Livestock provide multifaceted services to human societies worldwide. In developing countries, they are crucial assets and safety net for rural poor, and they provide nutrients-dense food to nourish people. In developed economies, growth in demand for animal-derived food is slowing while attention is growing over the role of livestock farming in an enhanced circular food system for sustainability. This analysis, focusing on the modern food systems in developed countries, aims to highlight the unique function of livestock that helps people re-harvest and upcycle crop and food residues generated along the food chain that are otherwise unfit for human consumption. First, human-unusable crop and food residue materials are described in three broad categories based on their characteristics and potential feeding attributes; the magnitude of biomass materials that are already used in routine animal feeding as well as residues that remain as underutilized resources are illustrated using the USA as an example. Then, the research and technology development critically needed for the future is discussed. As the world strives to produce more food with smaller environmental and climate footprints, upcycling the residual biomass via livestock for food production presents a viable pathway toward improved resource use, reduced pollution and enhanced food system efficiency.
Crop-livestock farms across Africa are highly variable due to in agroecological and socioeconomic factors, the latter shaping the demand and supply of livestock products. Crop-livestock farms in Africa in the 20-first century are very different from most mixed farms elsewhere in the world. African crop-livestock farms are smaller in size, have fewer livestock, lower productivity and less dependency on imported feed than farms in most countries of Europe, the Americas and the intensive agricultural systems of Asia. This paper discusses the role African crop-livestock farms have in the broader socio-agricultural economy, and how these are likely to change adapting to pressures brought on by the intensification of food systems. This intensification implies increasing land productivity (more food per hectare), often leading to more livestock heads per farm, producing fertilized feeds in croplands and importing feed supplements from the market. This discussion includes (1) the links between crop yields, soil fertility and crop-livestock integration, (2) the increasing demand for livestock products and the land resources required to meet to this demand, and (3) the opportunities to integrate broader societal goals into the development of crop-livestock farms. There is ample room for development of crop-livestock farms in Africa, and keeping integration as part of the development will help prevent many of the mistakes and environmental problems related to the intensification of livestock production observed elsewhere in the world. This development can integrate biodiversity, climate change adaptation and mitigation to the current goals of increasing productivity and food security. The inclusion of broader goals could help farmers access the level of finance required to implement changes.