Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Cattle on a pasture in Austria
Sheep in Écrins National Park (France)

Livestock are the

mutton) as livestock, and all livestock as red meat. Poultry and fish are not included in the category.[3] The latter is likely due to the fact that fish products are not governed by the USDA, but by the FDA

The breeding, maintenance, slaughter and general subjugation of livestock, called

lifestyles. Animal husbandry practices have varied widely across cultures and time periods. It continues to play a major economic and cultural role in numerous communities.

Livestock farming practices have largely shifted to intensive animal farming.[4] Intensive animal farming increases the yield of the various commercial outputs, but also negatively impacts animal welfare, the environment, and public health.[5] In particular, beef, dairy and sheep are an outsized source of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.


This Australian road sign uses the less common term "stock" for livestock.

The word livestock was first used between 1650 and 1660, as a

bovines, while livestock has a wider sense.[7]

United States federal legislation defines the term to make specified agricultural commodities eligible or ineligible for a program or activity. For example, the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999 (P.L. 106–78, Title IX) defines livestock only as cattle, swine, and sheep, while the 1988 disaster assistance legislation defined the term as "cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry (including egg-producing poultry), equine animals used for food or in the production of food, fish used for food, and other animals designated by the Secretary".[8]

Deadstock is defined in contradistinction to livestock as "animals that have died before slaughter, sometimes from illness or disease". It is illegal in many countries, such as Canada, to sell or process meat from dead animals for human consumption.[9]


Animal-rearing originated during the cultural transition to settled farming communities from hunter-gatherer lifestyles. Animals are domesticated when their breeding and living conditions are controlled by humans. Over time, the collective behaviour, lifecycle and physiology of livestock have changed radically. Many modern farmed animals are unsuited to life in the natural world.

Pigs were domesticated by 8,500 BC in the Near East[12] and 6,000 BC in China.[13] Domestication of horses dates to around 4,000 BC.[14] Cattle have been domesticated since approximately 10,500 years ago.[15][specify] Chickens and other poultry may have been domesticated around 7,000 BC.[16]


The term "livestock" is indistinct and may be defined narrowly or broadly. Broadly, livestock refers to any population of animals kept by humans for a useful, commercial purpose.

Animal Ancestor Domestication Utilization Picture
Horse Tarpan Mongolia Riding, racing, carrying and pulling loads, meat, milk
Donkey African wild ass Africa Carrying loads and draught
Eurasian aurochs
Eurasia Meat, milk and draught
Zebu Indian aurochs Eurasia Milk, meat and draught
Bali cattle Banteng SE Asia Meat, milk and draught
Yak Wild yak Tibet Pack animals, milk, meat and hide
Water buffalo Wild water buffalo India and SE Asia Meat, milk and carrying loads
Gayal Gaur India and Malaysia Carrying loads and draught
Sheep Mouflon Iran and Asia Minor Meat, milk and fleece.
Goat Bezoar ibex Greece and Pakistan Meat, milk and fleece
Reindeer Reindeer Eurasia Draught, milk, flesh and hide
Bactrian camel Wild Bactrian camel Central Asia Riding and racing
Arabian camel Thomas' camel North Africa and SW Asia Riding and racing
Llama Guanaco Andes Pack animals and fleece
Alpaca vicuña Andes Fleece
Domestic Pig
Wild boar Eurasia Meat
Chicken red junglefowl Southeast Asia Meat, egg
Rabbit European rabbit Europe Meat, wool
Guinea pig Montane guinea pig Andes Meat


Micro-livestock is the term used for much-smaller animals, usually mammals. The two predominant categories are

lagomorphs (rabbits). Even-smaller animals are kept and raised, such as crickets and honey bees. Micro-livestock does not generally include fish (aquaculture) or chickens (poultry farming

Farming practices

Goat family with one-week-old kid
Farrowing site in a natural cave in northern Spain

Traditionally, animal husbandry was part of the

subsistence farmer's way of life, producing not only the food needed by the family but also the fuel, fertiliser, clothing, transport and draught power. Killing the animal for food was a secondary consideration, and wherever possible their products, such as wool, eggs, milk and blood (by the Maasai) were harvested while the animal was still alive.[17]

In the traditional system of

montane regions the summer pasture was up in the mountains, the winter pasture in the valleys.[18]

Animals can be kept extensively or intensively. Extensive systems involve animals roaming at will, or under the supervision of a herdsman, often for their protection from predators. Ranching in the Western United States involves large herds of cattle grazing widely over public and private lands.[19] Similar cattle stations are found in South America, Australia and other places with large areas of land and low rainfall. Ranching systems have been used for sheep, deer, ostrich, emu, llama and alpaca.[20] In the uplands of the United Kingdom, sheep are turned out on the fells in spring and graze the abundant mountain grasses untended, being brought to lower altitudes late in the year, with supplementary feeding being provided in winter.[21]

In rural locations, pigs and poultry can obtain much of their nutrition from scavenging, and in African communities, hens may live for months without being fed, and still produce one or two eggs a week.[17] At the other extreme, in the more Western parts of the world, animals are often intensively managed; dairy cows may be kept in zero-grazing conditions with all their forage brought to them; beef cattle may be kept in high density feedlots;[22] pigs may be housed in climate-controlled buildings and never go outdoors;[23] poultry may be reared in barns and kept in cages as laying birds under lighting-controlled conditions. In between these two extremes are semi-intensive, often family-run farms where livestock graze outside for much of the year, silage or hay is made to cover the times of year when the grass stops growing, and fertiliser, feed and other inputs are bought onto the farm from outside.[24]


Livestock farmers have often dealt with

foxes, and wedge-tailed eagles are common predators, with an additional threat from domestic dogs who may kill in response to a hunting instinct, leaving the carcass uneaten.[25][26]


Good husbandry, proper feeding, and hygiene are the main contributors to animal health on farms, bringing economic benefits through maximised production. When, despite these precautions, animals still become sick, they are treated with veterinary medicines, by the farmer and the veterinarian. In the European Union, when farmers treat the animals, they are required to follow the guidelines for treatment and to record the treatments given.[27]

Animals are susceptible to a number of diseases and conditions that may affect their health. Some, like

cloven-hoofed animals.[30] Where the condition is serious, governments impose regulations on import and export, on the movement of livestock, quarantine restrictions and the reporting of suspected cases. Vaccines
are available against certain diseases, and antibiotics are widely used where appropriate.

At one time, antibiotics were routinely added to certain compound foodstuffs to promote growth, but this is now[

sea lice are affecting farmed salmon in Scotland.[32] Reducing the parasite burdens of livestock results in increased productivity and profitability.[33]

According to the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, livestock diseases are expected to get worse as climate change increases temperature and precipitation variability.[34]

Transportation and marketing

Pigs being loaded into their transport

Since many livestock are herd animals, they were historically driven to market "on the hoof" to a town or other central location. The method is still used in some parts of the world.[35]

Truck transport is now common in developed countries.[36]

Local and regional livestock

coronavirus disease 2019.[37][38] The Cargill plant together with the JBS plant in Brooks, Alberta and the Harmony Beef plant in Balzac, Alberta represent fully three-quarters of the Canadian beef supply.[38] In other areas, livestock may be bought and sold in a bazaar or wet market, such as may be found in many parts of Central Asia

In non-Western countries, providing access to markets has encouraged farmers to invest in livestock, with the result being improved livelihoods. For example, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has worked in Zimbabwe to help farmers make their most of their livestock herds.[39]

In stock shows, farmers bring their best livestock to compete with one another.[40]


Biomass distribution of humans, livestock, and other animals[41]

Humans and livestock make up more than 90% of the biomass of all terrestrial vertebrates, and almost as much as all insects combined.[41]

Economic and social benefits

Global distribution data for cattle, buffaloes, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and ducks in 2010

The value of global livestock production in 2013 has been estimated at 883 billion dollars, (constant 2005–2006 dollars).

seed companies, vaccine manufacturers, etc.) and associated services (veterinarians, nutrition consultants, shearers, etc.).[citation needed

Livestock provide a variety of food and non-food products; the latter include leather, wool, pharmaceuticals, bone products, industrial protein, and fats. For many abattoirs, very little animal biomass may be wasted at slaughter. Even intestinal contents removed at slaughter may be recovered for use as fertilizer. Livestock manure helps maintain the fertility of grazing lands. Manure is commonly collected from barns and feeding areas to fertilize cropland. In some places, animal manure is used as fuel, either directly (as in some non-Western countries), or indirectly (as a source of methane for heating or for generating electricity). In regions where machine power is limited, some classes of livestock are used as draft stock, not only for

Although livestock production serves as a source of income, it can provide additional economic values for rural families, often serving as a major contributor to food security and economic security. Livestock can serve as insurance against risk[44] and is an economic buffer (of income and food supply) in some regions and some economies (e.g., during some African droughts). However, its use as a buffer may sometimes be limited where alternatives are present,[45] which may reflect strategic maintenance of insurance in addition to a desire to retain productive assets. Even for some farmers in Western nations, livestock can serve as a kind of insurance.[46] Some crop growers may produce livestock as a strategy for diversification of their income sources, to reduce risks related to weather, markets and other factors.[47][48]

Many studies have found evidence of the social, as well as economic, importance of livestock in non-Western countries and in regions of rural poverty, and such evidence is not confined to pastoral and

nomadic societies.[44][49][50][51]

Social values in developed countries can also be considerable. For example, in a study of livestock ranching permitted on national forest land in New Mexico, US, it was concluded that "ranching maintains traditional values and connects families to ancestral lands and cultural heritage", and that a "sense of place, attachment to land, and the value of preserving open space were common themes". "The importance of land and animals as means of maintaining culture and way of life figured repeatedly in permittee responses, as did the subjects of responsibility and respect for land, animals, family, and community."[52]

In the US, profit tends to rank low among motivations for involvement in livestock ranching.[53] Instead, family, tradition and a desired way of life tend to be major motivators for ranch purchase, and ranchers "historically have been willing to accept low returns from livestock production".[54]

Environmental impact

Mean greenhouse gas emissions for different food types[55]
Food Types Greenhouse Gas Emissions (g CO2-Ceq per g protein)
Ruminant Meat
Recirculating Aquaculture
Trawling Fishery
Non-recirculating Aquaculture
Non-trawling Fishery
Starchy Roots

Animal husbandry has a significant impact on the world environment. It is responsible for somewhere between 20 and 33% of the fresh water usage in the world,[56] and livestock, and the production of feed for them, occupy about a third of Earth's ice-free land.[57] Livestock production is a contributing factor in species extinction, desertification,[58] and habitat destruction.[59] Meat is considered one of the prime factors contributing to the current sixth mass extinction.[60][61][62][63] Animal agriculture contributes to species extinction in various ways. Habitat is destroyed by clearing forests and converting land to grow feed crops and for animal grazing (for example, animal husbandry is responsible for up to 91% of the deforestation in the Amazon region[64]), while predators and herbivores are frequently targeted and hunted because of a perceived threat to livestock profits. The newest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that between the 1970s and 2000s agricultural emission increases were directly linked to an increase in livestock. The population growth of livestock (including cattle, buffalo, sheep, and goats) is done with the intention of increasing animal production, but in turn increases emissions.[65]

Livestock production requires large areas of land.

In addition, livestock produce greenhouse gases. The IPCC has estimated that agriculture (including not only livestock, but also food crop, biofuel and other production) accounted for about 10 to 12 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (expressed as 100-year carbon dioxide equivalents) in 2005[66] and in 2010.[67] Cattle produce some 79 million tons of methane per day.[68][69][70] Livestock enteric methane account 30% of the overall methane emissions of the planet.[68][69][70] Livestock are responsible for 34% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide, through feed production and manure.[68][69][70] Livestock offer significant potential for reducing GHG emissions.[68][69][70] Best production practices are estimated to be able to reduce livestock emissions by 30%.[68][69][70]

See also


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External links