Livestock Based Livelihood and Their Evolution.

(Unit 1- Livestock Based Livelihood and Their Evolution, VAHEE)

Topic: History of domestication and their social dimensions. Evolution and relationship between agriculture and animal husbandry. Farming and characteristics of farming in India. Classification of farming, types and systems. Peasant farming, cooperative farming, collective farming, contract farming, estate farming, organic farming, capitalistic farming, small-scale farming, large-scale farming, intensive, extensive farming, specialized, diversified, mixed, integrated and dry land farming. Role of animals in the contemporary society. 

Livestock Based Livelihood and Their Evolution

by Dr. Debasish Ganguly, Department of VAHEE, F/O-VAS, of WBUAFS.

Livestock Farming Classification.

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Domestication is the process of adapting wild plants and animals for human use. Domestic species are raised for food, work, clothing, medicine, and many other uses. Domesticated plants and animals must be raised and cared for by humans. Domesticated species are not wild.

Plant Domestication

 People first domesticated plants about 10,000 years ago, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia (which includes the modern countries of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria). People collected and planted the seeds of wild plants. They made sure the plants had as much water as they needed to grow, and planted them in areas with the right amount of sun. Weeks or months later, when the plants blossomed, people harvested the food crops. 

The first domesticated plants in Mesopotamia were wheat, barley, lentils, and types of peas. People in other parts of the world, including eastern Asia, parts of Africa, and parts of North and South America, also domesticated plants. Other plants that were cultivated by early civilizations included rice (in Asia) and potatoes (in South America). 

Plants have not only been domesticated for food. Cotton plants were domesticated for fiber, which is used in cloth. Some flowers, such as tulips, were domesticated for ornamental, or decorative, reasons.

Animal Domestication

 About the same time they domesticated plants, people in Mesopotamia began to tame animals for meat, milk, and hides. Hides, or the skins of animals, were used for clothing, storage, and to build tent shelters. 

Goats were probably the first animals to be domesticated, followed closely by sheep. In Southeast Asia, chickens also were domesticated about 10,000 years ago. Later, people began domesticating larger animals, such as oxen or horses, for plowing and transportation. These are known as beasts of burden. 

Domesticating animals can be difficult work. The easiest animals to domesticate are herbivores that graze on vegetation, because they are easiest to feed: They do not need humans to kill other animals to feed them, or to grow special crops. Cows, for instance, are easily domesticated. Herbivores that eat grains are more difficult to domesticate than herbivores that graze because grains are valuable and also need to be domesticated. Chickens are herbivores that eat seeds and grain. 

Some animals domesticated for one purpose no longer serve that purpose. Some dogs were domesticated to assist people in hunting, for instance. There are hundreds of domestic dog species today. Many of them are still excellent hunters, but most are pets. 

Throughout history, people have bred domesticated animals to promote certain traits. Domestic animals are chosen for their ability to breed in captivity and for their calm temperament. Their ability to resist disease and survive in difficult climates is also valuable. 

Over time, these traits make domestic animals different from their wild ancestors. Dogs were probably domesticated from gray wolves. Today, dogs are a distinct species from gray wolves. 

Domesticated animals can look very different from their wild ancestors. For example, early wild chickens weighed about two pounds. But over thousands of years of domestication, they have been bred to be larger. Larger chickens yield more meat. Today, domestic chickens weigh as much as 17 pounds. Wild chickens only hatched a small number of eggs once a year, while domestic chickens commonly lay 200 or more eggs each year.

Social dimensions of domestication

Domesticating plants marked a major turning point for humans: the beginning of an agricultural way of life and more permanent civilizations. Humans no longer had to wander to hunt animals and gather plants for their food supplies. 

Agriculture—the cultivating of domestic plants—allowed fewer people to provide more food. The stability that came with regular, predictable food production led to increased population density. People were able to do more than hunt for each day’s food—they could travel, trade, and communicate. The world's first villages and cities were built near fields of domesticated plants.

Plant domestication also led to advances in tool production. The earliest farming tools were hand tools made from stone. People later developed metal farming tools, and eventually used plows pulled by domesticated animals to work fields. 

The process of domestication continues. Cowboys and other horse experts train horses. Sometimes, this is called "breaking" a horse. Training a horse to allow a saddle and rider requires an enormous amount of physical work, training, and patience. Horses that are born on ranches or in stables still need to be trained, although training a young horse is easier than domesticating a horse caught in the wild.


Farming is an activity that involves the use of land for cultivation of crops, raising of animals etc. 

Factors determining type of farming :

There are several factors, which determine the type of farming undertaken by an individual / organization and these factors are classified as physical, economic and social as given below -

 Physical factors :

  • Climate 
  • Soil 
  • Topography

 Economic factors : 

  • Marketing cost 
  • Changes in relative value of farm products 
  • Availability of labour and capital 
  • Land values 
  • Cycles of over and under production 
  • Competition between enterprises 
  • Miscellaneous – Seasonal availability of raw material, diseases etc. 

 Social factors :

  • Type of community 
  • Cooperative spirit 

Classification of farming :

 Based on how income is derived from a farming enterprise. 

  • Specialised farming 
  • Diversified farming 
  • Mixed farming 

 Based on mode of ownership and organization of farms. 

  • Individually owned 
  • Co-operative farming 
  • Collective farming 

 Based on scale of operations. 

  • Small scale farming 
  • Large scale farming.


A specialized farm is one in which 50 per cent or more receipts / income are derived from one source. Advantages of specialized farming are -

  • Best suited to particular soil, climate, topography and other physical conditions like market type. 
  • Work easily get reduced to routine. 
  • Better marketing. 
  • Better management. 
  • Less equipments and labour needed.
  • Efficiency and skill of personnel increased. 
  • Costly and efficient machinery can be kept. 
  • Farmer can secure complete mastery over the conditions, problems of production, processing and sale. 
  • Under favourable and specific conditions extremely profitable. 
  • eg. Commercial and large scale dairy and poultry farms.


When farming is organized to produce one main product but also has several other enterprises each of which itself is the direct source of income, it is called diversified farming. 


  • According to the 12thNational Conference of Agricultural Economists (1960) a farm where at least 10 per cent of its income is contributed by livestock is called a mixed farm. The upper limit of gross income to be contributed by livestock activities was fixed at 49 per cent under Indian conditions. 
  • This conference restricted the scope of mixed farming to the livestock activities, which would largely include milch cattle and buffaloes. 
  • Any extension of mixed farming by supplementary enterprises like sheep and goat farming, fishery and poultry were classified under diversified farming. 
  • eg. Crop with dairy farming, the most common type of farming in India.

Advantages of mixed / diversified farming are 

  • Well suited for adoption round the year under Indian conditions.  Income obtained throughout the year. 
  • Offers opportunity for better use of land, capital and labour. 
  • Helps in maintaining soil fertility. 
  • Reduces the risks due to failure, unfavourable market price etc. 
  • Income is regular and quick. 
  • Cost of transportation and sale of by-products can be reduced to minimum. 
  • Offers opportunity for complete use of agricultural wastes. 
  • Provides balanced and protective farming.


  • Co-operative farming is one in which agricultural / livestock producers co-operate with one another to secure advantages of co-operative buying of agricultural / livestock inputs and co-operative selling of agricultural/livestock produce or they may cooperate in order to obtain credit on easier terms. 

Classification of cooperative farming societies are 

  • Co-operative better farming society: In this kind, independent land holding members “agree to follow a plan of cultivation / operation” laid down by the society 
  • Co-operative tenant farming society: This differs from the above in the fact that the society (which may hold land on freehold or leasehold) leases out the plots to members for individual cultivation. Otherwise, its objectives and spheres of action are the same as that of better farming society. 
  • Co-operative joint farming society: In this type, land owners pool their lands for joint cultivation. The ownership of each member in his holding continues and is recognized by the payment of dividend in proportion to the value of his land.


  • In collective farming societies, members do not have an individual land ownership right in the society’s land. 
  • The society holds land in free hold or leasehold and undertakes joint cultivation. 

Types of collective farming societies are 

  • Type I Collective farming societies: It is marked by transfer of land ownership rights by members in return for shares of equivalent value. 
  • Type II Collective farming societies: It is marked by transfer of land ownership rights by members without any consideration. 
  • Type III Collective farming societies: It is marked by absence of the transfer of any prior land ownership rights by members, because members did not possess any ownership rights in society’s land.


 There are different means of describing scale of livestock enterprise viz. depending on how much of the commodity is produced and marketed by the unit within a time period, number of animals / birds maintained or area of holding over which the livestock enterprise is based. The advantages of large-scale production over small-scale production are called the economies of scale. 

 Economies of scale have been classified by Marshall into 

  • Internal economies and 
  • External economies. 
 Internal economies are those advantages of production, which occur as a result of decrease in cost of production as the result of expansion of output. These economies are available to individual firms independent of other firms. Internal economies are caused by two factors viz., 

  • Indivisibilities and 
  • Specialization. 

 Some of the possible external economies are 

  • Economies of concentration 
  • Economies of information 
  • Economies of specialisation or disintegration

Comparison Between Small and Large Scale Farming 

Livestock Based Livelihood and Their Evolution.


  • In this farming an agreement is made between the farmer and the agency for the farming starting from production to marketing. Responsibilities are distributed among both the party in relation to each and every requirement and function of farming in question. Generally the agency provides the input support and arranges marketing of the produce whereas the farmer arranges the land, shelter and labour. 
  • Poultry production with layers and broilers has extended into contract farming wherein the poultry farmers agree to provide eggs or chicken of certain quality and adhere to the management practices indicated by an agency in return for an assured market. 
  • The agency is responsible for supply of chicks, vaccinations, and health care, poultry feed and purchasing the output, chicken or eggs. The farmers’ responsibility is to provide land, sheds and labour for maintenance. 
  • Consequently, the small-scale broiler and layer farms could not withstand the competition from the large commercial farmers and vanished from the scene. As a result poultry production is highly commercialized and the role of public extension has become limited in this setup.

Peasant farming

 It refers to a type of small scale agriculture. Peasant farmers grow crops and often rear some livestock on a small scale. Some of the produce is used to feed the family and the surplus is sold. 

The farmer and family members provide most of the labour. Most of the land is used for growing crops. Crop rotation is usually practiced. Peasant farmers often rear some livestock including chickens, ducks and other small animals. 

Farming is done using mostly labour intensive methods and traditional hand tools. Several irrigation channels or canals are used to supply crops with water. Manure and compost are used as fertilizers.

Estate Farming

 Farming on a large area of land that is owned by a family or an organization and is often used for growing crops or raising animals. 

This extensive commercial system is characterized by the cultivation of a single cash crop in plantations of estates on a large scale. Because it is a capital centered system, it is important to be technically advanced and have efficient methods of cultivation and tools including fertilizers and irrigation and transport facilities. Examples of this type of farming are the tea plantations in Assam and West Bengal, the coffee plantations in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, and the rubber plantations in Kerala and Maharashtra.

Organic Farming 

Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones. 

Organic production is a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. The principal goal of organic production is to develop enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.

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Livestock Based Livelihood and Their Evolution.