|Basic Concepts in Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Management: An Information Kit (International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR))|
There is a limit to the carrying capacity of land to sustain the food and habitat requirements of livestock and farm animals. It is easy to befoul the natural environment through intensive animal production straining already depleted resources.
- Ruminants, e.g., cattle, carabaos, goats, sheeps, etc., can make use of large quantities of low-grade forage and agricultural by-products and thus do not need to compete with humans for grain resources.
- There are four issues associated with intensive animal production:
The four environmental issues related to intensive animal production
1. Waste Disposal
Solid and liquid waste, if not handled expediently and properly, will create pollution and health problems. Nitrogen from animal wastes can seep into aquifers or natural ground water reservoirs and contaminate wells and community water supplies.
2. Toxic Residues
Substances like animal drugs (antibiotics - e.g., sulfadrugs and feed additives, pesticides, environmental contaminants and other carcinogenic substances) used in sustaining intensive animal production systems are known to cause or are suspected to cause hazards to human health (cancer, birth defects, reduced fertility, reproduction defects, neurotoxicity and other toxic effects).
3. Genetic Manipulation
Intensive animal methods have an adverse impact on the health and well-being of animals themselves. Through a combination of genetics and environmental manipulation, intensive production of animals has become possible. Unfortunately, selection of one set of traits is attained only at the expense, neglect and underdevelopment of other clusters of traits which may be equally important in the total performance of an animal breed.
Genetic uniformity makes entire animal farming systems vulnerable to unpredictable changes in the biophysical and social environments.
Reliance on row crops as major source of livestock feeds contributes to soil erosion and overuse of inputs for soil fertility and pest control.
Intensive animal systems neglect the potentials of native animals that can grow under harsh conditions and can survive on low quality and homegrown feeds.
Insufficient fodder, especially during dry periods and droughts, forces animals to forage on available fodder growing in the distant grazing areas. Overgrazing on the earth's natural cover contributes to land degradation and soil erosion.
Massive herding of animals creates gullies that contribute to soil erosion, soil compaction, marching of wetlands and dust storms in dry, windy areas.
Free grazing of animals destroys both less-valued and high-valued grass, crops, plants and trees that can lead to loss of various plant resources.