How Improved Livestock Health Can Reduce GHG Emissions
Livestock are a critical resource for the over 1.7 billion people worldwide who rely on them for their livelihood. These animals provide important food and nutrition to our food supply, while helping drive economies. However, with livestock production representing approximately 12% of global GHG emissions,1https://www.fao.org/newsroom/detail/new-fao-report-maps-pathways-towards-lower-livestock-emissions/en it is important to consider how our world can maintain these benefits while protecting our climate. Recent analysis from peer-reviewed studies to United Nations institutions have found that better livestock health can be a powerful climate solution for animal agriculture.
Disease increases GHG emissions of livestock production
Animals that are sick consume more feed and water, while growing at a slower rate. When an animal is lost to disease, it means resources must be re-invested in raising another animal to meet market demand. This means disease leads to higher GHG levels per unit of milk, meat and eggs because more animals and resources are ultimately needed to maintain productivity.
Effects of Diseases are More Pronounced in Developing Markets
Animal disease significantly reduces the global productivity of livestock farming each year, particularly in developing regions where access to veterinary care and vaccinations may be minimal.
increase in emissions in low income countries
increase in high-income countries
“The main reasons for the high level of emission intensities [in South Asia] are…poor quality feed and high mortality rates.”
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
United Nations Recommends Animal Health as a Climate Solution
Recent reports from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have evaluated how livestock production can help bridge global nutrition gaps, while simultaneously reducing emissions. The two most impactful solutions were increasing productivity and better animal health.
Healthy livestock produce fewer emissions
There is a direct link between GHG emissions and animal health. Healthy animals are more productive and sustainable as they require fewer natural resources to thrive, leading to a lower environmental impact.
Studies across the globe have measured the effects of various animal health interventions on the GHG emissions of livestock production, finding that these technologies can be a climate solution for animal agriculture.
Healthy animals for a healthier world
The data is clear. Better animal health means higher productivity, lower emissions and fewer people going hungry. Healthy animals are a cornerstone of sustainable food systems
Spotlight: Feeding 9+ Billion
A recent report analysed UN data and found that scaling up existing practices in animal health and husbandry means livestock could serve a world population of more than 9 billion in 2050. Here’s how:
UNFAO estimates that an increased uptake of existing animal health and husbandry technologies and practices can reduce livestock emissions intensity by 18–30% .
This intensity reduction could allow livestock farmers to increase production by an estimated 46.7 billion kg a year, enough to meet the needs of another 1.6 billion people, while holding overall emissions at current levels.
With the global population at 8 billion, this means that increased adoption of existing tools in animal health and husbandry could enable livestock to serve more than 9 billion people in 2050 without increasing emissions.
- 3FAO, Pathways to lower emissions, Table 3, https://www.fao.org/3/cc9029en/cc9029en.pdf
- 8Impact of animal breeding on GHG emissions and farm economics, European Commission