Livestock directly aid the lives and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized citizens. Livestock development, however, has had a very mixed record with regard to poverty alleviation. Part of the problem is that while the rhetoric of ‘poverty-focused’ projects and programmes often dominates, livestock, as a tool for poverty alleviation, is poorly understood. First, very little work has been done to further explicate poor livestock keepers as a distinct and important subset of the poor. Second, both the internal forces impacting households and the wider macro-economic events predicted to affect the livestock sector, are rarely accounted for by projects and programmes. Hence, the following paper explores some of the issues surrounding pro-poor livestock development. The cycle of poverty for livestock keepers is described and a new approach to livestock development offered. Equally, a definition of poor livestock keepers is detailed and the forces predicted to impact livestock production in the coming decades discussed.