Farming practices vary dramatically worldwide and among types of animals. Livestock are generally kept in an enclosure, fed by humans, and intentionally bred. However, some livestock are not enclosed, are fed by access to natural foods, and are allowed to breed freely.
Historically, raising livestock was part of a nomadic or pastoral form of material culture. The herding of camels and reindeer in some parts of the world remains dissociated from sedentary agriculture. The transhumance form of herding in the California Sierra Nevada still continues, as cattle, sheep, or goats are moved from winter pasture in lower-elevation valleys to spring and summer pasture in the foothills and alpine regions, as the seasons progress. Cattle were raised on the open range in the western United States and Canada, on the Pampas of Argentina, and on other prairie and steppe regions of the world.
The enclosure of livestock in pastures and barns is a relatively new development in the history of agriculture. When cattle are enclosed, the type of confinement may vary from a small crate, a large-area fenced-in pasture, or a paddock. The type of feed may vary from naturally growing grass to animal feed. Animals are usually intentionally bred through artificial insemination or supervised mating. Indoor production systems are typically used for pigs, dairy cattle, poultry, veal cattle, dairy goats, and other animals depending on the region and season. Animals kept indoors are generally farmed intensively, as large space requirements could make indoor farming unprofitable if not impossible. However, indoor farming systems are controversial due to problems associated with handling animal waste, odours, the potential for groundwater contamination, and animal welfare concerns. (For a further discussion on intensively farmed livestock, see factory farming, and intensive pig farming). Livestock source verification is used to track livestock.
Other livestock are farmed outdoors, where the size of enclosures and the level of supervision may vary. In large, open ranges, animals may be only occasionally inspected or yarded in "round-ups" or a muster. Herding dogs may be used for mustering livestock, as are cowboys, stockmen, and jackaroos on horses, in vehicles, and in helicopters. Since the advent of barbed wire (in the 1870s) and electric fence technology, fencing pastures has become much more feasible and pasture management simplified. Rotation of pasturage is a modern technique for improving nutrition and health while avoiding environmental damage to the land. In some cases, very large numbers of animals may be kept in indoor or outdoor feeding operations (on feedlots), where the animals feed is processed either offsite or onsite, and stored on site before being fed to the animals.
Livestockâ€”-especially cattleâ€”-may be branded to indicate ownership and age, but in modern farming, identification is more likely to be indicated by means of ear tags and electronic identification, instead. Sheep are also frequently marked by means of ear marks and/or ear tags. As fears of BSE and other epidemic illnesses mount, the use of implants to monitor and trace animals in the food production system is increasingly common, and sometimes required by government regulations.
Modern farming techniques seek to minimize human involvement, increase yield, and improve animal health. Economics, quality, and consumer safety all play roles in how animals are raised. The use of hard and soft drugs and feed supplements (or even feed type) may be regulated, or prohibited, to ensure that yield is not increased at the expense of consumer health, safety, or animal welfare. Practices vary around the world, for example growth hormone use is permitted in the United States, but not in stock to be sold in the European Union. The improvement of animal health using modern farming techniques has come into question. Feeding corn to cattle, which have historically eaten grasses, is an example; where the cattle are less adapted to this change, the rumen pH becomes more acidic, leading to liver damage and other health problems. The US Food and Drug Administration allows nonruminant animal proteins to be fed to cattle enclosed in feedlots. For example, it is acceptable to feed chicken manure and poultry meal to cattle, and beef or pork meat and bone meal to chickens.Text from: Livestock - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia