Agriculture

Improving lives and livelihoods through improved livestock health

Min piglets in BeijingLivestock offer powerful pathways out of poverty for an estimated 750 million poor farmers in South Asia and Africa in addition to providing food, nutritional and economic security. Most poor farmers relying on livestock for their livelihoods could gain additional benefits from helping to meet the dramatic and on-going increases in demand for animal-source foods that is occurring in developing countries, particularly India, China and other emerging economies. While many constraints impede the development of livestock agriculture in poor nations, the three key biological inputs for increasing livestock productivity remain what are known as the ‘three pillars of animal production’: improved livestock feed, genetics and health.

ILRI focuses on health, specifically on those diseases that reduce animal productivity or kill livestock outright as well as animal diseases transmitted to people. In many developing countries, livestock diseases regularly kill as much as 25% of young animals alone. When disease outbreaks reach epidemic or pandemic proportions, typically by striking naïve animal populations or by exposing animals to new variants of existing pathogens, mortality rates can reach 100%. In addition to these costs, trans-boundary livestock diseases can prevent or abruptly stop international trade in animals and their products, devastating livestock-based economies and severely contracting the capacity of poor nations to meet regional demand for meat, milk and eggs. Furthermore, some 60% of human diseases originate in animals, with many of the human illnesses caused due to contamination of foods by pathogens associated with livestock.The better control of pathogens of livestock and the livestock and human diseases they cause are high priorities.

While vaccines remain the most cost-effective medical and veterinary interventions for controlling disease, opportunities also exist for improving animal health by improving existing veterinary services and access by poor livestock keepers to those services, increasing awareness in poor communities and policy making circles of disease and food safety issues and implementing bio-security and control measures to reduce livestock disease risks.

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