Livestock Production Systems
Types and global patterns
The livelihoods and food security of over a billion people are directly dependent upon livestock. The commerce and trade of livestock products contribute 40-50 % of the total global agricultural output and beef, poultry, pork and other animal products (e.g. milk, eggs, and offal) provide one-third of humanity's protein intake. Of the 800 million people who live below the subsistence level of ~US$ 2/day, over 50 % are dependent on livestock, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where about 75 % of all poor livestock keepers are found.
The FAO has documented the indispensable nature of livestock production to the food security and economic stability of resource-poor farmers in developing countries. This includes both livestock as a food source and the various by-products of livestock production, such as skins, fibre, fertilisers and fuel. For example, wool production is extremely important to farmers in the high-altitude regions of Bolivia, Peru and Nepal. Livestock also play an important role in the social, religious and cultural lives of millions.
Currently, about 30-45 % of Earth's land surface is dedicated to livestock and livestock-feed production which represents 75 % of all agricultural land.
Pressure on natural resources and the environment.
The livestock sector exerts enormous pressure on natural resources and the environment. Crucially, the nature of this pressure varies with the type of production system in which livestock are raised, which range from traditional pastoral systems to commercial farms that use industrially produced feedstuff. These different systems are characterised by different levels of intensification and management and thus have very different consequences for the sustainability of the systems and the environment.
Drivers of change
Global production and consumption of animal products has grown enormously in the past 30 years. The primary drivers are population growth, increasing wealth in developing countries, urbanisation and shifts in dietary preferences, especially in developing countries. This growth has been supported by a global economy where grain is relatively inexpensive (and often subsidised), transportation is cheap, animal health and care has improved and trade has been liberalised.
Drivers of environmental change.
Source: WAD3-JRC, J. Reynolds, 2017