is agricultural land dedicated to either animal grazing or for the production of animal feed for storage. As a percentage of the world’s agricultural and primary production businesses, livestock management and pasture crop production for animal feed is extensive. It could well account for up to 70% of world agricultural land use. There is considerable investment in pasture crops.
Whilst grasses are a common pasture, there are many other kinds of plants that livestock eat. It is often the choice of farmers and graziers as to what the best plants are for their particular livestock business. Clover, legumes, lucerne and other hay crops are often used and native species are relied upon too. Factors such as climate, weather patterns and soil types will also determine the best pasture crop to use that will provide a reliable and sustainable supply of animal food.
Animal production is an imperative for continued food security for the world and as an agricultural sector it underpins the economic survival of many marketplaces across
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World production figures for pasture crops are not easily defined, so unlike other crop types or categories it cannot truly be quantified in a table of Top 10 producing countries. There are so many variables into pasture and grazing systems across different regions of the world, and each country or region as it unique challenges in this regard.
However some facts about worldwide pasture lands and systems are :
- It is estimated that at least 70% of the world’s grazing land has deteriorated to such an extent that it has lost at least 25% of its animal carrying capacity.
- The balance between the traditional or indigenous livestock cultures and the modern western-style grazing cultures is also at risk of becoming a destabilising factor. Strong measures are needed to ensure the balance is maintained so that food security targets can be met and available to all.
- A risk for the continued success of animal production as a primary food source for the world is the destruction of natural soil fertility following the deforestation of land systems for grazing. The consequence is often the abandonment of land and ongoing clearance of more land as new pastures are sought.
- Overgrazing by too many stock, for too long a period, often leads to the natural vegetation being unable to recover.
- There are many different words for pasture environments around the world such as savannah, plains, scrubland, shrubland, steppes, prairies, veldts, pampas and compos – all cultural or language-based expressions for the same
- Pasture can also include range lands or pasture land that is not considered appropriate for cropping if animals are free to forage.
- When selecting species for quantity different pasture species are chosen (i.e. forage sorghums or tropical grasses). When selecting for quality, particularly protein content, other species are selected (i.e. annual forages or tropical/temperate legumes).
- Before deciding on a pasture mix it is important that consideration be given to the climate (especially rainfall and frost), land type, those native and sown pasture species that are known to grow well locally, the soil type and health of natural soil fertility, the type of animals to be grazed, existing pasture, how the grazing will be managed and the best sowing and/or fertiliser methods to maximise establishment costs.