Everything You Should Know About Animal Husbandry

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

Animal husbandry is the science, art, artistry, or craft of raising domesticated animals for the purpose of food or fiber production.

In simple terms, it's all about how to take care of a living creature in order to make it thrive and grow. There are many different vocations within animal husbandry that includes animal breeding (raising in order to create new varieties), Zoo (keeping domesticated species for public viewing), and research and development (for both animal health and applicable science).


Breeds

The different kinds, breeds, types, strains of animals are considered as breeds. Animal breeds are strains of organisms that were selected for particular desirable traits by humans. New animal breeds are developed by crossbreeding existing ones with other animals or by genetic engineering.


Different types of animal Husbandry
Breeding allows us to get the desirable traits from animals.




History of Animal Husbandry

Animal husbandry is a very old practice. The domestication of animals began about 10,000 years ago. In the past, animal husbandry was generally practiced in isolated villages and later spread to other areas. The domestication of animals allowed the development of a food supply that allowed people to settle in one specific place and become more permanent. The domestication of animals also allowed people to keep them as pets. In this way, these family pets became good friends and companions.


The animal husbandry process involves building an intimate relationship with the animals over an extended period of time. To build a lasting bond with the animals, it is essential to select breeds that meet certain criteria. To do so, you would need to study

Illustration of medieval husbandry depicted in a mural
Early medieval husbandry depicted in a mural.

the characteristics of each breed carefully because they are essential in making fine distinctions.


Types of Animal Husbandry

There are different types of animal husbandry.

Agricultural animal husbandry: This type of animal husbandry is also called rural animal husbandry & ruminant animal husbandry. It is the breeding and raising of domesticated animals (i.e. livestock) for meat, milk, and other products in an agricultural or pastoral setting. It also includes the use of these animals for plowing fields for planting.

Herd of cows
Agricultural animal husbandry


Horse Husbandry

Horses are domesticated to meet the demands of human activities such as transportation, agriculture, and warfare. Horses in this field are called working horses. Some people breed horses to participate in riding events or simply as companions. Many people who keep horses have them do various forms of work or sport. Farmers may use pack horses or saddle them up to pull horse-drawn vehicles, till fields by way of horse-drawn equipment (plows, etc.); or even just for leisure, as with barrel racing competitions.

two horses hanging their heads out of their stable
Horse Husbandry




Herd animal husbandry

This type of animal husbandry is also called stock-breeding. It concerns the reproduction of domesticated animals such as cattle, goats, and sheep. These animals are raised in restricted environments by artificial insemination and other similar techniques requiring less exposure to the elements (such as barbed wire). The methods used in this kind of husbandry include artificial insemination (AI), artificial harvesting (e.g. semen extraction and embryo transfer), and other forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART).



Sheep Livestock
Sheep livestock



Fishing

Fishing is the activity of catching fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling, and trapping. It is done with a rod, reel, line, hooks, or baits. The devices used for fishing include boats and fishing lines.


two people fishing with nets
Fishing through netting


Animal breeding

Animal husbandry is also called animal breeding. Animals are bred for many reasons such as selective breeding, crossbreeding, pedigree, and artificial insemination.


Illustration of different livestock and a DNA sequence
Breeding is a very important part of animal husbandry.

Selective breeding

Selective breeding is the process of mating animals with the desired traits together to produce offspring that exhibit those traits. Over time, this will result in an animal breed that exhibits more of the same traits.


Illustration of how selective breeding happens
How selective breeding works.

Crossbreeding

Crossbreeding happens when two different breeds or varieties of the same species have offspring. Crossbreeding is used to introduce new traits into a breed or to create a new variety of a given breed. The best example is our modern-day dog breeds that are crossbred for very specific traits such as herding, protection, hunting, police work, and companion animals, and so on.


Diagram of crossbreeding in animal husbandry
Crossbreeding is extremely beneficial in animal husbandry

Pedigree

PEDIGREE is a system of animal breeding that involves mating offspring or animals with desired traits together, usually of great value for the smooth running of the herd, and then introducing them to the maternal lineage in order to preserve those valuable characteristics. There are traits such as conformation (merits from a type of looks to standards) or temperament (traits like working behavior, reliability, intelligence, etc.) that are used as selection criteria in pedigree animal breeding.


a pedigree Chart
A Pedigree chart


Artificial insemination:

Artificial insemination is the process of inserting semen into an animal using a syringe, artificial vagina, or other methods. This is usually used to impregnate females which cannot be bred naturally as the result of sexual dysfunction, injuries, or diseases. Artificial insemination can also be used for selective breeding purposes such as crossbreeding or AI.


Illustration of Artificial insemination
Artificial insemination brings High Genetic Merit Livestock

Animal health

Animal health is a branch of animal husbandry that concerns identifying and treating sickness and disease between animals. Some animal husbandry specialists are also veterinarians who help care for the animals they are raising.


Doctor vaccinating a sheep
Sheep vaccination

Research and development

Research and development in animal husbandry is a branch of science that studies improving livestock species in order to make them healthier, stronger, more productive, and better able to tolerate environmental conditions. Some examples of research areas include reproductive technologies (ART), animal breeding (genetics), and other animal sciences.


Doctor analyzing samples of animal husbandry
Animal production and health laboratory

Animal nutrition

Animal nutrition involves the delivery of nutrients and other substances to livestock or wild animals. By feeding food and other substances to animals, we can provide them with the necessary energy and chemical elements required by the body as well as waste products that are harmful, such as ammonia. Feeding also makes it easier to administer drugs or medications.


Cow herd eating
Monitoring of proper animal nutrition


Different countries and Animal Husbandry

Animal husbandry is practiced on every continent except Antarctica. However, there are differences between the production systems that exist in different countries. For example, in developed countries like the United States, chickens are typically kept cooped up indoors while cows are kept outside running around freely; however, in some developing nations like Russia and China poultry is also kept indoors under strict regulations while some countries like Brazil do not practice any kind of indoor housing of livestock. Let's take a look into some details about each country and its Animal Husbandry practice.


Animal husbandry in the United States


Domestic livestock production is the largest enterprise in the United States. It provides employment for more than 2 million U.S. workers and accounts for $71 billion in total sales every year. The vast majority of these jobs are in feedlots, which provide livestock with their feed, water, housing, and transportation.


Much of the domestic livestock industry is semi-intensive because the majority of U.S. livestock operations are small, averaging under 0.8 million heads per year. Since 1998, however, there has been a significant shift in the types of feeds fed to cattle, with research indicating that alternative grains, such as soybean meal and distillery byproducts (for example corn cobs and wheat straw), could be equally effective at enhancing meat quality without increasing feed costs or harming animal health or welfare.


In addition, an increasing number of "large" operations (defined as over 1.0 million head per year) are raising hogs that are finished into an elite pork product rather than traditional "feeder" hogs for sale to other producers.


Currently, the majority of pig production in the United States occurs on large confinement operations (large indoor facilities with at least 5000 sows). These operations are the source of 75% of the pork produced in the U.S. and account for 67% of all expenditures on production costs.

The United States is one of the world's largest exporters of pork, beef, chicken, and eggs. The production systems for these foods differ drastically worldwide; however, some similarities exist between countries.



Animal husbandry in China


China is currently the largest pork producer in the world followed by the European Union. The majority of Chinese pigs are raised as yard-fed pigs, as opposed to those raised in intensive, indoor confinement systems. These systems rely on "sow stalls," small cubicles that restrict how much space a mother pig has to move about and can cause her to accidentally crush her piglets. This system forces the sows to lie still and often causes them to develop pressure and joint problems because they cannot exercise normally.

Animal health in Asia is very advanced and highly developed. Asia has some of the best methods and practices for raising livestock in the world. They have advanced animal breeding programs as well as artificial insemination techniques so that they can be successful at raising a variety of livestock such as horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and poultry. They have a well-developed veterinary sector as well, where all modern vaccines and medicines are used to care for livestock.


Additionally, due to the lack of space, pigs are rarely able to engage in natural behaviors like rooting and exploring.


The sows are placed in stalls for almost their entire pregnancy, however, they are given access to an exercise lot for about two hours a day during the fourth week of pregnancy so they can move around. The exercise lot is too small for all pigs to move around at once so usually about half of the sows use it at once. The sows spend the last four weeks of pregnancy and most of their gestation period in cramped stalls, which causes another health issue: lameness. The bulls are considered unimportant and are not treated as such. Because no time is allowed for the pigs to interact with the bulls, they do not receive any social stimulation and become more aggressive than they would be otherwise.


Animal Husbandry in Russia


Russia is one of the largest producers of pork in the world. Pork production in Russia is highly concentrated, with 35% of all pig operations producing 90% of all pork. The system for breeding and raising pigs is quite different from that used in other countries; for example, many Russian pig farmers only keep a few sows and never breed them.


Most Russian pigs are raised on farms that supply them with food and water, but also provide them with space to roam around and engage in natural behaviors such as rooting. The pigs are also allowed to forage for food in open fields. This allows them to develop strong rooting instincts, which is important when it comes time to be slaughtered because they must instinctively root around in order to find food.


Pigs are often fed with high-quality feed made out of soybeans, corn, soybean meal and distillery byproducts (such as corn cobs and wheat straw). Soybeans are fed in the form of boiled soybean oil.


Animal Husbandry in Brazil


Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef and is also a large producer of other livestock, such as chicken and pork. Brazil's animal husbandry industry relies on modern technology, including an emphasis on reducing labor costs, improving productivity, and increasing meat quality. It uses the least amount of labor in comparison to any other country in the world, with approximately 300 workers per million head of cattle.


The majority of Brazilian beef is produced in large, intensive confinement operations. These facilities use a system called "zero grazing," which relies on intensive feeding and turns out animals at regular intervals. In addition to using technology that reduces labor costs, the production systems in the United States also reduce feed costs by using alternative grains such as distillery byproducts, which are normally waste from ethanol production. This allows the livestock to receive just as much nutrition from an inexpensive feed as they would from a more expensive one.


Animal Husbandry in India


Beef production in India is one of the fastest-growing in the world. In 2015, India was ranked fifth for beef production worldwide. The majority of the beef consumed in India is produced domestically, with a small portion imported from Brazil and Australia.


Beef in India is raised in a similar manner to that of other countries, which includes housing animals indoors or outdoors and restricting their movement so they can be fed more easily.


Husbandry is a common practice in India and one of the most profitable businesses. The most common livestock species reared are cattle, buffaloes, goats, and sheep. The majority of livestock species are reared for meat production. Dairy farming is also practiced considering the high demand for milk and milk products like butter, ghee (clarified butter), cheese.

Different kinds of animals can be raised in husbandry.
Husbandry in all its kinds

Why is it important to know about animal husbandry?


The health of animals and the economy of countries can be affected by animal husbandry. Animal health research is essential in order to make improvements in the livestock industry. The way a country produces its food for its citizens can also be affected by animal husbandry. Improving animal health makes it easier to handle diseases and other problems that may occur among livestock, which will mean less money spent on medicine.


What animals can be raised in animal husbandry?


Animal husbandry involves raising livestock including sheep, pigs, poultry, and cattle. A lot of countries that raise livestock also grow crops to feed their animals. Examples of these include Australia and the United States. Other countries that have developed animal husbandry industries are those such as Germany, China, Japan, and Turkey. Animal husbandry involves a variety of different farming methods depending on the type of animal being raised in the industry. Agricultural methods can vary by region around the world.


All animals that can be raised in a farm and their names below
A collection of the most popular farm animals.


Environmental impact of animal husbandry


The environmental impact of producing meat differs greatly depending on the production system used. There are three main types of production systems: extensive, semi-intensive, and intensive. Extensive systems are the least environmentally costly because they rely on raising animals in pastures where they can graze freely. Semi-intensive uses pasture but also allows animals to be confined at times, while intensive systems house animals indoors in barns.


The environmental impact of animal husbandry also depends on which species are being raised. Cattle tend to make a larger environmental impact than other livestock because cattle are ruminants, meaning that they have multi-chambered stomachs. Cattle require more resources than other livestock to produce meat, such as forage and water. Cattle also produce a larger quantity of greenhouse gases and require significantly more land than other livestock (for example, over 80% of the world's cultivated land is used to raise cattle).


Animal husbandry is considered one of the most environmentally friendly production systems because it relies on feeding animals on grass which must be mowed and fertilized.


Diagram describing the environmental impact of animal husbandry
Environmental impact of livestock farming


Impact of animal husbandry on us

Meat production is an extremely energy-intensive process that uses large amounts of fossil fuels. These fuels are derived either through burning fossil fuels directly or through making synthetic fertilizers which are chemically derived from fossil fuels.

Animal husbandry is responsible for producing at least 30% of the world's food supply, however, it does not consume or produce nearly as much energy as agriculture or other extraction processes.


Livestock agriculture uses large amounts of fossil fuels because it depends on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which are both chemically derived from fossil fuels. For example, a study found that a large percentage of animal husbandry production depends on the use of synthetic fertilizers made from petroleum. Synthetic fertilizers are necessary to maintain high crop yields by maintaining soil fertility. Synthetic fertilizers cannot be produced naturally so they must be made from petroleum.


Animal husbandry is considered an essential part of the food supply and the protection and promotion of animal husbandry is a goal that is discussed in many international treaties. The World Trade Organization's Agreement on Agriculture contains a clause that mandates that countries avoid restricting trade in food, especially meat. The World Trade Organization was created to ensure that countries do not use tariffs or other restrictive means to prevent agricultural imports from other countries. This ensures that all people have access to food and constitutes a major promotion of animal husbandry.


Animal husbandry is the only production method that allows for complete and intensive use of land where there is no competition for land between crops and livestock. It is the only production system that doesn't require large amounts of water, unlike other systems such as agriculture, which requires at least 25% of the total world water supply to produce one person's food intake.


The United Nations consider animal husbandry a "development issue" and believe it to be essential in reducing poverty and improving people's quality of life.


Conclusion


Animal husbandry is a very important part of many countries' economies. It is responsible for raising livestock and crops that provide food for humans, as well as other products such as leather, wool, and fur. Animal husbandry is especially important in developing countries because it helps increase their economy, health, and even their standard of living. Animal husbandry research will continue to improve livestock production methods and animal health around the world.


You can also check other posts on our website for more information related to agriculture, horticulture, farming, gardening, and many more topics of similar interest.