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Over the last decade, a strong public awareness of the value of grazing areas has emerged. Rangelands in all zones are increasingly seen as a global resource, not only for livestock production but also for eco-tourism, carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation. For the tropical rainforests, it is general acknowledged that their conversion into ranching is economically, socially and environmentally wrong.
An important future challenge will be to design the educational, financial and institutional instruments which promote multiple use of grazing areas. This will require a major change in attitude to, first, a public perception of pastoralists and ranchers as efficient users and potentially responsible stewards of all their resources and, second, in the attitude of the world's rangeland and pasture agronomists, many of whom think exclusively in terms of increasing levels of beef and milk production. Finally, there needs to be a change in attitude towards the management of temperate grazing lands to encourage a move from a high input-based system to one based on very precise information in order to achieve nutrient balance.
These changes need to be supported by systems that give proper value to the wider benefits of rangelands, such as biodiversity and carbon sequestration, and mechanisms that allow the costs and the benefits to be shared so that rangeland users are able to diversify.
In addition, development policies must recognize the links between the different eco-systems. An important component of past livestock strategies in the developing world has been the promotion of stratification. Under stratified production, the more arid rangelands provide the feeder stock to the higher potential areas for finishing before slaughter. This is the main strategy in the USA, Australia and China. Experience shows that its success depends on price differentials between the feeder animals and the fattened animals, and this differential turns into increased profits when the transport costs are brought down through improved infrastructure development. If the prices per unit of live-weight are similar, there is no incentive for the pastoralist to sell his animal, because additional growth will cost very little for labour and other inputs.
Quite clearly, future diversification policies need also to be accompanied by measures to address the underlying forces of population pressure and poverty. Price distortions causing environmental damage need to be corrected. Alternative means of nutrient management need to be vigorously pursued. Above all, future policies need to be pro-active and participatory, and must clearly identify alternative uses, institutions and financing mechanisms, which involve all stakeholders and recognize all the values the world's grazing lands provide.
Grazing systems in temperate zones
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