Extensive livestock production is an animal farming system characterised by a low productivity per animal and per surface. It uses small amounts of inputs, capital, and labour compared to the farmed land area. Extensive livestock production systems usually have a low stocking rate and are essentially based on grazing (permanent grasslands, natural pastures…). Grazing management uses specific rotations.
The pastoralism concept is often associated with extensive livestock production. In France, pastoralism systems are essentially located in the meridional area and represented by small ruminant livestock systems. Some grazing livestock systems that feed on permanent grasslands can also be considered as extensive livestock systems, if grass valorisation is done by grazing and very little use of inputs, labor and capital.
To be viable, extensive livestock production systems need to reduce their charges and to stand out with a high additional value for their products: labels, direct selling for example. They generally use hardy breeds adapted to the local specificities. However, in adverse situations where crops cannot be grown, those livestock systems might need inputs in order to reach their milk production goals and/or to finalize their meat production. They could therefore be qualified as ‘half extensive livestock production systems’. The word ‘extensive’ can be defined at different levels.
Extensive livestock production provides ecosystem services while valorising grassland plant diversity. It is an agroecological solution that allows to maintain attractive landscapes for tourism and social dynamics in isolated areas. It can supply humans and animals with quality products. Those livestock production systems illustrate the ‘One Health’ concept: the health of the soil, animals, and consumers are all interdependent.
Extensive livestock production
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Roger Blench. 1999. Extensive Pastoral Livestock Systems: Issues and Options for the Future. FAO-Japan Cooperative Project GCP/JPN/005/JPN “Collection of Information on Animal Production and Health”. 78 p.
Henning Steinfeld, Harold A. Mooney, Fritz Schneider, and Laurie E. Neville. 2010. Livestock in a Changing Landscape, Volume 1/2. Island Press. 416 p. Vol. 1 Drivers, Consequences, and Responses – Harold Mooney, Laurie Neville, Henning Steinfeld, Fritz Schneider – Vol. 2 Experiences and Regional Perspectives – Pierre Gerber, Harold Mooney, Jeroen Dijkman.