There are many different types of farms that you can manage. Some specialize in dairy, others in poultry or pork. Still, others grow crops or raise livestock. No matter what type of farm you're interested in, there's a wealth of information available to help you get started. This blog will focus on livestock and fodder crop operations with a strong flavour toward large ruminants that graze the pasture.
Livestock Farming Operations
Livestock operations involve producing animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, which provide food in forms such as meat and milk products for human consumption or wool from sheep. Livestock farming is one part of modern agriculture that requires knowledge beyond what most people know about growing crops.
You must take into account many variables, including animal waste management (manure), feed nutritional values (ensuring proper intake) and reproductive capabilities (breeding).
The list of livestock management practices is extensive and includes such activities as:
- developing pasture management rotational grazing plans
- providing clean water and adequate shelter
- maintaining fences and other infrastructure
- health management, including vaccinations and deworming
Animal farms require a lot more timely and hands-on management than crop farming. If you find yourself drawn to managing a livestock farm, think about the added complexity over managing crops.
If you were to look at the pillars of managing livestock farms, they could be defined as:
The livestock welfare is a critical component of any livestock farm. Good welfare means that the animals are healthy and comfortable and that they are not suffering from any pain or distress. There are many factors that contribute to good livestock welfare, including:
- Proper nutrition: Animals must be fed a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. Nutrition is a large area of animal management and encompasses its own management pillar.
- Adequate housing and shelter: Animals must have access to clean, comfortable quarters that protect them from the elements. If grazing then shelterbelts and clean pasture areas are provided.
- Health care: Animals must be given routine check-ups and vaccinations to prevent disease and illness.
- Humane handling: Animals must be handled to minimise stress and distress.
Ruminant nutrition is a complex and important aspect of livestock farming. Good ruminant nutrition means that the animals are healthy and productive. There are many factors that go into providing good ruminant nutrition, including:
- Feed quality and nutritional value: The feed quality is balanced across feedstuffs depending on the cost to grow or buy in the feed. The quality of the feed underpins livestock performance. So, getting a diet in check must be in line with the economical advantage of feeding different feedstuffs for reaching production and animal performance goals.
- The type of animal: The type of animal demands a different nutritional requirement. For example, a dairy cow needs more energy and protein in her diet than a beef cow.
- The stage of life: The nutritional requirements of animals change as they go through different stages of their life cycles. For example, young animals need more nutrients for growth, while adults need less.
- The environment: The environmental conditions can impact the amount of feed an animal needs. For example, hot weather can cause animals to lose appetite and consume less feed.
- Feeding management: How the feed is managed impacts how well the animals can utilize the nutrients in the feed. For example, good bunk management means that cattle have access to fresh, clean feed that is not spoiled or mouldy.
- The production system: impacts the nutritional requirements of animals. For example, animals in a pasture-based system will have different nutritional needs than those in a feedlot.
- Stage of production: lifecycle stage of lactation and gestation impacts nutrition requirements. For example, dry cows have different nutritional needs than lactating cows.
The breeding management on a livestock farm is key to the success of the operation. Good breeding management means that the animals are healthy and productive. There are varying factors that go into providing good breeding management, including:
- The type of animal: The type of animal you are breeding will impact the management decisions you make. For example, if you are breeding dairy cows, you will need to focus on cows that produce high-quality milk. Or cows that can walk a long way on grazing farms compared with barn systems.
- Environment: Environmental conditions can impact the breeding of animals. For example, hot weather can cause animals to lose appetite and consume less feed. Also, a consideration is the type of animal and whether it is suited for temperate, arid or tropical conditions.
- The production system: The production system can impact the breeding of animals. For example, animals in a pasture-based system will have different breeding needs than those in a feedlot.
Crop Farming Operations
The term “crop operations” encompasses all the various activities involved in growing crops, from field preparation to harvest. Crop operations are an important part of any livestock farm, as they provide the feed and forage that the animals need to survive and thrive.
Crop operations involve producing corn, wheat, soybeans, and other grains, pulses, legumes and vegetables. Plant products provide food in flour and livestock feed for human consumption or ethanol for fuel.
Crop farming is one part of modern agriculture that requires knowledge beyond what most people know about growing food.
You must take into account many variables, including:
- Soil nutrient management (fertiliser application)
- Weed and pest control (herbicides/pesticides - integrated pest management)
- Crop protection from weather damage (insurance)
Other Farming Operations
Farms come in all shapes and sizes, from smallholding of one hectare to massive stations and ranches that cover hundreds of thousands and even as much as millions of hectares. These businesses range from management under:
- Family ownership
- Government holdings
- Corporate governance.
You can find farm management positions in all of the discussed farming operations. Each type of farm business has a unique set of requirements, and the management team needs to be able to adapt to these conditions.
In general, farm managers need to be well-rounded individuals with a strong understanding of:
- Animal husbandry
- Crop production
- Soil science
- Business principles
- Marketing and sales
- Agricultural extension and education.
Ultimately where your skills and experience and importantly passion lies will guide your career pathway in farm management.
Until we meet again, Happy Farming!
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 23 April 2022