Land use, Feed resources and Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems

Land use, Feed resources and Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems

By Takudzwa Gondo

Internationally, agriculture and food production systems are changing to adapt and be resilient to climate change at the same time maintaining productivity, production and profitability of farming enterprises. Nowadays discussions are centred around organic farming, regenerative agriculture and well-integrated crop and livestock production systems.

The livestock feed resource base within any given land-use farming system determines animal productivity and on the other hand land-use pattern sets bounds on the roles of livestock within that farming system. The challenge for livestock development planning and sustainability is to strike a balance between these conflicting interests. The diversity of issues ranging from biological, socioeconomic and cultural, that ultimately determine the acceptable farming system in any region. Given the agroecological diversity of animal feed resources across the developing world, coupled with strategic efforts to improve feed resources, livestock feed resources development and utilization might be more effective towards improved productivity and production.

Land use

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The human population is still growing exponentially in most of the developing world, which is projected to increase from 4 to 7 billion by 2025. Therefore, continuous focus on sustainable land use to meet the populations’ staple food is important. The trends to urbanization across sub-Saharan Africa, West Asia/North Africa, Asia and Latin America suggest that 54, 75, 56 and 84%, of the populations on these continents will live in cities by the year 2025. All these fundamental demographic forces demand the attention of livestock farmers, policy makers and value chain players to strategically plan towards the future. They have to dictate and emphasis on land-use efficiency in which the synergisms of soil, plant and animal linkages must be fully exploited. Concerns to conserve the natural resource base as well as limit the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other environmentally damaging impacts, further add to the complexities of livestock development future planning. Bioenergetics efficiency must become the focus of livestock farming systems in the future to ensure less harm to the environment.  This means integrated crop-livestock systems throughout our communities can perform better. In the low rainfall rangeland communities, or in the high pastoral systems, crop livestock interactions will not be strongly evident, but in these environments avoidance of rangeland degradation through overstocking will be of great importance. Therefore, compatible short and long-term strategies are required towards land and land use planning to tackle livestock feed resource production.

Traditional feed resources: In the short term, the development of feed resources to raise livestock productivity throughout most of the developing world must be based on better use of traditional feeds. Within the Zimbabwean agricultural systems key discussions are around the promotion of traditional grains farming and inclusion of these grains into livestock feeds. The first step in all these farming  systems must be to tackle critical nutritional deficiencies, be they mineral, protein or energy-limiting. In extremely difficult conditions, this may simply mean strategic supplementation of the diets of selected poorly thriving animals in order to reduce mortality and farmer losses. At another stage it will mean improving feed utilization through the treatment of crop product residue feeds for instance urea treatment of crop residues, diet supplementation with balanced high energy feeds, (urea/molasses blocks, etc.), coupled with the feeding of by-pass protein. The underlying strategy being to build on the existing system and introduce simple and practical technologies to suit local conditions. Parallel to improvement in the feeding regime, attention must be given to the major prevailing animal disease challenges for instance in our local context theileriosis diseases commonly known as January disease and foot and mouth disease.  In the first instance, this calls for internal and external parasites coupled with vaccination and strict control of animal movement.

New Feed Technologies: In the longer term the ongoing and future research has to place greater emphasis and focus on the development and utilization of high biomass feed resources for livestock, coupled with better exploitation of high protein forage and fodder trees. Expansion of livestock production in the tropics in the future will demand technologies that enable the ruminant to better utilize high fibre feeds, for example rumen biology manipulation to improve digestion of cellulose.  Livestock planners in the future are likely to have to place much greater emphasis on multipurpose farming systems in which integrated livestock, food and tree crop production maximizes photosynthetic capture to produce food, fibre, energy and fuel-wood while maintaining soil fertility and overall sustainability within the system. Examples of such integrated systems are already being developed to exploit the high biomass potential in other areas. In other areas, the more extensive exploitation of integrated rice, fish, azolla and livestock production is being utilized in order to develop bioenergetically-efficient production systems to meet food needs in land-scarce countries such as China and South Asia.

In conclusion sustainable crop and livestock production systems required to meet food requirements, well planned land use and planning as well as sustainable feed production strategies utilising modern feed technologies. It is also of paramount importance to ensure our crop and livestock strive within the changing climate at the same time minimising environmental degradation.


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