Climate-smart livestock: Building resilient food systems in the face of climate change

posted on August 12, 2022 | Author DR. FAAZIL BASHIR RATHER

The animal production system contributes to and is affected by climate change. The human population is expected to increase from 7.2 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050 (UN, 2022). Global demand for foods of animal origin is expected to double in the first half of this century and it is clear that the livestock sector will need to expand. Globally, about 12% of the world’s population depends solely on livestock for their livelihoods and the sector accounts for 40% of global agricultural gross domestic product (GDP). The sector contributes significantly to carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Livestock contribute to climate change by emitting GHGs either directly (e.g. from enteric fermentation and manure management) or indirectly (e.g. from feed production activities), driving climate change . Therefore, climate change mitigation policies involving livestock should be designed with extreme care.

Climate change is one of the most significant global environmental challenges, due to its multidimensional effects and its impact on humans, animals, plants and the environment. Globally, climate change is considered a major threat to the survival of many species, the livelihoods of people, ecosystems and the sustainability of animal production systems. Due to climate change, there is an increase in the loss of livestock assets and several other indirect losses. Climate change is expected to cause droughts, heat waves, storms, desertification and increased insect infestations. Long-term climate change will affect the future of all animals, including those in the oceans, farms, forests, wild areas and our homes. Climate change can lead to the spread of vector-borne diseases and macroparasites, along with the emergence and circulation of new diseases.

Climate change has the potential to unbalance the epidemiological triad and different diseases that are not present in an ecosystem may become more prevalent. Increased temperature can cause heat stress in animals, leading to reduced growth, suboptimal behaviors, and reduced immune competence. Higher temperatures tend to reduce feed consumption and reduce feed conversion rates and additional investment costs to keep animals warm or cool during climatic extremes. Unusual climatic changes and variability such as rising temperatures, erratic monsoon, rainfall and erratic rainfall have led to the loss of a large number of livestock species, ultimately affecting incomes and livelihoods. food security of marginalized people.

Climate change can be expected to negatively impact fodder, fodder crops, grazing system and the emergence of unpalatable fodder species leading to shortage of fodder and fodder for livestock. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeThe Fifth Assessment Report indicates that a 2-3°C increase above pre-industrial levels can result in a 20-30% loss of plant and animal biodiversity. Temperatures exceeding the critical evaporation temperature during lactation reduce feed intake and therefore decrease milk production, decrease milk quality and composition. Heat stress increases udder temperature and dairy cows become more prone to mastitis.

Climate change!!! What is the solution >>>Climate-smart farming

The Climate-Smart Livestock System is a comprehensive approach, “which works towards sustainable livestock production systems that fully support climate change adaptation and mitigation activities, food security, sustainable incomes, well -being animal and reduce the environmental impact”.

Here are some of the climate-smart practices and technologies that are effective in reducing livestock emissions and increasing resilience to climate change:

Improving productivity per animal/group of animals will lead to both improved food security and reduced emissions in animal production systems, which can be achieved by adapting husbandry practices such as breeding more productive breeds, herd management and adopting approaches to improve animal health (e.g. improving feed balance and digestibility to reduce methane emissions in ruminants) .

Improving the efficiency of the use of natural resources will lead to both improved food security and a reduced carbon footprint. Efficient use of natural resources such as land, water, energy and other inputs will lead to reduced waste along value chains and reduced emissions. Better land management to maintain or increase carbon stocks and improve food production involves several avenues, avoiding deforestation, practicing grazing management methods (e.g. changing grazing patterns, restoring grasslands, using pasture crops, using legumes in pasture), implementing silvo-pastoral systems, adopting agroforestry-based interventions, as trees can sequester carbon in the soil, provide shade and improve animal nutrition. The use of low-emission food products such as insect-based products, such as black soldier fly larvae, etc., as a source of protein in animal feed rations has the potential to minimize environmental and carbon footprints. The use of food additives like 3-nitrooxypropanol (3NOP), Australian red seaweed, etc., suppresses the production of methane. Using natural ventilation instead of energy-intensive cooling systems and efficient water harvesting strategies contributes to sustainable livestock production.

Technical solutions to emissions include several diverse interventions such as rumen modification (use of vaccines against methane-producing microorganisms), through product use and rational manure management, adoption of renewable energy ( bio-digester and solar energy-solar milk cooling, solar water trough, etc.) and the use of energy-efficient equipment and machinery, all of these interventions minimize the need for non-renewable energy sources throughout the chains value of livestock.

Circular bio-economy strategies – “waste-to-wealth management”, minimize the leakage of energy and materials from the system by recirculating them back into production. Green technology offers better use of manure and animal traction to increase crop productivity, as well as the share of livestock by-products in livestock feed, nutrient recycling or energy production . Channeling and converting waste into biogas and biodiesel production, vermicomposting, biobriquettes, bioplastics, bio-herbicides, bio-pesticides, bio-electricity and bio-hydrogen production, etc. In addition to being environmentally friendly, these technologies further offer employment opportunities, clean energy and a number of products that are very useful for various applications.

Specific adaptation options, these include insurance (livestock), early warning systems, disease monitoring and climate control in animal housing systems. More investment in research is needed to better understand the direct and indirect effects of climate change on livestock production systems and to develop longer-term adaptation strategies.

Promotion and implementation of various prestigious initiatives by the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir administration such as National Artificial Insemination Program (NIAP) under Rashtriya Gokul Mission (RGM-CSS ), under which free livestock services are provided at the farmer’s doorstep. using frozen semen technologies, component of waste-to-wealth (agricultural waste management) initiatives under the Livestock Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF-CSS), establishment of a poultry waste, dairy effluent/dairy waste water treatment plant, biogas plant, cow dung dewatering system, cow dung drying machine/log making and vermi-compost units etc. in the framework of the Integrated Dairy Development Program (IDDS) and network of Veterinary Care Centers, including Mobile Veterinary Clinics (MVCs) that provide professional health care services to farming communities, promises a way to ensure and build climate-resilient livestock-based food systems.

There is no doubt that animal production for animal protein is a major contributor to GHG emissions and climate change. However, there are innovative and traditional solutions to alleviate the environmental pressure of the livestock sector, while increasing productivity and meeting an ever-increasing demand for animal protein products. Adopting the right policies, such as penalizing carbon emissions and rewarding carbon sequestration, has the potential to reduce their net emissions by 89% according to recent studies. Scientific research can help the sector in the fight against climate change. There is an immediate need for “One Health Initiative” which involves all stakeholders i.e. veterinarians, doctors, agronomists, physicists, meteorologists, engineers, economists etc. to work together using scientific information to ensure optimal use. natural resources, nutritional adequacy, improved human health and environmental sustainability, which can potentially provide opportunities for the development of effective and efficient climate change adaptation strategies.

(The author is Veterinarian and Technical Officer (Poultry), Kashmir Livestock Directorate, Red Cross Road Gaw Kadal Srinagar Kashmir. Email: [email protected])