Livestock research addresses issues underlying the pastoral crisis in the Horn of Africa

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Things Fall Apart

Things have quickly fallen apart in this particular drought in the Horn’s vast drylands because of a toxic mix of underlying factors.

Land Use

Among the things not being redressed are land-use policies and practices that fail to account for population increases and thus are restricting herders to ever smaller, drier and more fragmented rangelands. Increasing numbers of mixed crop-and-livestock farmers are moving onto former rangelands and cropping them unsustainably. We are in urgent need of sustainable land-use policies in this region, which comprises many of the world’s oldest and most renowned pastoral cultures. These societies have endured here precisely because they have evolved lifestyles that suit the region’s highly variable environments that are largely inhospitable to cropping. Pastoral communities need land-use policies that help them enhance their uncommon resilience to climate and other shocks.

Climate Change

If climate change shows us anything, it is that we…

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Mobile pastoralism—A 10,000-year-old practice still robust, if threatened, in the Mediterranean today

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Spanish Shepherd and His Flock

A Spanish shepherd and his flock (photo via Flickr/Jeromy Johnson).

From the Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture
‘Mobile pastoralism is the movement of people and livestock through the landscape in search of water and pasture, and includes different practices such as transhumance, semi-nomadic and nomadic pastoralism and certain practices of extensive grazing—all involving people, herds and movement, and all having a positive impact on biodiversity.

‘This 10,000 year old cultural practice which still occurs in a wide variety of forms across the Mediterranean Basin, and is important in all the Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture countries, is today threatened. Below are the activities the MCNC is involved in, to help ensure this vital way of life remains robust enough to stand it’s ground in today’s world.

‘For the last 5 years we have been studying the practice of Mobile Pastoralism in the Mediterranean Basin, and the innumerable ways in which it helps protect the…

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Cleaning up assessments of livestock-environment systems in developing countries with CLEANED

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Dairy cow in Tanga, Tanzania

Dairy cow in Tanga, Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

As a vegetarian, my occupation as a livestock scientist might come as an odd choice. But here’s the thing: Livestock science isn’t about promoting meat eating; it’s about investigating better ways of farming meat so we don’t harm the environment in the process.

‘Global projections show that rising incomes are only expected to increase the demand for meat. I don’t think that has to be a bad thing.

‘The question for me is not whether we produce or eat meat — but how we do it. And lab-grown meat, which has recently grabbed global headlines, is not the only way.

‘Some key reasons farmers keep animals, especially in developing countries, are so they can earn better incomes, have better prospects for their families, and produce manure to fertilize their farms. Eating meat regularly is often not an option. Milk, eggs and other dairy products, however, contribute…

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Beef cattle grazing on American rangelands—not feedlots—could be net carbon sink

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Beef cattle on pasture in the USA (photo credit: BEEF magazine).

A new research paper by Michigan State University scientists analyses the impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems.

• On-farm beef production and emissions data are combined with 4-year soil carbon analysis.
• Feedlot production produces lower emissions than adaptive multi-paddock grazing.
• Adaptive multi-paddock grazing can sequester large amounts of soil carbon.
• Emissions from the grazing system were offset completely by soil carbon sequestration.
• Soil carbon sequestration from well-managed grazing may help to mitigate climate change.

The following excerpts (excluding references) are from the paper.

‘Beef cattle have been identified as the largest livestock-sector contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Using life cycle analysis (LCA), several studies have concluded that grass-finished beef systems have greater GHG intensities than feedlot-finished (FL) beef systems. These studies…

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Animal health and welfare, two cornerstones of sustainable, responsible and effective food production

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Monique Eliot, director general of the OIE, leads a high-level panel discussion at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, in Berlin, 19 Jan 2018 (photo credit: BMEL/Inga Kjer/photothek).

Improved animal health and welfare standards do more than improve animal health and welfare, as important as those are. Applying such standards can increase food production in ways that also protect the environment and enhance the resilience of livestock producers and systems.

Any transition to more responsible and efficient livestock production models depends on nations implementing, and meeting, appropriate health and welfare standards. This is why equipping national officials and private businesses with the technical knowledge and resources to adapt global standards to local circumstances is so important.

This point was repeatedly raised by the keynote speakers at a high-level panel on the future of animal health and welfare organized by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as…

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​’If you care about agriculture, you care about livestock’—Bill Gates

‘. . . According to Reuters, the Gates Foundation will pump $40m into research for higher-yielding dairy cows, as well as chickens that lay better quality eggs, livestock vaccines and “supercrops” that can withstand droughts or disease.“

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The Cow with the Subtile Nose, by Jean Dubuffet, 1954.

‘. . . According to Reuters, the Gates Foundation will pump $40m into research for higher-yielding dairy cows, as well as chickens that lay better quality eggs, livestock vaccines and “supercrops” that can withstand droughts or disease.

‘These will help farmers in need across the globe—the International Livestock Research Institute says that there are 750 million people in low and middle-income countries who depend on livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) farming, which acts as a source of both nutrition and income.

“If you care about the poor, you should care about agriculture. And if you care about agriculture, you care about livestock,” Gates told an audience at the University of Edinburgh on Friday.

“What that means in this context is helping poor farmers get as much as possible out of their animals.”

‘The input from Gates will be part of a $174 million agricultural project with Britain’s Department…

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DFID/UKAid provides £4 million for genetics and health research to aid sustainable livestock production in Africa

ILRI news

Ploughing with cattle in southwestern Ethiopia

More oxen for ploughing means less labour for farmers (photo: ILRI/Stevie Mann). In Ethiopia’s Ghibe Valley, ILRI-led tsetse fly control methods allowed cattle to flourish in an area previously almost uninhabitable for them. This encouraged more farming in the area, relieving to a degree population and soil erosion pressures in higher, tsetse-free, elevations. Such was the impact this has had on the livelihood of farmer Worku Mengiste that he was able to employ two casual labourers to do work he previously did himself. Here he watches on as they plough his field.

Research to improve the health and productivity of farmed animals in tropical climates has received a £4 million boost from the UK Government.

The investment from the Department for International Development (DFID) was announced by the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, during a visit to the University of Edinburgh.

Funding will enable scientists in…

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