Global Farm Platforms for Optimisation of Grazing Livestock Production Systems

Professor Mark Eisler at the WUN Workshop at UNFCC COP21

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 ( 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 event:

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.


  • Professor Mark Eisler, University of Bristol
  • Professor Michael Lee, University of Bristol and Rothamsted Research
  • Professor Ellen Goddard, University of Alberta
  • Dr John Tarlton, University of Bristol
  • Dr Becky Whay, University of Bristol
  • Professor Helen Miller, University of Leeds
  • Dr Henry Greathead, University of Leeds
  • Professor Nicholas Lopez-Vollalobos, Massey University
  • Professor Robert van Saun, Pennsylvania State University
  • Professor Michael D'Occhio, University of Sydney
  • Professor Graeme Martin, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Lynette Abbott, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Phil Vercoe, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Jianxin Liu, Zhejiang University
  • Sute Mwakasungula, Small Scale Livestock and Livelihoods Programme

Responding to Climate Change