Livestock health is a key concern for all food system stakeholders and has considerable impacts upon sustainable food production. Improving productivity means that a set quantity of milk or meat may be produced at a lower economic cost, using fewer resources and with reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe); however, diseases that reduce yield, growth or fertility have the opposite effect. The purpose of this narrative review was to assess the breadth of economic and environmental sustainability information relating to cattle health within the literature and to discuss related knowledge gaps within the literature. The mechanisms by which improved awareness and investment can lead to improved cattle health both on-farm and across the wider cattle industry are also appraised; concluding with the opportunities and challenges still outstanding in improving sustainability through livestock health. The economic and environmental impacts of cattle health have not been sufficiently quantified in the literature to draw valid conclusions regarding the sustainability impact of different diseases. Where available, economic data tended to be dated or extremely variable. Furthermore, environmental analyses did not use consistent methodologies and principally focused on GHGe, with little attention paid to other metrics. Although reducing disease severity or occurrence reduced GHGe, published impacts of disease varied from 1-40% with little apparent association between GHGe and industry-wide economic cost. An urgent need therefore exists to standardise methodologies and quantify disease impacts using a common baseline with up-to-date data inputs. Given the threat of antimicrobial resistance, improving cattle health through technology adoption and vaccine use would be expected to have positive impacts on social acceptability, especially if these improvements rendered milk and meat more affordable to the consumer. Therefore, it is important for cattle producers and allied industry to take a proactive approach to improving cattle health and welfare, with particular focus on diseases that have the greatest implications for sustainability.
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