Animal husbandry is the science of looking after and breeding animals — specifically those that are used in agriculture, to provide products for research purposes or as domestic pets.
Agriculture has been practised for thousands of years, and involved, at an early stage, the keeping of animals for meat, milk and clothing. Humans learned which animal species could be domesticated for maximum productivity. They studied their habits, protected them from predators, assisted with births, and learned how to treat or prevent many ailments.
In South Africa, until the end of the 19th century, cattle were kept mainly for draft purposes and bred for strength and endurance; meat and fat needs were provided by sheep. The cattle gave little milk and yielded poor-quality meat, while the sheep gave only fat mutton and no wool. The introduction of foreign breeds and crossbreeding gradually improved the stock, eventually providing excellent meat, wool of fairly good quality and good milk yields.
Animal breeding is a specialisation in animal science, dealing with the breeding of livestock and other species, with the aim of genetically improving and/or conserving a population (e.g. a breed or herd) of animals. This is done through the selection and mating of those animals that have the desired traits, according to the breeding objectives decided upon for that population.
The animal breeder plays the role of a “genetic engineer” in the development of future generations.
Unfortunately, the results of an animal breeding programme can usually only be seen after some years, because the generation interval of most livestock species is long - for cattle it is about five years.
Animal husbandry covers a wide range of activities, including care and grooming, livestock farming, accommodation and hygiene. The field also overlaps with many other disciplines, such as agriculture, veterinary science and genetics. Not all people involved in husbandry will necessarily take part in all these activities or require knowledge of other disciplines. In many parts of the world, people are essentially practising animal husbandry through being farmers, ranchers, sheepherders, or simply through taking care of large groups of livestock.
Level of Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting the requirements for a degree course, where appropriate.
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Life Sciences.
Recommended Subjects: Physical Sciences.
Degree: Animal husbandry specialists or animal scientists are trained in many South African universities, where a four-year BSc.degree in animal science is offered. Animal anatomy and physiology, monogastric (pigs, poultry, dogs and cats) and ruminant (cattle, sheep and wildlife) nutrition, breeding and management are studied at graduate level.
Specialisation in a specific discipline is often required to ensure employment opportunities as an animal husbandry specialist, especially for senior positions in research and education.
Postgraduate: A MSc and/or PhD degree requires an in-depth study of a specific subject in one of the disciplines (e.g. nutrition, breeding or physiology) of animal science. Training in business management will always be an asset when applying for a management position.
- Agricultural Research Council
- Department of Agriculture
- breeding organisations
- companies involved in farming
- agricultural colleges and universities
South African Society for Animal Science
P O Box 13884
Tel: (012) 420-6017 / 084 404 4725
Fax: (012) 420-3290
SA Association for Professional Animal Scientists
P O Box 13884
Tel: (012) 420-3268 Fax: (012) 420-3290