Promotion Of Livestock And Biodiversity

Literature cited in this chapter demonstrates that livestock can have either a positive or negative impact on biodiversity. The driving forces are human population growth, economic development, and how societies within a country value their natural resource base and, in particular, biodiversity. Given that livestock can have either a positive or negative impact on biodiversity and the use of livestock is based upon larger policy and economic issues, what are the avenues that promote a positive symbiotic relationship between livestock and plant and other animal species? Is there a group of technologies and policies that can be implemented or practiced which can promote an agenda involving economic growth and maintenance of biodiversity? The use and development of such technologies and/or policies can be critical to sustaining a rich array of biodiversity.


Increasingly, the scientific community is determining that there are a variety of technologies that can promote economic growth of the livestock sector and encourage or enhance biodiversity. For example, in Southeast Asia as well as in the North American Pacific northwest, there is a growing appreciation that sheep can be used in forestry systems (rubber or timber, respectively) to control undesirable plant species. The significance of this approach is that it reduces the amount of herbicide that has to be applied. The development of the above practices demonstrates that there is capacity to develop technologies and practices that successfully blend livestock production with biodiversity issues.

The following list presents ways which could facilitate the development of technologies that both increase livestock productivity and promote biodiversity. Generalized technologies needed for grazing systems include

• Better quantification of the global economic costs and benefits of livestock use and development with conserving biodiversity;

• Methodologies for identification of appropriate indicators that provide reliable information on plant and animal trends;

• Utilization of mixed species grazing (cattle, sheep, goats with wildlife) at appropriate levels — mixed species grazing has the advantage of increasing plant community diversity while concurrently improving the habitat of wild ungulates, but there is a need to develop methodologies which can more accurately determine optimal combinations of domestic and wild ungulates;

• Design of sustainable drought preparedness plans in arid and semiarid areas which not only take into account the needs of livestock and their owners but the impact their activities will have on plant and wildlife communities;

• Development and use of breeds of livestock which are well suited to the environment in which they are expected to perform, such as indigenous breeds.

Generalized technologies needed for mixed farming and industrial systems include

• Improved soil cover through use of alternative crops for mulching;

• Improved feed production and quality to reduce the pressure on grazing areas and improved internal nutrient transfers;

• Reduced nutrient losses from manure and improved efficiency of application (both actions promote biodiversity either through the contribution of manure to soil organic matter or by preventing the over application);

• Improved feed formulation which better balances animal dietary needs and reduces nitrogen excretion;

• Improved animal management through better matching the nutrient needs and use of genotypes which best match the environment;

• Development and utilization of precision agriculture to determine the amount, type, and benefit of inputs needed.


Both livestock sector and biodiversity issues are affected by broader policy issues that a country may deem necessary to implement. For example, a country may decide to import cereal grains for livestock during times of drought rather than support a rational destocking program which would lead to more productive livestock sectors and support a quicker range recovery after the drought has ended. Biodiversity is compromised by the value the society of a country places upon its natural resource base. In other words, demand for food and economic growth can overwhelm any concern for the environment. Cheap food policies and a desire to achieve self-sufficiency, particularly with cereals, have been important factors in determining livestock sector growth and biodiversity conservation. Furthermore, overvalued exchange rates in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America have favored importation of cheap food from the industrialized world, thus competing against local production and providing few incentives for local producers to intensify into mixed crop-livestock systems and to practice soil conservation.

The following list of policy options could contribute to a better blending of livestock development and conservation of biodiversity:

• Eliminate overvalued exchange rates which favor importation of cheap food from the industrialized world, thus competing against local production and providing no incentives for local producers to intensify into mixed crop-livestock systems and practice soil conservation.

• Strengthen land tenure security, especially in the rain-fed mixed farming systems of the developing world that will provide an incentive for investment in long-term soil fertility improvements, such as the use of inorganic fertilizers and the use of green manure and leguminous fodder crops in the crop rotation.

• In dry areas, improve infrastructure, roads, and markets to facilitate movement of goods and services especially in drought. Carefully introduce water development so that vegetation is not negatively impacted and aquifers are not depleted.

• Develop institutional capacity that blends biodiversity and livestock needs and provides a basis for analyzing and evaluating economic and environmental needs.

• Develop more effective benefit-sharing mechanisms for communities practicing livestock production in a manner which helps promote biodiversity.

• Phase out subsidies on feed, fertilizers, and mechanization to promote a tighter integration of crop-livestock systems and remove opportunities to overfertilize.

• Tax inorganic fertilizer, set maximum application limits, and regulate time of application to reduce leaching and volatilization.

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