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What road should the grazing industry take on pastoral land in China?

1 Key Laboratory of Grassland Ecosystem of Ministry of Education/Rangeland Sciences Department, Gansu Agricultural University/Sino-U.S. Centers for Grazing Land Ecosystem Sustainability, Lanzhou, 730070, China
2 State key Laboratory of Arid Agroecology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu, China

China has the second largest rangeland area in the world. The pastoral area was regarded as the main red meat (beef and mutton) production area since new China’s establishment in 1949. In past decades, the rangeland degradation has become serious in many places and the governments at all levels in China have realized the issues and have made a series of policies to protect rangeland. A key component of the policies is to provide subsidies to herders to switch to intensive livestock production instead of grazing on rangelands. But, is that effective? Can the householders in pastoral areas make more money than those in cropping land and protect effectively the rangeland ecosystem for the future? How to guide those herders in pastoral land to find a suitable way to make a living from producing beef and mutton? The paper reviews the livestock production in the pastoral regions and compares it with that from the cropping regions. We found that the economic advantage of livestock production in pastoral land has long disappeared and that most of the red meat, is now produced in the cropping regions or is imported. Therefore, the government should rethink the role and function of the rangeland in pastoral regions and should encourage and improve pasture-based livestock husbandry to produce organic red meat (green food) and other livestock products while fostering and protecting cultural traditions and better land stewardship.
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Keywords rangeland degradation; cropping regions; green food; pastoralism; red meat production

Citation: Guizhen Wang, Limin Hua, Victor R. Squires, Guozhen Du. What road should the grazing industry take on pastoral land in China?. AIMS Agriculture and Food, 2017, 2(4): 354-369. doi: 10.3934/agrfood.2017.4.354

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