Animal production systems can be adapted to meet the growing world demand for food without deleterious environmental impacts, according to a new international study.
Sustainable intensification could be the answer to balancing the economic benefits of livestock production with its environmental impacts, according to a new analysis from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and other partners in an international collaborative project.
To achieve the best mitigation potential from the livestock sector, it’s important to consider land use and practice changes in agriculture globally as well as looking at dietary patterns and how to meet global nutrition needs, the study found.
According to the work, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, livestock could account for up to half the mitigation potential of the global agricultural, forestry and land-use sectors. This is highly significant in global terms as these sectors represent the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after the energy sector.
Lead author of this study, CSIRO’s Dr. Mario Herrero, explained that this is the most comprehensive study on the topic to date because it takes account of both the supply and demand sides of the industry.
“Livestock has a role in a healthy and sustainable diet, and the sector has an important economic and social role, particularly in developing countries,” Herrero said. “We need to balance these health outcomes and the economic and social benefits, while also capturing the mitigation potential the livestock sector can offer.”
Dr. Herrero said sustainably intensifying livestock production is one way this can be achieved.
“We’ve found that there are a number of ways that the livestock sector can contribute to global greenhouse gas mitigation,” he said. “New management practices such as rotational grazing and dietary supplements can increase livestock production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to increase the adoption of these different strategies by making sure that we have the right incentives.
“If appropriately managed with the right regulatory framework, these practices can also achieve improved environmental health over and above the greenhouse gas benefits delivered, for example through improved ground cover and soil carbon.”