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1. Livestock production systems: overview

Livestock plays an important role in nutrition - directly through the consumption of animal products by livestock owners and their families; and indirectly through the sale of animals and animal products as a source of income.

In the past food security studies have concentrated on quantifying the output of cereal crops and the importance of livestock in providing food security has seldom been examined. It has been stated that the role of livestock in food security is usually undervalued. However, it is not simple to quantify the actual role of livestock to include aspects other than direct food production; an effective method to quantifying the importance of livestock has not been developed.

Because of the social and physical diversity of the Asia Pacific region, this report does not provide a detailed analysis for all countries in the region. However, this analyses the role of livestock in providing food security in general for the region, including livestock production and consumption trends. Three countries are examined: namely Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Livestock production systems

Livestock can be considered as a production system as shown in Figure 1, which divides the system into the following: inputs; animal health; animals which are the unit of production; outputs which are the products; and the market which purchases the products and sets the price to the producer. Each of these categories is examined in the following sections.

Figure 1. The livestock production system

Inputs into livestock production

This section outlines inputs into livestock production in general terms. A more detailed examination into inputs for different species in the three countries examined in detail are examined in the sections for the specific countries.

Inputs into livestock production consist of land, housing, water, labour (which is often provided by women), and livestock feed. The most important input into small scale livestock production is livestock feed.

When considering human food security livestock feed can be subdivided into two categories - (i) food that can be used for human consumption, and (ii) food not normally used, or that is unsuitable, for human consumption. In order to examine livestock feed it is therefore useful to consider the following questions:

Animal health

This section discusses the general role of animal health inputs and the form of those inputs. Animal health inputs into the livestock production system are examined separately as disease prevention methods are put in place to limit the effects of disease which is a negative input on production. The value of animal health measures is therefore in the form of the preventive measures, specifically to avoid production loss.

The animals

The genetic composition of animals in the production system determines the response of the system to the different inputs. Often, local livestock breeds do not produce at a high level as they have been selected for survival under difficult conditions, including under-nutrition and exposure to various diseases. In contrast, highly productive breeds are more susceptible to disease, thereby increasing the need for animal health measures. These animals often require a high level of nutrition to gain the production benefits.

Outputs from livestock production

Outputs from livestock production vary by species. The outputs are therefore considered in general in this section (specific outputs from each species are discussed in the next section).

Livestock statistics generally quantify the products that are eaten and traded such as meat, milk and eggs and do not consider products such as draught and manure. Meat milk and eggs are therefore discussed in Section 3 which analyses the changes in livestock production. Appendix 6 determines the value of all outputs from cattle production in Bangladesh.


In some cases suitable processing is essential for an output to be used. An example is the tanning of leather. The processing of outputs results in an increase in their value, for example, the production of cheese from milk. Processing can also increase the shelf life of the product.

The market

The market is included as part of the livestock production system. Without an available market paying a fair price it is not feasible to consider the expansion of production by increasing inputs in the other parts of the system.

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