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Understanding Water Consumption in Livestock Farming


Livestock farming plays a significant role in global water consumption, accounting for approximately 8% of the water used by humans. However, it is important to consider regional variations and different farming conditions when examining water usage. In this article, we explore the water consumption in livestock farming and discuss methods to reduce its environmental impact.

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The Complexity of Water Consumption:

Measuring water consumption in livestock farming is a complex task due to various factors and methodologies involved. The figures can vary significantly depending on the approach used. Additionally, different countries exhibit diverse farming conditions, such as farming types, irrigation practices, and grazing methods, further affecting water consumption.

Understanding Water Footprint:

Water Footprint Network provides figures that reflect the average liters of 'virtual water' required to produce different types of food or products. This calculation method incorporates three types of water: blue water for watering animals, irrigating crops, or washing facilities; grey water for treating wastewater; and green water, which represents rainwater falling on the agricultural land. These figures should be interpreted with caution to avoid misleading interpretations.

Examining Water Consumption in Livestock Farming:

When considering the production of 1kg of beef, approximately 93% of the 15,500 liters of water used is rainwater that would have fallen regardless of livestock presence. This rainwater is not sourced from the drinking water network, minimizing environmental impact. Comparatively, blue and grey water consumption shows smaller differences. 

Reducing Water Consumption :

Various strategies can help mitigate water consumption in livestock farming. Focusing on non-irrigated or less irrigated crops for animal feed, promoting grazing by ruminants, and improving animal physiology to enhance growth rates or reduce consumption indexes are recommended approaches. However, ethical considerations arise when modifying animal physiology solely for environmental interests. Technical solutions, such as efficient watering systems, leak detection, water recycling, and utilizing roof water, can also contribute to reducing water wastage.


Livestock farming has a substantial impact on global water resources, primarily through crop irrigation for animal feed. While the figures presented should be carefully evaluated, it is evident that regional variations and farming conditions significantly influence water consumption. By adopting sustainable practices and employing technical solutions, it is possible to reduce water consumption in livestock farming, minimizing its environmental footprint. However, it is crucial to balance environmental objectives with ethical considerations when implementing modifications in animal physiology.

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Exploring livestock farming's dynamic interplay with other production forms

In this blog post, we delve into the complex dynamics of livestock farming and its interactions with other forms of production. Specifically, we explore the competition between animal feed and direct human consumption, the utilization of agricultural land, and the role of livestock in reducing waste.

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