MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
The Farming Systems Research Group at Michigan State University is drawn from
the departments of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Engineering, Animal
Science, Crop and Soil Science, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Sociology,
Veterinary Medicine, and supported by the International Agriculture Institute of
M.S.U. and the U.S. Agency for International Development through a matching
strengthening grant under the Title XII program.
Farming Systems Research Group
Michigan State University
The Farming Systems Research Group at Michigan State University, supported
by Title XII Strengthening Grant Funds from the U.S. Agency for International
Development, and administered by the Institute of International Agriculture,
has included Dr. Jay Artis, Department of Sociology; Dr. Robert J. Deans,
Department of Animal Science; Dr. Merle Esmay (and Dr. Robert Wilkinson),
Department of Agricultural Engineering; Dr. Eric Crawford, Department of
Agricultural Economics; Dr. Russell Freed, Department of Crop and Soil
Sciences (also representing Horticulture); Dr. Al Pearson, Department of
Food Science and Human Nutrition; Dr. Tjaart Schillhorn van Veen, Department
of Veterinary Medicine; with Dr. George Axinn, International Studies and
Programs and Agricultural Economics, Chair, and Ms. Beverly Fleisher,
graduate research assistant.
LIVESTOCK SYSTEMS AND ANIMAL HEALTH
by Tjaart W. Shillhorn van Veen
Working Paper No. 3
THE MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH GROUP
WORKING PAPER SERIES
Farming Systems Research and Agricul-
Farming Systems Position Paper
Livestock Systems and Animal Health
Issues in Farming Systems Research --
an Agronomist's Perspective
Farming Systems Research As It Relates
To The Animal Sciences
Farming Systems Research Position Paper
The Farming Systems Research Approach in
the Agricultural Engineering Field
Issues in Farming Systems Research --
a Multidisciplinary Behavioral Science
Farming Systems Research and
An M.S.U. Approach to Farming Systems
The M.S.U. Farming Systems Research
A Working Bibliography on Farming
Systems Research August, 1981
Social Impact, Economic Change, and
Development -- with illustrations
Tjaart Schillhorn van Veen
Robert J. Deans
Merle L. Esmay
George H. Axinn
Robert H. Wilkinson
Beverly Fleisher and
George H. Axinn
George H. Axinn and
Nancy W. Axinn
LIVESTOCK SYSTEMS AND ANIMAL HEALTH
T. W. Schillhorn van Veen
The biological system
The biological processes involved in crop and livestock production are well
known and do not, in their basic manifestations, appear to differ significantly
in developed or developing countries. Cows are fed, give milk, provide manure
and are affected by diseases and deficiencies; corn or rice are planted, fer-
tilized, sprayed, but also affected by diseases, and harvested. Although the
needs of breeds of cows or corn may be different, the basic process of produc-
tion is the same. Basically they also do not differ when comparing a subsistent
production system with a surplus production system.
Although the biological processes are similar, the technological approach
has so far been considerably different; for various reasons which are all clo-
sely related to (and may as well be due to, as the cause of) different socio-
The organizational system
The major differences between the systems in developed and in developing
countries are related to the organizational structure in which these biological
processes take place. The lowest level of an organization is the farm-worker,
the highest level reaches government or even international institutions and
relationships. In principle there is, and should be, some interaction between
these levels and various structures have been developed to enable and implement
such interactions. In the developed world this has led to government or state
sponsored extension programs, cooperatives, or privately organized lines of
communications. These interactions have, to some extent, developed naturally
and are adapted to local custom, facilities, educational levels and organiza-
tion. In the USA, it has resulted in extension programs supported by land-grant
universities or private industry. In some European countries it resulted in a
system of cooperatives and farmer-owned industries supplemented by a government
It is unlikely that these systems can easily be transplanted to developing
countries since the history and social organization in such countries differs
from those in the technologically more developed world. Various examples exist
of colonial organization systems which, after independence, lead to over-
organization, often seriously hampering development. Many of these systems
(marketing boards for instance) have been dissolved in recent years.
The organizational structure of a livestock system
In the livestock sector the discrepancy between the socio-economic goals of
the western, and the third world producer may be less obvious than in the crop
producing systems. In Europe as well as the U.S. there still exist livestock
systems which are not fully commercialized and in which at least some of the
decisions consider social as well as commercial criteria. This is to some
extent intrinsic, as the decision-making process in livestock systems considers
a multitude of criteria and factors, and is far more complicated and demanding
than in a simple cropping system (Crotty, 1980). Such a multifactorial decision
making system gives, relatively, more attention to smaller factors, and allows
(or necessitates) for a high degree of flexibility.
In this world there exist a multitude of livestock production systems and
various classifications are used, either determined by input (communal versus
S individual grazing for instance) or by output (beef, milk, calves, etc.). The
original, although not well understood, tropical livestock system, is found in
the unit which is mainly, or even completely, dependent on livestock. The most
extreme examples are probably the pastoral societies, often called "nomads" in
southern Sudan, East Africa, Lapland and, until recently, in the middle East.
These are societies with a high recycling ratio (Axinn and Axinn, 1980) and
which are more or less independent of outside economies or social systems. In
principle, these are very "capitalistic" entities as the family or unit lives
from the fruits of their capital, i.e., their livestock. Their basic require-
ment is to maintain their working capital, and the greater the capital, the more
secure they are about their dividend.
Land, however, is not considered to be capital in these societies. It is
considered free "as the air you breathe" and their system only works when land
tenure allows free access to land (and to some extent, water). The present
population pressure and changes in land tenure seriously threaten this system
and may force this group to change into the type of agri-pastoralists and agri-
culturists so commonly found in Africa, Asia and to some extent in the Americas.
The Nandi in Kenya, the Galla in Ethiopia, the Fulani in certain parts of West
Africa are gradually giving up their pastoral life in areas with a high popula-
tion density. They become agriculturist as the pressure on land forces them to
give up their less efficient* pastoral life. Although the majority of these
agri-pastoralists were originally livestock owners, there are some who evolved
from a farming background, and farmers could play a significant role in
*Efficient only in terms of production per HA in areas with good soils and rain-
fall over 1250 mm.
Livestock production, however, is seldom an independent activity.
Generally, there is a dependency on available grazing land, water, and markets.
Various examples exist of the dependence of livestock producers on other
livestock producing tribes (Haaland, 1980), on their own tribe (Cole, 1978), on
farmers (Stenning, 1959) and on village markets. The level of specialization
and cooperation between these groups varies, as adequately discussed by
Brandstrom et al. (1979) who describe four examples of specialized and mixed
systems in different ecological areas in East Africa.
In agri-pastoral and sedentary agricultural systems, temporary investment in
livestock plays an important part in financing agricultural inputs such as
labor or fertilizer in the next season. The system then changes from "capital"
to "commodity"-oriented. Such developments, which originally started because of
increased population pressure and demand for land, continue to lead to an
increasing pressure on land and ultimately to ecological deterioration.
So far this discussion has concentrated on the African livestock situation.
It seems possible that, with an increasing population density, the agripastoral
systems in the humid savanna of Africa may become similar to the intensive
systems commonly found in monsoonal Asia. In this area the topography or land
pressure as well as the available demand for livestock products, have led to a
labor and capital intensive system which uses a relatively small number of ani-
mals. In many areas the beef production system, and to some extent the dairy
enterprise, are combined with a draft animal enterprise. However, a terminology
of dairy-, beef-, and other enterprises may be inaccurate. Cattle, buffaloes
and small ruminants are kept for many other purposes including draft, manure
production, hide and skins, production of offspring or recreation. In Africa
they play an important social and spiritual role, and many animals in the tro-
pics are at least dual or triple purpose animals. Livestock systems researchers
should consider livestock enterprises from various angles based on the value
from such viewpoints as economy (which is mainly done at present), energy-
efficiency, recycling ratio, water efficiency, labor efficiency or labor provi-
sion, social relationship, etc. Scavenger type systems for small ruminants,
pigs and poultry ensure a maximal utilization of crop and household residues but
their importance is too often neglected.
Systems research in livestock production in the tropics is underdeveloped
and still mainly in the descriptive stage. Some systems studies have been done
by anthropologists, rural sociologists and economists. Animal scientists* were
mainly concentrating on development of livestock systems based on a western
model (e.g., range land development, fattening schemes, nutrition studies).
Constraints 1. A disadvantage of these studies by other than animal
scientists is related to the fact that they often concentrate more on the pecu-
liarities of the phenomenon of livestock raising, rather than on characteristics
of the system they were studying. Many of the described aspects have been typi-
cal for livestock producers in general, whether in Africa or in the U.S., and
not typical for the group or tribe studied as such. It would have been more
useful if comparisons had been made with an average livestock owner in Europe or
*My definition of animal scientist includes veterinarians, range specialists,
dairy specialists, etc.
2. Another problem is the diversity of livestock in various systems as well
as their interrelation. Cattle are often mixed with small ruminants (as they
supplement each other in factors such as pasture utilization). Chickens are
sometimes added because they still can utilize some of the leftovers from the
food of ruminants and man. The use of such terms as "standard livestock unit"
or even "standard farm unit" may facilitate the comparative study of animals in
a mixed farming system, but these are rarely used. Most animal scientists,
moreover, are species-specialists and rarely recognize the relationships.
3. The third problem is the complicated relationship between livestock and
man. The closest association is probably found among the Nilotic tribes in
southern Sudan where young men have their "song bull" as a pet animal
(Evans-Pritchard, 1940). In other tribes the value of the animal also extends
far beyond capital or commodity. The importance of livestock in the creation
and maintenance of social relationships is often underestimated, in pastoral as
well as in agricultural societies. The use of livestock as gifts or loans is to
some extent related to the risks of livestock production: in some years there
is a considerable surplus in other years a shortfall. The surplus is not
marketed but is used as gifts, etc. to build relationships which may be useful
in years of shortfall. Systems research should take all of these factors into
consideration, instead of evaluating only productivity in terms of economic
gain. Such evaluations require the cooperation of various disciplines.
However considering the general attitude of livestock owners and their con-
cern with the well-being of their animals, it is doubtful whether multiple
person/multiple discipline studies will be acceptable. St. Croix (personal
communication) who worked for 30 years as a livestock officer among the Fulani
in West Africa narrates that he was not allowed by many owners to visit their
herds after his retirement as he did not longer belong to the 'system' (although
they would visit him at home or in markets).
Systems research therefore should be performed by scientists with con-
siderable local experience. ILCA, which is probably the only large institution
seriously involved in livestock systems research, has attracted, mainly
non-African, a staff with decades of experience with African livestock. In the
future, this expertise will have to be provided by locally educated staff. The
efforts of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Ahmadu Bello University in
Nigeria to include subjects such as rural sociology and economics in its curri-
culum has be be mentioned in this context (Ema et al, 1971).
The Animal Health Viewpoint
In many developed countries the losses in the livestock industry due to
animal disease still range between 5 and 20%. The majority of these are
related to poor or incorrect management systems. In semi-nomadic systems the
losses are often less, apart from occasional devastating epidemics, which is
probably a reflection of the close relation of the (semi) nomadic livestock
owner with his animals and his environment. It can be argued that the epidemics
and droughts are part of the system and that the fairly successful eradication
programs of diseases such as rinderpest, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia
(CBPP) and trypanosomiasis could also lead to increased livestock numbers,
overgrazing and may lead to a breakdown of traditional systems. It can also be
argued that at least in Africa, major epidemics such as those caused by rinder-
pest and CBPP are a leftover of the colonial period: they were unknown in
Africa before 1850.
At present however there are many other threats to these systems (land
pressure, taxes, education, etc.). The livestock industry is changing but these
changes are, so far, little influenced by foreign aid or innovation. Most pro-
jects, executed by foreign agencies, have been chosen for short-term success
without a sufficient knowledge about the system. Fortunately, many projects
were so poorly executed that little damage has yet been done (Dunbar, 1971;
Jacobs, 1980). A major role in livestock development as well as in livestock
systems research and implementation is to be played by the local veterinarians
and husbandry officers. At present these are overwhelmed by foreign aid and
foreign ideas at a time when they are trying to obtain some understanding of the
problem. Moreover livestock owners are interested in some of the modern tech-
nologies which may, in the short term, increase their livestock numbers, and are
pressing for developments in this direction without realizing the potential eco-
logical risks. Ecologically sound long-term development plans, however, need
thought and good understanding of the system.
In principle, the veterinarian has been exposed to systems (whether organ
systems such as the digestive and respiratory system or husbandry systems)
throughout his career, and should have a good understanding of the problems
associated with radical change. On the other hand, he is trained (and slightly
biased) to cure animals, and often uses the European or North American (small
animal) practitioners as his role model. It is questionable whether such animal
scientists or veterinarians are very useful, considering the costs of their edu-
cation and practice. It may be justifiable to weigh their usefulness against
that of the barefoot veterinarian (Halpin, 1981), who may be less well educated,
but has a good understanding of the systems and people with whom he has to work.
Free veterinary services, commonly provided in many African countries, basically
put the livestock owner in an awkward position; since he does not pay it is dif-
ficult for him to argue about the quality of the service given to him. Over the
last two decades, animal health provisions in the tropics are concentrated on
mass vaccination and treatment. Very little effort, either locally or by inter-
national and foreign aid organizations, is made to understand the system, and to
study whether such an understanding provides means of innovation in disease
control and in animal production in general.
At present there is only little evidence of a trend to place more emphasis
on health management than on drug therapy. Some developments in the tropical
livestock industry, however, (subjects such as genetically determined resistance
to animal disease, ecology of animal disease, cooperation between animal and
social scientists, etc.) are providing some innovative idea. The feasibility of
"pest-management" systems has been reviewed by Bawden (1978) who concluded that
a greater awareness of the form, function and dynamics of agro-ecosystems are
needed..."to be compatible with long-term stability and productivity". Most of
these developments are very much related to the role of animals in their ecolo-
gical niche and considerable information on livestock systems, either as such or
as a part of the farming system, has to be obtained before such programs can be
Axinn, N.W. and Axinn, G.H. 1980. The recycling ratio : an energy approach to
planning rural development. Paper presented at 5th World Congress of Rural
Sociology, Mexico City.
Brandstrom, P., Hultin, J. and Lindstrom, J. 1979. Aspects of agropastoralism
in East Africa. Scand. Inst. Afric. Studies. Paper #51.
Bawden, 1978. A perspective for parasite management. Agric. & Environm. 4,
Cole, D.P. 1979. Pastoral nomads in a rapidly changing economy: the case of
Saudi Arabia. Past. Netw. Paper 7c, O.D.I., London.
Dunbar, G.S. 1971. African Ranches Ltd. 1914-1931. An ill-fated stockraising
enterprise in N. Nigeria. Ann. Ass. Am. Geogr. 60, 102-123.
Ema, A.N., Schillhorn van Veen, T.W., Alhaji, I., Addo, P.B. and Attah, M.I.
1971. Curriculum concept proposal for the Fac. Veterinary Medicine, Ahm. Bello
University. Mimeo, Fac. Vet. Med., A.B.U. Zaria.
Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 1940. The Nuer. Oxford Univ. Press, New York.
Haaland, J. 1980. Five essays on the study of pastoralists and the development
of pastoralism. Occ. Paper #20, Soc. Inst., Univ. Bergen.
Halpin, B. 1981. Vets--barefoot and otherwise. Past. Netw. Paper llc, O.D.I.,
I.L.C.A. 1980. ILCA Systems studies. International Livestock Centre for
Africa, Addis Abeba.
Jacobs, A. 1980. Personal communication.
Stenning, D.J. 1959. Savanna nomads. Oxford Univ. Press, London.