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Assessing sustainability in cattle silvopastoral systems in the Mexican using the SAFA framework
1  Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Ciudad Universitaria, 04510, CDMX, Mexico



Cattle production is one the main causes of land use change in the tropics. The demand for meat and milk are increasing globally and as a result, it is urgent to work on sustainable livestock production systems that satisfy food security and protect the environment. Silvopastoral systems (Ssp) are an alternative for more sustainable forms of production. Hence, their sustainability performance compared to conventional systems need to be evaluated. The SAFA framework is a tool to assess sustainability performance in agricultural systems that has not been used in livestock production. The objective of this study was to use this framework to compare silvopastoral, native (NSsp) and intensive (SSPi) and monoculture (Mc) cattle farms in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. Animal welfare was assessed using the Welfare Quality tool. Species Diversity and Richness was also obtained, as well as soil variables. Questionnaires were created using the SAFA Guidelines version 3.0 and applied in 9 farms of the local communities in 3 municipalities. Responses were fed to the application SAFA tool version 2.1.50 and sustainability polygons were produced. Native farms had positive ratings for Participation, Land, Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity, and SSPi for Holistic Management. Native farms had limited ratings for Decent Livelihood, due to poor training and underpay. NSsp farms and one Sspi farm had the highest percentages of themes positively valuated (NSsp1- 67%, Sspi- 62%, NSsp2- 57%) compared to monocultures and with one SSpi farm ranged as the lowest in positive valuations (Mc3- 33%, SSpi3- 33%, Mc2- 24%). Positive evaluations identified native systems as an option for sustainable production, however, it was also recognized that group participation, environmental knowledge and awareness, identification of potential business risks, technical support and training were key factors to improve sustainability in all farms. This study is a novel approach to the SAFA protocol, as it validates its efficiency in the conditions present in the Mexican tropics and compares the sustainability performance of Ssp systems, which have never been evaluated using this tool. Transdisciplinary research is needed to integrate measurements on sustainability criteria in different livestock production systems to design more efficient policies and incentives for producers.

Keywords: sustainability; anima welfare, cattle; SAFA; silvopastoral