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Animal husbandry

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Animal husbandry, also called animal science, stockbreeding or simple husbandry, is the agricultural practice of breeding and raising livestock. It has been practiced for thousands of years, since the first domestication of animals.

The science of animal husbandry is taught in many universities and colleges around the world. Students of animal science may pursue degrees in veterinary medicine following graduation, or go on to pursue master's degrees or doctorates in disciplines such as nutrition, genetics and animal breeding, or reproductive physiology. Graduates of these programs may be found working in the veterinary and human pharmaceutical industries, the livestock and pet supply and feed industries, farming, ranching or in academia.

Historically, certain sub-professions within the field of animal husbandry are named specifically for the animals in their care.


Different types of animal husbandry

A swineherd is a person who cares for hogs and pigs (older English term: swine). A goatherd cares for goats. A cowherd cares for cattle, and a shepherd ("sheepherd") tends sheep. In the past, it was common to have herds which were made up of sheep and goats; the tenders of such also are called shepherds. Camels are also cared for in herds. In Tibet, yaks are herded. In Latin America, llamas and alpacas are herded.

In more modern times, the cowboys of North America, charros or vaqueros of South America, and farmers or stockmen of Australia tend their herds from horseback, all-terrain vehicles, motorbikes, in four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles and helicopters, depending on the terrain and livestock concerned.

Today, herd managers often oversee thousands of animals and many staff. Farms, stations and ranches may employ breeders, herd health specialists, feeders, and milkers to help care for the animals. Techniques such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer are frequently used, not only as methods to guarantee that females are bred, but also to help improve herd genetics. This may be done by transplanting embryos from stud-quality females into flock-quality surrogate mothers - freeing up the stud-quality mother to be reimpregnated. This practice vastly increases the number of offspring which may be produced by a small selection of stud-quality parent animals. This in turn improves the ability of the animals to convert feed to meat, milk, or fiber more efficiently, and improve the quality of the final product, and to make it enjoyable.

See also

  • Domestication of animals
  • Animal keeping
  • Aquaculture
  • Beekeeping
  • Breeder
  • Breeding in the wild
  • Cattle
  • Cuniculture
  • Dog breeding
  • Environmental effects of meat production
  • Feed conversion rate
  • Food industry
  • Horse breeding
  • Herpetoculture
  • Leave the gate as you found it
  • Poultry
  • Pastoral nomads
  • Sheep husbandry
  • Shepherding
  • Stockman
  • Transhumance
  • Block & Bridle


Yak herd in Tibet
  • Saltini Antonio, Storia delle scienze agrarie, 4 vols, Bologna 1984-89, ISBN 88-206-2412-5, ISBN 88-206-2413-3, ISBN 88-206-2414-1, ISBN 88-206-2414-X
  • Clutton Brock Juliet, The walking larder. Patterns of domestication, pastoralism and predation, Unwin Hyman, London 1988
  • Clutton Brock Juliet, Horse power: a history of the horse and donkey in human societies, National history Museum publications, London 1992
  • Fleming G., Guzzoni M., Storia cronologica delle epizoozie dal 1409 av. Cristo sino al 1800, in Gazzetta medico-veterinaria, I-II, Milano 1871-72
  • Hall S, Clutton Brock Juliet, Two hundred years of British farm livestock, Natural History Museum Publications, London 1988
  • Janick Jules, Noller Carl H., Rhykerd Charles L., The Cycles of Plant and Animal Nutrition, in Food and Agriculture, Scientific American Books, San Francisco 1976
  • Manger Louis N., A History of the Life Sciences, M. Dekker, New York, Basel 2002

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