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Animal husbandry

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In a draw in a mountainous region, a shepherd guides a flock of about 20 sheep amidst scrub and olive trees.
In a draw in a mountainous region, a shepherd guides a flock of about 20 sheep amidst scrub and olive trees.

Animal husbandry is the agricultural practice of breeding and raising livestock. As such, it is a vital skill for farmers, and in many ways as much art as it is science. The science of animal husbandry, called animal science, 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 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, or in academia.

It is one of the oldest world professions. It is also mentioned in the Bible as the first task given by God to Adam: to name and care for the Garden of Eden and the animals (Genesis 2:19-20).

Historically, certain sub-professions within the field of Animal Husbandry are specifically named according to the animals which are cared for.

A swineherd is a person who cares for hogs and pigs (older English term: swine). A shepherd is a person who cares for sheep. A goatherd cares for goats. A cowherd cares for cattle. In previous years, it was common to have herds which were made up of sheep and goats. In this case, the person tending them was called a shepherd. King David of Israel was a shepherd before he was anointed to be king.

In more modern times, cowboys (or in Spanish: gauchos) ride horses and participate in cattle drives to watch over cows and bulls raised primarily for food.

Today, herd managers often oversee thousands of animals and many staff. Farms 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 to help improve herd genetics. 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.

Ethical Implications of Animal Husbandry

Some techniques of animal husbandry such as factory farming have been attacked by animal welfare groups such as Compassion In World Farming and farmers who use more traditional or organic practices.

The animal rights movement has been most vocal in its criticism of systems of animal agriculture. Many within the movement consider it as a violation of the rights of nonhuman individuals and therefore unethical. Proponents of animal rights philosophies tend to advocate a rejection of animal husbandry and instead promote veganism. They would argue the term 'animal husbandry' is a pejorative term which helps create a misleading, benevolent paradigm of human-animal interaction.

When we talk about animal husbandry, one important specie comes to our mind, the Vechoor Cow. [1] In an age where thousands and thousands of wild and domestic species are going in to the oblivion every year, saving the Vechur, the smallest cow [2] in the world, from the brink of extinction, by a conservation programme in the Kerala Agricultural University, was a saga in conservation. A group of motivated conservationists were instrumental in the initiation of the Project, and it was a model of co-operation among academic and voluntary organisations in conservation efforts. The Vechur Conservation Association which was active from the beginning has now been registered as a public trust called the Vechur Conservation Trust[3], dedicated to the cause of biodiversity conservation.

The controversial ethical philosopher Peter Singer regards animal husbandry as unethical in its current form (especially in the western context of factory farming and the high avaliablity of nutrious plant foods), as it fails to take into account the interests of animals on an equal footing with human interests (speciesism), while causing immense suffering for trivial gains.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 09:16:51
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04