TWC G6 Livestock Production

Let's turn back the time to see how livestock production began...


Domestication involves making wild animals useful and changing them into tamed animals. The tamed animal is habituated to live near people instead of wandering around and collecting food on their own. In addition, they provide food, labor, tools and clothing for humans.

What is a Domesticated Animal?

It is an animal selectively bred in captivity and thereby modified from its wild ancestors for use by humans who control the breeding and food supply for the animals.

Why did animal domestication and livestock production take place?

Before we can answer that question, we must dispel some misconceptions about the origins of animal domestication. What actually took place was neither a discovery of food production nor an invention as most people would believe. Instead, early food producers were not making a conscious decision to farm because they had never known about farming prior to their experimentation. Animal domestication occurred when humans started controlling the breeding and living conditions of the animals.

Animal domestication evolved as a by-product of decisions made without awareness of their consequences. The underlying reason for animal domestication was because foraging humans in the past had only limited amount of energy and time every day. Hence, humans were constantly prioritizing and listing down the list of activities they had to complete in any given day. This includes having to rank food based on their yield payoff. Naturally, humans wanted to first concentrate on obtaining their favorite food before searching for other alternatives which were less preferred.

During the conscious or subconscious process of prioritizing food, humans foraged the land for nutritious food which tasted sweet and good. They were looking for food, which were high in protein, fat and salt. Thus, it was obvious that humans were seeking ways to maximize their return on calories, protein and other specific food categories by foraging in a way that yielded the maximum amount of returns with the greatest certainty, while requiring the least amount of time and effort. Very often, hunter-gatherers were dependent on their luck on the chase. By livestock production, they minimized their risk of starving and ensured that they had a fresh and regular supply of meat.

Animal domestication and livestock production greatly reduced their risk of starvation and many early human hunter-gatherers saw the potential in livestock production. This led to many early human hunter-gatherers adding livestock production alongside crop production and hunting gathering as an alternate strategy. Their strategy ensured that they had many possible avenues to obtain the food and calories they required.

One might wonder that if the early humans were enjoying great success in obtaining their food sources from hunting-gathering, crop production and animal domestication, why was there a need to shift solely towards crop and livestock production? There were a few reasons that caused the shift from hunting-gathering to livestock domestication and production.

Firstly, it was the decline in the availability of the wild food due to the disappearance of animal resources due to overhunting. For instance, the contributing factor to the rise of animal domestication in the Fertile Crescent was the major reduction in abundance of wild gazelles, which hunter-gatherers had relied on as a source of food previously.

Secondly, there was a 2 way link between the increase in human population density and the rise in livestock domestication and production. Many hunter-gatherers found out later that livestock production and animal domestication yielded more calories per acre than hunting-gathering and thus shifted time and effort to concentrate on livestock production, which thereby allowed early humans to rapidly increase their population. Besides providing food and clothing for the early humans, livestock were also valuable for their labor, dairy products, manure and as means for transportation.

The last reason was due to the advantages of livestock production and how it contributed to the rapid increase in population. The adoption of livestock production is a representation of an autocatalytic process which grows faster and faster in a positive feedback cycle. This led to Livestock producers being able to kill or displace other hunter-gatherers arising from different areas due to their sheer numbers and the other advantages linked to food production and particularly, livestock production (technology, germs and professional soldiers). In short, livestock producers out bred the hunter-gatherers.

Reasons as to why domestication & livestock production took place (Diagram)


Source :


Next Page: Where did Animal Domestication & Livestock Production first take place?