New feeds and new feeding systems in intensive and semi-intensive forage-fed ruminant livestock systems

Type Review article
Original languageEnglish
Article number100297
JournalAnimal
Volume15
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date24 Jul 2021
DOI
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jul 2021
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Abstract

The contributions that ruminant livestock make to greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions are well documented and of considerable policy and public concern. At the same time, livestock production continues to play an important role in providing nutrient-rich foodstuffs for many people, particularly in less developed countries. They also offer a means by which plants that cannot be digested by humans, e.g. grass, can be converted into human-edible protein. In this review, we consider opportunities to improve nutrient capture by ruminant livestock through new feeds and feeding systems concentrating on intensive and semi-intensive systems, which we define as those in which animals are given diets that are designed and managed to be used as efficiently as possible. We consider alternative metrics for quantifying efficiency, taking into account resource use at a range of scales. Mechanisms for improving the performance and efficiencies of both individual animals and production systems are highlighted. We then go on to map these to potential changes in feeds and feeding systems. Particular attention is given to improving nitrogen use efficiency and reducing enteric methane production. There is significant potential for the use of home-grown crops or novel feedstuffs such as insects and macroalgae to act as alternative sources of key amino acids and reduce reliance on unsustainably grown soybeans. We conclude by highlighting the extent to which climate change could impact forage-based livestock production and the need to begin work on developing appropriate adaptation strategies.

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