Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Animal Science
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 22, 2003
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Ensuring that livestock are housed appropriately to meet their needs is a basic requirement of producers to ensure animal health, productivity and to meet our social ethic. Instances in which the conditions of the environment do not meet the needs of the animal create a mismatch, which can cause unnecessary distress to livestock. To date, agricultural science has been efficient at defining the physical and dietary needs of livestock. Research continues and needs to progress much further in defining the social and behavioral needs of livestock. The key to future identification of these needs will be advances in neuroscience and behavior that provide a clear understanding of livestock cognition. A clearer understanding of appropriate environmental needs for livestock will allow both scientist and producers to maximize productivity and well-being.
Technical Abstract: All domesticated animals evolved in an environment that was very different from that in which they are currently housed. Thus, livestock and poultry have environmental needs that were shaped by evolution. The characteristic of sheep to graze while goats browse, was shaped through evolution and these characteristics dictate what these two different species need in relation to both foraging behavior as well as dietary nutrients. It is critical to keep this basic principle in mind when designing animal environments because although an animal's inherent needs are able to change, these changes can only occur over thousands of years. Our rapid progression of developing animal agriculture practices, means that the environment in which we keep livestock is altered at a much quicker pace than these animals are able to evolve. It is apparent that livestock have behavioral needs, although less is understood of these needs and what the prevention of the performance of specific behaviors means to the physical or psychological well-being of the animal. Therefore, sound management practices dictate that we strive to create a match between the nature of our livestock and that environment in which we house them.