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Issues and Trends

Only 9.3 percent of total meat is produced in grassland-based systems, compared to 36.8 percent in landless systems and 5.3 percent for mixed farming systems. One system alone, LLM accounts for more than half (52.3 percent) of global monogastric meat production. Similarly, the MRT system alone produces more than half (55.5 percent) of total milk production from all considered species and 62.6 percent of cow milk production. Egg production is even more concentrated: more than two-thirds of total production is generated by one system, LLM.

The landless intensive systems, particularly the one producing monogastric meat, are the fastest growing meat producing systems. Their growth rate of 4.3 percent p.a. compares with 2.2 for the mixed systems and 0.7 for the grassland based systems. The growth rates by system and region are shown in Table 31. For grazing systems, mixed farming systems and landless systems growth rates are shown in Figure 8.

Compared to cropping systems, the system-to-system evolution of livestock systems alone is much less complex. Originally, all livestock production was basically grassland-based. Where climatic, soil and disease conditions permitted, grassland-based systems developed into mixed farming systems which covered a wide range of intensities and production modes as described earlier. The process was basically driven by population density as were the various forms of interaction between the crop and livestock sub-systems. Wherever urbanization and income exceeded certain levels, landless systems developed in the vicinity of urban centres, capitalizing on the efficiency and supply elasticity of these systems.

Similar to crops, two primary sources of production growth can be distinguished: expansion in livestock numbers through an enlargement of the feed resource base, i.e. through an increased intensity of range and pasture utilization and higher use of feed concentrates and agricultural by-products; and higher output of meat, milk or eggs per animal through improved management, feeding, breeds and animal husbandry technologies. For pigs, poultry and to a lesser extent dairy cattle, much of the increased output comes from landless intensive or mixed farming systems and the use of concentrate. Successes in grain production, on the one hand, and the limited potential for cost effectively increasing quantity and quality of feed from extensive range on the other lead to shift of growth from range to grain-based, production systems, particularly in Asia where growth rates are highest.

The slow evolution from extensive to intensive production has led to increases in environmental degradation, particularly for grazing systems and mixed farming with low degrees of integration. There are considerable institutional and economic problems to be overcome in bringing livestock numbers into balance with forage and feed availabilities. These problems will be difficult to overcome in the short to medium term and are likely to grow in scope and gravity.

Livestock production takes place under very diverse conditions in the different developing countries. However, the direction of change, even if gradual, is towards more intensive production with less dependence on open range feeding which imposes excessive burdens on the environment, and with improved and balanced feeding practices and improved breeds. The improved practices enables more of the feed to go production rather to inefficient maintenance. This has led lead to progresses in feed conversion efficiency.

Intensification must outweigh expansion if livestock production is to respond to effective demand for livestock commodities. Livestock production systems differ in ability to respond to extra demand for livestock products which is primarily due to the biological characteristics of the production process. As an example, poultry meat production has been demonstrated to be quickest in responding to increasing demand. This is due to the industrial type of production in which this commodity is produced, increasingly also in the developing countries. Fast reproduction cycles allow to react to changing demand within months. A wide range of commodities can be diverted from other uses (food, industrial uses) to feed, if prices permit - this allows for a fast adaptation of the feed resource base for poultry as opposed to ruminants. The demand for land is low which allows the establishment of production units close to consumer centres. High feed conversion efficiencies make poultry production a highly profitable enterprise.

There are other production systems which are also, to a large extent, driven by consumer demand (eggs, then pork, and to a lesser extent dairy) and the size and type of production units for these commodities are largely driven by market forces. The rate of expansion and intensification of these production systems usually does not allow a gradual transformation from traditional production into these modern types. The growth process here tends to be not evolutionary but discontinued.

For red meat, the pace of growth is such that in most cases the evolution of traditional production systems into more intensified modes of production is through adaptation. The type of commodities (beef, mutton and goat meat, and, to a lesser extent, also dairy) lends itself to a more gradual transformation because of the long reproduction cycle, low feed conversion efficiency, and a lower degree of specialization. This is mainly due to the physical characteristics of the production process.

Traditional, integrated mixed farming systems are also unlikely to be highly responsive to increasing demand simply because of the other functions that livestock have to fulfil within the farm-household system. The production reserves in the form of productivity increases and production enlargement that can be realized through a gradual transformation of traditional farming systems are usually insufficient to respond effectively to growing demand. As a result, almost all developing countries experienced the emergence of modern production systems, similar to those in the developed countries. As traditional systems prove increasingly unable to meet the rising demand, an increasing share of total supply will come from highly intensive systems.

Among the regions, growth rates have been highest in Asia with a 7.8 percent increase annually in beef and veal production, 6.3 percent in sheep and goat meat, 7.0 percent in cow milk production, 7.0 percent in pork, 9.6 in poultry meat and 9.6 percent in poultry eggs. Comparing these growth rates with stock increases where possible (for ruminants) it shows that there is very little horizontal expansion (1.2 percent for cattle stock, 1.8 percent for sheep and goats, 2.3 percent for cattle dairy stocks). This means that annual productivity increases of between 4 and 6 percent have been obtained in the decade. This is unprecedented and can only be compared to the Green Revolution in crop production in the same region during the 1960s and early 1970s.

For ruminants, the growth has taken place almost exclusively in mixed farming systems and landless ruminant systems have not developed to any significant scale. On the contrary, landless monogastric systems are now found in every country of the region and are quickly developing in the vicinity of urban centres. This, in analogy to the growth path precedented by OECD member countries, is driven by increasing per caput incomes, urbanization and changes in consumption patterns. Unless full sets of regulatory measures are established and enforced peri-urban landless systems will continue to grow quickly, responding to the surging demand of low-priced livestock products.

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