July 22, 2024

IN the tropical regions of the world, livestock production plays a very important role in food security through supplementing and satisfying the protein requirements of humans and other animals, as well as cycling essential nutrients and lending many resources to food crop production operations.

As the climate changes rapidly and in some cases unpredictably, the effects on ecosystems and the natural resources it contains, are gambled. Livestock food supply chains are also known to be major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, especially when the most appropriate management practices are neglected. Such operations that contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions are feed production, enteric fermentation and the improper management of organic waste from commercial sized operations. Some areas that need special attention to solve these issues are; deforestation, forage grazing systems, fertilisation and eutrophication, carbon sequestration in biomass, soil health and conservation methods, feedstuff production, genetic capabilities of the livestock, microbial management, manure and urine management, water and land management, information, training and education accessibility and willingness to adapt and adopt new technologies to protect our environment using the green supply chain and triple bottom line models.

The importance of sustainable and Circular Livestock Farming Systems

Food production is the main livelihood of one third of the world’s population. Approximately 60% of that statistic tends to livestock. Livestock production has afforded us with nutrients such as B12, iron, calcium as well as calories and protein. Ruminants have the ability to consume low quality fodder and produce meat and milk and a good example is the water buffalo. In rural communities and developing countries, livestock nutrition is supplemented by the utilization of industrial byproducts, food crop losses and waste as well as forages. Smaller type livestock like sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks, chickens, quails and rabbits have also afforded some level of gender equality and stability, where women and vulnerable groups like underprivileged youths can contribute to generating income.

How does climate change affect traditional livestock production?

There is an increase in the frequency of extreme weather changes, from prolonged rainfalls that cause floods to longer more severe droughts that damage the soils and its forages. These changes have affected the quality of life for livestock, farmers’ livelihoods and affected productivity on farms which directly had impacts on the food supply chains and the resilience of these systems. Lowered rainfall hampers the growing rates and nutritional states of forages which are fed to ruminant animals, as well as the grains which are mainly used to feed monogastric domesticated farm animals. In other cases, erosion and leaching of essential nutrients occur and this too has an impact on the availability of fertile agricultural lands for food production. Climate change also has influences on increased incidences of pests and diseases, which can lead to zoonotic disease transmission and many more public health issues.

Strategies for saving livestock

and improving livelihoods

Genetic selection of species that can tolerate and still perform well under drier or wetter conditions is a key reproductive management strategy. More adequate housing that is adjustable to hotter, more humid or wetter environmental conditions are needed to keep all livestock comfortable, happier and healthier to produce optimally. Feeding more balanced rations with locally produced feedstuffs are key to managing the total cost of production for the farmer. Such a solution is integrating hydroponically grown fodder into feeding systems for more nutritious feed sources rich in bioactive enzymes, vitamins, minerals and high palatability and digestibility rates. Farming insects that are higher in protein is also a more innovative way to supplement the livestock’s nutritional needs and cut operating costs. Strengthening the resilient food supply and value chains only comes from transparent and accountable operations, backed by Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices and integrating those with the HACCP and other global standards. This is where locally produced food can have a chance to reach global markets and secure a position on the map of agricultural trade.

Riyadh Mohammed (LLM, MBA, MSC, DIP) is an agricultural consultant


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