My analysis of cooperation strategies considers pastoralism in the context of its long-term relationship to the steppe environment, geographical conditions and seasonal climatic changes. Under the influence of socialist state policies, previous socio–economic patterns were superseded by a ‘progressive’ re-organisation of production that created a new frame for economic action. The resultant forms of cooperation, as implemented by herders, related to different modes of production, which D. Sneath describes as ‘specialist’ and ‘domestic’ modes. During the collective period these modes largely correlated with different concepts of animal property.Within large–scale collective farms communal production became central to herders’ activities. Specialist production was carried out with collective-owned animals according to new formal structures, whereas the management of limited private herds was largely unaffected by official regulations and continued to be organised informally. Correspondingly, different cooperation strategies among herders’ groups were implemented in accordance with different kinds of social obligations and interests, each being adjusted adequately to the given socio-economic and environmental conditions. The differences between concepts of socialist society and the way herders acted in practice to some degree enabled the accumulation of larger private herds and facilitated the continuation of ‘old’ pre-collective patterns under ‘new’ socialist conditions.