Livestock production systems are as varied as the types of animal species kept by producers. A wide variety of policy reforms and technologies can improve sustainability of these livestock production systems and lead to benefits on poverty reduction and environmental resource conservation. Major types of production systems include:
- Grazing systems-—particular those using communally owned land—are affected by erosion of traditional grazing rights with a shift to open access and 'free-for-all' grazing in the remaining areas. This is a concern in arid and semi-arid areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, India and Central Asia. The poor sustainability of these systems is shown by declining livestock productivity on a per human capita basis.
- Mixed crop-livestock systems are ideally in a symbiotic, equilibrium situation with waste products (manure, crop by-products) used in the same system. Problems develop where this equilibrium is disturbed by livestock being expelled from the system causing soil nutrient and energy deficits or by increased reliance on outside inputs (feed and chemical fertilizer) causing nutrient surpluses that exceed the adsorptive capacity of the land.
- Industrial systems are on the rise and often exhibit real or perceived efficiencies in production. However, these systems may not internalize all costs of the increased waste product disposal, which can pollute soil and ground and surface water, affect air quality and alter natural habitats causing bio-diversity loss. The uniform genotypes demanded by these intensive production systems also reduce genetic diversity within livestock species.