Sustainable Cattle Ranching in Practice: Moving from Theory to Planning in Colombia’s Livestock Sector

Amy M. Lerner, Andrés Felipe Zuluaga, Julián Chará, Andrés Etter, Timothy Searchinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


A growing population with increasing consumption of milk and dairy require more agricultural output in the coming years, which potentially competes with forests and other natural habitats. This issue is particularly salient in the tropics, where deforestation has traditionally generated cattle pastures and other commodity crops such as corn and soy. The purpose of this article is to review the concepts and discussion associated with reconciling food production and conservation, and in particular with regards to cattle production, including the concepts of land-sparing and land-sharing. We then present these concepts in the specific context of Colombia, where there are efforts to increase both cattle production and protect tropical forests, in order to discuss the potential for landscape planning for sustainable cattle production. We outline a national planning approach, which includes disaggregating the diverse cattle sector and production types, identifying biophysical, and economic opportunities and barriers for sustainable intensification in cattle ranching, and analyzing areas suitable for habitat restoration and conservation, in order to plan for both land-sparing and land-sharing strategies. This approach can be used in other contexts across the world where there is a need to incorporate cattle production into national goals for carbon sequestration and habitat restoration and conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-184
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


  • land-sharing
  • land-sparing
  • silvo-pastoral systems
  • Sustainable intensification
  • tropical cattle ranching


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