Livestock play an important role in human society. In mixed farming systems in particular, they are able to utilize products that are not exploited by humans: kitchen wastes, grass from roadsides and wastelands, and crop residues from the cereal harvest. Animals give multiple products in return, such as meat, eggs, milk, fibres, social status and income, while dung and urine are valuable for fertilizing gardens, fields and fish ponds.
Traditional systems of animal keeping are not static. They adapt to changing circumstances such as increased population pressure, use of fertilizers and changing consumption patterns. Farmers, governments, and national and international agencies all have a role in this change, often by keeping track of new technologies and management practices that might be useful for development. The farmers' expertise may combine with the expertise of national and international agencies with access to information from different areas elsewhere in the world. The exchange of experiences between the grassroots/farmer level and national and international level is necessary for the generation and application of appropriate technologies and management techniques that serve to keep farmers in business and to produce enough food for growing populations.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has access to experiences regarding agricultural change across the world. Together with the Japanese Government it was decided to compile experiences from different locations, categorized by farming system, to make it easier for interested people to select ideas for their own conditions. This document presents a sample of such technologies for mixed farming systems, with emphasis on describing the livestock production systems in the traditional sector and identifying a sample of major constraints. For example, livestock production is constrained by poor management and inadequate research, extension and veterinary support services, as well as by ineffective communication between farmers and development agents. Suggestions for improving production in the livestock sector are given throughout the publication and a literature list is included for further reference.
A companion volume discusses traditional technologies for urban livestock systems. The combination of these two documents gives a broad overview of the technologies available for application under a variety of conditions.
Comments and suggestions for improvement from readers are welcomed to enable future upgrading of the material.