Jan 24, 2021

Global Farm Platforms for Optimisation of Grazing Livestock Production Systems


The major challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century include climate change, population growth, environmental pollution, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and lack of food, water and energy. Concerns about the sustainability of livestock and consumption of animal products, particularly for ruminants, led to careful consideration of the manifold contributions of ruminant livestock to global food security and rural livelihoods by an international, multidisciplinary group of scientists working under the Worldwide Universities Network Global Challenge Responding to Climate Change.

The group developed a vision for sustainable ruminant production, the critical aspect of which change were published in Nature ‘Steps to Sustainable Livestock’. One essential aspect of the vision was advocacy for an international network of model farms, the Global Farm Platform (http://www.globalfarmplatform.org). To further the aims of the Global Farm Platform, two rounds of WUN RDF funding have been used to develop a co-ordinated network.

This project is a step change in the activities of the GFP that extends it to include several new partners, thus expanding the socio-economic and geographical range of the program. To realise the potential of this extended consortium we must facilitate exchange of ideas and personnel between the new members and the existing Global Farm Platform family, and, importantly, secure additional funding streams for a number of sub-projects relating to sustainable livestock.

The WUN Sustainability Grant maintains functionality of the network and enables competitive funding applications. These will include genetic improvement in dairy cattle for the tropics and of rangeland beef cattle, measuring soil organic carbon in pastoral systems, use of deep-rooting perennial forages, and a pan-genome approach to reducing methane emissions by ruminants. Funding bids will recognise and emphasise the role of women in livestock keeping and smallholder farming livelihoods, increasingly recognised as being of global importance.

See related article in Nature.

See the Global Farm Platform project website.

This project is a continuation of an earlier research group ‘Ensuring Sustainable and Responsible Production of Healthy Food from Healthy Animals’.

In 2019

Academic Publications: eight in total

  • Michael R. F. Lee. [et al.] 2018. Size does matter: Parallel evolution of adaptive thermal tolerance and body size facilitates adaptation to climate change in domestic cattle. Ecol. and evol., 8, 10608 – 10620. doi: 10.1002/ece3.4550
  • Takahashi, McAuliffe, Lee. Assessing `the environmental impact of ruminant production systems. 2019. In: Assessing the environmental impact of agriculture, Bo P. Weidema (Ed.). Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing Limited. ISBN-13: 9781786762283
  • Thomas, A. C., M. Bailey, M. R. F. Lee, A. Mead, B. Morales-Aza, R. Reynolds, B. Vipond, A. Finn & M. C. Eisler. 2019. Insights into Pasteurellaceae carriage dynamics in the nasal passages of healthy beef calves. Nature Scientific Reports, 9, 11943

Scholarly events

  • INIA International Workshop on Spatial Analysis in R, 9-11 December 2019
  • INRA La Rochelle Workshop and signing of the Statement of Intent to enroll two INRA farms into the GFP 6-8th March 2019
  • 7th Conference on Greenhouse Gas from Animal Agriculture, Keynote presentation on GFP, 7th-12th August 2019, Iguasso, Brazil


Academic Publications:  six in total

  • BAI Z.., LEE M.R.F., LIN M., LEDGARD S., OENEMA O., VELTHOL G. L., MA W., GUO M., ZHANQING Z., WEI S., LI S., LIU X., HAVLIK P., LUO J., HU C., ZHANG F. 2018. The global impact of China’s thirst for milk: a scenario analysis using a nexus approach. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14047
  • ZHAOHAI B., LIN M., VELTHOF G.L. ZHUBIAO E., HAVLIK P., OENEMA O., LEE M.R.F., ZHANG F. 2018. China’s livestock transition: driving forces, impacts and consequences. Science Advances 4: eaar8534
  • MUHAMMED E.M., ARAVINDAKSHAN T.V., MALONEY S.K., HAWKINS N., MISSELBROOK T.H., SEJIAN V. RIVERO H., LEE M.R.F.2018. Size does matter: parallel evolution of adaptive tolerance to climate change and dwarfing in domestic cattle. Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1002/ece3.4550

Scholarly events

  • GFP Meeting in Wisconsin USA – June 2018
  • GFP Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya – November 2018
  • GFP Meeting in Uruguay and Brazil – December 2018


Academic Publications: seven in total

  • LI Y., LIU Y., HARRIS P., SINT H., MURRAY P., LEE M.R.F., WU L. 2017. Assessments of soil, water, carbon and nitrogen cycling in reseeded grassland on North Wyke Farm Platform using a process-based model. Sci Total Envir 603-604: 27-37.
  • WILKINSON J.M., LEE M.R.F. 2017. Use of human-edible animal feeds by ruminant livestock. Animal DOI:10.1017/S175173111700218X
  • MCAULIFFE G.A., TAKAHASHI T., ORR R., HARRIS P. LEE M.R.F. 2017. Distributions of global warming potential for individual cattle reared on three pasture-based beef production systems. Journal of Cleaner Production. 171: 1672-1680.
  • MCAULIFFE G.A., TAKAHASHI T., ORR R., HARRIS P. LEE M.R.F. 2017. Distributions of global warming potential for individual cattle reared on three pasture-based beef production systems. Journal of Cleaner Production. 171: 1672-1680.
  • ZHAOHAI B., LEE M.R.F., LIN M., et al., (In press). The global impact of China’s thirst for milk: a scenario analysis using a nexus approach. Global Change Biology.

Scholarly events

  • Livestock Sustainability and Global Challenges Workshop. University of Bristol. 18 – 20 September 2017. 15 academics from across the Network attended and presented papers


  • Dr Siobhan Mullan (University of Bristol), visited the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, India to advise on dairy cow sustainability and welfare.


Selected outcomes

  • Livestock Sustainability and Global Challenges Workshop, Bristol, 18-20 September 2017
  • The University of Bristol hosted a major international conference ‘Steps to Sustainable Livestock’ in January 2015.
  • Professor Mark Eisler was invited to represent the Global Farm Platform at the WUN Workshop, ‘What are the research challenges associated with developing a climate‐smart agri‐food system?’ at the UNFCC COP21 Conference 2015
  • Position paper on the future of livestock production systems published in Nature, March 2014
  • Hosted Global Sustainable Farming Systems Workshops in Australia, China, India, the UK and the US.
  • Awarded £680K by the BBSRC Industrial Partnership.
  • Awarded £250K by the UK-USA Global Innovation Initiative.
  • £24M in 2-stage funding bids progressed to stage two.
  • Developed a Statement of Intent pledging commitment to the Global Farm Platform, which has been signed by Bristol, Leeds, UWA, Wisconsin-Madison, Zhejiang and Rothamsted Research.
  • WUN Sustainability Fund award valued at £40,000.