Animal Frontiers: Livestock can put rangelands to good use
Jan. 9, 2013 - What do the African Savannah, the Swiss Alps and the Gobi Desert have in common?
Each environment has the potential to sustain grazing livestock. In a pastoral system, producers feed animals by making use of limited resources. In a new paper for Animal Frontiers, Kratli et al. write that pastoral systems are often misunderstood.
“Pastoralism is often written off as an unsustainable system,” write Kratli et al.
Indeed, in the United States, pastoral systems are common but are recognized as being less efficient than sedentary systems. Kratli et al. argue that in areas where resources are scarce and food security is low, pastoralism is the most productive option.
Pastoralism did not develop as a reaction to specific droughts and disasters. Instead, pastoralism developed to help livestock access high quality feedstuffs throughout the year. Kratli et al. call this “strategic mobility.” They cite studies conducted in 1976 and 1995 showing that pastoral systems were more productive than sedentary systems in Sudan and Niger.
Kratli et al. are interested in pastoral systems because rangeland is disappearing. They write that global concerns over fuel, food and commodity prices have pushed governments to convert rangelands into croplands. Though these crops look more valuable on paper, the crops are vulnerable to harsh climates and poor soil.
Even when crops do survive, Kratli et al. point out that replacing pastoralism can lead to other problems. Without livestock on nearby land, some farmers have no source of draft power or manure for fertilizer.
“We risk jeopardizing food security well beyond the limits of drylands, and we risk missing pastoralism’s important lesson on turning environmental instability into an asset,” they write.
To read the full paper, go to: http://www.animalfrontiers.org/content/3/1/42.full
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Animal Frontiers is a quarterly magazine that explores animal science and production issues. It is joint publication of the American Society of Animal Science, the European Federation of Animal Science, the Canadian Society of the Animal Science and the American Meat Science Association.