Ermias Kebreab gave invited presentation on ‘Sustainable livestock systems – the case of Vietnam’ at the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, MD.
Background/Question/Methods are as follows: there are 17 billion domestic animals globally valued at $1.4 trillion. Livestock are used for a variety of reasons ranging from source of food to transportation to risk management tool, especially in poor households in developing countries. Vietnam produces four million tons of livestock products per year, ranking third in Asia, after China and India. In 2010, there were 8.82 million cattle and buffaloes, 1.29 million goats and sheep, 27.7 million pig and 296 billion poultry. Ruminant production in Vietnam is different from those of developed countries. It is mainly small farms with 2 to 4 cattle/buffaloes or 10 to 15 goats/sheep. Livestock are raised in a semi-intensive small scale farming system with low knowledge and skill of farmers. Recent rapid growth has led to some challenges faced by the livestock industry, particularly heavier environmental burden in the form of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming. The primary sources of emissions are mainly enteric fermentation from ruminants and livestock related waste such as manure, waste water and the liquid water from the slaughterhouses. Improving feed efficiency reduces greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product and improves economic sustainability of farmers. However, lack of nutrient requirement and diet formulation has inhibited advances in feed efficiency.
A software was developed based on available literature on the nutrient requirements of tropical animals and locally available ingredients. The software written in Vietnamese is expected to help improve feed efficiency. In India, better formulation has increased the national milk yield average of 3.6 L/d to 9 L/d using currently available feed resources. Again in India, on-farm balancing the rations of dairy cows and buffaloes for calcium and phosphorus increased milk yield (by up to 15%) and farmers’ income. Mineral supplementations are known to improve feed intake and digestibility resulting in increased animal performance. However, this strategy must be compatible with the existing production system, i.e. mineral composition of common feeds and animal requirements should be known, and should continue to have a low input character. Further work investigating nutrient requirements of different breeds would enhance feed efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Vietnamese context.