Tropical Livestock Units: Re-evaluating a Methodology.

Peregrine Rothman-Ostrow, William Gilbert and Jonathan Rushton of the Global Burden of Animal Diseases Programme and The University of Liverpool have collaborated to produce the now published article Tropical Livestock Units: Re-evaluating a Methodology.

The dynamic between humans, livestock, and wildlife is evolving owing to growth in populations, a finite global landmass, and shifting climatic conditions. This change comes with certain benefits in terms of food security, nutrition, and livelihoods as livestock populations increase, but is not without risk. The role of livestock in infectious disease emergence, environmental degradation, and the development of antimicrobial resistance is becoming more apparent. An understanding of these risks and development of mitigation tactics, especially in low- and middle-income countries where the pace of change is most rapid, is increasingly based on comprehensive models and tools built to map livestock populations at the global, regional or national level. Translation of model estimates into evidence is often underpinned by a quantification of livestock biomass to support policy development and implementation. This paper discusses the application of the Tropical Livestock Unit in the context of measuring biomass. It examines the established method of calculation, designating all cattle a standard weight of 175 kg, and compares it to two proposed alternatives. In doing so, the potential to refine estimates of biomass in low and middle-income countries is explored, though this concept could be extrapolated to higher income economies as well. Publicly available data from six countries in sub-Saharan Africa was utilized to demonstrate how breed liveweight, herd structures, and growth rates have the potential to dramatically alter the estimates of cattle biomass in each country. Establishing standardized data collection procedures to capture this information on a regular basis would grant a better understanding of the true nature of livestock populations, aid in the development of superior disease prevention and response measures, bolster food security initiatives through improving livestock production, and inform the intelligent management of shared ecosystems to improve conservation and biodiversity.

This article is available on Frontiers (Front. Vet. Sci., 20 November 2020)