Chair of Livestock Systems

Research focus

The aim of our group is to improve the understanding of the trade-offs between production, mitigation and conservation in livestock-based systems, and to identify innovative mechanisms to aid landscape-level management. A significant share of the global grain trade is driven by the livestock industry, causing expansion of farmland in some regions, and affecting water and biogeochemical cycles. Many countries aim to mitigate the effects of climate change and have set net-zero targets, and committed to conserve biodiversity. The food industry seeks guidance to improve consumer trust: Food systems adapt and the livestock industry has to adapt accordingly, creating a role for science to support evidence-based policy making and food systems transformation.

Cropland, livestock and forest interactions
Inexpensive animal protein produced in intensive livestock systems is associated with high per capita consumption of animal products, increasing demand for global arable land. Human diets contribute significantly to the burden of agriculture on ecosystems due to land degradation, water and air pollution. To solve these problems, we need to know how mitigation and conservation can be simultaneously achieved given competing demands on the land. To support the implementation of ambitious climate stabilisation goals, we need science-based policies. Our research group investigates crop-livestock-forest interactions using a combination of process-based modelling, and empirical work, opening opportunities for scientific discoveries that support more robust food systems.

Key research questions
1.    How do livestock systems have to evolve to meet emerging societal demands?
2.    What are the local-level tradeoffs livestock production-mitigation-ecosystem conservation?
3.    Which landscape patterns reduce the local versus regional tradeoffs?



Multi-scale Analyses

Global agriculture is studied comparing ‘Regions’ (Fig. 1). Analysis of policy options for livestock ‘Production systems’ uses modelling and field studies, to account for the spatial variability of production, GHG emissions and impacts on ‘Landscapes’, and a description of ‘Social entities’. Production is quantified in situ and modelled for different ‘Farm types’, considering the ‘Farm’ unit and the 'Farm components'. These muti-scale analyses integrate production and economics with biogeochemical models that quantify carbon, nutrient cycles and GHG emissions. Multi-objective optimisation modelling is used with production, mitigation and conservation objectives and to identify best practices and to quantify trade-offs. Our group applies these methods for integration, upscaling and for scenario analysis.

Innovation in livestock systems

Our group applies systems analysis and generates novel datasets for underrepresented regions of the world's agriculture using a framework of Systems transitions, and focusing on landscape diversity. Improving the understanding of how landscape diversity supports food systems, and understanding the underlining factors will help bringing closer together objectives of food production, mitigation and conservation. A closer integration of crop-livestock and crop-tree-livestock production will help deliver multiple benefits by using livestock and plants species that improve nutrient cycling, landscape-level carbon sequestration and to balance the GHG budget (Fig. 2).