Livestock Production Systems Classification

The classification is adapted from that of Sere and Steinfeld (1996) who defined solely livestock systems as those in which greater than 90% dry matter fed to the livestock in these systems comes from rangelands, pastures, annual forages and purchased feeds and less than 10% of the total value of production comes from non-livestock farming activities. Sere and Steinfeld also defined mixed systems (see below).

In this toolbox, additional sub-systems have been identified to create relatively homogeneous groupings for describing environmental impact. However, although the definitions imply distinct systems, current pressures on livestock production result in a blurring of the boundaries between one system and another, e.g. mixed systems with use of external feed may become indistinguishable from industrial systems.

Broad definitions of the three types of system used in the Toolbox are given below.
 
Grazing
Mixed
Industrial

Alternatively, more detailed descriptions can be found within the pages at the next level by clicking on the green buttons.
 
Description of Grazing Systems by Agroecological Zone
Description of Mixed Systems by Agroecological Zone
Description of Industrial Systems by Agroecological Zone

Grazing Systems

Livestock systems in which more than 90% of dry matter fed to animals comes from rangelands, pastures, annual forages and purchased feeds and less than 10% of the total value of production comes from non-livestock farming activities. Annual stocking rates are less than 10 livestock units per hectare of agricultural land.

In terms of total production, grazing systems supply only 9% of global meat production. Grazing animals are frequently associated with overgrazing, soil degradation and deforestation, but there are also positive effects of grazing systems on the environment and livestock provide the sole source of income for 20 million pastoral families.

Grazing systems are described for each of the following regions:

Characteristics of these regions and a map can be found under Agro-ecological zones.

Environmental impact will further depend on whether the livestock travel to find feed (mobile), depend on local communal pasture (sedentary) or have access to sufficient feed within the boundaries of the farm (ranching and grassland).
 

Mixed Systems

Mixed systems are defined by Sere and Steinfeld (1996) as those in which more than 10% of the dry matter fed to livestock comes from crop by-products and/or stubble or more than 10% of the value of production comes from non-livestock farming activities.

Globally, mixed farming systems produce the largest share of total meat (54%) and milk (90%) and mixed farming is the main system for smallholder farmers in many developing countries. Mixed farming is probably the most benign agricultural production system, since there are many opportunities for nutrient recycling.

The impact of these systems on the environment will depend on the source of the feed and thus separate systems are described for feed provided by:


Industrial Systems

These systems have average stocking rates greater than 10 livestock units per hectare of agricultural land and <10% of the dry matter fed to livestock is produced on the farm. (This is similar to Sere and Steinfeld's classification: Landless Livestock Production Systems).

Industrial systems provide >50% of global pork and poultry meat production and 10% of beef and mutton production. They depend on outside supplies of feed, energy and other inputs and the demand for these inputs can thus have effects on the environment in regions other than those where production occurs.

The impact of livestock on the environment in these systems depends both on species:

And on the processing of the inputs (feed supply) and the outputs (animal products).
 

References

Sere & Steinfeld, 1996. World livestock production systems: current status, issues and trends. Animal production and health paper No127. FAO. Rome. 

[Livestock & Environment Toolbox Home]