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5 Ways Livestock Can Be Used for Sustainable Agriculture & Higher Productivity

Livestock production constitutes a very important component of the agricultural economy of developing countries. Livestock’s productions go beyond direct food production to include multipurpose uses, such as skins, fiber, fuel, and fertilizer.

Aarushi Chadha
Cow dung is also considered a means of employment for rural women who earn money by collecting and drying cow dung for cooking and as an ingredient in building materials and crop fertilizer

Livestock is critical to the world’s food supply. The livelihood of millions of poor people in developing countries is dependent on livestock. The contribution of livestock goes beyond direct food production and transportation to include multipurpose uses, such as skins, fertilizer, fuel, and fiber. Sustainable agricultural practices play an important role in protecting these livelihoods.

In India, animal husbandry is interwoven with agricultural activities as both are critical for the nation’s overall food security. Livestock is an essential aspect of Indian farmers’ livelihood as it aids in the continuation of farm operations by providing important inputs to agriculture, supplements earnings, creates jobs and contributes to food.

Now, let us take a look at livestock as a supplier of production inputs for sustainable agricultural development.

Livestock as a source of fuel- In India and other developing countries, cow dung is highly valued as a cost-effective fuel for cooking and heating, as it reduces expenditures on fossil fuels and fuelwood. Research indicates that cow dung is the major fuel supply for millions of farmers across Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Every year, India uses more than 300 million tonnes of cow dung as fuel. It is also considered a means of employment for rural women who earn money by collecting and drying cow dung for cooking and as an ingredient in building materials and crop fertilizer.

Livestock and weed control- Livestock, especially sheep and goats, are efficient in controlling weed growth. Farmers in the Mediterranean basic use sheep to reduce forest undergrowth so that the risk of fire during summer is diminished. Studies conducted on the contribution of livestock in rubber and oil palm plantations in Malaysia indicated that there was an increase in overall production and there was a reduction in expenditure on weed control. Similarly, in Columbia, sheep have been used to control weeds in sugar-cane fields, suppressing the cost of herbicides, and providing additional income from meat production.

Livestock as an energy source- Cows, elephants, horses, and camels are used as draught (draught or draft animals are domesticated animals used in drawing heavy loads) animals for a range of tasks, such as pumping irrigation water, pulling agricultural implements, and skidding in the woods.

Livestock used for biogas production- Biogas production from manure is an excellent substitute for fossil fuel or fuelwood for farmers in tropical countries. In developing and poor countries, on-farm biogas production reduces the workload of women by eliminating wood collection or fuel purchasing. Biogas production is convenient, increases the hygiene of the farmland, and can be used for heating, lighting, warming water, and cooking. It can also be used to drive machinery, such as water pumps, and can be recycled as fertilizer.

Livestock as a source of fertilizer and soil conditioner- Nutrient recycling is an important part of any sustainable farming system. It is made possible by combining animals and crops. For instance, crop leftovers, such as cereal straws, maize and sorghum stovers, and groundnut haulms, can be fed to animals.

Whereas, animal waste, such as manure, can be used as an efficient fertilizer. However, the chemical content of manure differs depending on the animal species and the animal’s diet. Manure is also an effective organic fertilizer as it helps improve soil retention, structure, and drainage ability. Poultry and pig manure can be used to grow algae for fish feed as well.

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