The contribution of livestock in sustainable agriculture systems


Crops and livestock farming complement each other since the beginning of ancient human history. Based on the research of prehistoric human life, it has been proven that there was a big leap in evolution of the human intelligence after they consumed meat and milk. It can not be argued that since then the exploitation of the land is getting tougher, therefore to increase the economic value of the land and livestock become a major threat to the environment.

The important issues for the disadvantages of intensive animal farming are forest clearing, using more than 30% of the global arable land to produce feed for livestock, producing harmful greenhouse gas as global warming potential carbon dioxide from manure, water pollution and shortage. However, the global livestock sector is growing faster in many countries than any other agricultural sub-sector and contributes about 40% to global agricultural output. For many farmers in developing countries livestock are also a source of renewable energy and an essential source of organic fertilizer for their crops.

Reading the data from the United Nations- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report 2013, there is a positive correlation between the poverty and world average meat and milk consumption. The lowest meat consumption in developing countries is about 4 kg per person per year and the highest meat consumption in the developed country is about 120 kg per person per year. While milk consumption, the lowest can be less than 20 kg per person per year in developing countries and the highest consumption is over 200 kg per person per year in developed countries.

What does it mean? There is a fact that numbers of domesticated ruminant animals (mostly cattle, goats and sheep) are falling in developed countries and rising in developing countries within the last 25 years. The developing countries try to decrease their poverty and increase their people’s health conditions by consuming more meat and milk. On the other hand, the risk of local and global environment destruction will be higher in developing countries than in developed countries if there is less control on resources – waste management.

Sustainable agriculture is an integrated system of plant and animal production which is done by using a specific application that will last over a long term for the next generation. There are 5 most important factors for the successful agricultural practices with optimum yield of the crops: sunlight, air, soil, nutrients, and water. Sunlight and air are still available everywhere on our planet, blue earth. Soil, nutrients, and the availability of water are getting scarcity and make us worried.

As farmers grow and harvest crops, they remove some of the nutrients from the soil. Most farmers use chemical fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) to replace the loss of the nutrients in soil and that is not enough to replace the complex system of soil. Moreover, chemical fertilizer is getting more expensive and it needs a lot of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuel (used in converting atmospheric nitrogen into synthetic or chemical fertilizer), mineral ores (source of phosphate), mining (extraction of potassium salts from potash) to make.

Long term application of the chemical fertilizer will harm the environment and make the soil harder to support life. Without natural replenishment of soil nutrients, land will suffer from nutrient depletion and become either unusable or reduced yields. Recycling the crop waste and livestock manure through vermicomposting (composting using red wigglers or compost worms) can replenish the loss of the nutrients in soil, increase the yield of the crop and optimize the contribution of livestock in sustainable agriculture systems.

The photo above was taken at Surrey, British Columbia, near Peace Arch the border between Canada – USA. The healthy and productive cows may produce up to 25 kg of milk per day. Look at the grass outside the barn, it is so healthy because of the nutrients input from the manure.

Please visit to find the opportunities for the resources (manures) – waste management using vermiculture-vermicomposting to create a living soil toward a better local habitat for the community through the natural way of farming.

– Bintoro Gunadi

Red Worm open eyes 8-8-2013

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