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Livestock Systems

Creating opportunities for smallholder farmers and rural communities.
A farmer in Pakistan providing drinking water for her cattle

Livestock production systems

The Livestock Production Systems program focuses on enabling equitable access to markets; optimising crop-livestock systems; and livestock production.  The program aims to create new opportunities for rural communities through research that makes their smallholder livestock systems more productive, profitable and sustainable.

Most livestock (small and large ruminants, pigs and poultry) kept by smallholder farmers are integral components of complex crop-livestock systems.  Understanding these systems’ biological, social and economic aspects is necessary for determining intervention points and developing appropriate technologies for smallholder farmers.

Smallholder farmers traditionally keep livestock for livelihood security, selling for income in the event of crop failures or to meet specific costs.  Livestock numbers are constrained by feed quality and quantity, land availability and disease.  Economic development in many emerging economies, globalisation of agrifood chains, and rapidly urbanising populations are increasing demand for animal protein, creating opportunities for these livestock keepers to become market-oriented livestock producers.

For smallholders to participate in and benefit from food chains, they will need to meet quality expectations to take advantage of market opportunities.

While the program will continue to research production constraints, especially in countries where these constraints are the main barriers to market participation for smallholders, it will increasingly focus on:

  • Helping smallholders transition from animal keepers to market-oriented producers, to allow these farmers to take up opportunities for greater market participation
  • Addressing concerns relating to quality and safety of animal-sourced foods in value chains that are increasingly longer in terms of distance, handling and time, and
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability in the scale-out of production systems.

The program will also increase the availability of animal-sourced protein in remote areas, as a means of overcoming nutritional disorders that affect human health.

Animal Health

ACIAR’s Animal Health program helps smallholder farmers move from keeping livestock solely as an asset to producing livestock to generate income.  

This transition involves reducing the risks involved in moving from a household-based to a market economy, including risks around market prices, seasonal trends, product quality, and market access (including biosecurity).

ACIAR will also develop health programs for country-species-disease combinations and other livestock husbandry technologies, where there are clear institutional pathways for smallholders to adopt research results and where Australia has experience and expertise.

Three-quarters of emerging human diseases are of animal origin.  We need stronger links between institutions responsible for animal and human health.  Rather than reducing risks at national boundaries and “stomping out” disease outbreaks, we must deal with unknown risks (new diseases, new strains) and manage risks along the supply chain, particularly on farms.

The Animal Health program focuses on the following themes, with an emphasis on regionally significant diseases:

  • Transboundary diseases
  • Zoonotic diseases
  • Diseases affecting production
  • Diseases affecting trade and market access

The program will reduce disease-control costs, and improve animal productivity, product quality, and market access.  The emphasis will shift from production-related diseases to nationally and regionally important ones (usually rapidly spreading viral disease) and those affecting trade and human health.

Within each theme, ACIAR will address gaps in successfully managing diseases.  These include defining the disease issue or problem, understanding the biology of the disease, improving the ability to detect diseases, applying diagnostic tests to disease surveillance systems, refining these systems, and developing and applying control measures.

Research Program Manager: Dr Werner Stur
Associate Research Program Manager: Dr Anna Okello