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Chapter 2 The animal agriculture industry.

Chapter Objectives

* Learn the diverse aspects of animal agriculture

* Learn the primary and secondary products of animal agriculture

* Learn the variety of careers in animal agriculture


Animal agriculture is often considered in terms of animal-raising farmers that live in rural area. However, the field of animal agriculture has a wide variety of types of operations and careers. People who raise animals are the foundations of the industry, but represent only a small percentage of the industry. In this chapter, we will define some of the diverse operations and opportunities in the animal agriculture industry.

Types of Animal Operations

Agri-tourism A segment of the animal agriculture industry that provides a recreational outlet for people. Agri-tourism operations range from dude ranches, where people can stay on a ranch, ride horses, and work with cattle, to petting farms and living history museums. At living history museums, people can immerse themselves in a historical time period and learn about life at that time.

Aquaculture A growing segment of the animal agriculture industry focuses on production of fish and other living water animals for consumption as food (see Figure 2-1). It is predicted that as more issues arise related to use of wild-caught fish in the diet, the field of aquaculture will continue to grow. In 2005, more than $1 billion of aquaculture products were sold in the United States, with the majority being food fish (see Figure 2-2). The aquaculture industry has the largest economic impact in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama, but most states have some aquaculture industry (see Figure 2-3). As with many aspects of animal agriculture, the aquaculture industry has terms with unique definitions:

* Hatchery An operation that hatches fertilized eggs from breeding stock and then provides them to the nursery for raising.

* Nursery An operation that raises young fish to a size that is then moved into a finishing unit.

* Pens Net or cage enclosures that exist in large bodies of water, such as lakes, reservoirs, or the ocean.

* Ponds Solid enclosures created for raising animals.


Beef Cattle produced for their meat. The highest quality cuts of meat in grocery stores and restaurants come from beef cattle. Many types of animal production operations are involved in beef cattle production, including the following:

* Seedstock operation An operation that produces cattle for breeding purposes. Most often, seedstock is purebred stock. Animals that are not of sufficient quality to be used for breeding animals are culled, or removed from the herd, and move into the market sector of the beef industry.

* Cow-calf operation The primary focus for this operation is breeding cattle for market (see Figure 2-4). The majority of animals bred for market are crossbred animals. Calves will be raised until they are heavy enough to go to market. Calves that are underweight for the feedlot may be kept at the operation and raised until they are large enough, or may be sold as stocker calves, which are calves that are purchased to be fed until they reach feedlot weight, and are then sold to a feedlot.

* Feedlot operation The primary focus of a feedlot is raising animals to market weight, or finishing the animals. Animals are between 650 and 800 pounds when they enter the feedlot (see Figure 2-5). There, they are raised to market weight, and then sent to market for processing. The animals are fed diets high in grain, resulting in the grain-fed beef seen in the grocery store.

* Packing/processing plants Facilities that slaughter animals when they reach their finished weight. Following slaughter, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector examines the animals to ensure that they conform to all federal regulations (see Figure 2-6).

* Vertical integration This term describes a business with more than one type of operation, in which animals move from one operation to another with no change of ownership. For example, an owner of a cow-calf operation also owns a feedlot where the cattle go, or a packing/processing plant also owns a feedlot where the animals to be slaughtered came from.





Companion animals Types of operations among companion animals vary little; therefore, they will be grouped here.

* Boarding kennels Operations that provide facilities for temporary housing of companion animals while their owners are away (see Figure 2-7). Boarding kennels may be associated with or operated independently of veterinary clinics. Some boarding kennels also offer "day care" services, where the animals are left at the kennel during the day while their owners are at work.

* Breeders People who raise companion animals for personal use or for sale. There are different types of breeders in the industry.

* Hobbyist breeders These breeders usually work with one or two breeds of animals. Hobbyist breeders are often very involved in exhibition of the offspring they produce in their breeding programs, and in selling their offspring to other hobbyist breeders. Many hobbyist breeders define some of their offspring as "pet quality," selling them to individuals for pets and requesting or requiring that they not be used for breeding. Most breeders of companion animals qualify as hobbyist breeders.

* Puppy mills This term is used to describe some breeding operations that produce large numbers of puppies under poor conditions. Puppy mills sell their puppies to brokers, who then sell them to retail sellers. The same principles can apply to breeders of other species who focus on producing maximum numbers of animals for resale, with minimal concern for the health and well-being of the animals, or for selection of quality animals as breeding stock.

* Pet stores Operations that purchase pets and pet-related products for resale.


Dairy Cattle produced with a focus on milk production (see Figure 2-8). Dairy cows must have a calf every year to continue milk production. Some female calves are kept to become cows in the herd, and others are sold to different dairy farms or to feedlots, where they are raised to market weight and sent to market for processing.

* Diversified farms Traditional dairy farms that produce not only milk, but also may raise crops and other livestock. These dairy farms have fewer cattle (less than 200) than specialized farms where milk production is the only income generator.

* Drylot A method of managing dairy cattle in which they live in large pens, and are provided all of their grains and forages. Drylots do not contain grass for grazing.

* Free stalls A housing arrangement for dairy cattle where stalls are provided, but the cattle may enter and exit the stalls at will (see Figure 2-9). Stall space is usually separated from feeding space.

* Specialized dairies Dairy farms that concentrate on production of milk, and do not raise other livestock. Most specialized dairies purchase feed instead of raising the crops themselves.




Equine The equine industry uniquely straddles the traditional animal agriculture industries and the companion animal agriculture field. Horses have been an integral part of animal agriculture since they were first domesticated, and still serve important roles on some operations. The majority of horses in the United States are privately owned for recreational purposes, and a wide variety of horse operations provide services to these recreational owners.

* Boarding operation This service operation provides a facility where horses live and are cared for in exchange for a set fee (see Figure 2-10). The services and prices for boarding stables range tremendously. Some boarding stables have staff that provides riding instruction for people with horses at the stable.

* Breeding operation This operation can vary from one or two animals to hundreds of animals. The primary purpose of this type of operation is to produce offspring for sale. Most breeding operations produce purebred animals, but some operations produce animals for a specific purpose and are less concerned about the purity of lines. Breeding operations can be classified in two primary areas:

* Mare station A type of breeding operation where mares are bred and to deliver their foals. People who do not have the time or special skills needed to successfully breed their own mares use these operations.

* Stallion station A type of breeding operation that stands several stallions to the public. These operations also frequently accept mares to be bred to any of their stallions, or mares to be bred to stallions from other places.

* Private operation Most horse operations are privately owned operations where horse owners provide care for horses they use for recreational purposes.

* Training operation This service operation provides racing, riding, or competition training for horses (see Figure 2-11). These trainers often show horses and provide riding lessons for their clients or the general public.


Poultry The poultry industry has a diverse assortment of types of animal production facilities with different objectives. The poultry industry has a high degree of vertical integration, and most of the operations involved in production of poultry products are owned by one business entity.

* Basic breeding A facility housing the parent stock produces the fertilized eggs that are then incubated (see Figure 2-12).

* Hatchery Produces chicks or other baby birds. Hatcheries may produce birds for breeding, exhibition, egg production, or meat production (see Figure 2-13).

* Grow-out farms These facilities receive birds from hatcheries and either raise them to finished market weight in the case of meat-type birds, or raise them until they are ready to start laying eggs in the case of egg-type birds.

* Processing plants These plants process birds or eggs to prepare them for retail market. Refer to the products section of Chapter 11 for information on the wide range of poultry products available.

* Value-added processing Additional processing that increases the value of the product. For example, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a value-added product of whole chickens.


Sheep and goats The sheep and goat industries are relatively small, and serve primarily specialty markets. Although these industries are small in the United States, sheep and goats are major agricultural animals in other parts of the world, and were two of the first livestock species domesticated.

* Dairies Sheep and goats are raised around the world for milk production. The majority of sheep and goat milk produced in the United States is used for cheese production. These segments of the American animal agriculture are still very small (see Figure 2-14).

* Range production Sheep and lambs are raised on pastures over large tracts of land. Lambs may go directly to packing/processing plants, or they may go to feedlots.

* Secondary enterprise Any enterprise where the income generated by the animals is not the primary source of income. Sheep and goats are often raised as a secondary enterprise, or as part of a diversified farming plan. A secondary enterprise can also be an enterprise that provides income secondary to an off-farm enterprise, or job.



Swine The swine industry was traditionally located in the Midwest, where producers had easy access to the grains necessary for producing quality pork. However, over the last decades, the swine industry has grown significantly in the eastern part of the United States, and North Carolina is currently ranked second behind Iowa in total swine production (see Figure 2-15).

* Seedstock operations These operations produce purebred or crossbred offspring, either for use in breeding programs or for exhibition.

* Farrow-to-finish (far-ro) An operation that breeds and raises pigs through market weight at the same location.

* Feeder pig operation An operation that raises pigs from weaning (separation from mother) until they are large enough to be finished for market.

* Finishing operation An operation similar to a feedlot in the beef industry. Finishing operations acquire feeder pigs, either by purchasing them or as part of a contract with another operation, and raise them to market weight.

* Integrated production A vertically integrated operation that runs operations at each level of production. An integrated production operation may or may not raise their own seedstock, but they will raise the pigs from birth to market.

Uses of Animals

The uses of animals is continually changing and adapting. Originally, their only role was to provide food; however, over thousands of years of animal-human interaction, animals have provided power, transportation, recreation, and companionship. Purposes of animal agriculture fit into several large categories as well. In this introductory section, we will discuss these categories in a general manner, with more detail found in each species chapter. In this section, we will consider contributions of companion animals that are not necessarily marketable.

By-products By-products are products that are left after the primary product has been removed. Leather from hides is a by-product, as is fat, which is used to make a variety of other products. Animal by-products are used to make common items, ranging from cosmetics to house insulation or human medicines. By-products can also be termed secondary products.


Fiber Animal hair or wool used to make cloth and other products.

Food The primary product from most of our traditional livestock species, hence many of them, especially cattle and swine, being known as "food animals." Food products take a variety of forms:

* Meat The tissue consisting of muscle and fat of animals that is processed for consumption.

* Milk The fluid produced by all mammals for nourishing their young. In the United States, cow's milk is the primary milk product, although sheep and goat's milk is used in the production of milk products such as cheese, butter, and yogurt. In other countries, mare's milk is also used for human consumption.

* Edible by-products Some items, such as certain organs like heart, kidney, and intestinal tissue, are edible and known as specialty foods. The byproducts that are consumed are largely determined by culture and tradition.

Offspring Several species produce offspring as a product. For most companion animals, offspring is a potential income-generating product. In other species, offspring are produced either to enter the food-producing market, or as potential breeding stock. Dairy animals must produce offspring to produce milk. Many species have well-established exhibition traditions, and some animals are produced for the exhibition market (see Figure 2-16).



Recreation A primary outcome for companion animals and horses, recreation is a major economic generator across the country, and many animals are a part of these recreational activities. Recreation includes pleasure riding, as well as activities such as exhibition (see Figure 2-17), rodeos, racing, and so on.

Research The use of animals for research has contributed to tremendous progress in human health, and is partially credited for extending the human lifespan. In addition, animals are used for research to assist people in animal agriculture in more efficiently raising their animals and providing for better animal well-being in production animals. Through Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, the federal government oversees animal research in the United States to ensure that animals are managed in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.

Therapy A growing area of animal use is for therapy for people with physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities. A number of programs are using animals to reach youth at risk and help them to resolve their problems. Research in youth development is demonstrating that involvement with animals assists youth in developing lifelong skills.


With approximately 18 percent of the workforce in the United States employed in some aspect of animal agriculture, the broad field of animal agriculture has hundreds of careers that can be divided into the following five categories.

Farm production People working directly on the farm and with the animals. Farm production workers include farmers, managers, veterinarians, and so on.

Indirect employment Work in any variety of secondary industries that support animal agriculture, such as manufacturing of goods used in animal agriculture or produced by animal agriculture.

Processing and marketing The preparation and promotion of agricultural food and nonfood products for consumption.

Sales The sale of agricultural products to grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail markets, as well as wholesale markets. This also includes positions in the pharmaceutical industry providing products for farm production.

Suppliers People providing materials needed for farm production, such as machinery, chemicals, seed, and so on.

Specific Jobs in Animal Agriculture

Hundreds of types of jobs are available in animal agriculture, as well as opportunities for people to create specialty businesses that meet their needs. The following is a sampling of specific jobs in animal agriculture.

Agricultural economist A person who works within the agricultural industry to assess and impact the economic factors affecting agriculture.

Agriculture science and business (ASB) teacher A person who teaches courses in agricultural science and agricultural business to high school and/or junior high students. ASB teachers also frequently advise Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters, an intracurricular youth organization designed to develop leadership skills and content knowledge in the field of agriculture.

Animal behaviorist A person specializing in studying and understanding animal behavior, and assisting in solving animal behavior problems.

Extension agent A person employed by a Cooperative Extension Service to provide an educational link between a land grant university and a community. Extension agents work with the 4-H youth program, which is the educational youth development arm of the USDA.

Farm broadcaster A person who reports farm-related news.

Farm manager A person who oversees the day-today running of an animal agriculture facility.

Field sales representative A person who works for a company, usually a feed company or a pharmaceutical company that markets products to wholesale or retail carriers.

Inspector Inspectors examine food products for safety and facilities to ensure that they are meeting federal and local standards for care and upkeep (see Figure 2-18). A variety of aspects of animal agriculture involve inspectors.

Laboratory technician A person working in a laboratory that has a relationship with the animal agriculture field. This could range from a person working with a veterinarian, to a researcher, to a person working in food science and safety.

Researcher A scientist who discovers new information in an area related to animal agriculture. Researchers can focus in any area that is related to animal agriculture.


Veterinarian A veterinarian is a doctor who works with animals. The veterinary industry offers a variety of careers, ranging from veterinarians to kennel staff, receptionists, and office managers.


Animal agriculture is a very diverse field, with a wide variety of types of operations and careers available. This chapter lists just some of the common production operations and career possibilities, but as science and technology continue to play an increasingly large role in animal agriculture, more opportunities will become available.

Match the aspect of the animal science industry with its definition.

1. -- Aquaculture            a. A place where beef cattle are fed to
                             slaughter weight.

2. -- Boarding stable        b. A place where chicks can be purchased.

3. -- Stallion station       c. Production of fish for human

4. -- Stocker                d. A place where an owner can pay a fee to
                             have a horse cared for.

5. -- Hatchery               e. A place where male horses are kept for

6. -- Vertical integration   f. Calves that are postweaning, but too
                             small for the feedlot.

7. -- Feedlot                g. A facility that houses dogs.

8. -- Seedstock              h. A swine facility that raises pigs
                             from birth to market.

9. -- Puppy mill             i. The ownership by one entity of all
                             aspects of production.

10. -- Kennel                j. A facility that feeds pigs to market

11. -- Farrow-to-finish      k. Animals that are used for breeding.

12. -- Finishing operation   l. An operation that raises large
                             numbers of dogs in unacceptable

13. List the operations involved in beef cattle production, beginning
with the birth of a calf and ending with the consumer purchase of a

14. What are the primary products of animal agriculture?

15. List ten careers in animal agriculture that are not listed in this
chapter. Include the degree of education required or recommended for
each position.

FIGURE 2-2 Total value of all aquaculture products sold in the
U.S. in 2005 (Courtesy of USDA)

Value of Aquaculture Products Sold by Type: 2005
U.S. Total- $1,092,386,000

Mollusks          $203,183,000
Miscellaneous     $ 56,003,000
Crustaceans       $ 53,381,000
Ornamental fish   $ 51,297,000
Balt fish         $ 38,018,000
Sport fish        $ 18,126,000
Food fish         $672,377,000
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Article Details
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Author:Brady, Colleen
Publication:An Illustrated Guide to Animal Science Terminology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Chapter 1 What is animal science?
Next Article:Chapter 3 Animal genetics and breeding.

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