This article is a summary of a longer article, Feeding hungry, growing animal populations a priority for Livestock and Fish program, posted on the Livestock and Fish blog.
In late-March, the Livestock and Fish Research Program held a virtual review and planning meeting to take stock of progress since 2012, examine the wider science and development environment and devise plans and deliverables for the coming years. The discussions were organized around each of the five research and technology ‘flagships’ of the program, examining strengths, weaknesses and desired results.
The feeds and forages flagship is designing superior feed and forage strategies for smallholders to meet current and evolving demands for more meat, milk and fish as well as agile feed value chains with lighter ecological footprints.
All aspects of feed—its production, processing and trading—are of special import in developing countries, where these activities generate scarce jobs and cash, significantly increase the benefits smallholders get from their mixed crop, fish and livestock systems, and allow many people with few other options to escape poverty by participating in an on-going ‘livestock revolution’ by meeting the fast-rising demand in emerging economies for meat, milk, fish and eggs. Moreover, the work of resourcing feeds and feeding animal stock in developing countries is often a female responsibility, with interventions able to empower women and youth directly.
Feed activities sit squarely at the interface of both the ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ of animal production—an interface where many hard trade offs are negotiated daily
The flagship in a nutshell
Lack of affordable and adequate quantities of good-quality animal feed is a major problem for the world’s smallholder producers, reducing their competitiveness in livestock markets and their earnings from their livestock and fish enterprises. Choice of feeds and feeding strategies can have major impacts on natural resources (growing feed can significantly deplete water sources) and gender equity (the largest proportion of women time’s spent in livestock production is sourcing feed and/or feeding livestock). Use of ‘crop residues’—the stalks and other remains of crops after their grain has been harvested—for livestock feed can compete with mulching and other soil enhancements. And the type of feed given ruminant animals influences the amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, that they emit.
What the flagship is producing
- Tools to estimate feed resources, prioritize feed interventions and refine near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) platforms have been adopted and taken up by several of the system-oriented CGIAR research programs
- New approaches make better use of existing feed resources on- and off-farm, such as feed processing and supplementation options
- New options to increase feed and forage biomass quantities with reduced environmental harm, such as newly developed multi-purpose forage and food-feed cultivars, with demonstration of the general absence of trade-offs between genetic traits for high yields of grain and residues in several crop varieties that can feed livestock as well as people
- Awareness has been raised of the crucial inter-relationships among feed resourcing and strategies, natural resource uses and environmental footprints, and ways to enhance these links for multiple benefits.
- On the ground, there now exist much more structured, targeted and interactive approaches to feed resourcing and interventions.
- Superior food-feed crop cultivars have been adopted and further upgraded through feed processing and supplementation options.
A paradigm shift in crop improvement is happening: Crop aspects of livestock and fish production are getting due attention at last. . . . Proof-of-concept projects on feed and fodder value chains show that sustainable and environmentally friendly livestock and fish production is feasible.
Visit the Livestock and Fish blog.