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What is livestock production system?

Livestock production system is a pattern of production practices to utilize animal resources. Livestock production provides goods and services by using a large variety of animals.

Livestock production systems endeavor to increase the productivity of farm animals. Livestock production practice also has to increase socio-economic benefits for the producers and render environmental justice to the humanity.

The livestock is grown in a wide spectrum of agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions utilizing different sets of resources. Livestock production involves many necessary practices such as rearing of young ones, feeding and fattening, controlling diseases, taking care of hygiene of the stock, harvesting and marketing.

There is rapid changes in the animal husbandry practices to meet the increasing global demands. The primary factor for change is the limitations of space and restrictions on land use.

With technological development and change there is a shift towards intensive production. The global economic growth, increases in average income and increases in human populations has fueled the increased global demands for high-value food products.

Different patterns of animal farming practices, driven by external forces, have emerged depending upon the availability of resources as well as product requirements. Livestock raising is categorized depending upon the land use into grazing, mixed farming and industrial (or landless) systems.

Livestock production by grazing system

Grazing systems vary widely and some individual farms may have control over certain private pastures with their own resources. Traditionally pastures are available with common access to communities of livestock farmers.

In private pastures continuous grazing method may be adapted wherein the livestock is allowed to graze in the whole pasture area. In this set stocking method as the animals are free to move all around the pasture, a few water troughs may be sufficient.

In paddock grazing, the forage area is restricted on rotational basis by fencing which gives the advantage of the grass not going waste through trampling or spoiling by dung. Strip grazing involves allocation of fresh pasture every day.

In community grazing system, the livestock production predominantly dependent on the natural productivity of grasslands. Depending upon the natural productivity of the common pastures, livestock grazing may be sedentary or mobile.

When extensive lush public grasslands are available the herdsmen take their animals for grazing in the morning and return them in the evening to cattle holding pens. Mobile grazing is usually resorted to when there is limited availability of common grasslands or seasonal availability of pasture and water. The seasonal movement of herdsmen with their livestock for water and pastures is known as transhumance.

Mixed farming systems

Mixed farming system comprises of livestock management and crop cultivation as a single unit. These type of enterprises are conducted by households or small entrepreneurs. The risks involved in farming are spread over both crop cultivation and livestock raising.

In such enterprises there is competition between the activities for resources like land, capital, labor, energy and time. The returns from such livestock-cum-crop farming can be less individually, but the combined returns can be greater than grazing animals alone.

The mixed farming sometime may be appropriate when grazing and industrial farming have some disadvantages in certain circumstances. Advantages in mixed farming are many. The animal waste is utilized as manure and in some instances as fuel for farm and domestic activities. The livestock can be used for traction services during crop cultivation. Crop waste can used as fodder and fuel.

Industrial livestock systems

Industrial animal husbandry is focussed on high level of livestock production, generally concentrating on a single species. It is necessarily associated with large volumes of waste material and high health risks to the farmed animals. Intensive feeding, waste disposal and healthcare become top priorities.

Improved efficient techniques, uninterrupted power supply, knowledgeable personnel, skilled workforce and climatic independence and well established supply and marketing chains are prerequisites for the success of industrial farm. The industrial system may be an integrated activity, carrying on activities like rearing of young animals, rearing of parent stock, fattening and milk production.

Separate economically viable systems devoted to single activity may also exist. The processing industries like slaughterhouses, dairy plants and tanneries are separate activities and do not come under the purview of industrial livestock production systems.

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