Recent anti-meat and dairy campaigns during January have prompted some debate within the farming sector on the long term future of the livestock sector, with the topic debated at the Oxford farming conference. The impact of “Veganuary” on meat consumption patterns remains unclear, however it is in developing markets where the greatest growth in consumption of animal protein is taking place. Improved incomes leads to increased demand for a better quality diet – with more meat and dairy. This provides also opportunities for many in rural areas to supply that demand. According to the latest OECD forecasts consumption of fresh dairy products per capita is expected to grow at a rate of 1.9% p.a. over the next ten in developing countries compared to a decline of 0.04% p.a. in developed countries.
Livestock play a vital role in the farming systems and economies of many developing countries, with many of the Worlds poor dependent on their animals for their food and livelihoods. However the productivity of farm animals in many developing countries is poor, due to poor genetics, the impacts of livestock disease and poor veterinary services.
Research into livestock health and productivity in developing countries has received a boost with the announcement of increased funding for research into livestock from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The announcement made by Bill Gates at an event in Edinburgh last week, will see an extra £28m go to the Edinburgh-based Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed). GALVmed exists to make livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics accessible and affordable to the millions in developing countries for whom livestock is a lifeline, according to the charity more than 900 million human lives depend on healthy livestock. At the same time DFID/UK Aid is providing £4 million for genetics and health research to aid sustainable livestock production in Africa.
This funding will go to The Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) a joint venture launched by three partners – the Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) based in Nairobi. The Centre will apply most recent scientific advances in genetics and genomics that have led to substantial gains in livestock productivity in temperate zones to the problems of livestock productivity in tropical environments, for the benefit of smallholder dairy and poultry farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Improving the productivity of livestock in developing countries will have a number of benefits, firstly by helping to meet the increasing global demand for animal protein, helping to alleviate poverty in developing countries, and also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per unit of animal protein produced.