Components of sustainable animal production and the use of silvopastoral systems


R. Bras. Zootec.




ABSTRACT There is an urgent need for sustainable animal production systems. A system or procedure is sustainable if it is acceptable now and if its expected future effects are acceptable, in particular in relation to resource availability, consequences of functioning, and morality of action. What might make any animal usage system unsustainable? The system might involve depletion of resources such that a resource becomes unavailable or a product of the system might accumulate to a degree that prevents the functioning of the system. However, any effect which the general public find unacceptable makes a system unsustainable. A production system might be unsustainable because of inefficient usage of world food resources; adverse effects on human health; poor animal welfare; harmful environmental effects, such as low biodiversity or insufficient conservation; unacceptable genetic modification; not being “fair trade”, in that producers in poor countries are not properly rewarded; or damage to rural communities. Consumers might judge, because of any of these inadequacies, that the quality of the product is poor. Animal welfare is a component of sustainability and good quality of product. Three-level plant production, including pasture, shrubs with edible leaves, and trees that may also have edible leaves, are an example of a silvopastoral system. The production of leaves and other material that can be eaten by the animals is much greater than can be achieved by pasture-only systems. Results presented from tropical and sub-tropical studies show that production of cattle and other animals can be better, biodiversity much increased, animal disease reduced, and animal welfare improved in three-level silvopastoral systems.

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