The sustainable livestock sector is the pillar of the global food system and a contributor to poverty reduction, food security, and agricultural development. India has a huge livestock population reared under diverse production systems and agroclimatic conditions. Climate change is posing a challenge not only to crops but also to livestock. Read here to know more.
Livestock plays a major role in sustainable food systems, for example, manure is a critical source of natural fertilizer.
The livestock sector is made up of farmers, the processing industry, and buyers. They must find ways to make livestock production more sustainable.
Supermarkets and other retailers have a decisive role to play. Demand from shops for sustainable products is rising, and this is leading more farmers to produce sustainably.
Why sustainable livestock?
As global warming becomes increasingly evident across India, the conservation of indigenous cattle breeds that are hardy and better suited to withstand high temperatures has been gaining ground.
- Indigenous Indian cattle breeds have a huge genetic diversity that has made them more resilient to regional threats like parasites and disease, and intense heat.
- But, due to the spread of commercially-bred cattle and interbreeding, these valuable indigenous breeds are now slowly dying out.
Climate change is posing a challenge not only to crops but also to livestock.
- The climatic change would result in lesser fodder for the animals, unavailability of pure water, an increase in parasitic diseases due to mosquitoes, flies, and lice, decreased fertility, and reduced milk production.
By 2050, the demand for animal products is expected to quadruple globally due to projected increases in population, income, and urbanization.
With the weather changing every day, feeding this enormous population will be exceedingly difficult.
- This growing need must be primarily satisfied by the sustainable intensification of animal production.
- A shift in the human population from rural to urban areas is followed by intensified livestock growth, and this is accompanied by an increase in the size of farms and animal housing densities.
The Global Food Security Committee of the United Nations defines food security as the state in which all citizens always have physical, social, and economic access to enough safe and nutritious food that fits their dietary needs and food choices for an active and healthy lifestyle.
- A large population can be guaranteed food security by implementing livestock farming and promotion to sustain food demand.
Also, current animal production practices put serious environmental pressure through air, water, and soil pollution and the use of natural resources, including land, fossil fuels, and water.
- The livestock sector currently accounts for approximately 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainable livestock sector
The livestock consists of various farming systems-
- Dairy farming
- Poultry farming
- Pig farming
- Sheep farming
- Goat farming
- Rabbit farming (Cuniculture)
Depending on resource quality, environmental factors, and social and economic contexts, there are various types of livestock production systems, and they vary considerably in sustainability.
- These livestock systems include extensive grassland systems, intensive landless systems, and mixed farming systems.
- These systems make a significant contribution to human nutrition and livelihoods and provide important services to the ecosystem.
There are several aspects to consider about sustainable livestock production:
Biosecurity: Greater animal-to-animal contact can promote disease transmission.
- Pathogens can travel across borders and spread amongst people, infecting the manufacturing system.
- Pathogens are controlled by the use of biocides, but care must be taken to prevent environmental contamination or contamination of meat, milk, or other food sources.
- With the right biosecurity precautions, disease transmission in animals may be stopped, and both production and food security can be preserved.
Health management: The primary reasons that render farm animals susceptible to illnesses are transportation and dietary changes.
- The use of antibiotics to treat infections encourages resistance and makes it challenging to treat the illness.
- Antibiotic use is decreased by vaccinations; however, they are worthless if the animal’s immune system is damaged.
- Hence, it is crucial to encourage nutritional management and lower stress levels to strengthen the immune system and lower sickness in cattle species.
- Regulations and guidelines for the feeding and transportation of cattle can help to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses, increase output, and ensure the safety of food.
Feeding strategies: The nutritional condition of animals must be improved while reducing the discharge of infections and toxic by-products through effective feeding practices.
- A feeding approach that emphasizes balanced nutrition, which boosts production and immunity, is recommended.
Waste management: Increased cattle density is required to boost productivity, however, this also increases the risk of diseases.
- The land, water, and feed can all be contaminated by improper waste management.
- Thus, it is crucial to handle animal manure properly to limit microbial contamination in the production system.
Food safety: Hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) is a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical contaminants in livestock production processes that may make the end product unsafe.
- This approach designs measures to decrease these risks to a safe level.
- It is also important to educate customers on food health practices and foodborne diseases.
- Consumers should be conscious of the effect of various production processes on the environmental factors of livestock goods.
Livestock farming with care
The concept of “livestock farming with care” is based on four principles:
- one health (health and safety of animals and humans)
- customized care (from the perspective of the integrity of the animal)
- no nuisance (concerning environmental and societal perspectives)
- credible performance (from a socioeconomic perspective)
Sustainable livestock in India
The government is taking steps to make livestock farming more animal-friendly and sustainable. Farmers must work in a way that respects the animals, the environment, and the people.
The major schemes and programs for sustainable livestock production in India are:
- Rashtriya Gokul Mission
- National Livestock Mission
- Livestock Health and Disease Control
- National Programme for Dairy development
- National Animal Disease control programme
- Livestock census and integrated sample survey
- Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund
- Animal husbandry Development Fund
- Supporting dairy cooperatives & Farmer producer organizations
More than 70% of Indians live in rural regions with inadequate nutritional resources, which leads to food insecurity, and 30% of them are estimated to fall below the poverty line by the World Bank (2016).
- These people may be reached by promoting livestock farming among them and assisting them in using livestock farming to fulfill their food demands.
- India’s agricultural fiber is made up of a large part of livestock. This not only satisfies rural farming households’ food needs but also gives them security during crop failures.
Global challenges in sustainable livestock production
- The management of climate change, the conservation of natural resources, and the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions are the key environmental issues.
- 5% of all anthropogenic emissions are accounted for annually by the greenhouse gas emissions of the cattle industry.
- Better animal health, better nutrition, and better management can lead to increased productivity, biodiversity, and a decrease in greenhouse emissions.
- The biggest economic issues are commerce, markets, and a lack of investment in small farms.
- For food security, markets for livestock and animal products must operate effectively and be easily accessible.
- The fundamental causes of underdeveloped markets include knowledge gaps, weak supply chains, underpriced negative social and environmental liabilities, and poorly designed trade and tax regulations.
- Child labor and gender inequality are social issues. In pastoralist communities, males are frequently preferred for labor, while child labor is prevalent.
- Farmers and other laborers have poor working conditions and a low social position in intensive systems.
- Intensive livestock production systems also use a large share of migrant labor, which is commonly recognized as being associated with poor working conditions.
- Health issues successfully address both human and animal health and emphasize the “one world, one health” idea.
- Food security is directly threatened by animal illnesses that lower productivity.
- In low-income nations, the poor output is mostly due to the enormous danger of cattle illnesses.
- When people and animals coexist in close quarters, there is a higher chance that zoonotic agents will be transmitted to humans.
Animal welfare challenges
- The viewpoints on animal welfare vary greatly between nations.
- Hence, balancing rising production and welfare in the expanding, sometimes unregulated intensive livestock systems throughout the world is a significant concern.
- Nevertheless, consumers and merchants in several high-income nations are increasingly looking for livestock farming that is animal-friendly.
Within increased livestock production systems, food protection must be integrated and coordinated with governmental policies on nutrition, food security, poverty alleviation, environmental health, and infrastructure development.
Lack of coordination in the expansion of livestock production can have unfavorable outcomes, including promoting the spread of illness among animals and from animals to people.
The harmful effects of growing livestock will escalate if public and environmental health regulations are not put into place.
-Article written by Swathi Satish