The biodiversity of the 35 or so animal species that have been domesticated
for use in agriculture and food production is the primary biological capital for livestock development
and is vital to food security and sustainable rural development. Many indigenous breeds, some of which
are threatened with extinction, have characteristics such as resilience to climatic stress and resistance to
diseases and parasites, which make them well adapted to local conditions, and which are of great potential
importance to future livestock production.
Recent years have seen substantial erosion of domestic animal diversity – a trend that is likely to accelerate with the rapid changes currently affecting the livestock sector.
Yet this resource is often neglected and poorly managed. Recent years have seen substantial erosion of
domestic animal diversity – a trend that is likely to accelerate with the rapid changes currently affecting
the livestock sector. The FAO State of Food and Agriculture 2009: Livestock in the balance (2010) provides
a comprehensive assessment of current trends and anticipated developments in the livestock sector.
Livestock development in the twentieth century concentrated on a very small number of breeds worldwide,
frequently without due consideration to the way in which production environments affect animals’ ability to survive,
produce and reproduce.
According to The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2007), 20 percent
of documented livestock breeds are at risk of extinction: 1500 of the 7600 breeds around the globe may be lost forever in the near future.