Beef cattle numbers have been static for the last 20 years, averaging around 80 000 head. During the mid to late 1970s a significant effort was made by government to create a village-based cattle industry. This was largely unsuccessful and most ‘cattle projects’ had failed by the early 1980s. Cattle numbers declined from a peak of 153 000 in 1976 to the current figure by 1991. However, numbers are now increasing again by about 2000 per year. Current industry estimates for numbers on large-scale ranches are 50 000 in the Markham and Ramu valleys, 4000 in West New Britain Province (Numondo Plantation), 2500 in East New Britain Province (Coconut Products Ltd), 6000 in Central Province and 1000 in New Ireland Province. The remaining 16 500 head are in a large number of small herds containing from one to several hundred animals, mainly in Morobe Province but also scattered throughout Western, East New Britain, East Sepik, Sandaun, Madang and the highlands provinces.
Four registered abattoirs slaughter cattle. Around 9700 animals were slaughtered in 2005; 38% in Lae and 45% by Ramu Agri-Industries Ltd. Possibly another 2000 head were slaughtered for local sales. A total of 12 000 head at an average carcase weight of 200 kg gives an annual production of 2400 tonnes. In addition, there have been eight live cattle export shipments to Asia since 2002 totalling around 8000 head. About 1150 live animals were exported in 2005. There is a surplus of higher-priced beef cuts in PNG because the market demand is for cheaper cuts
of meat. An economic solution to this problem is to export the better quality meat as part of live animal exports. It is also convenient to collect a large number of cattle from scattered smallholder herds and hold them at a central location (Trukai Industries Limited in the Markham Valley) until ready for shipment.
Only one small dairy farm in PNG produces fresh milk for sale and, while there have been others in the past, there have never been more than six. While milk consumption appears to be growing, local production is not competitive with production in temperate climates. There is little potential for expansion of milk production from dairy cows in PNG.