Animal breeding is one of the leading branches of agriculture in the Republic of Armenia. Over the past few years, more than 40% of the country’s gross agricultural output comes from animal breeding.
The origins of livestock raising in Armenia date back to as early as the Paleolithic era, when primitive (prehistoric) forms of agricultural activity first appeared in the vast territory of the Armenian Plateau, between Asia Minor and the Iranian tableland. Livestock raising began to develop during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages. Since then, livestock raising has gained vital importance for the country, and between the 3rd and the 2nd millennia BC animal breeding became the main occupation of the population. Animal breeding in the Armenian Highlands also contributed to creation of historical and cultural values. It is memorable that for hundreds of years after creation of the Armenian alphabet (AD 405), the sheets of the ancient Armenian manuscripts (parchments) were made of well-processed hides of newborn calves. The old Armenian hand-woven rugs made from the wool of the sheep bred in the Armenian Highlands stood out for their high quality and were exported to the Middle East, India, and Europe.
The existence of wild breeds related to the domestic animals also speaks about Armenia being an ancient locale of breeding of agricultural animals. There are still wild sheep, goats, and pigs in the country, from which their modern domestic species have correspondingly emerged. The dialogue “Reason in speechless animals”, attributed to Metrodorus, was well known in Armenia. The Armenian historians Yeznik Koghbatsi, Yeghishe, Movses Khorenatsi and others addressed issues of animals bred in Armenia, their heredity and instincts. In the 5th century the Hexameron of Basil of Caesarea was translated into Armenian, which describes the reproduction and instincts of animals. The love for animals was expressed in the Armenian traditional folklore, particularly in the epic poem “David of Sassoun”, as well as in numerous fairy tales, stories, and songs, which for millennia were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth.
Animal breeding in modern Armenia represents a sector with its developed branches, where modern technologies are used along with traditional technologies of animal breeding and management, thus allowing to adapt at the maximum the breeding and productiveness of this or that type of a farm animal to the local climatic conditions.
Cattle breeding is the leading branch of the animal breeding sector of the Republic of Armenia. 95% of the milk and almost 58% of the meat produced in the country is obtained from cattle breeding. 93% of the cattle farmed in Armenia is the Caucasian gray breed with a dairy and meat orientation that is well adapted to the local climatic conditions. Animals of the Holstein, Schwitz, Simmental, and Black breeds are also bred in the country. About 170,000 rural households and rural cooperative farms are engaged in cattle breeding in Armenia.
In the lowlands of Armenia, the stall-based farming of cattle is mostly widespread throughout the year, whereas in the sub-mountainous and mountainous areas it is the pasture-stall farming. The largest population of cattle is concentrated in Gegharkunik and Shirak Marzes, followed by Aragatsotn, Syunik, and Lori Marzes.
The pedigree and productiveness characteristics of the cattle bred in Armenia have been improved over the years by using pedigree animals of the Schwitz breed. The first pedigree centers in the country were established in the 20-30s of the 20th century, and the regions of Tashir (formerly Kalinino) and Stepanavan in Lori Marz were the traditional pedigree locales for cattle breeding.
In the cattle breeding sector of the country, there are tendencies noted for intensification and introduction of modern technologies, which are facilitated by the state assistance programs that are under implementation, particularly the project on “Development of cattle breeding in the Republic of Armenia for 2019-2024” and the project on “Construction or re-construction of small and medium “smart” cattle houses and state assistance for technology provision”.
There are more than 10 pedigree cattle breeding farms operating in the country, and the leaders are Agroholding Armenia LLC, Vamax LLC, Arzni Pedigree PCP OJSC, and Multi Agro LLC, as well as the cattle breeding companies of Hayr ev Vordi Yeremyanner LLC, Dili LLC, Mountain Beef Company LLC, and Milk Pharm LLC, which have acquired pedigree cattle within the framework of the project on “Development of cattle breeding in the Republic of Armenia for 2019-2024”. By the way, the cattle breeding farms of Vamax LLC operating in Syunik community and Agroholding Armenia OJSC located in the administrative territory of Spitak, Lori Marz of RA, are unique not only in Armenia, but in the region as well.
In 2007-2015, more than 2,500 pedigree heifers of the Holstein, Schwitz, and Simmental breeds were imported to Armenia. Annually more than 1,500 high-quality calves are produced from the imported animals and the generations they reproduce, and these are partially directed towards their own livestock herds for reproduction, whereas the remaining population of the pedigree cubs is sold to the cattle breeding farms in the country, thus enabling the pedigree breeding farms to continue the process of pure breeding of high-value pedigree animals. The pedigree animals bought by the cattle breeding farms, through systematic pedigree selection activities, will be used to improve the pedigree and productiveness characteristics of local animals, which in turn will result in increase of the volume and quality of animal products in the country.
During 2019-2020, about 600 pedigree cubs or heifers of 14-17 months old of the Simmental, Holstein, as well as the meat category of Aberdeen-Angus breeds were imported to Armenia.
Sheep breeding is one of the traditional branches of animal breeding in the Republic of Armenia. As a result of popular selection that took place over the millennia, several endemic breeds have been successfully bred here, which are well adapted to the local climatic conditions, such as the Mazekh, Bozakh, Karabakh and Balbas breeds. In addition, as a result of selective breeding of sheep by Armenian breeders, a separate breed of sheep was generated in our country - the Armenian medium-wool breed sheep, which has white medium-coarse wool, which is an excellent raw material for rug weaving.
More than two million sheep were bred in the country in the 60-70s of the 20th century, after which the population of sheep decreased sharply. However, due to the measures undertaken in the recent years, an increase in the population of sheep and goats is noted in the country, which currently makes a population of 727,000.
Sheep breeding is more developed in the sub-mountainous and mountainous areas of Armenia with extensive pastures. The largest population of sheep are bred in Gegharkunik and Syunik Marzes, followed by Aragatsotn and Shirak Marzes.
In addition to the local breeds, other breeds of sheep have also been imported in the recent years, particularly of the fur-bearing category, a multi-offspring category of the Romanov breed, as well as fat-rumped sheep of the Edilbayev breed, which have successfully adapted to the local climatic conditions.
About 19,000 tons of mutton are produced annually in our country, and a population of 180,000-200,000 sheep can be exported annually from Armenia.
The Government of the Republic of Armenia emphasizes the development of sheep breeding and in order to promote this specific branch, the projects “On establishment and development of a pedigree farm for the medium-fine Corriedale sheep breeding” and “On establishment and development of a pedigree farm for the medium-fine Suffolk sheep breeding” were approved by the Protocol Decree No.53 of the RA Government dated December 21, 2017, and the project “On the state assistance for development of the sheep and goat breeding in the Republic of Armenia for 2019-2023” was approved by the RA Government Decree No.1305-L dated September 19, 2019.
Within the framework of the project “On the state assistance to development of the sheep and goat breeding in the Republic of Armenia for 2019-2023”, about 200 sheep of the Dorper breed were acquired during 2019-2020, as well as 300 pedigree sheep of the Romanov breed and 20 pedigree sheep of the Hissar breeds.
Pig breeding is one of the important branches of the animal breeding sector in the country. Pig breeding is more developed in Armavir and Ararat Marzes of the Republic of Armenia, where the largest population of pigs is concentrated. In the northern part of the country, in Tavush and Lori Marzes, the mountain-forest ranging of pigs is used.
Through the efforts of Armenia’s scientists, a native Armenian breed of pigs of meet category was created, which is bred mainly in the auxiliary farmland houses. In the pig breeding complexes and farms of the industrial type the pig breeds of the Landrace, Pietrain, and Duroc are bred and through these the industrial crossbreeding is carried out.
Around 17,000-18,000 tons of pork (live weight) are produced annually in our country.
Poultry breeding is the most mechanized branch of the animal breeding sector of the Republic of Armenia, equipped with modern technologies. Currently there are more than 10 poultry farms of the medium and large size in the country, which are engaged in production of poultry meat and eggs. Among the large poultry farms engaged in the egg production are Araks Poultry Factory OJSC, Lusakert Pedigree Poultry Factory OJSC, and Arzni Pedigree PCP OJSC, which produce about 40% of the overall egg production in the country. Araks Poultry Factory OJSC is also the leader in poultry meat production in the country.
As a result of selection of Armenia’s scientists, the Yerevan breed of chickens was generated, which has black and red intrabreed types. This breed is very well adapted to the climatic conditions of our country and is bred mainly in the auxiliary farmland houses.
Around 700mln eggs and 7,000-8,000 tons of poultry meat are produced annually in our country.