Benchmarking animal production systems

PhD project by Aart van der Linden. The present study will apply the production-ecological concepts to meat production and through this allows benchmarking of potential and feed-limited production of meat.

In crop production systems research the production-ecological concepts distinguish potential (defined by climate and genetic factors assuming optimal management), water- and nutrient-limited (assuming optimal management under nutrient and/or water limitation) and actual production (additional yield reduction due to pests and diseases). Knowing these production levels, yield gaps can be quantified and explained, and eventually options for enhanced productivity and resource-use efficiency can be designed. In analogy with the production-ecological concepts in crop production, we will define potential meat production by genetic factors of livestock species (our focus is cattle and poultry), and climatic factors.

Within regional or farming system boundaries, feed availability is not limiting herd or flock production If feed is abundant or can be imported. If, however, full or partial integration between livestock and feed production (grassland and crops) exists within a system, feed-crop production will limit meat production by its effect in herd or flock size and individual animal production level. Actual meat production can be reduced by pests and diseases, but also by social, environmental and economic factors. We explore using the established production-ecological concepts to analyse yield gaps in intensifying mixed crop-livestock systems, characterized by limited feed availability, in order to identify options for sustainable intensification of these systems. This will be done by combining modelling, secondary data and data from field studies in the Netherlands, France Ethiopia and Vietnam.