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Pastoral farming (also known in some regions as livestock farming or grazing) is farming aimed at producing livestock, rather than growing crops. Examples include dairy farming, raising beef cattle, and raising sheep for wool. In contrast, mixed farming is growing of both crops and livestock on the same farm. Pastoral farmers are also known as graziers and in some cases pastoralists. Some pastoral farmers grow crops purely as fodder for their livestock; some crop farmers grow fodder and sell it to pastoral farmers.
Pastoral farming is a non-nomadic form of pastoralism in which the livestock farmer has some form of ownership of the land used, giving the farmer more economic incentive to improve the land. Possible improvements include drainage (in wet regions), stock tanks (in dry regions), irrigation and sowing clover.
Pastoral farming is common in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and the Western United States,and Canada, among other places. In New Zealand in the 1920s, through meat, butter, cheese and wool, it accounted for over 90% of that country's exports.
There are two main types of pastoral farming: intensive pastoral farming and extensive pastoral farming.
Intensive farms generally take up a fairly small area of land, but aim to have a very high output, through massive inputs of capital and labour. These farms use machines and new technologies to become as efficient and cost-effective as possible, an example being the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.
Intensive agriculture can be seen in many places around the world, such as the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand, pig farming in Denmark and rice cultivation in the countries of South East Asia. All use technology appropriate to their country to enable them to get the highest yields from their land.
Extensive farming is the direct opposite of intensive farming. The farms are large in comparison to the money injected into them or the labour used. The cattle ranches of central Australia are a good example of extensive agriculture, where often only a few farm workers are responsible for thousands of acres of farmland.
Another example of extensive farming can be seen in the massive cattle ranches of Brazil. These involve clearing vast areas of rainforest (the trees are often burnt rather than chopped down and sold) to make way for the cattle ranch. The cattle quickly eat the remaining vegetation and begin to cause massive problems of soil erosion.
- Ross Galbreath (1998). DSIR: Making Science Work for New Zealand : Themes from the History of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1926-1992. Victoria University Press. p. 58.
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