Thursday, 15 June 2023 07:55

Animal health solutions key to hitting emissions targets

Written by  Mark Ross
Mark Ross Mark Ross

OPINION: Animal diseases are associated with significant increases in livestock greenhouse gas emissions and land use, and reduced productivity. They also pose a threat to food security.

Animals suffer from various diseases, some of which can be fatal. Even non-fatal diseases have detrimental effects on animal welfare, productivity, and the livelihood of farmers. For instance, a cow that is ill may experience reduced milk production or become unsafe for meat consumption. This results in constrained supply chains, potential shortages for consumers and wasted investment and lost earnings for the farmer.

On the other hand, well-managed livestock can be expected to live longer, healthier lives – making them more productive and environmentally sustainable. Innovation in veterinary care has proven successful in improving the survival rates of livestock, which improves farmer returns and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Taking preventative measures such as vaccinating or deworming offers greater productivity, which leads to higher farm incomes and more food availability for consumers.

A report by Oxford Analytica, commissioned by HealthforAnimals, provides a clear picture on the economic returns of taking preventative measures. Through better adoption of existing best practices and technologies, The Animal Health and Sustainability: a Global Data Analysis report, calculates that livestock could comfortably serve a world population of 9.8 billion by 2050 without increasing current emission levels. This reduced emissions intensity means livestock could meet the protein needs of an additional 1.6 billion people without increasing livestock’s overall GHG emissions level.

The findings are corroborated by other sources such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which estimates that ‘advanced genetics, feeding systems, animal health controls and other technologies over the past four decades allowed industrialised countries to reduce their overall land requirements for livestock by 20 per cent while doubling meat production’.

With climate change rising in importance globally, finding ways to limit and reduce the environmental footprint of animals in agriculture while continuing to feed a growing population will be a top priority. Improving animal health can increase livestock productivity and limit emissions.

The FAO estimates that livestock GHG emissions could be reduced by 18-30% by expanding use of existing best practices and technologies in animal health and husbandry.

Rates of food insecurity have been of concern in New Zealand for a long time, Covid- 19 and the associated increases in the cost of living have further exacerbated the problem.

The FAO and the World Health Organization reported that 14% of the New Zealand population was food insecure in 2018. With inflation rates and food prices increasing, the situation is getting worse. The New Zealand Government reported in 2021 that one in five children were living in households where food runs out.

Proper management of livestock can play an important role in addressing the world’s food needs. If herds are not properly managed, the loss of food output reduces the supply of food and the complete proteins and micronutrients available to people.

Increasingly we will need to turn to animal health technologies for the health of people, animals, and the environment.

Mark Ross is chief executive of Animal and Plant Health NZ.

More like this

Home detention for animal neglect

A Taranaki dairy farmer received four-month home detention and was disqualified from overseeing of animals for 18 months over a lack of feed and welfare which led to some animals being euthanised.

Illustrious lives up to his name

An elite Holstein Friesian bull, Farside M Illustrious S3F, has been inducted into the "Hall of Fame", an honour exclusively reserved for animals that have delivered a significant contribution to the dairy industry.

Get ready for Moving Day

Moving Day is a big day in the farming calendar and requires good planning and communication to ensure success.

OAD milking affects protein content

Once-a-day milking (OAD) can increase or lower the amounts of proteins in milk, according to a new study published in the journal Dairy.


Editorial: Fonterra's U-turn

OPINION: Speaking at the Chinese Business Summit in Auckland last week, Fonterra chief exuecutive Miles Hurrell revealed that his phone was running hot over the weekend.

A winner's view

Kingi Smiler, the chair of Wairarapa Moana ki Pouakani (WMI), said after winning the Ahuwhenua Trophy he was both elated and relieved and added it was a tough competition being up against Whakatohera Māori Board.

Farm 4 is number one!

A dairy farm near the settlement of Mangakino has won the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy for the top Māori dairy farm for 2024.


A good start

The final Global Dairy Trade (GDT) auction for the 2023-24 season augurs well the forecast milk price for the new…

Labour eyes rural votes

Labour Party agriculture spokesperson Jo Luxton is on a mission to win back rural sector votes.

Machinery & Products

Tractor, harvester IT comes of age

Over the last halfdecade, digital technology has appeared to be the “must-have” for tractor and machinery companies, who believe that…

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Well done Kotahi!

OPINION: Fonterra's decision to join forces with other primary sector exporters and launch a supply chain collaboration, Kotahi, is paying…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter