06 October 2015

Environment and stock farming: a matter of scale and modelling for shared benefits?

Livestock farming often gets a bad press because of its environmental impact. However, the relationship between the environment and stock farming is a complex one and a number of aspects should be considered when analysing it, such as the diversity of systems, the production potential and the socio-economic impacts, at production system level.

Environment and stock farming: a matter of scale and modelling for shared benefits?

Apart from the environmental aspects, topics that come to mind when talking about ruminant farming, whether for milk or meat, include grassland, farmyard manure, concentrates, countryside, fertilisation, and so forth. Beyond these common concepts there is a great diversity of situations and systems, which may or may not be linked to territorial constraints. The projects conducted by CRA-W and funded by Service public de Wallonie (Qualaiter) and in partnership with the private sector (ACOSEC: ACYVIBO), using LCA in livestock farming systems, come within that framework. Having regard to the prevailing diversity, these projects aim at estimating the environmental impacts, including various dimensions (eutrophication, global warming, energy consumption, etc.), of milk and meat production in Wallonia with a view to identifying ways of reducing them, taking into account the impacts resulting from input production (energy, fertilizers, machinery, feed, etc.). First results obtained from surveys of farmers indicate a high degree of variability, and some room for progress has been identified without compromising the production potential. The main area with prospects for progress is making better use of farmyard manure, and that in turn should reduce the use of inputs. These approaches have also revealed genuine interest in and awareness of environmental issues among the farming community. The ultimate aim is certainly not to stigmatise a particular production method but rather to find a way for each production method to reconcile the environment, the countryside and farming which, after all, feeds us all.

                                                               Qualaiter project subsidised by SPW: subsidy: D31-1323