Brazilian adoption of these technologies is helped by the sheer size of cowherds and the relatively small number of producers, compared to the U.S.

“You can go to a single operation in Brazil and synchronize 10,000 head of cows and heifers,” Pohler says. “Here, you’d have to line up lots of producers to synchronize that many.”

Pohler explains the average beef cowherd size in Brazil is estimated at 2,000-4,000 head depending on the state and region. The simple average in the U.S. is about 50 head, when you divide the number of 32.9 million beef cows in the 2007 inventory by the number of beef cattle operations cited in the 2007 Ag Census.

In Brazil, there are an estimated 35,000 beef operations. Consequently, fewer producers adopting the technology account for a larger percentage of the operation pool; the large average size means adoption encompasses lots more cows.

Brazilians are utilizing a systems approach, too. Consider an operation where Pohler worked. It was comprised of four separate ranches. Two were the cow-calf portion of the enterprise, another performed heifer development, and the fourth was grazing and feeding calves produced by the cow-calf outfits.

Reflecting on operations like Marfrig and Lageado, Pohler says, “They’ve got their plans in place. They’ve made a tremendous financial commitment. Now, you’re seeing exponential growth in their use of reproductive technology.”

Pohler adds that outfits like those are working toward the integrated conception-to-consumption model that has so far eluded the U.S. industry, at least on a large scale.

Patterson likens the current situation to that of Toyota’s entrance into the U.S. car market years ago. At the time, few took the company or its tiny cars seriously.

Similarly, the MU researchers say, there is speculation that, within 10 years, the Brazilian beef industry will be largely transformed because of improvements in productivity and efficiency. 

Editor’s note: Access the MU researchers’ presentation at