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What it's like to be a livestock farmer ?

A breeder manages his herd and produces their food. He is a businessman and a multi-tasker.

Interested ? You can become one too with a few years of training. 

Fermier avec vache

He manages his herd with technique

Placing the animals in appropriate conditions
The breeder ensures on a daily basis that the animals live in good conditions because being a breeder means being responsible for the well-being of the animals. It is therefore necessary to place the animals in a space of sufficient size (in a building or outside in a park or meadow...), healthy (shelter, ventilation...), allowing the animals to express their natural behavior (movement, rest...) and adapted to their restraint and protection (fences...).

 
Feeding the animals
Ensuring that animals are well fed means having access to a clean water supply, a sufficient quantity and quality of feed, whether outside (in the meadow) or in the building, and more generally, a balanced feed ration in line with their needs. (see Chapter 3)


 

Taking care of them
The farmer monitors the health of the animals on a daily basis, and knows how to recognize the first symptoms of a disease, provide basic care and use the services of a veterinarian if necessary. The breeder performs interventions related to the prevention and maintenance of the health and well-being of the animals. 
Monitor reproduction
In the breeding profession, it is necessary to ensure the renewal of the herd, in order to maintain production. The breeder therefore knows how to carry out all the tasks from spotting heat (ovulation period) to caring for the newborns.
He knows the qualities and the defects of each of his females, and will choose a male allowing to have a new generation the best possible (production, health, character, morphology...): it is the selection work.

mouton

He grows and produces his animal's food

Depending on the type of production, many farmers are also feed producers.

Growing a variety of crops

The most common crops grown on a ruminant farm are grass, corn and alfalfa for forage. The farmer can also produce cereals (such as wheat, barley, oats, etc.) and protein crops (peas, beans), either for animal feed or directly for sale. When harvesting cereals, the farmer recovers the grains, but also the straw, which can be used as bedding or fodder for his animals!
 

Rations designed to cover all the animal's needs: example of ruminants

The feed ration for ruminants is essentially made up of fodder. There are several types of fodder, which are distinguished by their conservation method:
  • green fodder directly grazed by the animals during the summer season: grass, alfalfa, rapeseed...
  • fodder harvested and preserved for consumption during the winter, among which :
    • dry fodder such as hay (grass mowed and then dried on the meadow before harvesting), or straw;
    • wet fodder, stored after grinding in a silo and preserved by fermentation in the absence of oxygen: corn silage, grass silage, or occasionally sorghum or beet pulp;
    • more or less dried fodder, preserved in a plastic film in the absence of air, which breeders call grass or legume wrapping. It is an intermediate product between hay and silage.
Grass has a predominant place in the cattle's diet (60% on average for dairy and beef cattle, rising to 80% for beef cattle). This grass, grazed or harvested from the 10 million hectares of permanent grassland in France, plays a positive role in ecological regulation, landscape maintenance and biodiversity, risk prevention and land use planning, and carbon storage (see Chapter 3).
Farmers often use manure produced on the farm to fertilize the fields. This limits the use of chemical fertilizers and contributes to soil improvement.

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Montbéliardes cow and fresh grass . Crédit : Images de Lait.com // CNIEL

Des œufs

He is a business leader
 

He is a manager:

It is in the long term and on a daily basis that the business manager manages his business. Indeed, it is necessary to establish a strategy for his company, to reason his investments, to carry out the administrative tasks, to make accountancy, to know about taxation. Obviously, the farmer is generally supported by specialists (accountants, management centers, banks...)

He is in charge :

The farms are growing. More and more farms are managed by several partners and also have recourse to salaried labour: this requires knowing how to organize between partners and how to manage personnel.

He is attentive to market trends:

The breeder must be attentive to the markets, follow the prices of the products and seize the opportunities for the purchase of raw materials and the sale of his products.
This requires keeping informed, including of world news.

He is the guarantor of product quality and traceability:

The breeding is also integrated in a sector which is rigorously supervised to guarantee the quality of the products, and the respect of the various standards.
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Intensive or extensive farming ? 

Modern farms are not very differents from farms of the past, only the techniques and the tools have changed. 

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