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The aim of this study is to provide a qualitative and quantitative description of the world livestock production systems in order to contribute to structuring global assessments of the interactions between livestock and the environment.

It is the result of a first attempt to produce such a classification and characterization at a global level. Eleven systems were defined, their salient features described and quantitative estimates derived of the resources involved in each, the main livestock outputs and a number of productivity and intensity indices.

While such a global study is largely based on available statistical sources, it is by definition, imprecise in detail. Its merit has to be seen in the comprehensiveness and thus allows for generalizations based on quantitative analyses. By its very nature such a framework is suitable for the analysis of transboundary issues, such as global warming, desertification, feed grain trade and production.

Some features of the global livestock economy can be distilled from the data anaylsis:

There are some overriding observations in this study. They include:

Solutions cannot be found only in changing production patterns in individual systems, but consumption patterns should also be considered. In the developed countries, excessive consumption per caput contrast with population growth in LDCs in addition to rapidly growing consumption per caput in Asia. There are driving factors for the expansion of livestock production. Animal product consumption has stabilized in many developed countries and is declining in some. This is not primarily linked to environmental concerns but rather to health reasons related to excessive consumption.

One key variable to determine the nature of livestock environment interactions is the evolution of cereal production and trade worldwide. This puts the issue of livestock production and its use of natural resources into the core of today's development discussion: trade issues, changes in lifestyle patterns both in the south and north, and Malthusian versus technocratic view of world resources.

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