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“The livestock farmer of today must master not only the vast skills necessary to be an ethical rancher, but also marketing, sales, processing, packaging, and so many others.” Marissa Guggiana. For most people, livestock farming and animal husbandry mean the same thing. However, there are significant differences between the two; they refer to two separate aspects of raising livestock.
Livestock farming covers the raising of livestock for income while on the other hand animal husbandry deals with the farmer’s interactions with the livestock. In livestock farming, the animals are workers on your farm for business purposes, while in animal husbandry the animals are pets raised by the farmer for pleasure.
So do you keep your animals since you enjoy all the activities involved in taking care of them such as feeding them or milking the cows? If you just enjoy interacting with the animals directly, any time you and your livestock are together, there is animal husbandry involved. On the other hand, if you keep your animals primarily for production, and also sell them for production reasons, yours is livestock farming. Let’s look at the key differences between livestock farming and animal husbandry.
Livestock farming is the raising of domesticated animals in an agricultural setting to produce labor and commodities for sales such as meat, eggs, milk, and wool. In livestock farming, animals and their produce are kept and sold for production purposes. They could be sold or kept as a breeding animal, a market animal, or as a cull, an animal that is no longer productive.
Like taking care of children, animal husbandry yields different results. It is all dependent on the nature of animal husbandry being practiced, whether it is good or bad. The result of your efforts and interactions with the animals could make things go well for the animals or poorly. Animal husbandry is entirely dependent on how you interact with the animals and provide for their needs.
There is more to livestock farming than just buying the animals. There are additional costs involved in feed, housing, vet services, hired workers, land rates and rent all of which need to be paid and catered for before the eventual sale of the animals. Costs involved are a major concern for the livestock farmer since they need to make a profit and generate an income from the animals. The conditions within which are catered for do not seek the best convenience and comfort for the farm animals but rather seek to minimize the cost of production.
On the other hand, animal husbandry puts the needs and comfort of the animals above that of keeping costs low. The rancher enjoys interactions with the animals and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure they have a wonderful experience on the farm. All involved costs are viewed as necessary for ensuring and maintaining the animals’ wellbeing.
So whereas a livestock farmer considers intensive animal farming and space utilization and economies of scale in keeping as many animals in one unit as possible, in animal husbandry the focus is on comfort and convenience. If an extra cost is incurred in livestock keeping, it is with the sole intention of increasing the productivity within the farm and generating more profit. In animal husbandry, the rancher is looking out for what is best for the animals and is willing to pay the costs involved in making the animals comfortable.
- Direct Contact
For the better part, anything under livestock farming could be done on paper by someone who is not on the farms daily or even hardly ever there. In livestock keeping, farmers may focus on budgets, the purchasing of animal feeds, and arranging for the delivery as well as any other activities related to the animals. Such farms hire workers to do the physical job with the farms as they focus on making sure the farm is a profitable business venture. Currently, intensive livestock keeping makes it possible for farmers to keep livestock at high stocking densities and make use of modern machinery and biotechnology to increase their yields while minimizing costs. Take a look at this article I wrote on intensive animal farming.
Animal husbandry involves the farmer’s direct contact with the animals and all the involved activities. The farmer closely interacts with the animals while feeding them, cleaning, milking, or moving the animals. Maximum attention is given to ensuring the animals are in a good environment and the surrounding conditions are consistently observed. In animal husbandry, the farmer takes joy in interacting with the animals and giving them the best care.
- The Focus
The main difference between livestock farming and animal husbandry is where the attention of the farmer or rancher is fixated. Decisions are made either with the farmer’s needs as the primary focus or with special attention given to the animals’ needs. Not to say that animal husbandry does not have any regard for making a profit. However, the decisions made are not solely focused on generating income for the farmer or rancher. Enough consideration is given to ensuring that the animals are not kept in less desirable living conditions just to make more income.
In extreme cases, livestock farmers can completely forfeit the animals’ needs in a bid to keep the budget low. Animal husbandry decisions are made with the intention of making the animals happy. Livestock farming gives special attention to business decisions that would lead up to profitability which may not always involve making the animals comfortable.
- Attention Requirements and Decision Making
Animal husbandry does not involve intricate decision-making processes as needed in livestock farming. Livestock farming requires the utmost attention to detail due to its business nature and the market factors in play that affect business decisions. The objectives of any activities determine the nature of decisions to make, values and factors to be considered. Since animal husbandry is about pleasure and enjoying animal keeping it does not come along with complex problem-solving requirements.
On the contrary, mega-corporate animal farms need to keep a close eye on all major and minor factors in play to ensure that the business is profitable. Just as a business demands attention to details and a high level of decision making and problem-solving skills, livestock farming comes with a share of complexity. It, therefore, requires management and organization of cash flow and all business and market factors in play.
Animal husbandry is for pleasure and at some point, the rancher may decide to sell the animals or the products as the animals grow but it is not the primary focus. Livestock farming is completely based on business and as such the decisions made and attention required is different.
Since the focus of animal husbandry and livestock farming is different, the order of priorities also varies. To the animal husbandry rancher, the topmost priority is given to ensuring the safety, comfort, and wellbeing of the animals. The breeder’s interest in ensuring the needs of the animals are well met and catered for. If the farmer has to choose between incurring additional costs and the animals’ comfort, a higher priority is given to the animals’ welfare.
Livestock farming on the other hand attaches a higher priority to the needs of the farmer. What is valued as most important is ensuring that the business endeavors are profitable and the production cost is kept low. The farmer’s interest is primarily focused on generating income, reducing cost while increasing the production level. This is in most cases at the expense of the animals’ welfare. A higher value is attached to what is good for business than what is best for the animals.
As animal husbandry opts for what is best for the animals, breeding is left to occur naturally and at sustainable levels for the animals. It, therefore, means that the process is not altered to attain higher levels of production at the expense of the animals’ wellbeing.
In livestock farming, profitability remains the sole growth and as such, farmers are willing to increase their levels of production at all costs. Farmers prefer the use of generic and estimated breeding values of livestock for breeding purposes. The selection of breeding animals is based on the superiority of the estimated breeding value (EBV). Breeds with higher EBV are expected to enhance the growth rate of the animals as well as the rate at which they produce eggs, meat, milk, and wool. It also chooses breeding based on different desirable traits in animals and this has been used to revolutionize livestock production.
Optimal attention is directed towards ensuring the production levels are high in quality and quantity and not much consideration is given towards the animals’ welfare. All the people involved in the operation may not come near the animals throughout the breeding processes. Animal husbandry involves natural breeding and maximum attention and interaction with the animals are guaranteed to ensure that the best care is given to the animals throughout the breeding process.
Striking a Balance
Whereas livestock farming and animal husbandry are two different things, there is a way in which a farmer or rancher can strike a balance between the two. Farmers and ranchers that make a living from livestock can be both every day. The challenge comes in where the mega-corporate farms are so big that the numerous people working at the businesses do not get to interact with the animals directly. Striking that balance to avoid having workers employed on a livestock farm that does not actually interact with the animals. Balancing between the production targets and the animals’ well-being is a critical aspect of establishing stability.
For instance, the manager of a large dairy farm that has thousands of cows would hardly if ever milk the cows or get to interact with them directly. It’s the employees that do most of the other hands-on jobs with the cattle that may not involve milking since advanced farms could employ the use of milking machines. In such cases, a workable relationship and interaction with the animals would take deliberate training to the employees on good animal husbandry. Managing people in an operation so big requires setting high animal husbandry standards for how the activities should be carried out. The daily animal needs would be met and catered for through animal husbandry through the people interacting with the animals.
Why Do You Need to Combine Some Aspects of Animal Husbandry Into Your Livestock Farming?
Good animal husbandry is the integral foundation of any good livestock production. It does not matter how big or small your animal farm is, you need to take good care of your animals for them to produce. As much as animal agriculture involves viewing the animals as a production unit only, there is much more to it. Animals are not robots operating on an assembly line, and they should be treated better and their needs met.
The purpose of livestock farming is business-oriented and its focus is to make money. However, it is a huge problem to neglect taking care of the animals. A happy stock is what you need to make more money. All animals perform better in a friendly environment where they are taken care of. The happiness of a stock influences the growth rate, the proper and efficient utilization of feeds, and an overhaul of their production levels. All these aspects incorporated into your animal farm will generate more income and lead to increased profits.
Neglecting the needs of your animals leads to stress on the livestock and this significantly affects their production level. In turn, a stressed flock will be a source of problems for your business since it is associated with lower yields. Stressed animals kept in undesirable living conditions are more prone to illness. They are also likely to spread diseases and infections among themselves more rapidly if they are all stacked in limited spaces. Such animals will grow at a slower rate and yield poor quality which means losses for your business.
Good animal husbandry will get you more profit! You are assured of higher returns and lesser problems in your operational activities. Poor animal husbandry is a short-term quick fix but in the long run, it will prove a poor choice that results in greater loss. Developing a workable plan to incorporate good animal husbandry in your large livestock farm is a worthwhile investment of your time, effort, and resources. In the end, it will all prove worth it.
How to Best Take Care of Your Animals and Improve Your Animal Husbandry Skills
Spend time with your animals or have your workers do just that. As you observe your stock every day, you are able to learn, recognize, and familiarize yourself with the behaviors of your animals. Once you know the normal actions and tendencies of your animals it will be easier to single out any strange mannerisms which are bound to affect their level of production.
Take a close look at the needs of your animals and make an effort to meet them. Some of the needs could easily serve as clues to other medical underlying issues that are causing the animals to be uncomfortable. Make your farm the happiest place for your animals and they will in turn make your farm the best there is. Close interactions between your animals will increase their growth and breeding rate all of which are good for business.
Feeding your flock and tending to their needs will give them a shiny hair coat and keep their bodies in good condition. As a result, the market value for your animals will be higher as well as their products since they will maintain a high standard. Adjusted prices for your good quality products is what will boost your business to the next level.
You need to ensure your pen and pasture are in the best condition. Allocate adequate space for your animals to be themselves and exhibit their natural behavior. For instance, your cattle and sheep are naturally meant to graze while your pigs are meant to root. Your animals’ surroundings should be comfortable enough for the animals to behave normally and naturally.
Avoid subjecting your animals to stressful situations. When moving your stock, set up sustainable timelines to avoid scenarios whereby your workers will be yelling and smacking the animals. Look at low-stress livestock handling and ensure your flock is not put under unnecessary stress and pressure. You can move your large number of livestock through working facilities you just need to get your enough knowledge and resources.
Livestock farming and animal husbandry are different but closely interrelated. They have a significant improvement in the atmosphere and nature. Animals offer transportation services and their waste serves as manure for the soil and greatly improves water retention. Your animals’ by-products like milk and meet serve the feeding needs globally. Your livestock farming and animal husbandry have tremendous benefits not only to you but also to nature and the world. Give it your best shot!