Towards a sustainable and equitable livestock sector

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One way to make livestock production more efficient is through ‘sustainable intensification’ brought about by farm activities that help close yield gaps while also reducing the level of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk or meat produced.

That was the topic of a recent ‘livestock live talk’ at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) given by agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero.

Herrero stressed that when it comes to production efficiencies the livestock sector lags behind crop farming. In rich countries and communities, Herrero added, reducing the amount of meat consumed could help lower demand for animal products while also reducing obesity and health problems associated with overconsumption of meat.

But in the developing world the major health problems are associated with eating too little of nourishing foods such as milk, meat and eggs. Although a global reduction in meat consumption might benefit the environment, Herrero said, the social and nutritional impacts of meat reduction in the developing world, where most poor people subsist on diets of cheap starchy grains and tubers, are unknown and could be severely harmful.

The ‘best options’ for making livestock production more efficient would vary considerably depending on the world’s vastly different livestock production systems and regions.

One way of moving forward, the scientist suggested, is by viewing the current inefficiencies and yield gaps in the livestock sector in developing countries not as problems but as opportunities. What this will take is ‘a balancing act’ to deal with both the opportunities and challenges in livestock production systems.

Herrero recommended taking a nuanced approach to smallholder livestock development. In future, Herrero said, research needs to help resolve issues such as how best to use rangelands, where and when to invest in commercial large-scale livestock production systems and in smallholder systems, and how to harness biotechnology to help make small-scale livestock production more efficient.
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