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
- Land-based systems still provide a large share of the total livestock output:
88.5 percent of beef and veal, 61 percent of pork, 26 percent of poultry,
representing 60 percent of the total of all three meats. Globally, pork is
the most important meat source (72 million tonnes), followed by beef and veal
(53 million tonnes), followed by poultry (43 million tonnes).
- Among land-based systems, specialized grazing systems only contribute 9.3
percent of the total meat output and 7.9 percent of the cow milk output. The
vast majority of production is provided by mixed systems. The importance of
mixed systems as suppliers of livestock products is expected to continue to
grow in the future, along with landless monogastric systems.
- One salient issue is how can systems capitalize on the benefits of integration,
particularly with respect to nutrient cycling and other environmental issues,
while at the same time allowing for specialization of individual operators
to achieve an increase in labour productivity, the essence of economic development.
Agropastoralism in semi-arid Africa is a good example of such institutional
arrangements. Use of share croppers and contractors in ranching systems in
South America is another. The local manure banks in the Netherlands, as well
as the trade with fresh forages in peri-urban animal production in many developing
areas are other approaches.
- The fact that mixed systems contribute so largely to total output of animal
products is frequently ignored by policy makers and researchers, who are used
to think in terms of crop or livestock production and hence, the value of
a systems perspective when dealing with livestock related issues, particularly
in a developing country context.
- The relative importance of different production systems and animal species
varies markedly across geographic regions of the world. Grazing systems are
more important in Central and South America, with its low population density
and relatively higher degree of urbanization. Here, cattle are the most important
livestock species. Africa has vast livestock resources in semi-arid and arid
regions, and small ruminants play an important role. Asia has more than 90
percent of the world stock of buffaloes, and in parts of Asia, i.e. the Far
East, pigs have become a very important source of red meat. In Asia, mixed
systems strongly predominate.
- The MRT system is by far the largest. Globally, it represents 41 percent
of the arable land, 21 percent of the cattle population, 18 percent of sheep
and goats and 37 percent of dairy cattle. In terms of output, it is even more
- Comparing livestock resource availability indices among systems, and within
systems and across the country, a very wide range of resource endowment per
inhabitant can be observed. Developed countries tend to be substantially better
endowed per inhabitant with land and livestock than developing countries.
Similarly, wide differences in intensity of production exist.
- Intensity levels of the world livestock production systems seem to be converging,
though starting from very different levels. On the one hand, the very intensive
systems of developed countries are facing a series of environmental problems.
Often, intensity levels are linked to price support policies. Both the decline
in price support and the increase in environmental regulations are inducing
lower levels of intensity in this part of the world. At the same time, the
growing population in developing countries and the rising per caput incomes
are increasing livestock product demand. Given the fact that horizontal expansion
is no longer a viable option for most countries, incentives for intensification
There are some overriding observations in this study. They include:
- the important role ruminants play in the national resource management in
terms of utilizing marginal resources and waste;
- the trend to internationalise markets which drives different livestock production
systems in different parts of the world into increasing competition;
- the current transition from an empty world to a full world which also applies
to the livestock sector;
- the growing possibility to trade environmental impacts via products; i.e.
the importation of sustainability in the developed countries for which global
concertation and bilateral agreement are needed to address this issue, both
from a development and trade perspective.
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.