The shrimp sector has been one of the fastest growing agri-food systems in the last decades at the expense of society and the environment. It is now seeking sustainable intensification. Scientists Joffre et al. show that the major constraints in the transition to sustainable intensification are institutional. They appeal to tackle these blocking mechanisms using a multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder intervention approach.
Methane is both a product of digestion in cattle and a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Unfortunately, on-farm methane quantification is not feasible on a large scale using animal-direct measurements. Scientists Engelke et al. developed a tool predicting methane emission of dairy cows from both the fatty acid concentrations in the milk and the milk yield. This prediction could be used as a screening method in the genetic selection of low methane-emitting cows.
Livestock production in Latin America is strongly associated with deforestation but there is also evidence that animal welfare is improved by tree coverage. Scientists Mancera et al. recently showed reductions in cattle skin injuries and overall better cattle body condition in ranches with more than 10% of tree coverage, thus improving livestock production.
Mixed farming systems represent the most common form of agriculture worldwide. The agroecological performance of these systems is strongly determined by practices improving the integration between crop and livestock productions. Agronomists Stark et al. showed that by looping nutrient cycles, these farming systems would be more efficient and more resilient to meet the challenges of agroecology.
The integration of animals into crop systems has many potential benefits. Scientists Niles et al. studied the integration of sheep into New Zealand viticulture. Farmers who have implemented this novel practice perceived significant benefits such as fewer herbicide applications and fewer mows. Implemented at a wider scale, it could provide greater ecological and profits than current conventional practices.
Agronomists Beudou et al. show that local actors from two contrasted French territories have different perception of livestock services provided to the society. They highlight how societal demand for these services can lever the agroecological transition of livestock farming systems, orientate public policies and trigger effective actions.
Poultry producers are always seeking a more efficient chicken that will grow faster using fewer resources. But what are the consequences on the birds themselves? Scientists Tallentire et al. find that the improved efficiency of modern breeds is the result of increased growth rate, particularly of breast meat. They discuss the effects of artificial selection on traits such as metabolic activity. As industrial feed production has a huge environmental impact, is this progress in chicken genetics good news for global food sustainability?
Castration of male piglets is a standard practice used by the pig industry to avoid boar taint, a sensory defect of meat from boars. An initiative to abandon this practice has been undertaken by key stakeholders in European Union, which will greatly impact the pig meat sector and which has stimulated intensive research to find easy implementable alternatives to reduce boar taint. Dietary compounds have shown promising results as potential alternative to reduce boar taint. Research from Bilić-Šobot et al. shows that hydrolysable tannins should prevent boar taint by affecting metabolic pathways of boar taint substances.
Grazing intensification with non-native livestock degrade vegetation cover, particularly, in arid environments where low resource availability in the soil strongly limits plant recovery after damage. However, it remains unclear whether the negative effect of grazing on consumed plants is transmitted to plant offspring. Tadey & Souto analysed whether grazing reduces fruit weight, germination percentage and seedling vigor of consumed vegetation along a grazing gradient. They found that increasing livestock density decreased fruit weight and germination percentage but, unexpectedly, enhanced seedling vigor of dryland shrub species.
Dairy farms could improve their environmental footprint by feeding more homegrown forage by reducing imports of feed and enhancing the use of fertilizers. Long and Ketterings analyzed 14 years of yield data from a 1000-cow dairy farm to identify highly productive fields that are stable under changing climate. They found that increasing soil organic matter, impoving drainage and optimizing soil fertility should decrease the impact of weather extremes.