Environmental Sustainability of Livestock Systems – Challenges and Prospects
University of Kassel / Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Animal Husbandry in the Tropics and Subtropics, Germany
Greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication of water bodies, pathogen contamination of vegetables fertilised with animal dung, and rangeland degradation through overgrazing are only a few of the many environmental threats ensuing from livestock production systems that have been summarised in FAO's report “Livestock's long shadow” published in 2006. Livestock scientists have long before started to investigate such challenges and identified options to substantially reduce or mitigate these. Yet, even if technically feasible strategies are available that, for example, lower methane emissions from rumen fermentation of cereal residues or reduce nitrogen volatilisation and leaching from herbivore manure, their adoption by farmers may be very low if livestock husbandry practices have to be changed substantially in order to establish the proposed improvements. In such cases the monetary and/or non-monetary benefits to be reaped by the extra efforts have to be immediate, tangible, and reproducible in order to assure farmers' adoption; these benefits must be honoured by the market, for example by better pricing of eco-friendly products, or transfer payments via governments or the international community. While in regions or countries with a stringent control system of animal husbandry systems, such as northern America, the EU and Australia the enforcement of adoption of specific husbandry practices through governmental legislation and punishment of non-compliance is common practice, such an approach seems not advisable for most of the resource-poor countries.
Keywords: Enteric fermentation, gaseous emissions, livestock, manure, nutrient leaching
Contact Address: Eva Schlecht, University of Kassel / Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Animal Husbandry in the Tropics and Subtropics, Steinstraße 19, 37213 Witzenhausen, Germany, e-mail: tropanimalsuni-kassel.de