Livestock - Term Overview


Livestock is one of the oldest economic activities of humanity. It consists of the handling and breeding of animals, for the purposes of exploitation of their meat and their products (milk, eggs, hides, etc.). These are usually domesticable animals.

This category includes the rearing of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and birds, as well as beekeeping, rabbit farming and fish farming, even if it's not cattle.

Livestock appeared in human existence together with agriculture, with which it's closely related, to the point that farming farms are usually also places of breeding.

The transition from hunting, fishing and gathering to livestock and agriculture is a fundamental milestone in the emergence of a sedentary civilization, something key to the emergence of cities and the social contract. This occurred sometime in the Neolithic (about 10,000 years ago) and was a fundamental revolution in human history.

Livestock required a more or less long process of domestication, during which the animals became accustomed to human presence and to rely on the food that it supplied them, instead of obtaining it by wild means. Today, these animals are dependent on human beings, and they cohabit with us in establishments designed for it.

Characteristics of livestock

The livestock sector's ultimate goal is the production of goods of animal origin. They can be used for human consumption (meat, dairy, eggs, honey, etc.) or as raw material for industries and artisans (hides, wool, hooves, etc.).

Consequently, it's part of the primary (productive) sector of society. Its weight within the economy is usually greater in less industrialized countries.

Livestock development is always questioned by the properties of the land where it's carried out, since cattle usually require wide plains in which to graze.

On the other hand, there are also livestock models for small spaces, as we will see later. That is why countries like Russia, the United States, Argentina and Brazil, territorial giants, have strong meat industries with a lot of exports.

The main types of livestock are cattle (oxen, bulls and cows), sheep (sheep), pigs (pigs), goats (goats) and equine (horses, mules and donkeys). In a separate area include poultry farming (poultry), fish (fish farming), beekeeping (breeding bees ) and rabbits (breeding rabbits).

Importance of livestock

Livestock was an extremely important activity in the development of humanity and continues to occupy a prominent place among the primary activities of the world economy.

It provides food products that are part of people's daily diet, such as different types of meats and other derived products (dairy, for example). The world's population may grow in part thanks to the expansion of the livestock industry as well, which in turn has an impact on other areas of existence.

Intensive livestock and extensive livestock

In principle, we can differentiate two types of livestock:

- Extensive: This is the traditional, open-air cattle ranching that takes advantage of the resources of the environment, through the grazing of cattle. This means that the investment of resources by the farmer is lower, but at the same time large tracts of land are required.
- Intensive: This is livestock farming in confined spaces, such as pens, stables and establishments where animals usually live, although not always in the best living conditions: without the possibility of moving around at will, they are often overcrowded and infected with diseases, which which forces the frequent and massive supply of antibiotics. It's the industrial answer to the enormous demand for meat products, since they produce constantly, continuously and quickly, even if it's food of much lower quality.

Environmental impact of livestock

The environment is, in one way or another, always affected by the livestock industry, in the following ways:

- Deforestation and loss of biodiversity: Since livestock requires spaces for grazing, it's commonfor forests tobe cut downto take advantage of the space, and in those cases it contributes to logging and the destruction of ecosystems. Additionally, grazing livestock can eat the shoots of young trees and delay reforestation, destroying thenatural habitat of thousands of species.
- Greenhouse gas production: While it sounds implausible, the huge herds of grazing cattle managed by ranchers produce enormous amounts of methane in the form of intestinal gases. This organic gas accumulates in the atmosphere, where it contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
- Reduction of effectiveness of antibiotics: Intensive livestock farming is forced, given the poor living conditions of its offspring, to the constant and massive supply of antibiotics to avoid infections and contagious diseases, which over time leads to the generation of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, later capable of produce pandemics in the human population.

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