean. Santa Cruz, the largest city in the lowlands, is here, as are most of
Bolivias petroleum and natural gas reserves. The southeastern part of the lowlands is a continuation of
the Chaco of Paraguay. Virtually rainless for nine months of the year, this area becomes a swamp for the
three months of heavy rains. The extreme variation in rainfall supports only thorny scrub vegetation and
Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile 9

cattle grazing, although recent discoveries of natural gas and petroleum near the foothills of the Andes
have attracted some settlers to the region.
Most of Bolivias important rivers are in the water-rich northern parts of the lowlands, particularly in
the Alto Beni (Upper Beni), where the land is suitable for crops such as coffee and cacao. The northern
lowlands are drained by wide rivers, including the Mamor, Beni, and Madre de Dios, all of which
flow northward into the Madeira River in Brazil and eventually into the Amazon. On the contrary, the
southern rivers are shallow and sandy, and constitute part of the Paran River basin.

4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

Altiplano
Livestock systems in the highlands include pastoral and agropastoral systems. Although animals are
not necessarily the main source of family income, their role is crucial to survival, since it is a far less
risky enterprise than cropping and other agricultural activities (Iiguez, 1996). Throughout the Altiplano
cattle, and in particular oxen, are extremely important for draught. They are generally used until 89
years of age after which they are slaughtered and their meat sold in local markets. It is only in the
northern area, near the Titicaca lake and under the influence of the large urban market of La Paz, that
small unsophisticated dairies can be found. These farms supplement milk produced by large and modern
peri-urban dairies in the vicinity of the city.
Sheep are kept in the Altiplano for meat and wool. Originally introduced by the Spaniards, breeds
such as Merino, Churra, Manchega and some others are widespread. In 1972 it was estimated (Quiroga,
1992) that 36% of the highland sheep population was in the Northern Altiplano, 57% in the Central
region and 7% in the Southern Altiplano. Sheep raising is an extremely important subsistence activity
for large numbers of peasants (Quiroga, 1992) since it provides clothing material, meat, disposable
income and barter. Also, and together with camelids, they are used to graze crop stubbles in an attempt to
maintain soil fertility. Nevertheless, wool yields are very low (under 1 kg/head) and quality is deficient
by international standards.
Raising camelids is an integral part of the Andean culture and tradition. Llamas, alpacas and vicuas
provide efficient pack animals, meat, wool and fibre, leather, manure and fuel (dung). Their habitat is
generally above 3800 m, and alpacas in particular tend to be concentrated in areas well endowed with
bofedales (see Table 5 for characteristics). During the 1990s an effort was made by Andean countries
to promote clothing and handcrafted garments made of camelids wool or fibres in niche international
marks thus adding value to these native animals and increasing peasants income. How successful this
initiative will be remains to be seen.
Two general livestock systems can be identified in the Altiplano (Iiguez, 1996):
Pastoral system, that predominates where crops are not feasible and where rainfall is under 300
mm per year. The system is based on the use of llamas, alpacas and sheep: alpacas are generally
confined to the more humid niches, whereas llamas are found in the more marginal environments.
Criollo sheep overlap with both camelids, and provide the bulk of meat eaten by households;
Agropastoral systems are better suited for crop production and are found in areas with 350600
mm rainfall. Traditional Andean crops and barley are grown, as well as small areas of irrigated
Table 5. Main grazing land types of Bolivia and their average dry matter yield
Altiplano Andean valleys Lowland pastures
Altitude, m >3 000 500-3 000 < 500
Type of vegetation Range Stubbles Grasslands Stubbles Savannah and Chaco Stubbles
000 km 2
201 924 15 030 107 369 4 263 397 888 5 825
Percent of country 18.4 1.4 9.7 0.3 36.3 0.5
Average DM yield, < 800 < 400 4001 000 400800 1 0002 500 5001 000
kg/ha/year
Source: Alzrreca, 1985.
10 Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile

lucerne (Medicago sativa). The latter as well as crop stubbles and residues are fed to cattle and
sheep, which also have access to communal ranges.

Yungas and other valleys


Two grassland-based ruminant systems predominate (Iiguez, 1996).
Intensive to semi-intensive Holstein-based dairy production is common in valleys near large urban
centres, and in particular near the city of Cochabamba. Small producers, some landless, predominate.
Those with little or no land rent paddocks and also graze animals along roads and other open areas.
Medium to large dairies rely on lucerne and maize, the latter conserved mainly as silage. Concentrate
supplementation is common. On-farm milk yields among medium and large producers average 13 kg
milk/day/cow, but the overall average for the Cochabamba area is closer to half that amount. As elsewhere
in subtropical and tropical Latin America, animal breeding and improvement of the genetic potential of
animals have advanced more rapidly than improvements in feeding strategies and grassland management.
Valleys lacking ready access to urban centres are characterized by smallholder agropastoral systems.
Agriculture, frequently based on two crops per year, is the main land use. Cattle and/or sheep and
goats are grazed on open lands in daytime and housed at night. They are also supplemented with crop
stubbles and residues, such as maize stover, particularly during the long dry season. As in the Altiplano,
ruminants are valued for their manure, and are widely used for draught. Cattle and sheep tend to be
crosses of European breeds with Criollo.

Eastern lowlands
Grassland-based ruminant production systems in the lowlands vary a great deal depending upon the type
of vegetation, i.e. seasonally-flooded tropical savannahs, the semi-arid Chaco, or the increasingly crop-
oriented area east of Santa Cruz.
Extensive beef production is practically the only feasible ruminant production system in the
seasonally-flooded savannahs of the Beni, Pando Departments and areas of Santa Cruz farthest away
from roads and urban centres. Land tenure in the region is characterized by large privately-owned
ranches, frequently with several thousand hectares each. Medium ranches range between 2 000 and
4000 ha. The three Departments account for 70% of the Bolivian cattle herd.
The tropical savannahs of Beni are subject to alternate flood and drought. The rainy season is between
late September and late April (similar to what occurs in the Brazilian areas east of the border); rivers
carrying water from the Andes towards the Amazon basin flood two-thirds of the area by December and
until August. During this period, the Zebu (Nellore) and Zebu x Criollo cattle concentrate on portions of the
paddocks that remain a few centimetres above water level (alturas and semi-alturas, Tables5 and7);
similar grazing systems are found in poorly drained savannah areas of Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.
Carrying capacity of the savannahs ranges between 3 and 8 ha/head. These systems are subject to very
minimal management and are constrained by the difficult accessibility of most paddocks during the rainy
season. Therefore all animal categories (cows, heifers, calves, bulls and steers) generally run together and
are harvested once or twice a year. In some remote areas, animals may be slaughtered on-farm and the
carcasses flown to urban centres, but three important all-weather roads are under construction.
There are 50 slaughter plants, and these are estimated to provide half of the beef consumed in Bolivia.
Not unexpectedly, yields, extraction rates and reproductive performance are low, with breeding cows
typically having calving intervals of two years. According to the Fondo Ganadero del Beni, carcasses
of three-year-old steers weigh 180 kg; nevertheless, technologically advanced ranches reach yields of
200215 kg carcass weight (Bauer, 1993 cited by Morales and Abasto, 1999). Numerous diseases are
endemic, and mineral deficiencies are common. In the flooded savannahs, capybara, Hydrochoerus
hydrochoeris (the worlds largest rodent, native to South America) is very widely distributed and hunted
for its meat and hide. No systematic efforts to research joint wildlife-cattle management have been made,
despite positive experiences in comparable areas of Venezuela.
The Department of Santa Cruz has 370 621 km2 and represents a third of the Bolivian land area. Without
doubt, it has the highest agricultural potential of the country. East of the city of Santa Cruz, capital city of
the Santa Cruz Department, the land is flat, soils tend to be alluvial as a consequence of the runoff from
the Andes, and the original vegetation was forest. The region is presently largely deforested and since the
Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile 11

1980s has experienced a dramatic expansion of intensive soybean-based cropping, following and adapting
much of the technology employed in the Brazilian Cerrados, on the other side of the border. Similarly,
there has been a rapid and unquantified expansion of sown tropical pastures, again under the influence of
Brazilian practices. Pastures are dominated by Brachiaria decumbens and Brachiaria brizantha, with a
minor contribution of other species such as B.humidicola, Panicum maximum and others.
There are two cattle-based production systems. Near to urban centres dual-purpose production
systems are common among small and medium ranchers. These are characterized by crossbred cows
(crosses of Zebu with Criollo, Brown Swiss or Holstein) that are milked once daily with their calf at
foot to allow milk let down (Patterson et al., 1981). Typical saleable milk yields range between 2 and
6kg milk/day/cow, frequently in extended lactations of over 280 days and fed exclusively on low-input
pastures, supplemented with mineral mixtures and with some cut-and-carry forage (elephant grass or
sugar cane) during the dry season. In regions further from urban centres and roads, properties tend to be
larger, 3001500 ha on average, and generally combine crops such as soybean and cereals with cow-calf
and beef fattening operations. Crop and cattle activities are seldom integrated in a planned manner so well
integrated croplivestock systems are scarce although the potential is reputedly high (Martnez, 1999).
Extensive beef production systems also characterize the semi-arid tropics of Bolivia, part of the large Chaco
ecosystem that extends over Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil, as indicated in Tables 5 and 6. The area
tends to be hot and combines extensive grassy fields with shrubs and low thorny trees. Beef breeding ranches
mostly have Criollo cattle, well adapted to climate and vegetation. The grass stratum, seasonally supplemented
by browsing shrubs and trees, is the only forage. Beef productivity is extremely low as a consequence of the
low carrying capacity of the area and minimal management. Despite very large ecological differences from the
savannah region the constraints of these systems are very similar (Iiguez, 1996).

5. THE PASTURE RESOURCE

The vegetation of Bolivia has been classified from different viewpoints but there is no generally agreed
classification of its rangelands. Nevertheless, the classifications drawn by Cochrane (1973) and by
Alzrreca (1992) show overall agreement and are used here. Complementary ecological maps have been
presented by Quiroga (1992).
The estimated area of grazing lands, including some relatively marginal areas, amounts to 707200
km2 or 64% of the Bolivian territory (Alzrreca, 1985) distributed between the three physiographic
regions of the country (Table 5) that include, in a westeast direction, the Altiplano or Andes Highlands,
the Andean valleys and the eastern lowlands (Figure1). These three regions encompass a high degree
of variability and they can usefully be subdivided for ruminant production into eight main ecological
regions, summarized in Table 6 (Alzrreca, 1985; Quiroga 1992). Within each region, different plant
communities can be found, the most important of which are described briefly in Table7, which includes
approximate estimates of current dry matter yields. Nevertheless, the latter vary greatly with rainfall and,
as can be appreciated in Table 8, the Northern Altiplano has yields substantially above the average.

Altiplano
The natural vegetation is dominated by semi-arid Puna formations characterized by grasses, and less
frequently shrubs, of low nutritive value. Soils tend to be low in N and P, high in NaCl, and moderate
to low organic matter (Baldivia, 1998). Altiplano soils are affected by erosion to various degrees and
the existing estimates of the area affected range between 30 and 80%, depending on the severity of the
process. In fact, in some areas sand dunes have evolved through soil overuse (Baldivia, 1998) The erratic
rainfall ranges between 300 and 600 mm per year, and is supplemented by scarce irrigation when water
is available.
Communal crop and grazing lands are interspersed with privately-owned farms and all of them are
grazed by mixtures of camelids (llamas and alpacas), sheep and cattle in varying proportions depending
upon the location and altitude. As a consequence of pasture degradation the carrying capacity has decreased
12 Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile

Table 6. Main ecological regions of Bolivia for ruminant production


Eco-region Subhumid Arid-semi- Arid-semi- Subhumid Semi- Subhumid Semi-arid Seasonally
Puna (N arid Puna arid high high arid to lowland forest flooded
Altiplano) (Central Puna Puna (E subhumid and Chaco savannah
Altiplano) (S & W Altiplano) valleys Andean
Altiplano) forests
Temperature, C 610 811 69 712 1422 2022 2630 27
Rainfall, mm 520650 350 50280 4501 200 3101 200 7001 200 700800 1 800
Altitude, m 3 8004 100 3 0004 000 3 9005 000 3 0005 000 1 5003 000 5001 600 300500 180250
Uses 1
Crops Sheep Camelids Camelids Cattle Cattle Cattle Cattle
Sheep Camelids Sheep Sheep Sheep Horses Goats Horses
Cattle Crops Cattle Cattle Goats Goats Horses
Cattle Goats Horses Crops
Crops Crops
Carrying capacity, 58 721 2041 721 528 413 630 38
ha/AU/year
1
In order of decreasing relative importance
Source, Alzrreca, 1985.

Table 7. Plant communities and main genera and species found in eight important ecological regions
for ruminant production
Eco-region Plant community (local Characteristic genera and species
names)
Subhumid Puna (N Bofedal Distichlis humilis, Carex sp., Oxychloe andina, Calamagrostis spp.
Altiplano)
Chilliguares (=Chillihuares) Festuca dolichophylla, Lachemilla spp., Trifolium amabile
Totoral Scirpus, Juncus
Bofedal Oxychloe andina, others above
Arid-semi-arid Puna Pajonal Festuca ortophylla, Stipa spp., Calamagrostis spp.
(Central Altiplano)
Pajonal de Ichu Stipa ichu, Stipa sp., Erodium cicutarium, Aristida sp.
Chilliguares Festuca dolichophylla
Tolar (=Tholar) Parastrephia lepidophylla, Baccharis microphylla, Adesmia spp.
Tolar-pajonal Parastrephia lepidophylla, Baccharis, Festuca, Stipa
Gramadal Distichlis humilis, Muhlenbergia fastigiata, M. peruviana
Arbustal de Cauchi Suaeda fruticosa, Atriplex cristata
Bofedal Oxychloe andina, Ranunculus sp.
Arid-semi-arid high Tolar Psila boliviensis, Fabiana densa
Puna (S & W Altiplano)
Gramadal Distichlis, Werneria
Matorral de polylepis Polylepis tomentella, P. tarapacana, Stipa ichu, Stipa sp.
Pajonal Stipa sp., Festuca sp.
Subhumid high Puna Bofedal Distichlis, Plantago
(E Altiplano)
Pajonal de ladera Festuca, Stipa, Paspalum
Gramadal Geranium, Werneria
Arbustales de satureja Satureja, Chuquiraga
Semi-arid to subhumid Churquiales Acacia, Aristida, Bouteloua
valleys
Subhumid, lowland Matorral Acacia, Prosopis, Desmodium, Andropogon
and Andean forests
Pajonal Chloris, Paspalum, Leptochloa
Semi-arid forest, Matorral Rupretchia, Setaria, Bromelia,
Chaco
Sabana rasa Aristida, Cassia, Chloris
Sabana arbolada Aristida, Mimosa, Aspidosperma
Seasonally flooded Bajios Leersia hexandra, Luziola peruviana, Paspalum acuminatum,
savannah Eleocharis acutangula
Curiches Hymenachne amplexicaulis, Leersia hexandra, Cyperus giganteus,
Eichornia azurea
Sartamejales Paspalum, Eleusine
Alturas Sporobolus indicus, Paspalum plicatulum, Eleusine tristachya,
Axonopus compressus, Desmodium spp., Centrosema spp.
Semi-alturas Paspalum virgatum, P. stellatum, Panicum laxum, Erichloa punctata
Sources: Alzrreca, 1985, 1992; Beck, 1988 cited by Morales and Abasto, 1999; Quiroga, 1992.
Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile 13

to 1.5 ha/sheep, as opposed to 1 ha/sheep of well Table 8. Expected dry matter yields (tonnes/
ha/year) of different forages under different
managed Puna vegetation. Crops (potatoes, quinua management scenarios in the northern Altiplano
[Chenopodium quinoa], various beans and others) of Bolivia
tend to be concentrated in small areas, sometimes Species or plant Current Excellent
including small parcels sown to lucerne and various community management management
conditions
introduced forage grasses (Baldivia, 1998).
Medicago sativa 23 710
The climax vegetation of the Altiplano or Puna
Phalaris sp. + M. sativa 34 8
is considered to include the following species
Bofedal 2.5 n.d.
(Quiroga, 1992): Stipa ichu, Calamagrostis spp.,
Nasella, sp., Baccharis incarum, Baccharis Tolar 2 n.d.

boliviensis and Parastrephia lepidophylla (n.d. - no data)


Source: Estrada, Paladines and Quiros, 1998.
Nevertheless, the distribution of these and other
species is influenced by pedological variables. Table 9. Range of yields (tonnes DM/ha/year)
Examples of this variability and the corresponding produced by forage cereals under experimental
indicator species include (Quiroga, 1992; Alzrreca, conditions in two ecological regions of the
Bolivian Altiplano
1985, 1992):
Crop Semi-humid, 560 mm Semi-arid, 350 mm
Soils of humid plains: Muhlenbergia fastigia,
Haffmannseggia sp. Bouteloua simplex Barley 78 24

Dry, saline plains: Anthobryum triandrum, Oats 48 12.5


Suaeda fruticosa Triticale 89 2.53.5
Dry, sandy soils: Junellia seriphiodes, Modified from Alzrreca, 1992.
Lampaya medicinalis
Stony, dry soils: Fabiana densa, Tetraglochin cristatum, Adesmia spp.
Stony, humid plains: Psila boliviensis
Saline soils: Distichlis humilis
Humid soils next to water streams: Festuca dolichophylla
River and lake borders: Parastrephia phylicaeformis
Regardless of location, the native pastures of the Altiplano are of low nutritive value, have low
carrying capacity and only the native camelids are truly adapted and thrive. Where climatic conditions
and availability of supplementary water permit, sown species are established to supplement the diet
of cattle and sheep. This is particularly the case of the northern Altiplano, in the area of influence of
the Titicaca lake, where introduced species such as lucerne (Medicago sativa), tall fescue (Festuca
arundinacea), cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata), Arrhenatherum elatius, Agroyron elongatum and Phleum
pratense are relatively common. In the central and southern Altiplano, lucerne and weeping lovegrass
(Eragrostis curvula) are the only forages of any significance. In both regions, cereals such as barley and
oats are grown for cattle feeding, and experimental yields are shown in Table 9.

Yungas and other valleys


The original vegetation of the valleys was forest, the majority of which has disappeared or been degrad-
ed through human intervention. In consequence, pastures in the region are based on sown grasses and,
to a much smaller extent, naturalized introduced species. Both were referred to in section 4, as related
to the description of ruminant production systems.

Eastern lowlands
The tropical savannahs of Beni are subject to alternate flood and drought. The rainy season extends
between late September and late April (similar to what occurs in the Brazilian areas East of the border);
rivers carrying water from the Andes towards the Amazon basin flood two-thirds of the area by December,
and until August. During this period, the Zebu (Nellore) and Zebu x Criollo cattle concentrate on portions
of the paddocks that remain a few centimetres above water level (alturas and semi-alturas, Tables
7 and 10); similar grazing systems are found in poorly drained savanna areas of Brazil, Colombia and
Venezuela. Carrying capacity of the savannahs ranges between three and eight ha/head. These production
systems are subject to very minimal management, and are constrained by the difficult accessibility of
most paddocks during the rainy season. Therefore, all animal categories (cows, heifers, calves, bulls
14 Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile

and steers) generally run together and are Table 10. Physiography of the alluvial savannahs of
harvested once or twice a year. In some Mojos, Beni
remote areas, animals may be slaughtered Sub-region Topography Area
on farm, and the carcasses flown to urban km2 %
centres in cargo planes, but three important Undulating plains Slightly undulating 23 718 17.5
all-weather roads are under construction. Alluvial plains Occasional seasonal flooding 57 966 42.6
The Department of Santa Cruz has Alluvial plains with Seasonally flooded 39 377 29.0
370 621 km2 and represents one third of riverine influences Occasionally flooded by rivers 14 882 10.9
the Bolivian land area; it has the highest Source: Morales and Abasto, 1999.
agricultural potential of the country. East of
the city of Santa Cruz, capital city of the Santa Cruz Department, the land is flat, soils tend to be alluvial
as a consequence of the runoff from the Andes, and the original vegetation was forest. The region is
presently largely deforested and since the 1980s has experienced a dramatic expansion of intensive
soybean-based cropping, following and adapting much of the technology employed in the Brazilian
Cerrados, on the other side of the border. Similarly, there has been a rapid, and unquantified expansion
of sown tropical pastures, again under the influence of Brazilian practices. Pastures are dominated by
Brachiaria decumbens and Brachiaria brizantha, with a minor contribution of other species such as
Brachiariahumidicola, Panicum maximum and others. Two cattle-based production systems are practised.
Near the urban centres dual-purpose systems are common among small and medium ranchers. These
are characterized by crossbred cows (crosses of Zebu with Criollo, Brown Swiss or Holstein) which are
milked once daily with calf at foot to allow milk let down (Patterson et al., 1981). Typical saleable milk
yields range between 2 and 6kg milk/day/cow, frequently over extended lactations of over 280 days
and fed exclusively on low-input pastures, supplemented with mineral mixtures and with some cut-and-
carry forage (elephant grass or sugar cane) during the dry season. In regions further removed from urban
centres and roads, properties tend to be larger, 3001500 ha on average, and generally combine crops
such as soybean and various cereals with cow-calf and beef fattening operations. Nevertheless, the crop
and cattle activities are seldom integrated in a planned manner, so that well integrated crop-livestock
systems are scarce although the potential is reputedly high (Martnez, 1999).
Extensive beef production systems also characterize the semi-arid tropics of Bolivia, part of the
large Chaco ecosystem that extends over Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil. As indicated in
Tables 5 and 6, the area tends to be hot and combines extensive grassy areas with shrubs and low lying
thorny trees. Beef breeding ranches mostly have Criollo cattle, well adapted to climate and vegetation.
The grass stratum, seasonally supplemented by browsing shrubs and trees constitutes the only forage
resource. Beef productivity is extremely low, as a consequence of the low carrying capacity of the area
and minimal management. Despite the very large ecological differences with the savannah region, the
constraints of these systems are very similar (Iiguez, 1996)

6. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE


RESOURCES

Development prospects vary widely across the country. The most difficult research challenge is presented
by the agricultural and animal production systems of the high Andes, for which a rather grim analysis has
recently been made by IFPRI (Walker et al., 2000). In effect, the authors argued that despite many years
of research funded by national and international resources the adoption of technologies has been minimal,
and suggest that the main constraint may be improved access to market and information, rather than tech-
nology. Nevertheless, it can also be argued that continuing research efforts on the interaction of livestock
systems (e.g. commercial exploitation of camelids) with natural resources will increasingly be needed.
The Eastern Lowlands present totally different challenges. The region has benefited, and will likely
continue to profit, from research carried out in the Brazilian Cerrados. Nevertheless, the significant
difference in soils with the Brazilian savannas require research attention on their own. Cattle production
Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile 15

systems in Eastern Bolivia are being modernized; this implies the need for improved grazing and feeding
strategies, and the screening of forage species adapted to the new economic circumstances. Also, there
appears to be a role for leguminous forages in the reclamation of soils compacted and degraded by
intensive cropping. Lastly, the spatial and temporal integration of crops and cattle deserves continuing
attention, as well as their environmental impacts.
Environmental and social impacts of pasture- and forage-based systems in the interandean valleys
constitute a major priority in view of the concentration of resource-poor small farmers in those areas.
The extent to which some of these valleys can contribute to the production of high value crops, as
exemplified by forage seed production, needs to be ascertained. In addition to the generation of
appropriate technologies for small farmers, institutional arrangements need to be developed.

7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS

As is true in most of Spanish-speaking Latin America, government R&D institutions have been in a
state of turmoil throughout the 1990s, associated with the rapid rate of privatization of many of the
services traditionally offered by central governments. In the case of Bolivia, numerous non-government
organizations (NGOs) are active, but in general they do not carry out systematic, long-term research on
agricultural technology. Some (government-financed) universities have modest research programmes, in
general with a local or provincial focus.
IBTA, the Bolivian institute of agricultural research, has a country-wide mandate on agricultural
research with the noted exception of the Santa Cruz Department, but has lost a significant portion of its
staff and resources.
CIAT (not to be confused with the international CIAT located in Colombia) is the centre for
agricultural research in the Santa Cruz Department. It has substantial research capacity, partially
supported by a small number of British researchers, but both components, the national staff and the
expatriates, have been subjected to decreasing financial resources.
Throughout the country a number of farmers and ranchers associations are very active in influencing
rural development policies, associating small producers to face national and international markets, and
in general supporting training and capacity building. Notable examples are SEFO, a cooperative of very
small farmers that specializes in production of tropical forage seed (Ferguson, 1993), and the Fundacin
Cipriano Barac that concentrates on beef production in Beni.

8. REFERENCES
Alzrreca, H. (1985). Campos naturales de pastoreo de Bolivia. In Mesa Redonda sobre la Promocin del
Manejo de las Praderas Nativas de SudAmrica. O. Paladines, ed., Santiago, Chile, unpublished mimeo.
Alzrreca, H. (1992). Overview of small ruminant research in the Bolivian Andean zone. In Sustainable
Crop-Livestock Systems for the Bolivian Highlands, Proceedings of an SR-CRSP Workshop, C. Valdivia,
ed. Columbia: University of Missouri.
Baldivia, J. (1998). Estrategias Para Recuperar El Altiplano Pachamamam Urupa Qhantawi Bolivia.
Experiencias Exitosas En Mitigacion De La Pobreza.Cooperacion Horizontal En America Latina y El
Caribe. PNUD-World Bank- Fundacion Interamericana.
CEPAL. (1999). Boletn Demogrfico. Amrica Latina: proyecciones de poblacin urbana y rural. Ao
XXXII, No. 63. Santiago, Chile.
Cochrane, T.T. (1973). The land use potential of Bolivia: a land systems map. Ministry of Overseas
Development, F.C.O. London, England, 827 p.
Cochrane, T.T., L.G. Snchez, L.G. de Azevedo, J.A. Porras and C.L. Garver. (1985). Land in Tropical
America. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia; Empresa Brasileira de
16 Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile

Pesquisa Agropecuaria, Centro de Pesquisa Agropecuaria dos Cerrados (EMBRAPA-CPAC), Planaltina,


D.F., Brasil, 5 volumes
Dirven, M. (1999). El papel de los agentes en las polticas agrcolas: intenciones y realidad. Revista CEPAL
68: 171. .
Estrada, R.D., O. Paladines and R. Quiros. (1998). Pobreza y degradacin de suelos en los andes altos. La
experiencia de CONDESAN. VII Encuentro Internacional De RIMISP, Impacto ambiental de la pobreza
rural, impacto social del deterioro ambiental. El rol de los instrumentos de desarrollo agrcola. http://www.
rimisp.cl/
FAO Databases 2006 (website http://apps.fao.org/)
Ferguson, J.E. (1993). Seed biology and seed systems for Arachis pintoi. In Biology and Agronomy of
Forage Arachis. P. C. Kerridge and B. Hardy, eds. Cali: CIAT.
INE, Instituto Nacional de Esatdstica. Censo Nacional de Poblacin y Vivienda de 1992. La Paz. 1992.
http://www.ine.gov.bo/
Iiguez, L. (1996). Assessment of livestock production systems in Bolivia. In Latin America Livestock
Regional Assessment Workshop, San Jos, Costa Rica. University of California, Management Entity, Small
Ruminant CRSP.
Quiroga, J.C. (1992). Agroecological characterization of the Bolivian Altiplano. In Sustainable Crop-
Livestock Systems for the Bolivian Highlands, Proceedings of an SR-CRSP Workshop, C. Valdivia, ed.
Columbia: University of Missouri.
Martnez, L. (1992). Produccin de gramneas del gnero Brachiaria y Panicum en Santa Cruz. In Red
Internacional de Evaluacin de Pastos Tropicales, RIEPT, 1. Reunin de Sabanas. CIAT, Brasilia, Brasil,
pp. 23238
Martnez, L. (1999). Potencial de los sistemas agropastoriles en el manejo de suelos degradados en Santa
Cruz, Bolivia. In Sistemas Agropastoriles en Sabanas Tropicales de Amrica Latina. E.P. Guimares, J.O.
Sanz, I.M. Rao, M.C. Amzquita and E. Amzquita, eds. Cali: CIAT.
Morales, S. and P. Abasto. (1999). Desarrollo de un sistema de apoyo a la toma de decisiones de manejo
para la ganadera del Beni, Bolivia. Unpublished.
Patterson, R.T.C. Samur y O. (1981). Bress. Efecto de pastoreo complementario de leguminosa reservada
sobre la produccin de leche durante la estacin seca. Produccin Animal Tropical 6: 135140.
Walker, T., S. Swinton,, R. Hijmans, R. Quiroz, R. Valdivia, M. Holle, C. Len-Velarde and J. Posner.
(2000). Technologies for the tropical Andes. Promoting Sustainable Development in Less-Favoured Areas.
IFPRI, 2020 Vision, Focus 4, Brief 3.

Other references
Macas, M. (1984). Caracterizacin de los suelos de la Amazona Boliviana. OEA, Programa de Desarrollo
Integral de la Amazoa. Trinidad, Bolivia, 152 p.

Webpages of interest
The page of the Latin American Association of Animal Production, its Spanish acronym being ALPA
(Asociacin Latinoamericana de Produccin Animal). It provides access to the summaries of papers published
in the corresponding journal, Archivos Latinoamericanos de Produccin Animal, which includes a section on
pastures, one on ruminant production and another on production systems: www.alpa.org.ve

9. CONTACTS

Mr. Bernardo Bauer


Fundacin Cipriano Barace
Trinidad, Beni
Bolivia
Mr. Bauer email: bbauerk@mail.megalink.com
Foundation email: barace@sauce.ben.entelnet.bo
Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile 17

Dr. Luis Iiguez


RERUMEN
Casilla 2294
Cochabamba, Bolivia
Fax 591-42-80738
Email rerumen@Icir.bo

NGOs involved in natural resource management, planning:

FUND-ECO
Campus Universitario, calle 27 Cota-Cota
Casilla 3-12376
La Paz, Bolivia
Fax 591-2-797511

Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios Comunitarios, CIEC


C. Belisario Salinas No. 228
Casilla 159
La Paz, Bolivia
Fax 591-2-432662

Proteccin del Medio Ambiente Tarija, PROMETA


Mendez 172
Casilla 59
Tarija, Bolivia
Fax 591-66-33873

National Agricultural Research Institute


Dr. Edmundo Espinoza
Chief, Livestock and Forages Program

Instituto Boliviano de Tecnologa Agropecuaria


Contact: Dr. Humberto Alzrreca
Casilla 5783
La Paz, Bolivia
Phone: 591-2-374589
Telefax 591-2-392551

Regional Agricultural Research Institute


Centro de Investigaciones Agrcolas Tropicale
Ing. Agr. Gustavo Pereyra, Director
Av. Ejrcito 131,
Casilla 247
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Fax 591-33-42996
ciat@mitai.nrs.net.bo

Cooperative SEFOS
Cochabamba
Bolivia
(Successful cooperative of small seed producers; specializes on tropical grasses and legumes)
Manager, Mr. Gastn Sauma
Phone: 591-42-88646
18 Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile

10. AUTHOR

Dr. Raul R. Vera is a former Senior Scientist and Leader of the Tropical Pastures Program, International
Center of Tropical Agriculture, CIAT, based in Cali, Colombia. He is currently a private consultant and
part-time researcher of the Catholic University in Santiago, Chile.
Ral R. Vera
2 Norte 443 dpto. 52
Via del Mar, Chile 2534194
Fax (Chile) 56-2-552 9435
raulvera@terra.cl

[The profile was prepared in late 2000, edited by J.M. Suttie and S.G. Reynolds in January, 2001 and
modified by S.G. Reynolds in May 2006.]