Sustainable Development in Western China
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Sustainable Development in Western China

Managing People, Livestock and Grasslands in Pastoral Areas

Colin G. Brown

This much-needed study provides a unique examination of the intricate web of policies and institutions that now impact on grassland degradation and sustainable development in China’s pastoral region. Understanding this complex matrix and its impact on the management of people, livestock, grasslands, markets and industry structures is crucial in charting a way forward. The authors argue that the aim should be to manage these inter-locking complex systems in a manner that takes advantage of the opportunities that technology present to achieve sustainable use of the grasslands.
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Chapter 6: Managing Livestock Systems

Colin G. Brown


Livestock have always played an integral part of household activities in pastoral areas. However the number of herders in pastoral areas today makes traditional livestock systems increasingly difficult to sustain. As outlined in Chapter 2 too many livestock producing too little income have placed herders in a cycle of increasing livestock numbers, increasing degradation and declining incomes. Pressure has been exerted on these traditional systems to ‘modernize’ in order to provide higher and more sustainable incomes for herders. The ways in which these systems have modernized as governments have sought to redress the imbalance between feed supply and feed demand is the focus of this chapter. The primary solutions offered to date fall along disciplinary lines rather than being based on a systems approach. For example, grassland stations see pasture improvement as the only way forward while livestock specialists emphasize the need to change livestock herd and flock structures. Both see the problem of overstocking being resolved by technological fixes such as improved pastures, breed improvement and fencing. Herd management measures such as selection and culling for productivity to reduce grazing pressure, genuine intra-farm rotational grazing and the production of higher value livestock and livestock products are given lower priority. Although ruminant livestock are a focus of activities for households in pastoral areas, they represent only a minor and decreasing proportion of overall ruminant livestock in China. Section 6.1 examines strategies and legislation in China targeting the livestock sector. Attention then turns in Section 6.2 to the ruminant livestock...

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