Extensive cattle breeding
Extensive farming or extensive agriculture (as opposed to intensive farming) is an agricultural production system that uses small inputs of labor and fertilizers relative to the land area being farmed as well as small number of animals per land unit.
Extensive farming most commonly refers to sheep and cattle farming in areas with low
agricultural productivity, but can also refer to large-scale growing of wheat, barley, cooking oils and other grain crops.
In discussions around land use, impacts of livestock can be seen very differently. On the one hand, all land use by livestock can be seen as potentially problematic in view of current anticipated growth in livestock production, since by using a growing area of land, livestock usually need more land than plants. However, another way of viewing the impact of livestock on land is by considering what types and qualities of land they use. Are they making use of prime arable land? Or are they using land that is unsuited to arable crop production? Livestock managed to enhance the quality of the land and to maintain the carbon storage properties of the land then they are not overstocked. Moreover, extensive grazing usually contributes to protecting
other vulnerable animal and plant species.
To sum up, animals living in extensive systems modify the landscapes they inhabit, representing a fundamental force for landscape management and conservation, for example through weed
control, revegetation, nutrient cycling and creation of fire breaks.
What is the difference between intensive and extensive cattle breeding?
Beef cattle are usually kept in either extensive; grazing-based systems where they are mainly kept in fields and may be housed for part of the year (depending on the climate) or intensive; indoor systems where, in some cases, they may be housed throughout their lives. Extensive farming usually require no additional feeding but the grass and hay, intensively breeding cattle are being feeded additionally with supplements, silage, compound feeds, cereal – based feeds, etc. Furhermore, the time required for production and the amounts of production is different in
extensive and intensive livestock systems. Extensive farm produces less milk and the milk is lower in fat than in full balanced diet. In meat production, it takes 0,5 – 1 year longer to rise a cattle in extensive farm suitable for meat production. On the other hand, the quality of production in extensive farm and its benefits outweight disadvantages.
Benefits of extensive technologies:
- Lower density of animals result in decrese of illness and the use of medicine in livestock production, no GMO, better meat and milk quality
- Animal welfare
- Cultivation of low quality grassland – peat-bogs, scrubland, etc.
- Symbiosis between species - protection of animals and birds breeding in grasslands
- Conservation of soil, preventing degradation
Biodiversity and extensive farming systems: Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola)
Singing male of Aquatic Warbler (© https://meldine.lt/meldine-nendrinuke/bukle/)
There are species closely related to human activity which, paradoxally, have been facing
difficulties because of the human activity. Aquatic Warbler – one of the most endagered species
in the world – has been breeding in the meadows for ages, but now the numbers of individuals
decrease rapidly. On one hand, people started to cultivate land intensively – ploughing and mowing grasslands during breeding season, on the other hand, low-quality land was abandoned, and now is covered with shrubs, bushes and poor quality forest. Now it is obvious, that the only way to save this species is cultivate land extensively – graze small amounts of mamals (cattle, sheep or goats) or mow it only once a year when juveniles of Aquatic Warbler are already flying (late July – August) and prevent meadows from shrubs.
Extensive farming might result in better protection of the environment, including soil, climate, water and humans as well. There is always a disscusion if it is worth it or not, weighting and arguing, but the main argument is the attitude – if we are ready to take care of others before ourselves or not.
How can everyone contribute?
1. Support local farmers, who take nature and ecology into consideration
2. Do not spare money for better quality of food – better the less than low-quality
3. Avoid buying from supermarkets when the origin of the production is unknown
4. Think globally – avoid waisting food, take care of Your environment
5. Spread the knowledge on the importance of nature protection