Since colonial days, cattle raising has been the dominant livestock industry in Venezuela. Chiefly criollos, or Spanish longhorns, the cattle are raised on the unfenced ranges of the llanos. Crossbreeding with shorthorns has been going on since the last half of the 19th century and with zebu since 1915. The government has made considerable progress in eradicating tick and other infestations and hoof and mouth disease. It buys breeding stock from the United States, and finances programs to improve cattle production, processing, and distribution. The government also offers a subsidy for pasteurized milk, thereby helping to expand and improve the dairy industry.
Venezuela's livestock population in 2001 included 14,000,000 head of cattle, 4,000,000 goats, 5,655,000 hogs, 820,000 sheep, 500,000 horses, 440,000 burros, and 72,000 mules. Beef production increased from 147,000 tons in 1963 to 730,000 tons in 2001. In 2001, pork production was 118,000 tons; goat meat, 7,800 tons; mutton, 2,600 tons; and poultry, 730,000 tons. One of the few areas in which Venezuela is self-sufficient is beef, which is largely grass fed. Although significant amounts of pork and poultry are produced, they rely on imported feeds and other imported inputs. Fluid milk production reached 1,400,000 tons in 2001. Around 50% of the total fluid milk production is processed into cheese, 36% into powdered milk, 12% into pasteurized milk, and 2% into other dairy products. Venezuela relies on imports for 50% of its milk consumption.