Why farm livestock and not just crops? Debunked.

All text indented and in blue is from the following blog entry: https://fit2farm.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/why-farm-livestock-and-not-just-crops/

I’ve been involved in the Twitter hashtag #farm365 for the past month. It was developed by a dairy farmer in Ontario that comitted to posting a photo on twitter every day in 2015. There has been a lot of debate under the hashtag between vegans and farmers. I am a livestock producer and I believe in raising livestock for human consumption.  My biggest frustration is when they say “Why don’t you simply quit farming livestock and switch over to crop production?” It’s just not that simple. Where would the cattle go? Do vegans really believe cattle that are left free would be better off?  Nature can be very unforgiving, between predators and extreme weather, nature isn’t all Disney woodland creatures and bright verdant pastures.

It is impossible to let all livestock roam freely tomorrow, domesticated animals wouldn’t be necessarily better off in an unnatural environment to them. The staggering number of cows alone (87’000’000 in the U.S.) would cause big problems if freed. The only reason why there are so many animals in agriculture is because they are bred for profit. It would take time to phase out the exploitation of animals over a certain amount of time. That means gradually less and less meat and dairy etc. would be produced. The fact that we don’t live in a cartoonish fairytale world doesn’t justify the systematic exploitation and killing of sentient beings by the billions.

Biological systems are extremely complex and ending animal agriculture would not end animal suffering.  Every time we displace habitats whether it be for crop production or to meet the housing requirements for growing cities we affect animals.

Ending animal agriculture wouldn’t end all animals suffering but would reduce it dramatically. Just because it wouldn’t eliminate all suffering doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to reduce it substantially (Nirvana fallacy). Example: Trying to stop all wars wouldn’t eliminate all human suffering but would still be an honourable goal to achieve.

Not all farmland can produce crops. Some land is too hilly, dry, or doesn’t get enough rainfall produce a grain crop. Most of this land though is suitable for grazing. Globally grasslands comprise 26% of total land area and 80% of agriculturally productive land. In Saskatchewan there is 33 million acres of cropland and 15 million acres of forages and grasslands. Grazing land is amazing. Grasslands capture carbon, provide habitats for wildlife and are pretty darn beautiful. When we manage our grazing lands properly, they are very productive for cattle/sheep/bison as well.

Grasslands existed for millions of years without humans. Grasslands don’t need humans to “take care” of it. Grasslands don’t have to be “productive” for human needs, they have their own purpose of providing habitats for wildlife as you correctly stated.

Grazing has its place in just about every agricultural system that involves livestock. This includes cows bred to produce “organic” dairy products, or those set to become “grass-fed beef,” who will graze for two to three years before slaughter, or cows bred for their flesh or milk in the factory farming system who will graze for up to one year before being transported to feedlots.

However the particular breeding, feeding and killing operation is conducted, humans are introducing large numbers of grazing cattle into areas where cows were not previously found. This has an enormous impact on native ecosystems – so much so that grazing cattle now have the character of an invasive species.

After habitat loss, which is caused by clearing and consuming natural resources for human use, invasive species are listed as the second largest threat to biodiversity in North America. In the continental United States, 41 percent of all land is currently grazed by livestock.

Operations that seek to protect the interests of the cattle industry are responsible for the mass extermination of wolves, the roundup of wild horses, deforestation, and shocking loss of biodiversity, while the act of grazing itself contributes to desertification and erosion of soil and land. Let’s take a look for a moment at the many ways the introduction and proliferation of grazing cattle has earned them the title of “invasive species.” (source: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/grazing-cattle-the-new-invasive-species/)

Crop production is a very important part of agriculture as well, no question. However, many times crops that are grown for food production don’t make the quality requirements and these crops are fed to livestock; 80% of the barley that grown for malting fails to meet the quality grades and up in livestock feed. Livestock and cattle in particular, are amazing. We take low quality ingredients; use them as animal feed to produce high quality protein products.  How else could one ever convert fiber heavy grass into protein rich beef? Amazing.

Did you know cow eat all sort so food byproducts?Here as a list of a few examples:

– Distillers grains – leftovers from beer production or ethanol production for fuel

– Potato chips  byproduct- broken, overbaked/underbaked

– Beet Pulp – byproduct from sugar production

– Bakers Waste- bread products that are past date etc.

– Citrus byprodocuts – The extra pulp from your morning glass of orange juice

– Canola Meal – left over product after pressing out the oil for consumption

– Screenings pellets – Uses the leftover products from when grains are cleaned for human consumption

These products are not fit for human consumption but are valuable ingredients for livestock. The rumen in cattle and sheep is an amazing organ. Bacteria in it convert fiber in sugars and protein that cows can use for growth and milk production.  Using these fibrous and off quality ingredients in feed products allows the entire food production cycle more efficient and environmentally friendly, reducing the amount of waste in landfill.

The above statement is heavily distorted and in parts false. Please read the following:

“…Globally, only 62% of crop production (on a mass basis) is allocated to human food, versus 35% to animal feed (which produces human food indirectly, and much less efficiently, as meat and dairy products) and 3% for bioenergy, seed and other industrial products.

…North America and Europe devote only about 40% of their croplands to direct food production…

…even small changes in diet (for example, shifting grain-fed beef consumption to poultry, pork or pasture-fed beef) and bioenergy policy (for example, not using food crops as biofuel feedstocks) could enhance food availability and reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture.

…shifting 16 major crops to 100% human food could add over a billion tonnes to global food production (a 28% increase)…

source: http://www.nature.com/articles/nature10452.epdf?referrer_access_token=Z48P-nJTPCuUs1K9c-FihtRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0OxFzi7SnmipDw_c7CZHcbO89Pkl89r26ony4zFF-Qjogbf8v_ArZ3OfIvfg1tS-MXqG3QOjuMCTiXZrZMqwwGc

It is obvious that the scientific paper cited above wasn’t written by a vegan and I would like to see a complete halt of animal agriculture mainly because of ethical reasons and secondly because of its inefficiency to feed people.

Livestock Production Helps Crops. Manure is a valuable fertilizer for crop production and one of the ONLY options for organic crop producers to fertilizer their land. Livestock systems also increase diversity in crops and crop rotations. Planting nitrogen fixing legumes such as alfalfa in a crop rotation helps maintain soil fertility and is an excellent feeds source for ruminants. In many developing countries, livestock are still used for draft power as well.

This is why we need balanced system. Crop and livestock production are complementary systems that have very complex interactions. We need both for a sustainable system.

Veganic farming is not dependent on manure. It is entirely possible to grow crop and plants without the input of animal based fertilizer. Livestock systems are in fact an obstacle to increase diversity in crops. Legumes are a great source of protein for human consumption and don’t need to become feed for livestock.

Developing countries shouldn’t be looked at as a reference to justify the breeding of livestock in industrial countries where draft power is not required anymore.


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