How do breeding farms work?

Animals can be raised in different ways as intensive breeding farms, industrial breeding farms and pasture breeding farms also called extensive. Let’s have a closer look.
Extensive breeding farm or “pasture”
In this system animals can pasture freely and munch grass. If temperatures are very low animals have the chance to shelter in stables where they are fed by humans. It’s an independent system that possesses lands for pasture and to produce nourishment for animals, either hay or cereals. Animal density, that is the relation between the number of animals and the portion of land where they are raised, is low; zootechnical waste is used as natural fertilizer (manure) on the fields of the agricultural enterprise with no need to dispose of it as waste. Even if it’s responsible for only a small part of the global animal production, this system of production occupies up to 28% of the land surface free of ice, infact, the low density of animals in relation to the occupied area (less than 10 animals per hectare) requires extended portions of soil. Pasture breeding should determine, therefore, a strong competition for land (in terms of availability and uses) and for other natural resources to satisfy the demand for meat and milk currently registered: hence, all existing lands wouldn’t be enough, even if converted to pasture! Extensive breeding is widespread especially in Southern and Central Italy and in the islands where firms raising bovines are generally small or medium sized with an average number of bovines, for example, around 10-20 heads of cattle.
Intensive breeding farms
In intensive breeding farms, instead, animals are raised in contained space and the density of heads of cattle is quite high. With this intensive system are raised mainly bovines to produce meat and milk and suines. Animals raised with intensive methods can be raised with free stabling, that allows animals to move freely and develop their own muscle groups or fixed stabling, a system that is still widespread: basically, animals are tied to their placement and in this way they’re not allowed complete freedom of movement. Sometimes animals can’t behave naturally: veals, for example, are separated from their mother a few days after birth to be raised in individual placements closed by wooden fences and separated from other animals. To make meat more tender and white, as we consumers like it more, veals are fed only semi-liquid pudding, made with artificial milk and lacking iron, as this substance is usually responsible of the pink-red colour of meat. Typical nutrition of bovines, instead, is based on cereals, used because they make an animal’s weight increase fast: thanks to a diet based on maize, corn and soy, infact, the weight of a veal increases 15-fold in only 14 months while in the past were required about 5 years!! To further accelerate the growth process in some non-EU countries fodder for animals contains animal-based protein rich flours derived from other animals. EU has banned the use of these animal-based flours (with the exception of those based on fish), considering the high probability that epidemics of diseases transmissible to humans might occur (when humans eat their meat): an example know to all is the BSE, also called “mad cow disease”. Breeding factories that can reach big dimensions containing even up to 800/2000 heads of cattle per establishment, often need to buy cereals from other companies for animal nourishment and must dispose of their production waste, as zootechnical waste, somewhere else. This system, in Italy, is concentrated in the Po Basin between Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia Romagna where small-sized breeding factories are more numerous (41% of establishments count less than 10 heads of cattle). Here can be found between 60% and 80% of bovines, suines and poultry raised in the whole of Italy. In the Po Basin, infact, is typical the production of corn, one of the main elements of the diet of animals raised intensively in this area.
Industrial breeding farms “without land”
Finally, there is the industrial breeding system, defined as a zootechnical system “without land”, as it can be achieved completely independently from the geographical and climatic context where it’s located; it’s an intensive system, used mainly for the production of meat and eggs that allows to produce more in little time: in breeding factories without land are raised mainly pigs, chickens and laying hens. These animals are raised inside big barns that are illuminated and aired artificially and are fed with food imported from other places. Often their chance of movement is prevented by metal cages where they are placed: this occurs for pigs as well as laying hens and chickens. Unfortunately, these industrial breeding factories are also known for some operations that often don’t respect the well-being of animals. In these breeding farms, for example, suines can count on a cage that is 60 cm wide and 2 metres long; they can’t root nor turn around, they’re raised on cement pavements and hence can’t dig holes to cool inside mud, as would be typical of their behaviour: in these highly stressed condition (along with other operations that we’re not going to report due to their bluntness) bring them to bite their tail – that is pre-emptively cut off – and interact aggressively. Also for hens and chickens that live in cage in a living space equivalent to an A4 paper, are undertaken operations that prevent aggressions and injures (for example, the beak is cut off to avoid hurting). Moreover, the concentration of animals in one location only forces breeders to use antibiotics to avoid sreading of diseases among them.

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