Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Animal Science
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/13/2003
Publication Date: 3/31/2010
Citation: Lay, Jr., D.C. 2010. The Encyclopedia of Applied animal Behaviour and Welfare, CABI No. Am Office, Cambridge, MA. Availalbe: www.cabi.org
Interpretive Summary: All animals evolved in an environment that was very different from that in which they are currently housed. Thus, livestock 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. 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. Ensuring that the environment matches the animals needs will allow producers to maximize productivity and animal well-being.
Technical Abstract: Ensuring that livestock are housed under appropriate conditions 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 creates a mis-match 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 these future successes will be advances in neuroscience and behavior that will provide a clearer understanding of livestock cognition. Success in this pursuit will have positive impact for producers as productivity and animal well-being will be enhanced.