With the ever-increasing population, the requirement of nutritious food has risen steeply across the world. Since time immemorial, animals have been an integral part of agriculture. They have been used to derive milk, meat, eggs, wool, silk, for labor, etc. As the animals are so crucial part of agriculture, they require proper care and management. According to some estimates, more than 70% of world’s total livestock population is in India and China. However, their contribution to the world farm produce is only 25%. This means that productivity per unit is very low. This led to the concept of animal husbandry where a more scientific approach to caring and breeding of farm animals is provided.
Animal husbandry is the science of caring and breeding of domestic animals and the development of genetic traits such as high yielding, disease resistance, etc. that are valuable to humanity. Animal husbandry involves breeding and raising livestock like buffaloes, cows, goats, camels, horses, sheep etc. and even extended to poultry farming and fisheries. Some of the salient practices of animal husbandry are as follows:-
Management of farms and farm animals
This is a professional approach towards the conventional farm management practices which gives the boost to food production.
- Dairy Farm Management – This is the management of the animals that provide milk (milch animals). The goal is to enhance the quantity and quality of the milk produced. For this purpose, high yielding and disease resistant breeds are maintained in a strictly hygienic manner with proper housing, adequate water supply, and nutrient-rich fodder. Regular inspection and record-keeping ensures that a good high-quality yield is generated.
- Poultry Farm Management – Poultry farming refers to the rearing of domesticated fowl (birds) for their meat and eggs. These birds include chicken, ducks, turkey, geese, etc. Just like dairy farming, selection of disease-free and suitable breeds, maintenance of hygienic farm conditions, providing proper food and water, and health care, are the main goals of poultry farm management.
Another part of animal husbandry is animal breeding. Breeding of animals aims to develop high yielding animals and improve the desirable qualities of the produce.
- Inbreeding – It refers to the practice of mating closely related superior males to superior females within the same breed for 4-6 generations. The superior males and females among the progenies are further mated for developing Mendelian pure lines which are homozygous in nature. However, continued close inbreeding eventually decreases fertility and productivity; a phenomenon was known as inbreeding depression.
- Out-breeding – It is the breeding of the unrelated animals that can be carried out in three different fashions. When two unrelated individuals of the same breed which do not have a common ancestor for the past 4-6 generations are mated, it is called out-crossing. Mating between a superior male of one breed and a superior female of another breed to give a progeny with the combined qualities of both breeds is known as crossbreeding. When males and females across different related species are mated, it is known as interspecific hybridization.
Apart from conventional breeding techniques, controlled breeding experiments are conducted utilizing artificial insemination to yield the desired mating. To improve the chances of obtaining successful hybrids, programs like Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer Technology (MOET) are used.
Maintenance of hives of honeybees for the production of honey and beeswax is known as beekeeping or apiculture beekeeping. Honey is an age-old food of high nutritional value and is also used in traditional medicines across various cultures. Although it is not a labour-intensive practice, an idea of the following points is necessary for successful bee-keeping:-
- Selection of a suitable location for keeping the beehives.
- Nature and habits of bees.
- Catching and hiving of swarms.
- Handling and collection of honey and beeswax.
- Management of beehives during different seasons.