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Sustainable livestock farming in the environment


This module uses a large number of examples of environmental challenges in describing the principles of environmental science in livestock production, and is designed to allow you to become familiar with the way environmental science can be applied, as well as understanding some of its foundations.

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Topics covered

The module consists of ten units of study, all of which you should complete. They make up the following three sections.

Section 1 Managing the Farm for Environmental Sustainability

This section (Units 1–3) provides material that will help you to appreciate how animal production and environmental sustainability have to be balanced. It focuses on some of the impacts that livestock farming can have on the environment. These include changes in plant and wildlife composition in ecosystems, soil erosion, effects on groundwater and surface water quality, and disease hazards for other species.

Section 2 Ecology, Environment and their Effect on Livestock

The second section (Units 4–7) examines some of the hazards and impacts of climate change and rising population density. It is predicted that the present trend towards urbanisation of the world’s population will continue for at least another 25 years. Along with this there will be continued growth in horticulture and in the production of crops and poultry around the major towns and cities, as ungulate farming is displaced to more remote areas which are generally less suitable for arable farming. This section looks at the effects that these trends are having on the sustainability of livestock farming. It also examines the parasite hazards associated with climate change, urban livestock farming and keeping companion animals in cities, as well as some of the emerging and re-emerging animal diseases.

Section 3 Wildlife Biology and Habitat Encroachment

In the final section (Units 8–10) you will consider the issue of wildlife habitats in relation to livestock production and other forms of agriculture. There is growing emphasis in farming policy on conserving wildlife species, especially those that are at risk of becoming endangered or rare. In the European Union large amounts of financial assistance are now going towards this aim, replacing some of the former commodity-based subsidies. Traditionally there has been a need to control unwanted wildlife, and in particular wildlife that transmits diseases to livestock, companion animals and humans. This need still exists, but traditional methods are to some extent being replaced by schemes that aim at damage control rather than pest elimination.

Learning outcomes

The aims of this section are to give you an understanding of how:

  • plant and animal successions occur in changing landscapes
  • wildlife conservation can interact with the farm environment
  • soil is eroded in pastoral farming systems
  • water resources can be protected
  • livestock wastes can be rendered safe
  • the changing environment is affecting disease patterns in livestock
  • rising soil salinity is affecting some semi-arid livestock properties
  • natural disasters present threats to animals
  • national environmental policies can be translated into objectives at farm level


Your work for this module will be assessed by means of a three-hour unseen written examination paper which will take the form of essay questions. In addition, you must submit at least one and up to three TMAs.

The grade awarded will be based on the mark obtained in the written examination (80%) and on the mark for the compulsory TMA (20%).