Research and development on climate change and greenhouse gases in support of climate-smart livestock production and a vibrant industry (Invited paper)

M.M. Scholtz, H.C. Schönfeldt, F.W.C. Neser & G.M. Schutte
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SASAS Congress 2013

Climate change represents a feedback-loop in which livestock production both contributes to the problem and suffers from the consequences. The impact of global warming and continued, uncontrolled release of greenhouse gasses (GHG) has twofold implications for the livestock industry, and consequently food security. Firstly, the continuous increase in ambient temperature is predicted to have a direct effect on the animal, as well as on food and nutrition security, due to changes associated with temperature itself, relative humidity, rainfall distribution in time and space, altered disease distribution, changes in the ecosystem and biome composition. Secondly, the responsibility of livestock production is to limit the release of greenhouse gases (GHG) or the carbon footprint, in order to ensure future sustainability. This can be done by implementing new or adapted climate-smart production systems, the use of known and new technologies to turn waste into assets, and by promoting sustainable human diets with low environmental impacts. The following elements, which are related to livestock production and climate change, are discussed in this paper: (1) restoring the value of grasslands/rangelands, (2) pastoral risk management and decision support systems, (3) improved production efficiency, (4) global warming and sustainable livestock production, (5) the disentanglement between food and nutritional needs, focusing on nutrient rich core foods, (6) GHG from livestock and carbon sequestration, and (7) water and waste management. No single organization (or industry) within South Africa can perform this research and the implementation thereof on its own. The establishment of a (virtual) centre of excellence in climate-smart livestock production and the environment for the livestock industries, with the objective to share research expertise and information, build capacity and conduct research and development studies, should be a priority.

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