Originally this document was produced as part of a multi-donor study entitled "Interactions between Livestock and the Environment - Global Prospects and Perspectives". In order to provide a uniform platform livestock production systems had to be classified and quantified to serve as a basis for the analysis of the interactions between these systems and various facets of the environment.
When undertaking this task it soon became apparent that data weaknesses posed a serious constraint to such effort which may be the reason no such quantification had been attempted thus far. Missing data had to be substituted by assumptions and best estimates, all of which certainly leaves room for future improvements. It also points to a general lack of quantitative information on the livestock sector, part of which can be explained by the complexity of the subject. It is clear, however, that the obtained quantitative information on the importance and structure of the livestock production systems of the world and resulting trends is an enormous help in analyzing sectoral issues and in identifying priorities in livestock development.
Such work has relevance beyond its originally intended use for the livestock
environment study. It can help national and international organizations and
professionals in finding orientation in the world's livestock sector that is
becoming increasingly complex. This work is now made available to the interested
public because there is a recognized need for quantitative information on livestock
production systems. As it stands the study could provide enough guidance in
the initial phases. In many aspects this study is a "first shot" and
will need to be improved as the database will be enlarged and the methodology
will be upgraded. Any further suggestions are thus welcome to assist FAO in
providing a revised version of this document in the not too distant future.
Animal Production and Health Division
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations