What will Sustainable Livestock Systems Look Like in the 21st Century and Beyond?

JP Goopy


A sustainable system may be thought of as one which can be maintained at a certain rate or level, without degrading itself, its functionality or its environment. In the context of livestock and in particular ruminant livestock systems, we are immediately faced with two challenges – firstly in some (but not all) of the world, livestock systems are currently degrading the environment. Secondly, in parts of the world, particularly those we refer to as developing economies, demand for Animal Source Protein (ASP) is rising rapidly and hence capacity to produce ASP and do so sustainably needs to be increased, not just maintained. Demand for ASP in western countries has peaked and in some places is starting to decline. By comparison demand for ASP in much of Asia and Africa, while still low on a per capita basis, is growing strongly, driven by increasing population and an increased desire to consume dairy, beef and other red meats. Ruminant productivity is low, but has the potential for great and rapid improvement – but there is no one, simple fix. Short, medium and long term goals need to be established and pursued independently but collaboratively. Improving animal husbandry by reducing age at first parturition, decreasing birthing intervals and decreasing infant mortality, along with improving the available feed base, have the capacity to produce almost immediate, sustainable increment in livestock productivity. Beyond that, developing locally adapted and productive animal phenotypes is an important step in achieving improved, sustainable animal productivity. Ultimately however we need to fundamentally change our approach to feeding ourselves. It is now estimated that over half of the world’s population live in cities. Quite apart from any social implications, this results in a massive translocation and concentration of resources. Likewise, huge quantities of energy, protein and minerals daily leave cities in the forms that we refer to as “waste”. Much of this is potentially suitable for capture and transformation to animal feed. This is a new and challenging area of applied research, but one that can’t be ignored. It will potentially define our ability to create truly sustainable livestock systems.


Sustainable; Livestock; Animal Source of Protein; 21st Century

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14334/Pros.Semnas.TPV-2017-p.3-9


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