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Comparative Sustainability Assessment of Extensive Beef Cattle Farms

Escribano, AJ; Gaspar , P; Mesias, FJ; Escribano, M and Pulido, F (2015) Comparative Sustainability Assessment of Extensive Beef Cattle Farms. In: Squires, Victor R. (Ed.) Book. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York, pp. 65-85.

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This chapter analyzes the sustainability of beef cattle systems of the Spanish Rangelands known as “Dehesas”. These are traditional systems of the Iberian Peninsula where native herbaceous vegetation and evergreen species of Quercus provide the basis for extensive livestock farms. These systems are considered as outstanding High Nature Value (HNV) farming systems and the most extensive agroforestry systems in Europe according to CORINE Land Cover.
Beef farms in this area show low stocking rates and a small dependence on foodstuff purchases.However, certain changes have occurred in the last decadesdue to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). On the one hand, some farms have become more intensified, as a way to maximize the revenues from the CAP subsidies. On the other hand, many farms have turned to organic production, trying to take advantage both of new subsidies and of new market trends.
In this regard, the organic livestock farming model is gaining weight as an option for sustainable production since, according to various authors, these systems have advantages over conventional and intensive systems. In fact, organic production in the area has increased substantially in recent years due to several factors, such as the growing interest of the EU towards preserving sensitive ecosystems, the potential role of organic production in the development of rural areas and the growing consumers’ demand for safer and higher quality foods produced under ethical and environmental standards.
In this study, we carried out a comparative assessment of the sustainability of different conventional and organic beef production systems located in dehesa rangelands. The systems analyzed were classified as follows. (i) non-organic farms (Conventional); (ii) organic farms that sold calves at weaning age as conventional ones (Organic 1); (iii) organic farms that fattened and sold their calves as organic (Organic 2). An adaptation of the MESMIS multicriteria framework was applied to calculate sustainability indices for each system. The results showed that the Organic 2 farms scored highest on most of the attributes of sustainability, as well as on the environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability. Thus, they were the most sustainable system (66.55%), followed by the Organic 1 (61.04%) and Conventional ones (56.89%). Despite Organic 2 was the most sustainable system, its implementation is complex due to both the high costs of organic inputs and the weak demand for organic beef.
The results also showed that all three types of systems need to improve in certain aspects that are crucial in the current and future context of the livestock sector. These aspects are: reducing the dependence on external feed, implementing more environmentally friendly farming practices, and farm diversification.

EPrint Type:Book chapter
Agrovoc keywords:
Englishorganic husbandryhttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_36807
EnglishBeef cattlehttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_862
Englishagroforestry systemshttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_330982
EnglishMediterranean zonehttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_29563
EnglishMediterranean regionhttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_4698
EnglishSustainable agriculturehttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_33561
Englishfarming systemshttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_2807
EnglishExtensive farminghttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_2763
Subjects: Farming Systems
Animal husbandry
Animal husbandry > Production systems > Beef cattle
Environmental aspects
Research affiliation: Spain > University of Extremadura
Related Links:https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=54350
Deposited By: Escribano, Dr. Alfredo J
ID Code:29485
Deposited On:21 Dec 2015 08:29
Last Modified:27 Dec 2015 17:05
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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