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Different animal farming models

We often hear about different types of livestock farming, for example "intensive" or "industrial" livestock farming VS "traditional" livestock farming. These terms should be used with care, as we often do not all have the same definition for these adjectives. 


Credits : G.Brunschwig Indoor-outdoor chicken farm

Ferme laitière

An intensive livestock farm is one where the animal population and/or the production in relation to the surface area is important

To achieve a high production per unit area, the possible solutions are :

  • to use inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) or concentrated feed (pellets),

  • to increase the amount of work done,

  • to try to maximize production by substituting part of the synthetic inputs with the services provided naturally by ecosystem functions. For example, by integrating leguminous plants into the rotation to enrich the soil with nitrogen, by using insects and animals as crop auxiliaries to control pests, etc. This is called ecologically intensive agriculture.


By definition, intensive farming is not necessarily farming where animals are kept in confinement and where a lot of phytosanitary products are used.

Fresh Eggs
Flowers picking girl
Les bovins dans les pâturages

An extensive farm is a farm where the animal population and/or the production in relation to the surface is low.

To estimate the intensivity of a farm, regardless of the animal bred, farmers use the Livestock unit, also called LSU. It represents the grazing equivalent of approx. 1 adult cows, 3 heifers or 6.5 ewes). In general, the figure of 2 LSU  is used as a reference to define an intensive farm. However, it should be kept in mind that there are not intensive farms on one side and extensive farms on the other, but rather a diversity of situations.


E.g.: American-style feedslots are an example of intensive breeding (see resources below), and North American ranchers tend to practice extensive breeding.

An off-farm operation is one that buys a large portion of its feed from off-farm sources (i.e. does not produce the feed for its animals).


For example, the FAO used as a criterion in its 1996 typology that less than 10% of animal feed is produced on the farm. Off-farm does not mean that the animals are not raised on the ground, or that they are raised in buildings, although this may be the case.

Botte de foin
grassland and sheeps
Viande et produits laitiers

How are Animal products made ?

Animal in farms produce lots of ressources, like milk, meat or eggs. This is how they are farmed. 

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