The livestock sector has been undergoing change at an unprecedented pace over the past few decades. Booming demand in the world’s most rapidly growing economies for food derived from animals has led to large increases in livestock production, supported by major technological innovations and structural changes in the sector. This surging demand has been mostly met by commercial livestock production and associated food chains. At the same time, millions of rural people still keep livestock in traditional production systems, where they support livelihoods and household food security.
Livestock contribute 40 % of the global value of agricultural output and support the livelihoods and food security of almost a 1.3 billion people. The livestock sector is one of the fastest growing parts of the agricultural economy. The growth and transformation of the sector offer opportunities for agricultural development, poverty reduction and food security gains, but the rapid pace of change risks marginalizing smallholders, and systemic risks to the natural resources and human health must be addressed to ensure sustainability.
In many developing countries, livestock keeping is a multifunctional activity. Beyond their direct role in generating food and income, livestock are a valuable asset, serving as a store of wealth, collateral for credit and an essential safety net during times of crisis.
Livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources, with grazing land and cropland dedicated to the production of feed representing almost 80 % of all agricultural land. Feed crops are grown in one-third of total cropland, while the total land area occupied by pasture is equivalent to 26 % of the ice-free terrestrial surface.
FAO’s programme focuses on sustainable development of dairy, beef, pig and poultry as well as small ruminants production and draught animals. It takes into account, among others, animal health and welfare related issues, the responsible use of animal genetic resources, sustainable animal nutrition and feeding.
It provides advocacy, awareness raising, information, knowledge, guidance and technical support to help produce high quality animal products, safely, efficiently and responsibly, while improving their people livelihood and meeting citizens’ demands. FAO also works alongside governments and farmers, responding during and after livestock emergencies and promotes dialogue amongst public, private and civil society partners whose ultimate goal is responsible, sustainable livestock production.