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Modelling our livestock futures

Modelling our livestock futures

  • Livestock Improvement
  • 2022-2027
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The livestock industries are continually under pressure to proactively embrace and incorporate sustainability drivers into their systems and forward improvement plans. These sectors need to maintain and increase profitability by responding to changing market conditions while simultaneously contributing to Scottish Government commitments on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and biodiversity. Scotland’s commitment to reduce baseline GHG emissions by 75% by 2030 and transition to net zero by 2045. An update to the Scottish climate change plan has accelerated the drive to net zero.

Local and global land use is under increasing pressure and livestock systems, that exist as part of landscape and food systems, need to consider what livestock futures are. The future sustainability of the Scottish livestock industry relies on farmers being able to respond to key challenges and threats - losses in efficiency and the resilience are critical components. This should not only think of resilience and efficiency of the individual animal, or the farming system as currently exists, but also how social, policy and environmental drivers may change the requirements we have of our livestock sector. We need to prioritise livestock futures and routes of improvement to achieve farm-level resilience and efficiency. This will help to address several societal challenges:

  • Ensuring food security
  • Managing natural resources in a sustainable way
  • Mitigating and adapting to climate change
  • Creating jobs and maintaining competitiveness


  • How should we develop a data-led livestock system?
  • How should livestock systems accommodate new farming landscapes?


In addressing the current and future fit of our livestock in the changing landscape, this project is modelling scenarios of alternative livestock futures for Scotland which are being co-created with stakeholders.


Animal and system lifetime performance metrics and trajectories

We are developing metrics for quantifying animal and socio-economic and physical parameters in different time states. From this, we are creating animal lifetime trajectory routes nested within key system types. These are being used to identify gaps in efficiencies and resilience of livestock within current Scottish farming systems.


Modelling tools to predict outcomes of possible future scenarios

Models are being developed that allow representation over time of the herd/system within a local production environment. These models are also allowing farmers and advisors to test the economic value and herd durability consequences of adjusting a range of improvement trajectories (e.g., breeding and management strategies) according to alternative production environments and scenarios. We are assessing different farming systems regarding environmental, social, and economic sustainability aspects in future scenarios, including the consequences of climate change.


Identifying livestock futures and improvement routes to get there

We are engaging key stakeholders from the cattle sector to assist us to scope out the key “challenges” that livestock improvement has a potential role in solving. Feedback from our stakeholders is essential for the tool design, and to influence the progress and potential directions of this project. 

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