Cattle systems

Livestock has many different livelihoods functions. They produce the traditional livestock products for home consumption and for the market, they support crop production, and they are an insurance that future financial requirements can be met and help households to avoid costs for financing urgent cash expenses, in particular in areas where financial institutions are not functioning well or are not trusted. Research on quantification of these different motives for keeping animals has helped us to find out what different benefits of livestock are in different situations, to understand the decision making of farmers with regard to the allocation of their resources and, for instance, the selling of animals, and it has made us realize that smallholders are more productive than often suggested.

Intensification of livestock keeping is widely promoted to meet the increasing demands for animal source foods and to improve livelihoods of smallholders. Intensification is also expected to reduce the environmental impact of livestock. Life Cycle Assessment studies indicate that the impact of intensification on environmental impacts is not that straight –forward. Intensification implies more external inputs, the production of these inputs also has an environmental impact. A major trade-off of intensification is that only the relatively better off farmers are able to take advantage of the increased demands. Are the poorer households interested in investing their scarce labour, capital and land resources in more intensive livestock systems? The social, cultural and capital asset livestock functions will remain important for these households.

In cattle, crossbreeding has become the standard intensification approach. Indonesia is a prominent example where crossbreeding with European breeds is promoted to increase beef production. This crossbreeding is threatening local breeds. Research has shown that crossbreeding has not changed the mixed farming systems. Crossbreds are about 25 per cent bigger than local cattle and fetch higher sale prices, but they are fed more supplementary feed too. Hence, no differences in gross margins were found between farms with local or crossbred breeding stock.

Relevant publications

  • Chaminuka, P.; Udo, H.M.J.; Eilers, C.H.A.M.; Zijpp, A.J. van der (2013)

Livelihood roles of cattle and prospects for alternative land uses at the wildlife/livestock interface in South Africa

Land Use Policy 38 –p. 80-90

  • Widi, T.S.M.; Udo, H.M.J.; Oldenbroek, K.; Budisatria, I.G.S.; Baliarti, E.; Zijpp, A.J. van der (2013)

Unique cultural values of Madura cattle: is cross-breeding a threat?

Animal Genetic Resources doi:10.1017/S2078633613000349

  1. Augustine, A.A.; Kango, M.; Hiernaux, P.; Udo, H.M.J.; Tabo, R. (2007)
    Herders’ Perceptions on Ruminant Livestock Breeds and Breeding Management in Southwestern Niger
    Human Ecology 35 (1). – p. 139 – 149.
  • Udo, H.M.J.; Cornelissen, A.M.G. (1998)
    Livestock in resource-poor farming systems.
    Outlook on Agriculture 27 (4). – p. 237 – 242.

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