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Managing Cattle For Integral Benefit In International Perspective

Two contrasting trajectories of developing farm management are applied to cattle. There is widespread media vilification of cattle as harmfully contributing to global warming through gases they naturally emit. Agricultural and environmental management considerations must be sustainably integrated.

Cattle are major converters of human-inedible food from grasslands into forms for human consumption as meat, milk and dairy products, along with important by-products of dung and urine, hides, skins, hoofs and horns. However, cattle production can also utilise other plant material derived from various arable crops (cereals, oilseeds, pulses) – some grown where climate-protective forests once thrived. Intensive cattle production under controlled conditions of feeding, housing and veterinary care from herds of younger average age can dilute concomitant gases emitted per kilogram of product, and both genetics and diet can be adjusted to reduce generation of these polluting gases through modified cattle metabolism. By contrast, it is reckoned that at least 25% of global land is grassland requiring cattle and other grazing animals as human food producers, for biodiversity of plant, insect and microbial species within them, and for carbon sequestration.

Alternative international cattle-keeping systems are considered in the light of the above points and management recommendations suggested accordingly.

Keywords: Cattle; Gases, Grasslands; Management; Agro-ecology; SOC (Soil Organic Carbon)


Author(s): Wibberley J. (1)

Organization(s): Royal Agricultural University Cirencester (1), University of Reading (2)