Animal Husbandry

Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, fibre, milk, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding and the raising of livestock. Husbandry has a long history, starting with the Neolithic revolution when animals were first domesticated, from around 13,000 BC onward, predating farming of the first crops. By the time of early civilizations such as ancient Egypt, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were being raised on farms. Most livestock are herbivores, except for pigs and chickens which are omnivores. Ruminants like cattle and sheep are adapted to feed on grass; they can forage outdoors, or may be fed entirely or in part on rations richer in energy and protein, such as pelleted cereals. Pigs and poultry cannot digest the cellulose in forage, and require other high-protein foods.

The domestication of livestock was driven by the need to have food on hand when hunting was unproductive. The desirable characteristics of a domestic animal are that it should be useful to the domestication, should be able to thrive in his or her company, should breed freely, and be easy to tend. In ancient Egypt, cattle were the most important livestock, and sheep, goats, and pigs were also kept; poultry including ducks, geese, and pigeons were captured in nets and bred on farms, where they were force-fed with dough to fatten them. In northern Europe, agriculture including animal husbandry went into decline when the Roman empire collapsed. Some aspects such as the herding of animals continued throughout the period. By the 11th century, the economy had recovered and the countryside was again productive. The improvements of animal husbandry in the medieval period in Europe went hand in hand with other developments. Improvements to the plough allowed the soil to be tilled to a greater depth. Horses took over from oxen as the main providers of traction, new ideas on crop rotation were developed and the growing of crops for winter fodder gained ground. Peas, beans and vetches became common; they increased soil fertility through nitrogen fixation, allowing more livestock to be kept.

Branches

Dairy Farming – Dairy farming is a class of agriculture for long-term production of milk, which is processed (either on the farm or at a dairy plant, either of which may be called a dairy) for eventual sale of a dairy product. Although any mammal can produce milk, commercial dairy farms are typically one-species enterprises. In developed countries, dairy farms typically consist of high producing dairy cows. Other species used in commercial dairy farming include goats, sheep, water buffaloes, and camels. In Italy, donkey dairies are growing in popularity to produce an alternative milk source for human infants.

Meat industry – The meat industry are the people and companies engaged in modern industrialized livestock agriculture for the production, packing, preservation and marketing of meat (in contrast to dairy products, wool, etc.). In economics, the meat industry is a fusion of primary (agriculture) and secondary (industry) activity and hard to characterize strictly in terms of either one alone. The greater part of the meat industry is the meat packing industry – the segment that handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of animals such as poultry, cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock. A great portion of the ever-growing meat branch in the food industry involves intensive animal farming in which livestock are kept almost entirely indoors or in restricted outdoor settings like pens. Many aspects of the raising of animals for meat have become industrialized, even many practices more associated with smaller family farms. The production of livestock is a heavily vertically integrated industry where the majority of supply chain stages are integrated and owned by one company.

Cattle – Cattle, taurine cattle, or European cattle (Bos taurus or Bos primigenius taurus) are large domesticated cloven-hooved herbivores. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos. Depending on sex, they are referred to as cows (female) or bulls (male). Cattle are commonly raised as livestock for meat (beef or veal, see beef cattle), for milk (see dairy cattle), and for hides, which are used to make leather. They are used as riding animals and draft animals (oxen or bullocks, which pull carts, plows and other implements). Another product of cattle is their dung, which can be used to create manure or fuel.

Sheep farming – Sheep farming or sheep husbandry is the raising and breeding of domestic sheep. It is a branch of animal husbandry. Sheep are raised principally for their meat (lamb and mutton), milk (sheep’s milk), and fiber (wool). They also yield sheepskin and parchment. Sheep can be raised in a range of temperate climates, including arid zones near the equator and other torrid zones. Farmers build fences, housing, shearing sheds, and other facilities on their property, such as for water, feed, transport, and pest control. Most farms are managed so sheep can graze pastures, sometimes under the control of a shepherd or sheep dog.

Pig farming – Pig farming or hog farming is the raising and breeding of domestic pigs as livestock, and is a branch of animal husbandry. Pigs are farmed principally for food (e.g. pork, bacon, gammon) and skins. Pigs are amenable to many different styles of farming: intensive commercial units, commercial free range enterprises, or extensive farming (being allowed to wander around a village, town or city, or tethered in a simple shelter or kept in a pen outside the owner’s house). Historically, farm pigs were kept in small numbers and were closely associated with the residence of the owner, or in the same village or town.They were valued as a source of meat and fat, and for their ability to convert inedible food into meat and manure, and were often fed household food waste when kept on a homestead. Pigs have been farmed to dispose of municipal garbage on a large scale. All these forms of pig farm are in use today, though intensive farms are by far the most popular, due to their potential to raise a large amount of pigs in a very cost-efficient manner. In developed nations, commercial farms house thousands of pigs in climate-controlled buildings. Pigs are a popular form of livestock, with more than one billion pigs butchered each year worldwide, 100 million of them in the USA. The majority of pigs are used for human food but also supply skin, fat and other materials for use as clothing, ingredients for processed foods, cosmetics, and medical use.

Cuniculture – Cuniculture is the agricultural practice of breeding and raising domestic rabbits as livestock for their meat, fur, or wool. Cuniculture is also employed by rabbit fanciers and hobbyists in the development and betterment of rabbit breeds and the exhibition of those efforts. Scientists practice cuniculture in the use and management of rabbits as model organisms in research. Cuniculture has been practiced all over the world since at least the 5th century.

Poultry farming – Poultry farming is the form of animal husbandry which raises domesticated birds such as chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese to produce meat or eggs for food. It has originated from the agricultural era. Poultry – mostly chickens – are farmed in great numbers. More than 60 billion chickens are killed for consumption annually. Chickens raised for eggs are known as layers, while chickens raised for meat are called broilers.

Aquaculture – Aquaculture (less commonly spelled aquiculture , also known as aquafarming, is the controlled cultivation (“farming”) of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, mollusks, algae and other organisms of value such as aquatic plants (e.g. lotus). Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled or semi-natural conditions, and can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish. Mariculture, commonly known as marine farming, refers specifically to aquaculture practiced in seawater habitats, opposed to in freshwater aquaculture.

Beekeeping – Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made hives, by humans. Most such bees are honey bees in the genus Apis, but other honey-producing bees such as Melipona stingless bees are also kept. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produce (including beeswax, propolis, flower pollen, bee pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or “bee yard”.

Insect farming – Insect farming is the practice of raising and breeding insects as livestock, also referred to as minilivestock or micro stock. Insects may be farmed for the commodities they produce (like silk, honey, lac or insect tea), or for them themselves; to be used as food, as feed, as a dye, and otherwise.

Sericulture – Sericulture, or silk farming, is the cultivation of silkworms to produce silk. Although there are several commercial species of silkworms, Bombyx mori (the caterpillar of the domestic silkmoth) is the most widely used and intensively studied silkworm. Silk was believed to have first been produced in China as early as the Neolithic Period. Sericulture has become an important cottage industry in countries such as Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, and Russia. Today, China and India are the two main producers, with more than 60% of the world’s annual production.

Environmental Impact

Animal husbandry has a significant impact on the world environment. Being a part of the animal–industrial complex, animal agriculture is the primary driver of climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, and of the crossing of almost every other planetary boundary, in addition to killing more than 60 billion non-human land animals annually. It is responsible for somewhere between 20 and 33% of the fresh water usage in the world, and livestock, and the production of feed for them, occupy about a third of the earth’s ice-free land. Livestock production is a contributing factor in species extinction, desertification, and habitat destruction. Since the 18th century, people have become increasingly concerned about the welfare of farm animals. Possible measures of welfare include longevity, behavior, physiology, reproduction, freedom from disease, and freedom from immunosuppression. Standards and laws for animal welfare have been created worldwide, broadly in line with the most widely held position in the western world, a form of utilitarianism: that it is morally acceptable for humans to use non-human animals, provided that no unnecessary suffering is caused, and that the benefits to humans outweigh the costs to the livestock. An opposing view is that animals have rights, should not be regarded as property, are not necessary to use, and should never be used by humans.