According to a growing body of research, not only is sustainable livestock production possible, but with growing numbers of consumers expressing concern for improved animal welfare, environmental impact and the overall healthfulness of the meat they purchase, sustainable livestock production may actually soon be economically feasible.
In a recent University of Cambridge study, researchers have identified what may be the future of sustainable livestock production: silvopastoral systems which include shrubs and trees with edible leaves or fruits as well as herbage.
Professor Donald Broom, from the University of Cambridge, who led the research said: “Consumers are now demanding more sustainable and ethically sourced food, including production without negative impacts on animal welfare, the environment and the livelihood of poor producers. Silvopastoral systems address all of these concerns with the added benefit of increased production in the long term.”
In a silvopastoral system, animals are allowed to feed on a diverse group of edible plants which:
- promotes healthy soil with better water retention,
- makes better use of available farm land,
- encourages predators of harmful animals,
- minimizes greenhouse gas emissions,
- reduces the need for herbicides,
- minimizes contamination of local land & water,
- improves job satisfaction for farm workers,
- reduces injury and stress in animals,
- improves biodiversity,
- improves welfare and encourages biodiversity using native shrubs and trees,
- increases human food supply,
- produces healthier meat,
- while enabling a profitable farming business.
And who can argue with healthier animals living in a healthier environment amongst happier ranchers working on profitable farms producing healthier meat for consumers who care about living longer & better.
Real World Examples of Sustainable Livestock Production
According to Professor Donald Broom, “the planting as forage plants of both shrubs and trees whose leaves and small branches can be consumed by farmed animals can transform the prospects of obtaining sustainable animal production. Such planting of ‘fodder trees’ has already been successful in several countries, including the plant Chamaecytisus palmensis which is now widely used for cattle feed in Australia. Another success has been in Colombia where a mixed planting of the shrub Leucaena with a common pasture grass resulted in a 27% increase in dry matter for food and 64% increase of protein production.”
In other silvopastoral livestock systems, researchers have seen an increase in growth and milk production…all without the need of milk producing hormones like rBST.
- I like eating steaks and hamburgers…and I am not alone.
- I like being healthy…and I don’t believe that eating factory farmed meat is conducive to being healthy….and I am not alone.
- I don’t enjoy the reality of animals living in inhumane conditions just because we are either intellectually lazy, morally deficient and/or financially greedy…and I am not alone.
And when I find out about a method of sustainable livestock production that may indeed be financially viable…I hope that I am not alone in wanting to help make this possibility become a reality.
If I am not alone in thinking that the silvopastoral system of sustainable livestock production is pretty darn cool…I am asking that you share this article far and wide. If more people know about the concept, more people will talk about it, and more farmers will look into it, and more people will agree to buy from those farmers and so on and so on and so on.