H. Steinfeld, C. de Haan and H. Blackburn
The author is Senior Officer, Livestock Development Planning, Animal
Production and Health Division, FAO. The addresses of the other two authors are: Dr Cees
de Haan, Livestock Adviser, Agricultural Technology and Services Division, World Bank,
1818 H Street, Washington, DC, 20433, USA; fax: 1 202 5223308; e-mail:
Dr Harvey Blackburn, US Sheep Experiment Station, HC62, Box 2010, Dubois, Idaho 83423, USA; tel. 1 208 3745306; fax: 1 208 3745582; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Une action politique s'avère nécessaire face au problème que
représentent les effets néfastes de la production animale sur l'environnement, et
notamment ceux qui pourraient ne pas être maîtrisés par une intervention au niveau du
prix des produits et des prix à la production. Il s'agit de s'attaquer aux causes
sous-jacentes de la dégradation de l'environnement, à travers des politiques souples,
propres au site et dûment ciblées, tout en ayant pour but collectif l'adoption de
mécanismes d'informations en retour, qui assureront la compatibilité de la gestion du
bétail avec les objectifs sociaux généraux.
Un cadre d'action réaliste facilitera l'application de technologies visant non seulement à réduire au minimum les atteintes à l'environnement, mais aussi, à travers une gestion judicieuse du bétail, à accroître et préserver les ressources naturelles et à transformer les résidus en produits utiles.
Toutefois, pour apporter une solution aux problèmes d'environnement liés à l'élevage, il faut également que ceux-ci soient placés dans une perspective agroécologique élargie permettant l'introduction de technologies efficaces. En se substituant aux ressources naturelles, la technologie reste en effet l'élément clé dont dépendra le développement futur du secteur de l'élevage. Des technologies appropriées, s'appuyant sur des politiques avisées, peuvent permettre de répondre aux besoins futurs, tout en préservant l'intégrité de la base de ressources naturelles.
Es necesario adoptar políticas para hacer frente a los efectos negativos de la producción pecuaria sobre el medio ambiente, en particular los que no se pueden contrarrestar mediante la manipulación de los precios de los productos y la producción. Esas políticas deben afrontar las causas subyacentes de la degradación del medio ambiente y ser flexibles, específicas para cada lugar y bien orientadas, con la finalidad común de establecer mecanismos de retroinformación que garanticen la compatibilidad del uso del ganado con los objetivos sociales generales. Un marco normativo realista facilitará la aplicación de tecnologías encaminadas no sólo a conseguir que los daños para el medio ambiente sean mínimos, mediante la reducción de la contaminación, sino también, por medio de la utilización racional del ganado, a mejorar y conservar los recursos naturales y convertir los desechos en productos útiles. Sin embargo, para solucionar los problemas del medio ambiente relacionados con el ganado se requiere también actuar desde una perspectiva agroecológica más amplia, que permita la introducción de tecnologías eficaces. La tecnología sigue siendo el componente básico del cual dependerá el desarrollo futuro del sector pecuario en sustitución de los recursos naturales. Las tecnologías apropiadas, con el apoyo de políticas sagaces, pueden ayudar a satisfacer la demanda futura, manteniendo al mismo tiempo la integridad de la base de recursos naturales.
Livestock are associated with the degradation of natural resources
through overgrazing, deforestation, nutrient depletion or manure disposal resulting in a
nutrient surplus, all of which have a common link. People benefiting from overexploitation
or from degradation do not pay the full costs while those who preserve natural resources
or who pay the costs of conservation gain few of the benefits. Thus, to redress this
imbalance, mechanisms need to be devised to ensure that the conserver gets a fair share of
the benefits while the degrader and exploiter pay their full share of the costs.
The problems associated with implementing this principle are not easily overcome. The interactions are complex and the actors not easily identified. Policies to redress the externalities imply redistributing income. No matter what, no form of adjustment adopted by a country will be cost-free, as it will always meet the opposition of groups with vested interests, while powerful lobbies will seek to avoid full accountability. In addition, many countries are constrained by their economic capacity to respond to environmental externalities. The major determinant of this capacity is income (Runge, Ortalo-Magné and van de Kamp, 1994). Compared with those with higher incomes, lower-income countries cannot be expected to respond to environmental externalities with the same intensity through regulation, taxation or subsidization. In lower-income countries, food production tends to take precedence over environmental concerns. Since they are preoccupied with day-to-day survival, the poor have limited scope to make long-term investments in natural resources and, very often, they also rely on fragile, open access resources such as extensive rangelands.
Policies change the availability of production factors by making them more or less expensive. Consequently, and following the concept of induced innovation (Hayami and Ruttan, 1985), different technologies are employed or developed to optimize use of the new set of scarcities. Before designing policies, the intrinsic scarcity of key inputs such as land, labour, capital, water, feed or energy needs to analysed. It must then be determined how environmental externalities and government policies may cause certain inputs to be undervalued as, for example, water and feed in many Near Eastern countries and energy in industrializing countries such as Brazil and India. Such distortions have given rise to a set of technologies, often environmentally degrading, that are different from those that would have been adopted had inputs been available at the market price.
Sectoral and economy-wide policies may affect interactions between livestock and the environment. Often, although their effects may be unintended because the policies were designed to address social and economic rather than environmental objectives, they may be compounded by the complexity of the interactions and the overall economy. However, a few general principles can be established (Young, 1996):
The choice of policy instruments should take careful account of local
institutions, infrastructure and levels of income. Where institutions are weak, and where
the polluter is difficult to identify (non-point source pollution), regulations are
difficult to enforce and more reliance has to be placed on market instruments. Regulations
work best where the polluter or degrader can be unmistakably identified (point source
pollution) and where the infrastructure is adequate to ensure their enforcement.
There is ample evidence that economic policies, including structural adjustment programmes, have strong positive and negative impacts on the natural resource base. Where market failures occur or policy distortions and poverty cause environmental damage, broad policy reforms that promote efficiency or reduce poverty can generally be regarded as being beneficial to the environment.
Pastoral systems meet the overriding need of farmers to be mobile over large areas and to maintain access to the key resources of dry-season or mountain summer pastures. This need calls for the strengthening of traditional communal grazing rights, combined with enforcement and conflict resolution mechanisms and decentralized decision-making, both in public (government) and customary law. Empowering pastoral people will be the main challenge in future pastoral development. The development of local, regional and national herder organizations has been a major donor-driven thrust in West and North Africa over the last decade and, while considerable progress has been made in establishing viable organizations for the provision of services such as animal health and education, these organizations have been less successful in range management (Shanmugaratnam et al., 1992). Lessons to be drawn from these experiences are: i) the need to work at any point and as early as possible within the traditional social organization; ii) the need to assume a progressive transfer of responsibility for range management to pastoral groups; and iii) the need to tailor organizational structures to the goals envisaged.
Conducive land tenure arrangements are key factors in facilitating sustainable resource use in both grazing and mixed farming systems; government institutions are essential for establishing and enforcing the necessary regulatory framework. Establishing and regulating mechanisms for pollution control will become an important future task in the developing world. Depending on the scale of the problem, enforcement costs can be considerable.
Incentive policies rely on market forces. In particular, intensive
production depends on inputs that contain a large component of natural resources that is
often not reflected in the market price of products. Product prices should be raised by
abolishing subsidies or, in some situations, imposing taxation on components such as feed
concentrates, fossil fuel, inorganic fertilizer, livestock products, land, mechanization
and genetic material. This would not only reduce consumption but would also induce a more
efficient use of natural resources, with both environmental and economic gains.
Correspondingly, subsidies or tax relief could be provided where natural resources such as
renewable energy (methane) or biodiversity are substituted or exploited better.
To a varying extent, grazing systems are susceptible to market stimuli. Economic incentives may therefore direct the systems towards the sustainable use of resources. Increasing the costs of grazing can reduce grazing pressure by promoting the sale of animals that are no longer economical to retain. Incentive policies that may reduce grazing pressures are:
If the environmental benefits to be gained from mixed farming systems are
to materialize, feed, fertilizer and mechanization subsidies should be removed. Cheap feed
favours the development of industrial production at the expense of home-grown feed. Cheap
mineral fertilizer and fuel compete with farm inputs, such as manure and animal traction.
Lowering subsidies will increase the competitiveness of on-farm products and services,
such as animal draught, manure, crop by-products and farm-grown feed. Lower subsidies may
also reduce nutrient imports into surplus areas.
There are a variety of incentives or penalties to reduce excess nutrients in surplus areas:
With regard to promoting the recovery of methane from manure, the most important determinants are the price and availability of energy. Some countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) already favour the use of regenerative energy vis-à-vis fossil sources, and have created the relevant price incentives.
How to reduce grazing pressure?
Intensification. Many development projects have been based on the assumption that intensification would reduce grazing pressure. Social forestry projects in India, for example, promoted stall feeding with improved cross-bred cows, but there is no evidence that this decreased the number of traditional animals in the forest. Similarly, stratification of production in, for example, North Africa and the Near East has not yet shown a clear reduction in grazing pressure in the feeder calf production area. It appears that intensified production alone does not reduce grazing pressure if access to common grazing resources remains unchanged.
Meat price increase. In the same context, price increases seem to give a positive supply response in some of the trade-oriented production systems (West Africa) but yield a negative supply response in the subsistence-oriented (milk) systems (e.g. East Africa). This points to the importance that flow products (draught power, milk) have in relation to stock products such as meat. The higher the importance of flow products, the less sensitive the system will be to price variations. A thorough knowledge of the production systems is thus required before promoting intensification or stratification.
For humid and subhumid zone grazing systems, the establishment of
protected areas for the preservation of biodiversity seems a workable feasibility.
However, in the face of growing population pressure, it is becoming increasingly
difficult, particularly in developing countries where government agencies are often unable
to enforce such regulations.
For intensive, mixed farming and industrial livestock production systems, the control approach focuses on regulating manure disposal. Some of these regulations, such as maximum amounts of manure applied per unit area, are difficult to control and enforce while others such as storage capacity and the number of livestock are more easily applied.
The designation of specific areas for defined activities, or zoning, is an important mechanism for the management of both animal manure and product processing, not only for environmental reasons but also for human health and rural and urban development. Zoning has successfully distanced landless production units from urban centres in OECD member countries. A good communications infra-structure is important for success, as perishable animal products have to be transported over larger distances. The creation of confined industrial parks with prescribed, and sometimes shared, facilities for waste collection and treatment offers opportunities to put the full burden of environmental costs on industrial production systems. Zonation may be achieved through either regulation or incentives.
Indonesia, the United States and a number of European countries obligate farmers to have manure management plans that follow best management practices. These usually include timing and methods of application and animal waste collection and storage (Narrod, Reynnells and Wells, 1994).
Regulations that control processing and reduce undesired emissions are established, but much less frequently enforced. The use of chromium in tanneries, the use of chlorofluoro carbons (CFC) in the chilling processes or biological oxygen demand (BOD) of waste water as well as waste treatment techniques are frequently prescribed.
The adoption of technologies for environmentally acceptable methods of feed crop production is increasingly dependent on regulations that govern the conservation of soils and water resources and also minimize the use and impact of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides. An increasing number of countries, both developed and developing, have regulations that control land use and agronomic practices.
Over the past decades the livestock sector has responded to demands for
technological change mainly by increasing efficiency and by the major structural shifts
There is little doubt that the sector will develop and adopt environmentally friendly technologies where policy-makers signal their support. Technologies that can benefit the environment may be conveniently grouped into four categories:
While there is some overlap between these categories, the classification clarifies what is meant by "beneficial to the environment" and turns the focus away from the direct physical interaction between livestock and the environment by introducing a more comprehensive picture of resource management.
Environmental damage caused by animal production can be minimized by
controlling emissions from manure both during application and while in storage. The main
focus is on reducing nitrogen losses, most of which are in the form of ammonia. Minimal
amounts of ammonia are emitted when manure is collected under solid floors, and 80 to 90
percent reductions can be achieved by covering storage tanks (Voorburg, 1994). A further
reduction of odour and ammonia can be achieved through ventilation/filtration systems
which absorb them by oxidizing ammonia into NO2 and NO3. Up to half
of the ammonia can be eliminated through such air washing systems, which, however, are
costly to install and to operate (Chiumenti, da Borso and Donanton, 1994).
The loss of nutrients from manure can be significantly reduced by limiting atmospheric exposure and applying it below the soil surface. The timing of manure application to coincide with the growing period avoids further losses and enhances its nutritive value. Nitrification inhibitors can be added to slurry to reduce leaching from the soil under wet conditions.
In tanneries, dairies and slaughterhouses, waste water purification can be achieved through anaerobic systems that halve the BOD content. More sophisticated anaerobic systems can attain a 90 percent BOD-purification. A few developed countries have already set high quality standards for the treatment of discharge water. To meet these standards, a combination of anaerobic and aerobic methods are required, often complemented with nutrient removal systems. In slaughterhouses, any environmental impact can often be greatly reduced by employing a simple technology such as dry rendering of offal which reduces the amount of waste water produced. Wastes should be collected as solids in order to reduce water use and waste load.
For the improvement of grazing systems, either "deferred
grazing" (a traditional practice in many Near Eastern countries), overseeding or
planting with an adapted fodder may help to regenerate vegetation. Multispecies grazing
will often allow a better utilization of the vegetation and have positive effects on plant
and animal biodiversity. Perennial grasses and legumes have been developed, for the humid
tropics, which maintain better soil fertility than other crops. Biodiversity may also be
enhanced through careful management of non-competitive wildlife-livestock interactions.
Livestock may contribute to and enhance production and natural resource potential particularly through manure and traction. Thus, technologies that conserve the nutrient value of manure and improve the efficiency of its application, enhance land productivity. This may be done, for example, by stall feeding which doubles the effective availability of nitrogen and phosphorus. Fodder shrubs and trees may also reduce soil erosion and improve soil fertility. An example is the three-strata agroforestry system which combines grass, fodder shrubs and tree crops such as oil and coconut palms and cashew nuts and has been successfully introduced in Indonesia.
Raising the productivity of land through crop-livestock interactions protects other land from being brought into cultivation. It remains one of the most important avenues for the intensification of agriculture and is certainly the most environmentally friendly.
Methods exist to increase the efficiency of natural resource use, mostly
addressing the issue of feed conversion. Feed is the major item of production, typically
accounting for 60 to 70 percent of the overall costs. Improving feed conversion
significantly reduces the amount of land needed for crop production as well as the animal
waste produced. Techniques are also available to facilitate the conservation of other
natural resources such as water and biodiversity.
The most important approaches to improve feed conversion are:
Future expansion and productivity growth in the livestock sector will
essentially be based on concentrate feed. If, at the same time, natural resources and
biodiversity are to be protected, the challenge will be to limit the land required for
feed production. This can only be done by increasing crop yields.
Despite increases in livestock populations, global levels of methane emissions are tending to remain relatively steady. This is because of the lower emission levels per animal and per unit of product that result from more efficient feeding.
Historically, the raison d'être of livestock husbandry was to
exploit alternative and otherwise valueless resources. Waste land was converted into food.
This phenomenon of thus being able to utilize resources with no opportunity costs may
explain why production efficiency was not, and in many low-input systems is still not, a
The conversion of organic waste and residues into livestock feed reduces the environmental hazards associated with crop and agro-industrial waste. Large amounts of straw which would otherwise be burnt or left to decompose, and so provide minimal nutritional benefit to crops, may now be converted into quality feed. This principle is successfully exploited by some five million farmers in China where the treatment of feeds with urea improves nutritional value and digestibility (Li Baogen, 1996, personal communication).
Recycling manure as feed to livestock and fish (Müller in FAO, 1980) is only practised on a limited scale, mainly because of concern over the health risks it entails but also because of its low nutritive value, the exception being poultry manure. In intensive production systems, where large amounts of manure are available, cheaper feeds also exist, while in situations where the utilization of low-quality feeds is common, the high collection costs coupled with alternative and opportunistic uses, for fertilizer or fuel, discourage the utilization of manure as a feed. A recent overview of these possibilities is given by Sánchez in FAO (1995).
Biogas plants of all sizes and varying levels of technical sophistication not only recover the energy contained in manure but also eliminate most of the animal and human health problems associated with contamination. The waste load may also be reduced by purifying and drying the manure for use as fuel. Manure, particularly that of poultry, is to a limited extent incorporated in the feed of animals raised under intensive conditions. It is also fed to fish and pigs, particularly in Asia (China).
Technologies are available for recovering methane produced by manure held in lagoons and using it for direct on-farm energy or to generate electricity; slurry effluent can also be utilized as animal feed, as aquaculture supplements or as crop fertilizer. When managed in this way, the anaerobic decomposition further reduces the environmental and human health risks often associated with the handling of manure. The controlled bacterial decomposition of the volatile solids in manure reduces the potential for contamination from runoff, significantly reduces pathogen levels, removes most noxious odours and retains the organic nitrogen content of the manure.
The large-scale processing of manure is possible where intensive production is concentrated, but is not often economically feasible. The efficient use of manure for feed and energy production entails high capital costs which often cannot be borne by individual farmers. Most processed waste can be turned into food, feed, fertilizer or energy: slaughterhouse wastes can be composted and used as fertilizer while bones can be crushed, ground and prepared into bonemeal as feed.
Livestock producers must develop and utilize techniques that will
improve the efficient use of resources in order to meet the increasing demand for
livestock products without depleting the finite natural resources. The challenge is to
obtain these higher levels of efficiency while avoiding the concentration of animal
production activities in confined areas. Limiting livestock numbers while still
maintaining market mechanisms through, for example, tradable emission quotas, seems to be
an appropriate choice. Ideally, the advanced resource-saving technologies and the
absorptive capacities of extended rural areas should be united.
Grazing systems are an important source of animal products. However, technologies need to be introduced to help intensify production, especially in areas of higher potential. One approach is to diversify and open up the grazing areas to other complementary uses, for example tourism. In these systems, in addition to providing a livelihood for pastoral people and contributing to market production, the role of livestock is to protect the natural resource base.
Trends in mixed farming systems will continue towards intensification and growth. As production increases towards an industrial dimension, new practices will need to be established. To an extent, the resulting systems will need to be specific to the local resources if nutrient balances are to be maintained and the environment's ability to absorb waste respected. Specific decentralized industrial systems are foreseen, particularly for pig and poultry production, and are already under way in some developed countries. Such systems would ensure that the resource-saving technologies employed were compatible with the absorptive capacities of the land.
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