The sustainability of genetic improvement programs in developing countries depends on breeders’ participation. Scientists Camara et al. evaluated the motivations of breeders and the factors influencing their participation in the N’Dama cattle-breeding program in Senegal. They found that social, family and institutional relationships are factors as important -as distance or production systems features.
Comparing five highly efficient and contrasted sheep farming systems across France and Ireland, scientists Benoit et al. showed that optimization of fodder self-sufficiency strategy led to the best economic and environmental performances, while also reducing feed/food competition. However, these systems do not fully fit with the meat industry demand for a regular lamb-meat supply throughout the year and lamb conformation.
Sustainably intensifying smallholder farming systems on sandy soils is critical to the development of livelihoods in the Mekong region of Cambodia and Laos. Scientists Philp et al. recently reckoned that forages could intensify livestock production in rainfed lowland rice farming systems. Varieties must be adapted to both flooding and drought. Furthermore, soil acidity, low soil fertility, drought and the continual removal of nutrients in harvested forage must be carefully managed.
In southern Brazil, pastures with mixed oat/ryegrass during winter are directly planted with soybean in summer. Scientists Peterson et al. found that pastures grazed by beef cattle during winter exhibited drier soil in the following summer. However, soybean productivity was unchanged. Long term crop-livestock integration induces unique synergies which need to be considered to ensure the sustainability of these systems.
In integrated crop-livestock systems, cover crops provide food for grazing animals but the intensive grazing of the cover crops can increase weed emergence. Scientists Schuster et al. showed that optimizing forage allowances in a grass cover crop grazed by cattle during winter, followed by no-tillage soybean production next summer, suppressed weeds and improved beef and soybean productions.
Protein crops are rarely grown by European Union farmers although these crops decrease farmers dependency on purchased feed and provide agronomic benefits to cropping systems. Scientists Carof et al. surveyed a group of farmers growing protein crops in western France. They revealed similar yields in organic and conventional systems and highlighted the need to consider protein crop profit at a crop-rotation level. This should encourage protein-crop adoption by farmers.
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.