Development of livestock production in the tropics: farm and
S. J. Oosting
, H. M. J. Udo and T. C. Viets
Animal Production Systems Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 338 6700 AH, Wageningen, The Netherlands
(Received 10 October 2013; Accepted 20 February 2014; First published online 27 March 2014)
Because of an increasing demand for animal-source foods, an increasing desire to reduce poverty and an increasing need to
reduce the environmental impact of livestock production, tropical farming systems with livestock must increase their productivity.
An important share of the global human and livestock populations are found within smallholder mixed-crop–livestock systems,
which should, therefore, contribute signiﬁcantly towards this increase in livestock production. The present paper argues that
increased livestock production in smallholder mixed-crop–livestock systems faces many constraints at the level of the farm and
the value chain. The present paper aims to describe and explain the impact of increased production from the farm and farmers’
perspective, in order to understand the constraints for increased livestock production. A framework is presented that links
farming systems to livestock value chains. It is concluded that farming systems that pass from subsistence to commercial
livestock production will: (1) shift from rural to urban markets; (2) become part of a different value chain (with lower prices,
higher demands for product quality and increased competition from peri-urban producers and imports); and (3) have to face
changes in within-farm mechanisms and crop–livestock relationships. A model study showed that feed limitation, which is
common in tropical farming systems with livestock, implies that maximum herd output is achieved with small herd sizes,
leaving low-quality feeds unutilised. Maximal herd output is not achieved at maximal individual animal output. Having
more animals than required for optimal production –which is often the case as a larger herd size supports non-production
functions of livestock, such as manure production, draught, traction and capital storage –goes at the expense of animal-source
food output. Improving low-quality feeds by treatment allows keeping more animals while maintaining the same level
of production. Ruminant methane emission per kg of milk produced is mainly determined by the level of milk production
per cow. Part of the methane emissions, however, should be attributed to the non-production functions of ruminants.
It was concluded that understanding the farm and farmers’perceptions of increased production helps with the understanding
of productivity increase constraints and adds information to that reported in the literature at the level of technology, markets
Keywords: development constraints, value chains, feed availability, productivity, methane emissions
Increasing production in smallholder mixed-crop–livestock
systems in order to respond to the increasing demand for
animal-source food (and concomitantly contribute to poverty
reduction, improved global food security and improved glo-
bal environment) faces serious difﬁculties. In development
and research activities aimed at livestock production in the
tropics, the farm and the farmers’perspective should be
taken into account.
Livestock production in the tropics dominates the global scene
when it comes to the number of animals, total output and
number of beneﬁciaries –that is, producers and consumers
(Table 1) –when compared with livestock production in the
western world. Many contextual reasons make livestock pro-
duction in the tropics different from that in the West. This was
noticed when simple livestock technologies and organisational
infrastructure, which were successful in high-production
regions, proved unsuccessful when introduced in the tropics
., 2011; Amankwah, 2013; Sumberg and Lankoandé,
2013). Climate, resource availability, input and supply market
(2014), 8:8, pp 1238–1248 © The Animal Consortium 2014
functioning, social and cultural factors –individually and in
complex interactions –create speciﬁc local opportunities and
constraints for livestock production (Poole
., 2013). The
global importance, speciﬁcity and complex nature of livestock
production in the tropics make the specialisation ‘tropical
livestock production’a relevant discipline within the Animal
In recent times tropical livestock production has become
more prominent in scientiﬁc and societal discourses for a
number of reasons. First, in developing countries the con-
sumers’demand for meat, milk and eggs has increased
considerably and will continue to do so (Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2009). Second, the
contribution of livestock production in the tropics to global
greenhouse gas emissions is high (FAO, 2006; de Vries
and de Boer, 2009; Gerber
., 2011; Herrero
2011). Third, as many of the livestock keepers in the tropics
are poor (Table 1) livestock improvement could lead to
poverty alleviation (World Bank, 2007, 2009; Herrero
2013). See Supplementary Material S1 for background
information about these drivers for change.
Scientiﬁc and policy literature in the ﬁeld of tropical livestock
production, explicitly or implicitly, presents an objective: to
increase the intensity of livestock production in order to meet
the increasing food demand; reduce the environmental impact
of livestock production per unit animal product; and contribute
to poverty alleviation (World Bank, 2007, 2009; McDermott
., 2010; Herrero
., 2013). Research and development,
policy making and extension aiming to increase livestock
production have been taking place since the middle of the
twentieth century. However, sustained adoption of the
intensiﬁcation of livestock production has been relatively
marginal, which led Sumberg (2002) to conclude: ‘[T]he...
technologies have not been able to reliably and economically
deliver beneﬁts of interests to large numbers of African
farmers’. Apparently, beneﬁts perceived by others were
insufﬁcient in the farmers’perspective to intensify their
production and commercialise their marketing, or, in other
words, the aforementioned discourses are not clearly con-
nected to the reality of livestock farmers. We may assume
that the reality of smallholders is complex and what may be
a beneﬁt or cost in their complex reality is insufﬁciently
understood by scientists, policy makers and development
practitioners (Sumberg, 2002; Bernard and Spielman, 2009;
., 2010; Amankwah, 2013; Sumberg and Lankoandé,
2013). The present paper aims to highlight the possible and real
discourses at the farmers’level –that is, to identify reasons
why farmers in the tropics perceive intensiﬁcation of livestock
production on their farms not simply as a beneﬁt but also as a
pathway towards increased costs, such as dependency on
inputs and reduced resilience. We do this by describing the
generic effects of intensiﬁcation on farm size, the roles and
functions of livestock within farms and the risks associated with
competition between value chains, and we illustrate this by
means of a modelling study in which we show the potential
effects of interventions on production, methane emissions and
Tropical livestock production systems
In this section we will describe the global farming systems
with livestock production (FAO, 2009).
Mixed-crop–livestock systems are small farming systems
with crops and livestock. Smallholder mixed-crop–livestock
systems have developed in regions with relatively good
conditions for agriculture. Farm sizes can be small (often less
than 1 ha due to division of land within families) because
small plots still give sufﬁcient yields to sustain the families
living from it. This implies that the best lands are often in
Human and livestock population (numbers in millions) in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
Poor livestock keepers
% of total
Central Africa 123 30 24.4 22 33 6 97
Western Africa 297 133 44.8 59 209 13 470
East Africa 316 105 33.2 123 149 10 308
Southern Africa 57 23
40.2 20 41 2 177
India 1208 546 45.2 206 109 222 10 753
Bangladesh 147 61 41.5 23 1 51 0 221
World total 6818 na na 1453 2062 941 19 842
Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as percentage
of world total
36.3 na na 34.9 43.2 4.3 10.2
Living below $2 per day (Herrero
FAO (2013). Herrero
. (2013) gave an estimate of 53 million poor livestock keepers in Southern Africa.
Development of livestock production in the tropics
smallholder regions where land has become a scarce
resource. In less favourable regions, sizes of smallholder
mixed-crop–livestock farms may be bigger, and land may be
or seem less scarce. However, prospects for high production
are also lower, because of these same unfavourable condi-
tions. Smallholder mixed-crop–livestock systems often have
an intensive land use, which is the cause for the strong
interaction between crops and livestock (Tittonell
., 2012). From the perspective of agro-
ecology, the individual smallholder mixed-crop–livestock
systems producing for the local markets can be regarded as
elements of local ecosystems. In such local ecosystems,
livestock contributes to cycling of nitrogen and phosphorus,
contributes to crop production by its capital stock function
and by supplying draught power and transport, and converts
crop residues, household wastes and biomass of marginal
lands to valuable food products (Udo
(2010) estimated that with regard to animal-
source food production in the tropics, 65% of beef, 75% of
milk and 55% of lamb are produced in such mixed-crop–
livestock systems. In Kenya, smallholder farmers in mixed-
crop–livestock systems contribute about 60% to 70% of the
national milk output (Bebe
, 2002; Omiti
., 2009) and milk contributes 70% of the total
livestock revenue (Behnke and Muthami, 2011; Onono
2012) and provides a livelihood to the majority of rural
Grazing lands are found where conditions for crop produc-
tion are unfavourable: where it is either too dry, too cold, too
high or too steep for crop production. Pastoralist systems –
that is systems in which ruminants and their herders follow
the feed –are relatively efﬁcient systems found in such areas
, 2011). Following an increasing demand
for crops, grazing lands are gradually being turned into crop
land through irrigation and fertilisation. In addition, a trend
towards increased settling of pastoralists is reported in West
and East Africa (Sendalo, 2009; McCabe
Rangeland system is another form of grassland-based
system, often characterised by an extensive form of beef
production on big private properties reaching thousands of
hectares. Productivity is low and intensiﬁcation of rangeland
production may occur through irrigation and fertilisation, but
this may eventually result in turning the rangelands into crop
lands (Kimani and Pickard, 1998; Ayantunde
Furthermore, smallholder mixed-crop–livestock systems
may have a grazing component where grazing occurs on
communal lands. Overgrazing is a big issue here (Hardin,
1968; Jones and Sandland, 1974; de Haan
., 1997; Kemp
and Michalk, 2007) because of high and increasing stocking
rates. An important aspect of communal grazing lands is
the nutrient transfer from these soils to farm homesteads
through grazing animals (Ruﬁno, 2008). This is beneﬁcial for
crop production at the homestead, but detrimental for the
soil fertility and productivity of the communal grazing lands
in the long run.
In and around urban areas, very intensive systems, referred to
as industrial systems, are found with pig, poultry and dairy
production. Such systems beneﬁt from urban infrastructure,
from nearby markets, from by-products of urban and peri-
urban processing industries and from urban wastes as inputs.
Direct land use of such systems is often limited because of
high land prices in and around cities. Consequently, industrial
systems are highly dependent on rural farming systems for
inputs such as basal feeds and breeding stock. In addition,
accumulation of nitrogen and phosphorus occurs in such
systems and sustainable disposal is often a problem (Schiere
and van der Hoek, 2001; Gerber
Scope for increased livestock production
Increased animal-source food production and the reduction
of environmental impact and poverty are targets set for
livestock production in the tropics.
Smallholder mixed-crop–livestock systems could largely
contribute to these targets because of the following reasons:
(1) there are many of them; (2) beneﬁciaries of these systems
are poor (Table 1); (3) they already have an important con-
tribution to food production; (4) they reside in high potential
regions; and (5) they will remain the dominant farming sys-
tem in the foreseeable future (Herrero
Industrial systems with pig and poultry production close to
urban areas could contribute to these targets as they are sys-
tems with high resource use efﬁciency resulting in high food
output for growing urban populations and low environmental
impact per unit of production (FAO, 2006).
The grazing systems could contribute to these targets as
they occupy considerable amounts of land and, therefore,
a small improvement per hectare could easily result in
high overall improvement. Constraints for improvement are
severe, however. Pastoralist systems are found in the most
unfavourable and marginal conditions and settlement of tra-
ditional pastoralist occurs for socio-cultural reasons (Sendalo,
., 2010; Ayantunde
The present paper will focus on mixed-crop–livestock
systems as they are the largest contributors to livestock
outputs and they constitute the majority of livestock-keeping
Interventions and scientiﬁc disciplines
To narrow the gaps between productivity achieved under
temperate and tropical conditions Animal Sciences at ﬁrst
studied and introduced purely western technologies such
as breeds, housing systems, veterinary services, and feeds
and feeding management to the tropics. Introduction and
development of veterinary services were relatively successful
., 1996; Amankwah, 2013) and had a good
cost–beneﬁt ratio (e.g. Aklilu, 2007). However, many projects
introducing other types of technologies failed in the short or
long term (Poole
., 2013; Sumberg and Lankoandé, 2013).
Mortality rates among imported full-bred animals were high
(de Jong, 1996), and improved housing systems and improved
Oosting, Udo and Viets
feeding practices were not widely adopted (Schiere, 1995;
., 1996; Mekoya
., 2008). In Kenya, close to
80% of cattle farmers in the highlands keep exotic breeds,
mainly breeds with a larger body size, which are perceived as
producing more milk (Bebe
production per cow has remained relatively low and strategies
to increase yields have not been adequately adopted (Bebe
., 2003b). For example, despite the fact that herd
improvement through artiﬁcial insemination with superior
semen and herd replacement by high-quality heifers could
potentially improve the productivity of cows, these strategies
are not widely practised (Bebe
., 2003a; Baltenweck
2004; Bebe, 2008).
It was realised that technologies had to be appropriate
for tropical conditions, and research and development
concentrated on appropriate technological development.
Housing systems of local materials, (Bosman
attention for traction (Gryseels, 1988), breeding with local
., 2010), local feeds (Mekoya
2008) and practices (Schiere, 1995; de Jong, 1996) and
taking into account genotype–environment interactions
(Frisch and Vercoe, 1978; Seré
., 2008) should increase
adoption by getting technology closer to the context of
farmers. However, such appropriate technologies alone or in
packages are not believed to have high adoption rates if not
accompanied by good markets and measures to overcome
institutional barriers (Barrett, 2008; Gildemacher
Therefore, economics and social science aspects were
introduced into studies of tropical livestock production (e.g.
., 1996; Aklilu, 2007; Amankwah
Sumberg and Lankoandé, 2013). Markets and value chains
were studied as pull factors for production increase (e.g. Kilelu,
2013). Input supply, milk and meat markets, chain logistics
and farmers’organisations were and are seen as important for
development (e.g. the International Livestock Research Insti-
tute (ILRI), 2011; Kilelu, 2013). The Social sciences, studying
institutions and stakeholders, claim that organisational struc-
tures and formal and informal rules associated with them
stimulate or hamper developments (Gildemacher
, 2012). Moreover, social aspects such
as values and interests of stakeholders along the chain are
regarded in the development process often through
participative approaches (van Mierlo
This evolution in reasoning and in the actions taken
in livestock (and other) development reﬂects the fact that
tropical livestock production systems are complex and that
they operate in complex environments. The literature on
livestock production in the tropics by the authors mentioned
in the previous sections reveals that most of them see the
complex nature of tropical livestock systems and that they
recommend interdisciplinary approaches to meet the objec-
tives of development. However, the literature also reveals
that the theoretical frameworks used within tropical livestock
production research are the theoretical frameworks of the
disciplines: that is, feeds, housing, breeding and health for
animal sciences; markets and monetary ﬂows for economics;
and structures and values for social sciences. The conclusions
and solutions offered to overcome constraints are kept
within the framework of each individual discipline. Some
authors seek a more integrated approach: Poole
discussed the importance of local and individual context
when it comes to commercialisation of smallholder agri-
culture; Pica-Ciamarra and Otte (2011) reported variation
between regions with regard to the development of demand
for animal-source food; Sumberg and Lankoandé (2013)
demonstrated that just the supply of improved animals in
an in-kind heifer scheme will not be the panacea for poverty;
. (2011) concluded ‘Without development
policies that deliberately consider the opportunities and
threats faced by mixed-crop −livestock farming households,
many of these households are likely to be excluded from the
increased market opportunities’.
In the next sections of the present paper we will present
two approaches that allow for an integrated view on farming
system development from the farm and farmers’perspective.
The ﬁrst one looks at the value chain–livestock farming
system interaction and the second one is a more technical
model linking feed quality and availability to maximal and
actual production of a total herd.
Livestock value chains and dynamics
Development of a farming system does not happen in isola-
tion. Farms are part of a value chain (here, broadly deﬁned
as the total chain of goods from input supply to a farm,
through farm production, to market supply to the consumer
via processing, marketing and retailing). We present here the
so-called Livestock Value Chain Analytical Framework (LIV-
CAF). LIVCAF distinguishes four major livestock value chains,
each associated with different production systems, roles and
functions of animals within the production system, and
constraints for development (see Table 2).
The LIVCAF framework in Table 2 is used to illustrate the
implications of the transition from smallholder subsistence
farms to (more) specialised and commercial livestock farms.
The emphasis will be on the transition from the rural–
rural value chain to the rural–urban value chain. The peri-
urban–urban value chain and the import chain may compete
with the rural–urban chain and affect smallholder transition
to this chain. Transitions from the rural–rural value chain to
peri-urban or export value chains are possible: a rural farm
could become a peri-urban farm when cities expand and/or
better roads make the city ‘closer’; an export chain could
develop, making local farmers producers for foreign urban
markets. Production developments in such situations most
likely follow the economic theory as most farms involved will
already be commercial farms and will not be discussed in the
The rural–rural value chain is dominated by smallholder
mixed-crop–livestock systems. The majority of world farmers
operate in such systems and almost three billion people
Development of livestock production in the tropics
depend on such systems for their food supply (Herrero
2010). Production is carried out in rural areas for the family.
Local markets are the major outlet for surpluses and, more
importantly, for selling livestock in times of emergency (Omiti
., 2009; Amankwah
., 2012). Such livestock outputs
may reach urban markets but supply is irregular and of
secondary importance for urban consumers. As stated
before, livestock in mixed-crop–livestock systems supports
crop production directly by delivering manure, traction and
draught power. Indirect support from livestock for crop pro-
duction is by serving as a capital store to be sold to buy seeds
and fertilisers (Doumbia
., 2012) or for emergencies (Udo
., 2011; Amankwah
From the scientists’and development agents’perspectives
such smallholder farms should achieve increased agricultural
and livestock production. Technologies to increase produc-
tion are available; the increasing demand for food creates
good markets and we understand how farmers could over-
come institutional constraints for innovation. However, it
could be too easy to assume that the beneﬁts of increased
production and marketing will exceed increased monetary
and non-monetary costs at the farm level.
First, production increase at a farm implies that the farm
has to make a very drastic change with regard to the market
they produce for. If more is produced than what the family
can consume, farms will become market-oriented for part of
their production, and if more than a few farms in a village
increase their production local markets will become satu-
rated. For perishable products such as milk and meat this
market saturation often means a price reduction (Sharma
., 2003) and farms will have to aim at markets with a
high demand, which are often in growing urban regions.
Such urban market-oriented farms become part of the second
value chain in Table 2: the rural–urban value chain. Farms in
this value chain are more specialised than the ones in the
rural–rural value chain, are market-oriented and they may
follow the generic pattern as described by Whittaker (2000)
for dairy development in New Zealand. At the moment,
land availability limits the establishment of new farms (and
this is the case in many tropical regions); a part of the
existing farms expand at the expense of others (hence, farm
enlargement and reduction in the number of farms) with a
concomitant increase in the production per animal and per
hectare. As a consequence, tropical farms with livestock pro-
duction for urban markets are, compared with non-market-
oriented farms, often bigger and obtain higher per-animal
productivity through higher use of inputs, including external
labour, land and capital (Tittonell
., 2010; Jayne
., 2012; Amankwah, 2013). Inevitably,
such farms are more specialised.
Second, the transition of livestock production from the
informal rural–rural value chain to the rural–urban value
chain implies that transport, processing and retail become
important steps between a farmer and consumers. However,
all stakeholders in these steps will want to take their share of
the economic beneﬁt, which may cause farm-gate prices in
the rural-urban value chain to be lower than at local markets
despite the higher consumer prices (Sharma
., 2009). Moreover, product quality demands in
the rural–urban value chain are higher than in the rural–rural
value chain because of processing requirements, the longer
time span between production and consumption, and con-
A third reason that limits the possibilities for smallholders to
enter the rural–urban chain with increased livestock production
is competition. Within farms, crop commercialisation competes
with livestock commercialisation. Many smallholder crop–
livestock producers already have a market-oriented crop, such
as dry-season vegetables (Amankwah
., 2012), coffee
., 2011) and rice (Doumbia
., 2012). Livestock
supports the production of these crops by supply of manure,
transport and draught, and by acting as a capital store. Com-
mercialisation of livestock production will at least partly affect
these crop-supporting functions of livestock by demanding its
share of available land, labour and credits.
A second competition for livestock is at the urban markets.
As Table 2 illustrates, the peri-urban–urban chain produces
predominantly for the urban markets. Peri-urban production
may have comparative advantage over rural production
because of economics of scale, better infrastructure for inputs
and outputs, and better connection with urban markets.
Imports also compete with rural products at urban markets;
imports of chicken legs and wings, cheap because they are the
least preferred parts in the region of origin (the EU), are
Livestock value chains, associated livestock farming systems and constraints
(producer–consumer) Dominant livestock production system Level of inputs Major limitations for development
Rural–rural Mixed-crop–livestock systems often subsistence Low •Labour
•Low priority given to livestock production
Rural–urban Specialised systems
•Chain cooperation, infrastructure, logistics, knowledge
Urban–urban (Peri-)urban intensive production High •Capital
•Feed supply, water use, waste disposal
External–urban High-input systems abroad •Dependency on world market
Pastoralism can be considered a system that can ﬂuctuate between a subsistence system in lean years and a specialised, market-oriented system with high outputs in
Oosting, Udo and Viets
considered a major obstacle for poultry production develop-
ment in Senegal,Ghana and the Ivory Coast (Dieye
even for production by peri-urban farms (Mahama
It should be stated that chains may also beneﬁt from each
other: The Indian National Dairy Development Board used
gains made on reconstituted milk from imports of cheap milk
powder to support local milk production by smallholders
(Candler and Kumar, 1998), and feed required by peri-urban
livestock farming systems may open a new market horizon
for rural smallholders.
From the previous section it can be concluded that live-
stock production increase is a big step for smallholders as it
implies internal changes within the farm, and production
for new markets in new value chains with different price
settings and different quality demands. It can be questioned
whether such big steps are easily made, especially because
they affect the way in which farms have to deal with per-
turbations (external and internal disturbances of the system
–e.g. drought, ﬂoods, diseases, competition, wars, etc.). The
smallholder mixed-crop–livestock farms in the rural–rural
value chain are resilient when judged on their ability to retain
the functionality of providing livelihood to families in times
of perturbations because of the following reasons: (1) the
diversity of farm activities and magnitude of the livestock
herd or ﬂock; (2) the low dependency on inputs; (3) the low
dependency of farm activities on inputs derived from other
farm activities (referred to as interdependency); and (4) the
low dependency on markets (Dahl and Hjort, 1976; Kitano,
2004; Ten Napel
., 2011). Farms in the rural–urban value
chain became specialised and consequently less diverse, and
acquired more dependency within the farm (e.g. where feed
crops are grown for livestock, if one of the two activities fails,
both fail) and within value chains, with regard to availability,
prices and quality requirements. Such specialised farms may
be robust in times of perturbations, but they have to take
institutional or technological measures to prevent perturba-
tions to affect the system –for example, irrigation to prevent
droughts; housing systems to protect livestock against
climate, diseases and predators; creation of external feed
supply chains to assure feed supply; and disease prevention
measures. If such measures fail, such farms should be well
insured to avoid a total collapse of the system (Ten Napel
The transition process is not a gradual process (Sharma
., 2003; Udo
., 2011). A subsistence smallholder
farm could keep a relatively small number of animals (up to
20 to 30 chickens) without investments. A larger number of
animals requires investments in housing, feed and veterinary
inputs and many more animals should be kept to cover the
investment costs (Aklilu, 2007). Hence, the transition of
rural–rural to the rural–urban value chain can be considered
a system jump.
. (2010) described three pathways for the
dynamics of smallholder crop–livestock farmers: (1) market
orientation (2) increasing dependency on off-farm income or
(3) marginalisation. These pathways were characterised by
. (2009) as stepping up, stepping out and
hanging in, respectively. Resource endowment, which could
be the cause or effect of a stronger market orientation, was
better for market-oriented farmers. Doumbia
illustrated such a pattern for Mali. Rice farmers with better
resource endowment –for example, a cattle herd that pro-
vided manure, cash and traction animals –had a relatively
good position in rice production, whereas those lacking
livestock had to rely on working off-farm with a marginalised
income from crop production.
The question is whether the process of increased market
orientation could occur to all farmers in a community con-
comitantly. As the theory of Dorward
(2009) and results
(2010) and Doumbia
it is likely that a fraction of farmers will step up and that a
portion will remain where they are –that is, hang in or (at
least partly) step out. Developments in non-tropical regions,
where the number of farms reduced drastically (Whittaker,
2000), suggest that production increase is associated with
diminishing farm number and farm enlargement as a result
of the need for economics of scale. Hence, developing
farmers will be a pull factor on the labour and land of mar-
ginalised farmers. As a consequence, in the long term a
considerable part of the smallholders in a village will not be
part of the development: a part of them will have to become
labourers in their community or migrate to urban areas to
ﬁnd employment (Jayne
., 2010; Tittonell
In the next section an approach is presented that studies
the whole herd rather than individual animals and contri-
butes to understanding the farmers’perspective with regard
to animal breeding, feed improvement and the valuation of
non-production functions of animals.
If availability of high-quality feeds is limiting livestock
production, such high-quality feeds are imported. This is
especially true in the west. In most tropical regions, however,
export of high-quality feeds is more likely than imports; for
the vast majority of production systems in developing coun-
tries it can be stated that livestock production follows feed
availability. Feeding according to the animals’requirements
is not common practice (Schiere, 1995).
This was modelled for dairy production in a small (virtual)
region with a total annual availability of 1000 tonnes of feed
dry matter (DM) on the basis of information from studies by
(2003) and Abegaz
availability of feeds determines livestock production. Dairy is
presented here as a representative example for ruminant
production; modelling for beef, sheep or goat production
revealed similar conclusions.
The assumption is that the total feed base consists
of 10 equal quantities of 100 tonnes of DM, referred to as
class 1 for the best feeds up to class 10 for the worst feeds
(see Table 3).
At a low stocking rate (deﬁned as the number of dairy
cows relative to the total feed base), cows can select or be
Development of livestock production in the tropics
given the best-quality feeds. With an increasing number of
cows, more feed classes need to be included in the diet and
the (mixed) diet’s quality will decrease with decreasing
individual animal production (Figure 1a), an increasing herd
size maintained on the feed base (Figure 1b) and a curvilinear
relationship with total herd production (which equals herd
size times production per animal; Figure 1c). Intake and dairy
production were modelled for cows of 400 kg on the basis of
studies by Ketelaars and Tolkamp (1992) and Zemmelink
Figure 1c shows maximal herd output when up to class 4
feeds are being utilised. Inclusion of more feeds in the diet
(and feeding more animals) reduced the total herd output. In
the present modelling study we estimated maximal herd
output to be 1419 kg milk/day when up to class 4 feeds were
used and fed to a herd of 167 cows.
The ﬁrst implication of Figures 1a to 1c is that maximal
herd output in a situation of ﬁxed feed availability is not
achieved at the highest production per individual animal.
This implies that genotype–ration-quality interactions may
be of importance. Selection of breeds and genotypes within
breeds with highest performance on high-quality diets might
perform worse than other genotypes at the feed quality for
maximal total herd output.
A second implication is that meeting non-production
functions of animals goes at the expense of total herd out-
put. Using a similar modelling approach, Zemmelink
(2003) and Abegaz
. (2007) observed for regions in
Indonesia and Ethiopia, respectively, herds with many more
animals than the herd size for maximum production. If we, in
the present example, assume that up to class 7 feeds are fed
in order to maintain more animals to meet non-production
functions such as manure production, traction and transport
and capital store (all of which are favoured by a high number
of animals) then 347 animals can be maintained with a total
output of 875 kg of milk/day. Hence, 514 kg of milk is
sacriﬁced to support 180 additional animals, and beneﬁts
of non-production functions are equivalent to at least the
value of 514 kg of milk/day. The estimate of the value of
non-production functions could be higher if monetary values
are given to the non-production functions of livestock, as
suggested by Moll (2005).
A third implication is the effect of feed improvement.
Feed improvement can be achieved by treatment of low-quality
feeds or by introduction of better feeds (Gerber
., 2013). In the present example we elaborate the
effect of treatment with low-quality feeds. Sarnklong
(2010) reviewed options for treatment with rice straw. The rice
straw in their paper is representative of low-quality grass and
Chemical treatments (e.g. urea, ammonia or NaOH) and
biological treatments (by growing fungi on the straw or by
administering fungal enzymes to the straw) all aim to improve
straw digestibility by loosening the cell wall structure and
making the hemicellulose and cellulose fractions more readily
available for rumen digestion. Urea treatment is the most
propagated treatment in developing countries. The low-quality
feed is mixed with an equal weight of a 0.5% to 3% urea
solution and stored under airtight conditions for at least a
week. Ammonia will be formed from the urea and the alkaline
conditions will affect cell wall conﬁrmation and improve intake
and digestibility. An additional beneﬁt is the provision of
nitrogen through the treatment.
The effect of treatment is negatively related to the quality
of the feed –that is, absolute and relative treatment effects
were higher for lower than for higher quality feeds and
effects are negligible above an organic matter digestibility
(OMD) of 550 g/kg (based on Oosting, 1993). For the model-
ling study it was assumed that ammonia, urea, NaOH and
biological treatments yielded similar effects on OMD.
These principles were applied to the feed classes of Table 3 –
that is, only feed classes 5 and higher were treated and
treatment effect was higher for the lowest (class 10) feeds
(OMD going from 250 to 400 g/kg) than for the class 5 feeds
(OMD from 500 to 530 g/kg). The effects are presented
as solid lines in Figures 1 and 2. Treatment improved milk
production of individual animals and the optimum feed
inclusion for total herd production changed from class 4 to
class 5 at almost the same output level. The major effect was
that more animals could be kept without a reduction in milk
Regional availability and quality of feed
(tonnes dry matter/year) Examples
1 100 Cereals, concentrates 850 200
2 100 Improved fodder trees, fodder crops 720 170
3 100 Local fodder crops, improved grass species, polishings of wheat and rice 620 160
4 100 Medium-quality grass 550 140
5 100 Good-quality coarse stovers, low-quality grass 500 100
6 100 Medium-quality coarse stovers, good-quality slender straws 450 70
7 100 Low-quality coarse stovers, medium-quality slender straws, tree leaves 400 50
8 100 Low-quality slender straws 350 45
9 100 Standing straw 300 40
10 100 Twigs, barks 250 30
Adapted from Zemmelink
. (2003) and Abegaz
Oosting, Udo and Viets
output. In our example, even some of the class 9 feeds could
be fed after treatment, maintaining a total herd output of
875 l, by almost 450 animals.
Economics, labour needs and practical feasibility (e.g. fungal
treatment is promising on laboratory scale, but process control
is difﬁcult in piles of material because of fermentation heat)
have made adoption of treatments poor (Schiere, 1995). Roy
and Rangnekar (2006) described one successful case of urea
treatment in India, where treatment helps farmers overcome
storage problems in humid conditions.
A fourth implication is the study of methane emissions.
Enteric methane emissions were estimated on the basis of
the models of Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux (ARC)
(1980) and Oosting
(1993) assuming a linear decrease
in methane energy produced as a fraction of digestible
energy intake (DEI) with increasing quality of the diet (i.e.
methane varying from 120 J/kJ DEI for the poorest feed (class
10) to 75 J/kJ DEI for the best feed (class 1)). Increasing
inclusion of lower quality feeds resulted in an almost linear
increase in methane emissions from the herd (Figure 2a) and
in an exponential increase in methane emissions per kg of
milk (Figure 2b). Treatment (the solid lines in Figures 1 and 2)
had only marginal direct effects on methane emissions.
However, the indirect effect through milk production
increase is obvious (see Figure 2b).
Figure 1 Effect of inclusion of feeds of different quality in the diet
(class 1 is the best, class 10 is the worst) on individual daily milk
production (a), herd size (b) and total herd daily milk production (c) for
untreated (dotted line, squares) and treated (e.g. by urea or ammonia)
feeds in class 5 up to 10 (straight line, triangles).
Figure 2 Methane emissions for the total herd (a) and per kg of milk
produced (b) for untreated (dotted line, squares) and treated (e.g. by urea
or ammonia) low-quality feeds (straight line, triangles).
Development of livestock production in the tropics
For the diet with the highest herd production (up to class 4
included), methane emissions were 18.9 g/kg of milk, and with
the inclusion of feeds up to class 7 in order to feed a multi-
functional herd the emissions were estimated to be 51.4 g/kg
of milk. In the latter case, a part of the emissions should
be attributed to the non-production functions of livestock.
Earlier, we concluded that the economic beneﬁt of the non-
production functions was at least equivalent to 514 kg of milk/
day. Thus, a fraction (equal to
=514/1419) of 0.36 should be attributed
to the non-production functions. The outcome is that 32.8 g
/kg of milk is the methane emission attributable to the milk
production. These estimates are much lower than those by
(2011), but still higher than estimates for the
emissions/kg of milk (De Haas
., 2011). Nevertheless, Figure 2b shows that reduction in
stocking rates will reduce methane emissions per kg of milk
produced. This mitigation option is highly recommended as it is
also beneﬁcial for livestock output (Figure 1c) and it lowers the
impact of livestock production on nature, water and other
agricultural land use.
Decreasing herd size will occur only if the beneﬁts outweigh
the costs of losing non-production functions. Hence, artiﬁcial
fertilisation, short- and long-term ﬁnancial institutions and
mechanisation should become available reliably and at low
., 2011). Regulatory measures (taxes and quota)
could reduce the beneﬁts of keeping many animals.
If the non-production livestock functions could partly be
replaced by technology and institutions (the aforementioned
artiﬁcial fertilisation, short- and long-term ﬁnancial institu-
tions and mechanisation), then whole farm production
increase could go along with strengthened agro-ecological
values: less livestock would imply less pressure on lands with
increased food security and income. Nevertheless, there will
be the need to ﬁnd balances between intensiﬁcation of crop
and livestock production on the one hand and the agro-
ecological health of farming systems on the other. Trade-offs
between intensiﬁcation and agro-ecological values should be
analysed and understood. Hence, it is a challenge for tropical
livestock production research to ﬁnd ways to deal with issues
such as undesired loss of biodiversity –for example, when
local breeds are replaced by high-producing exotic ones;
social changes when farm intensiﬁcation leads to fewer
farms; and threatened resilience of farming systems when
technologies and institutions fail in times of crisis.
The present review presented two approaches for analysis of
the farm perspective of production improvement. Both show
that the presumed generic drivers for livestock development
–increasing demand for animal-source products and desire
of smallholders to escape from poverty –meet important
barriers at the farm and value chain level. The LIVCAF fra-
mework sheds light on constraints for commercialisation,
such as the inevitable change of the subsistence-oriented
farming system, with its mechanisms of resilience, into a
more specialised, land-requiring urban market-oriented
farming system, which has to deal with lower prices, more
competition and higher-quality demands. Moreover, there
is only limited scope for a gradual shift from subsistence
to commercial. Beneﬁts of such transition will ﬁrst meet
mountains of monetary and non-monetary costs, which may
explain, at least partly, the resistance to adoption.
The modelling study showed that limited feed availability
affects breeding objectives and feed improvement. The model
gives a tool for quantifying the contribution of non-monetary
functions to a farmer or a farming community. Farmers sacri-
ﬁce production in order to maintain other functions of cattle.
. (2003), Abegaz
. (2007), Budisatria
(2007) and Udo
(2011) all argue that farmers optimise on
the basis of maximal output of all functions combined and not
on milk or meat production alone.
Both approaches presented in thispaperfocusonthefarming
system as a whole. The outcomes complement those of con-
straint studies on the level of inputs, markets and institutions.
The authors kindly acknowledge Laura Webb for critically reading
the manuscript and for correction of the English language.
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