Four livestock keeping systems

There are different livestock keeping systems, which all play different roles in rural societies today.

For designing sustainable livestock keeping strategies, it is necessary to differentiate between these different systems according to level of input and land-use (from top left clockwise):

  • ranching
  • intensive large-scale farming
  • smallholder farming
  • pastoralism.

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Figure 1 Differentiation between four major livestock keeping systems.

On the horizontal axis they differ according to the intensity of land use, varying from intensive land use (left) to extensive land use (right). On the vertical axis, they differ according to the level of inputs and diversity within the system, varying from subsistence, low-input and high diversity (top) to commercial high-input and low diversity (bottom).

I believe each of these four systems have a role to play in livestock development in developing countries – and each can be optimised towards improved production and increased sustainability.

Each of these four systems has its own specific objec- tives, potentials, limitations and ‘right of being’. At the same time these livestock keeping systems influence environment and livelihoods in different ways. A combination of the different systems is often found within one household or farm, e.g. when an intensive dairy cattle farmer also keeps chicken and pigs on a low-input basis; or when a producer on a mixed farm keeps sheep on a pastoralist basis. Most livestock-dependent poor people can be found in systems 1 and 2: in smallholder farming and pastoralism.

More info in the booklet Endogenous Livestock Development in Cameroon and the book Sustainable Livestock Management for Poverty Alleviation and Food Security