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Intensification of cattle ranching production systems: socioeconomic and environmental synergies and risks in Brazil

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2014

A. E. Latawiec
International Institute for Sustainability, Estrada Dona Castorina 124, Rio de Janeiro 22460-320, Brazil Department of Production Engineering and Logistics, Opole University of Technology, Luboszycka 5, Opole 45-036, Poland School of Environmental Science, Norwich NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom
B. B. N. Strassburg*
International Institute for Sustainability, Estrada Dona Castorina 124, Rio de Janeiro 22460-320, Brazil Department of Geography and the Environment, Pontificia Universidade Catolica, Rio de Janeiro 22453-900, Brazil
J. F. Valentim
Brazilian Corporation for Agricultural Research (Embrapa Acre), Caixa Postal 321, CEP 69900-970, Rio Branco, AC, Brazil Sustainability Science Program and Energy Technology Innovation Policy Research Group, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
F. Ramos
Agrosuisse, Rua Visconde de Pirajá 414, Rio de Janeiro 22410-002, Brazil
H. N. Alves-Pinto
International Institute for Sustainability, Estrada Dona Castorina 124, Rio de Janeiro 22460-320, Brazil
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Intensification of Brazilian cattle ranching systems has attracted both national and international attention due to its direct relation with Amazon deforestation on the one hand and increasing demand of the global population for meat on the other. Since Brazilian cattle ranching is predominantly pasture-based, we particularly focus on pasture management. We summarize the most recurrent opportunities and risks associated with pasture intensification that are brought up within scientific and political dialogues, and discuss them within the Brazilian context. We argue that sustainable intensification of pasturelands in Brazil is a viable way to increase agricultural output while simultaneously sparing land for nature. Since environmental degradation is often associated with low-yield extensive systems in Brazil, it is possible to obtain higher yields, while reversing degradation, by adopting practices like rotational grazing, incorporation of legumes and integrated crop-livestock-forestry systems. Technical assistance is however essential, particularly for small- and medium-scale farmers. Sound complementary policies and good governance must accompany these measures so that a ‘rebound effect’ does not lead to increased deforestation and other adverse social and environmental impacts. It is also important that animal welfare is not compromised. Although the discussion is presented with respect to Brazil, some aspects are relevant to other developing countries.

Research Article
© The Animal Consortium 2014 

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