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The challenge

What is the role of grazing systems in a sustainable food future?

Livestock grazing systems allow domestic animals to roam and consume wild vegetation.

Brahman and Brahman cross cattle, northern Queensland – Australia. ©  CSIRO, C. Godde

They provide food and support livelihoods for millions of people around the world in addition to delivering important ecosystems services.

However, grazing systems also contribute 30 per cent of the livestock sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

They compete with other land uses, such as cropping, energy production, forests and urban development. And can have adverse impacts such as system biodiversity losses, water pollution and zoonotic diseases emergence and spread.

In a fast-changing world, the social, economic and environmental implications of grazing systems are shifting.

Research is needed to understand the role of grazing systems in a sustainable food future.

Our response

Exploring grazing systems under climate change

Our research reviews and analyses key dynamics of the grazing sector from local to global scales, their socio-economic and environmental drivers and trade-offs.

Vegetation trends in half the world's rangeland areas by 2050 could have a detrimental impact on livestock production. ©  CSIRO, C. Godde

For this work, we use grassland, agricultural, land-use and climate models, such as: 

  • Global rangeland model, known as G-Range
  • Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM NABSA)
  • Crop and Livestock Enterprise Model (CLEM)
  • Herd dynamic models.

We also assess grazing systems potential contribution to sustainable food futures and offer novel insights as to the relationship between the grazing sector and climate change.

The results

Tailored strategies to support grazing system sustainability and resilience, especially in times of change.

Future climate variability is highlighted as a major concern worldwide.

Vegetation trends in half the world's rangeland areas by 2050 could have a detrimental impact on livestock production. 

Pastoral communities that are currently the most socio-economically vulnerable are projected to also experience the worst of these impacts. 

In a context of climate change and considering society’s environmental, ethical and societal goals, a better understanding of the role that grazing systems could play in future sustainable food production is essential.

Although the capacity of landscapes and production systems to adapt is highly complex and hedged with large uncertainties, our analyses can help inform technical and institutional options to facilitate pastoral system mitigation and adaptation strategies under climate change.

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