Saturday, June 15, 2024
General Agriculture

Systems of Livestock Production

All systems of livestock production are related to their environment. An understanding of why a system has developed with its particular local characteristics is essential to any study of livestock production or attempt to improve on it.

Two broad systems of livestock production are found in the tropics – the traditional and modern production systems. Each has several subdivisions depending on the prevailing climatic condition and other factors; environment, farm system, legislation, level of urbanisation, degree of adaptation, carrying capacity of the grazing land.

Systems of Livestock Production

Several systems of livestock production abound in the tropical area in response to the environment. The main traditional and modern systems with their subdivisions arose from climatic and seasonal effects, farming systems, carrying capacity etc. the advantages and problems of each system requires new modifications, adaptation and adoption depending on certain factors and capacity of the farmer.

All systems of livestock production evolve from dictates of the environment where production activities take place. Systems are developed in response to the environment to create convenience for productive performance.

There are two systems of animal common in the tropical Africa – the traditional and modern production systems each with several subdivisions. The attributes of extensive, intensive and semi-intensive systems continue to be attractive to the practitioners despite their challenges. The challenges also stimulate further search for new methods including integration method and various modifications under the influence of certain controlling factors.

1. Extensive System of Livestock Production

The traditional systems of livestock husbandry have evolved in response to climate and environmental factors. In the dry parts of the tropics, flocks or herd are large and often travel long distances. These are also known as extensive systems.

Under extensive production systems, livestock graze and browse large area of land that usually of a marginal nature, and unsuitable for other agricultural use. The distance herds or flock move daily to reach out for water, shelter at night and pastures dictates the degree sedentarisation or normadism. A sedentary system is one with fixed homestead and steady grazing area.

A large proportion of tropical stock of mixed or individual species of cattle, sheep and goats may be grazed at same time. Within the extensive system two traditional subsystems are recognized, both of which have utilised marginal areas successfully for very long time.

These are nomadism and transhumance. Nomadism was widespread until recently, when it is gradually transforming into sedentary and transhumance systems. Camps are fixed at different points along their route of movement depending upon the amount of water and pastures available in an area. Political boundaries are often ignored in the course of movement, which often pose legal constraints and other bottleneck.

Transhumance is a common feature in the tropics involving movement and seasonal pastures as well as between different regional areas. Apart from wide cycle movement, altitude transhumance, also occurs between lowland areas and mountain top in response to temperature.

Shuttling occur specially between very dry and wetter are to avoid pest infestation and in search of good quality and abundant forage and water as well which vary with change of seasons between north and south in the sub-Saharan Africa. The practice is also found in other parts of Africa, South East Asia, Near and Middle East, Mediterranean Europe and South America.

Read Also: Factors Affecting Animal Heat Production

Several reasons other than a search for forage and water accessibility are given for transhumance practice that often take different modes. Animals from different families may be grouped together as one large flock or herd for transhumance expedition at a season, hired herder may be employed and mixed species could be involved.

Goats are often move to pastures at higher altitudes than cattle because they are more agile and can better utilise sparse vegetation rather swampy in river or lake basins. The migratory movement is not an aimless wondering as erroneously misconstrued in the past, and number of reasons may be
adduced, namely:

1. To find feed and water throughout the year for stock

2. To avoid flooding in wet areas

3. To permit cropping of homestead for food production

4. To avoid discuss and pest infestation known to be prevalent in a particular place

5. To afford full utilisation of grazing resources perhaps lying waste in the marginal land areas

6. To conserve and improve soil fertility for seasonal agricultural production, in which crop residues are consumed by livestock and in return they give manure.

The Fulani in West Africa are transhumant. Their permanent bases are in areas of seasonal crop production. In rainy season they move into tropical savanna and desert scrub. In the dry season they return to cultivated areas where their animal feed on crop residues; they may even
extend further into the fringes of the forest zone.

Herd and flock sizes may range from 50 – 300 heads per herder with a herd or flock composition of 55 per cent mature female, 25 per cent mature male and 25 per cent young female of sheep, cattle or goats.

2. Intensive System of Livestock Production

The intensive system of livestock production refers to management practice where animals are confined and by implication are not allowed to forage or fend for themselves under similar practice; a fenced land area may be designated as grazing area or paddock, usually adjacent to
animal pens.

Often high cost resulting from labour costs, expensive feed or a large investment in one of the farm assets such as land, housing or animals, as such products are highly priced and optimum productivity is desirable to achieve success or economic viability.

Housing facilities managed under hygienic condition are provided for the stock and appropriate medications and health management are offered as well.

Of significant importance is the provision of good quality feed that is sufficiently balanced in the required nutrients and quantity for animals to perform optimally under confinement. Agro-industrial and farm wastes constitute bulk of feed material for intensively managed stock. Stall feeding is the method commonly adopted in this system.

3. Ranching System of Livestock Production

The system is commonly found in lowland, Europe, where it was introduced by colonial settlers into Africa and Asia. Herds or flocks are kept in large sizes on an expense of land area surrounding by fence. Imported breeds or their crosses are stocked under ranches.

Pasture as the main source of feed receives quality improvement in form of agronomic inputs, maintenance, conservation and control. As such, control or rotational grazing form part of daily management practices to ensure sufficient good quality forage throughout the year.

Young ruminants are engaged in creep grazing to permit access to better and uncontaminated pasture than the older stock. It ensures sufficient time for the grazed portion to recover and to produce sufficient re-growth.

Specific time for recovery of a pasture is strictly monitored to ensure production of non-fibrous but highly digestible forage. A rotational or spelling period of 7 weeks is usually allowed for vegetation recovery of a paddock to obtain good nutritional balance.

Read Also: Concept of Energy Balance in the Physical Environment in Animal Production

However, a longer period of 10 weeks is required to control parasitic worm infestation in a paddock striking a balance between nutritional and veterinary requirements may be difficult, however, behoves the manager to reach out for appropriate compromise.

Ranching system depends importantly on availability of god quality forage throughout the year for encamped stock. It is therefore recommended for areas with sufficient rainfall to support good growth of pasture grass.

4. Intensive Finishing (Feedlot Fattening) System of Livestock Production

Intensive finishing represents the final stage in meat-type production system for ruminant animals. Although it requires relatively expensive inputs, the high-valued products often derived more than compensate for the cost of production. The span of intensive finishing is usually limited
to a period of 3 – 4 months for cropping a set of fatteners.

Where large number of stock is to be kept together in a confinement, standard of management needs to be high. Finishing units are located in near towns and large urban centres where there is great demand for meat.

The intensity of management of inputs reflects on the high quality of feedstuff offered and veterinary services administered, which to a large extent determine functionality and success of the system. Intensive finishing is usually programmed to target religious period when it becomes obligatory for adherents of Islamic faith to slaughter animals for sacrifice.

5. Semi-Intensive System of Livestock Production

As may be observed in the foregoing, varieties of subsystems have been adopted to take advantage of low-cost of the extensive system and the high productivity of the intensive as circumstances may dictate under different operational environment.

Many times, such adapted system takes the semblance of both the intensive and extensive system, forming a hybrid system between the two.

Most improvement efforts on the traditional extensive system deliberately avoid high cost of the intensive system to adapt to semi-intensive system. Under such intensive system, a limited number of stocks, specially breeding female animal is confined

only at night in an enclosure in which there is a shelter large enough for all animals. Grazing with the animal is done daily using a paid labourer in addition to concentrate feed, mineral salt block and clean water. Herd or flock has access to cultivated leguminous fodder and vaccination
against common diseases of internal and external infections. Breeding is highly controlled.

The system is amenable to integration with other farming systems and may take different forms in terms of its operation under different production conditions. A few of subsystem management practices under semi-intensive systems are listed as follows:

• Shepherded grazing

• Grazing in fenced paddock

• Tethering

• Scavenging

6. Integrated Livestock Production System

A good number of production practices have evolved which entail integration of one system of livestock production with another agricultural practice. Most intensification practices of this nature are still on trial or at experimental stage, while a few cases are actually in practice. Livestock production intensification practices often arise from constraints of increasing pressure of urbanisation, complementarily between systems in terms of benefit or resource sharing, disposal of waste or manure, legislation etc.

An example of such intensification of livestock production is the age long practice of crop-livestock integration. In this system, crops are grown primarily or partly for feeding livestock and the latter is employed in land preparation and soil fertility improvement using the animal manure.

In urban areas, integration of poultry production with aquaculture fish farming has been reported. The poultry droppings are channeled into the fish pond to enrich and fertilize the pond to support growth of plankton on which fish feed. In places where ducks are kept as poultry, swimming in the pond also helps to aerate the water. Similar intensification practice has been suggested between small ruminant and pond fish production. In swamp rice growing area, introduction of fish into irrigated rice farm has been suggested.

In certain parts of world, crop residue (or leftover) of farm harvest are deliberately preserved for grazers to feed on, and encamp for a specified period to ensure sufficient dropping of manure for cereal production.

Read Also: Effect of Stress on Animal Productivity


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enjoy this post? Please spread the word :)

  • No products in the cart.