Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
(Steinfeld et al ., 2006; McMichael et al ., 2007;
Gill et al ., 2010). Climate change is predicted to
have significant influence on animal agriculture
in the future, though the severity of impacts
likely will differ among regions. Animal agricul-
ture in different regions could or will be affected
directly, but differently by such factors as water
availability, extreme weather events, drought
and flood, and heat stress; and indirectly by
changes in feed and forage quality and quantity,
host-pathogen interactions and disease occur-
rences, and increased fixed costs (e.g. cooling
of housing for animals) and variable costs
(e.g. variability in feed and energy supplies)
(Thornton et al ., 2009). Doubtless, reductions in
animal productivity will occur in certain regions
(e.g. the present day sub-tropics and tropics)
experiencing harsh climatic conditions inducing
even greater heat strain. In contrast, in more
temperate regions, agriculture productivity is
projected to increase somewhat with rises of
1-3°C in local ambient temperatures (IPCC,
2007). Overall, with the projected increases in
global animal numbers in the future (IPCC,
2007), greenhouse gas emissions also will rise.
To date, research successes to reduce enteric
methane production by more than a few percent-
age points have not been demonstrated (Gill et al .,
2010; Martin et al ., 2010). Furthermore, the
ruminant digestive tract evolved over millions of
years and methanogensis is the sink for excess
electrons from ruminal fermentation. It seems
highly unlikely that dramatic reductions in
enteric methane emissions will be possible in the
next 20- or 50-year time horizon. Moreover, it is
noteworthy that greenhouse gas emissions per
unit of mass of human-edible food (not consider-
ing potential nutritional quality differences of
the foods produced) are typically greater for ani-
mal products than for grain products; for exam-
ple in the UK, beef (16 kg CO 2 -e kg −1 ) versus
wheat grain (0.8 kg CO 2 -e kg −1 ) (Garnett, 2009).
Thus, reducing beef consumption, at least in
more developed countries, is one possible avenue
for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Garnett,
2009; Popp et al ., 2010).
especially developing countries, as it was in
the past for now more developed countries.
Doubtless, different countries are and will be
influenced profoundly differently by animal
agriculture; and animal agriculture will be
influenced differently in different developing
and developed countries. Obviously, animal
agriculture contributes greatly to food security
and human health. For poor and under-
nourished people, particularly children, con-
sumption of even modest amounts of animal
products has major benefits on physical
growth and mental development (Neumann
et al ., 2003). Animal agriculture's influence
on human livelihoods via production of food
and non-food (wool, hides) products for income
in either organized or informal markets is well
known especially in poor developing countries.
Animals also may provide draught power for
more intensive crop cultivation and harvest-
ing. They also may supply manure nutrients
(e.g. N, P and K) for plants as part of a mixed
system with nutrient cycles noted earlier. In
some cultures animals are financial or barter
currency to help farmers save and accumulate
assets, or trade or sell for other needed
resources. Animals may serve as a tool to help
diversify sellable assets or to reduce risk. In
some cultures, animals have significant value
in defining social standing and for building
relationships (Kitalyi et al ., 2005). In commu-
nities where animals have a central role they
can be associated with positions of leadership
and allow owners access to political, natural and
financial resources. Inevitably the social and
cultural status of animals in communities will
continue to evolve - some very useful, some
perhaps harmful.
Somewhat in contrast in more developed
countries, for example in European agriculture,
there has been recent stronger emphasis and
financial support for agriculture holdings to
secure and expand their traditional role of pro-
viding ecosystems services and goods (e.g. natu-
ral areas for wild animal habitat, nature preserves
or managed wetlands) and access to rural areas;
these efforts are expected to strengthen in the
future (Burton et al ., 2005; Deuffic and Candau,
2006). These alternative opportunities may
have high potential value for agriculture and cul-
tural heritage as public goods and services in
the future.
Social and cultural influences
Animal agriculture is woven intricately into the
social and cultural fabric in many countries,
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