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Livestock intensification and use of natural resources in smallholder mixed farming systems

By T. Samdup, H.M.J. Udo, T.C. Viets and A.J. van der Zijpp

Abstract

Bhutan aims to intensify livestock production not only to improve livelihoods of farming households and to meet the increasing demands of livestock products, but also to sustainably use natural resources. This paper assesses the impact and trends of livestock intensification on the use of Common Property Resources (CPR), and how this affects the cattle numbers that can be maintained and the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) flows at the farm. Data on household, cropping and livestock activities were collected through interviewing 183 households in extensive, semi-intensive, intensive, and intensive peri-urban areas in the years 2000 and 2004. In the extensive and semi-intensive areas, CPR was the most important source of Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN) for cattle. In the intensive areas with a majority of crossbred cattle, the farmers relied less on CPR than in the other two areas, but still about one quarter of the TDN requirements were met by grazing CPR. Grazing in the CPR provided the highest proportion of NP inputs at farm level; without grazing on CPR all four areas would have had highly negative soil nutrient balances. Intensification of livestock production through crossbreeding has not resulted in major reductions in cattle numbers per farm, but it is contributing to reduced use of CPR by farmers. Intensification partly replaces farm nutrient flows from CPR with nutrient inputs through increased use of concentrates, conserved fodder, and fertilizers. More awareness of nutrient management is required among farmers coupled with more research on nutrient assessments

Year: 2013
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