Loss of Biodiversity in Livestock Policy Options

The Convention on Biological Diversity charges nations to identify and monitor their biodiversity, to maintain, organise and share the resulting data, and to integrate the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources into national decision-making.
To assist in these tasks, FAO has developed the Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources, which includes the preparation of National Farm Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR) Management Plans. The purposes of an AnGR Management Plan are: Click here to view the 
FAO Global Strategy for 
Management of Farm Animal 
Genetic Resources 
or follow the links 
at the bottom of this page. 

The activities of an ANGR Management Plan will comprise: Besides preparation and implementation of an AnGR Management Plan, and adoption of technical options to preserve biodiversity (in situ conservation, ex situ conservation of living animals and cryopreservation) there are a number of broader policy options which must be considered.

Investment in research: the research agenda should include scientific and economic research on the total life-cycle productivity of endangered breeds, factoring in issues such as lower chances of drought mortality and lower veterinary costs. The multiple production objectives of small farmers and herders should be identified by participatory research and explicitly addressed in the analysis. Governments should also invest in adaptive research that identifies husbandry improvements to increase production in hardy but unproductive breeds.

Limiting subsidies which favour exotic breeds: some explicit and implicit subsidies to livestock production may, at the margins, increase the advantages of exotic breeds which require more external inputs. Cost-recovery on veterinary services and an end to subsidies on veterinary drugs may favour more disease-tolerant local breeds, as may better targetting of drought relief. Subsidies on AI clearly favour exotic breeds, and the possible production advantages of easily available AI will need to be carefully evaluated against biodiversity objectives (as well as general market principles).

Subsidies for endangered breeds: it is preferable that endangered breeds be conserved as parts of economically viable farming systems: long-term use of subsidies is not sustainable. However, with breeds at risk of extinction, direct subsidies per breeding animal or per offspring registered may be useful in the medium-term to support the individual efforts of breeders. Indirect subsidy through support to the functioning of breed societies, including record-keeping, dissemination of information and storage of semen may also be appropriate. However, in developing countries, breed societies are more likely to form around exotic than around indigenous breeds.

Drought interventions: in arid and semi-arid regions with dual commercial and traditional livestock production systems, there is a risk that traditional sector farmers who have lost livestock in drought will rebuild herds by haphazard crossing with commercial-sector, exotic stock. While difficult to manage and expensive, there may be a biodiversity-related case for subsidised programmes for selective feeding of prime breeding-stock of the indigenous breeds. Biodiversity considerations may also contribute to justifying restocking programmes, or at least ensuring that they use appropriate indigenous breeds (if a large enough supply can be found).

Regulation of import and promotion of exotic semen: in certain cases government may need to exercise its regulatory powers to ensure that inappropriate exotic semen is not imported and promoted to the detriment of indigenous breeds better adapted to the local conditions and the production objectives of small farmers.

Key References

Cunningham, E.P. (1995) Global Impact Domain, Animal Genetic Resources. Report for Livestock and the Environment Initiative.  Click here to view this document in Acrobat format 
Loss of Agricultural Diversity: Pressure State Response Indicators.

The FAO Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources. Primary Guidelines for Development of National Farm Animal Genetic Resources Management Plans. Click here to view this document in Acrobat format
Convention on Biological Diversity. Click here to view this document in Acrobat format
Safeguarding farm animal genetic resources for food security. http://www.fao.org/News/1999/990506-e.htm

The value of indigenous animal breeds. http://www.fao.org/News/1999/agr-e.htm

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