| Farm animals are animals that are bred for a purpose – whether that is for their meat, their milk, their hair, or something else. They are a vital part of Australian industry and an integral part of our diets.
What are Farm Animals?Farm animals are those animals that are housed on a farm. Their primary purpose is to produce a product of some kind, whether that is fibres (wool etc), meat (beef etc), milk (cow or goat), eggs, and so on. Farm animals can be kept by full time farmers, that is, their income is solely derived by what they produce on the farm, but they can also be kept by hobbyists, who do it more for the experience than the potential income.
Types of Farm AnimalsThere are different types of farm animals and they can be categorised in different ways. These include:
- Birds- these animals include chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese and so on. Farming birds can be done for the eggs that they produce or for meat. Bird feathers can also be gathered and used for bedding (this is a by product of birds that are used for meat).
- Hoofed animals- include horses, cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and pigs. They have different purposes including providing milk, producing meat, and also as a working animal (pulling loads, rounding up animals etc). They can also be used for the hair that they produce (wool, angora etc)
- Fish – you might not think of it but fish are an animal that can be farmed and this is done to sustainably produce a supply of fish for eating (as farming fish does not deplete natural fish stocks). Commonly farmed fish include salmon and trout.
- Exotic farm animals – these are animals that are becoming more popular in farming circles but are still a little left of centre such as alpacas, llamas, ostriches and emus. Alpacas are bred for the hair that they produce as are llamas.
Popular Breeds of Farm AnimalsPopular breeds of farm animals include:
- Cows – are perhaps the first things that we think of when we think of farm animals. Cows are versatile animals and are used for both meat and milk. Cow’s milk is made into a range of other everyday products such as cheese, butter, cream and yoghurt. There are many different cuts of cow’s meat and most of the body can be used.
- Sheep- sheep are most commonly kept for the wool that they produce but they are also used for their meat (lambs especially). Domesticated sheep predominantly produce white wool but different colour variations are available.
- Goats- goats are one of the oldest domesticated animals and they are commonly used for their milk and their meat. However, there are some species of goat that are prized for their hair.
- Chickens- chickens are domesticated fowl which are very commonly kept and found. Their primary purpose is to produce eggs for human consumption or to produce meat. Almost all parts of the chicken can be used for food but the most popular cuts include the breast, thigh, and wings.
- Pigs – pigs are farmed for the meat which is called pork. Other common products that are made from pork include bacon, ham, gammon, and sausage. There are many different breeds of the domestic pig.
Difference between Purebred and Crossbred Farm AnimalsPurebred farm animals are animals that have two parents of the same breed that have traceable lineage and heritage. These animals are bred in order to enhance their desirable characteristics. For example, it could be to breed a thicker, finer coat in alpacas, or a whiter coat in sheep. It could be to produce chickens that are better egg layers or cows that produce more and higher quality milk or meat.
A crossbred farm animal is one that has parents that are from different breeds (i.e. different breeds of cows or different breeds of pigs). The aim of crossing the animals is to produce one that has the desirable characteristics found in both breeds. Be aware that farm animals can only crossbreed within their own breed, for example, cows with cows, and sheep with sheep. In rare cases, different species such as horses and donkeys can breed to produce a mule but the mule will always be sterile.
Choosing a Farm Animal BreederWhen you are choosing a farm animal breeder, there are some things that you need to look out for. These include:
- That the animals are kept in clean, and hygienic conditions and that they have access to shelter if necessary. Their space should also be large enough so that they are not cramped.
- That the animals are healthy with no signs of illness.
- That the animals have access to fresh food and water at all time and that the diet is nutritious and tailored to their requirements.
- That the animals get the chance to exercise regularly.
- The breeder should be able to provide you with pedigrees or evidence of the animal’s breed or lineage if required.
- The breeder should be extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their breed and be willing to share information and answer any questions that you may have.
- The animals should be completely vet checked before they are allowed to leave.
How to Choose Farm AnimalsIf you are buying new animals for your farm, think about how many that you can afford to keep safely. Remember that you will be responsible for providing shelter, food, medications, vet visits as necessary and so on. Are you a professional farmer that will be relying on the animals for income and thus need the absolute best specimens at the best prices or are you a hobbyist that wants to keep farm animals for the occasional eggs, milk or fibre? If you are the former, do not let emotions sway your final decision. If you are the latter, you can take on the “runts” – those that still produce well and are perfectly healthy but may be left behind. Ensure that your animals are healthy and vet checked before you agree to purchase. If you are at all suspicious, you are perfectly entitled to get another opinion.
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