Animal Breeding Livestock

Animal Breeding Livestock

Animal Breeding LivestockThe term livestock is used to denote living animals such as are kept on the farm. It is more commonly applied to cattle, sheep, and swine, but is also used in a sense so wide as to include all domesticated animals reared on the farm.

It has probably been coined as an easy means of reference to the living animal as distinguished from the same in the dead meat or dressed form.

Definition of Animal Breeding. —Animal breeding is that science which treats the reproduction and improvement of domestic animals. Some knowledge of the principles which govern successful breeding has been possessed from a very early period, but just how early can never be certainly known.

Both ancient and modern writers are almost entirely silent on the subject until within the last two or three centuries. Almost the only reference to the subject, as such, during the first four thousand years of the world’s history, is that incidentally narrated in the book of Genesis when speaking of the arts practiced by Jacob to increase his flocks and herds.

But, within the past two or three centuries, great advances have been made in this science. The principles which govern it have not only come to be better understood, but the knowledge of these is being diffused as never before.

Foremost among the agencies in disseminating such knowledge have been the agricultural press and the agricultural college.

Breeding a Science and an Art.—Animal breeding is at once a science and an art. It is a science in so far as it discovers and systematically arranges the truths and principles which relate to the improvement of livestock. The value of in-and-in breeding, for instance, as a quick means of improvement illustrates such a discovery. (See Chapter X.)

It does not appear to have been known to the ancients. If it were thus known the knowledge was subsequently lost. The systematic arrangement of the truths and principles which relate to science is yet far from complete, and it may be added that many of these truths and principles are not yet understood.

It is an art in so far as it successfully uses those principles in effecting improvement. The importance, therefore, of understanding the principles which make improvement possible will be at once apparent, since, until so understood, they cannot be turned into profitable accounts.

Source of the Rules which Govern Breeding

The rules which govern breeding are entirely empirical in their origin since they have been exclusively derived from the practice of the most successful breeders. These rules, as far as known, would seem to have been preserved only in a traditional way within the last two hundred years. This would militate against the diffusion of such knowledge, and it is partly responsible for the little progress made in the science of breeding until recent centuries.

Robert Bakewell, of Dishley Hall, Leicestershire, England, is usually regarded as the originator of improved breeding as now practiced. The value of selection was no doubt understood previously. The renovating influence from judicious out-crossing was also well known, and the knowledge had been turned to good account. (See p. 129.)

Notwithstanding, it remained for Robert Bakewell to make known to the world the short cut to improvement and fixity in type, through in-and-in breeding accompanied by the most rigorous selection. Previously, improvement had been sought chiefly through crossing, hence the way of improvement was tedious and uncertain.

All the modern breeds possessed of value have evolved, or at least improved, on the principles which Bakewell thus introduced and practiced. In this fact the explanation is furnished of the comparatively recent origin of many of the improved breeds that now stand high in the popular estimate.

The statement would not be extravagant, it is thought, which would claim that Bakewell’s discovery more than anything else is responsible for the rapid advances that have been made in breeding domestic animals since his time.

Livestock Improvement Neglected. —

The improvement of livestock upon the average American farm has not received that attention which its importance demands. This is but another way of saying that animal breeding has not been given the attention that should have been accorded to it. Several reasons may be given by way of explanation.

First, the opinion has extensively prevailed among farmers that the growing of livestock is not so remunerative as the growing of grain or other products of the soil, such .as are sold directly from the land. This opinion has arisen, first, from an incorrect basis for computing profits. The advocates of growing crops for direct sale usually overlook the value of livestock in preserving fertility.

But, the greater prosperity of individuals and communities who give much attention to the production of livestock and livestock products, as milk, butter, cheese, and wool, is more arresting attention and paving the way for the more rapid extension of the livestock industry.

Second, the present necessities of farmers have retarded investments in livestock and have thus delayed their more rapid introduction to farms. This accounts, in part at least, for the little attention given to livestock production in more newly settled areas.

But third, the shortsighted and incorrect views of farmers too commonly held regarding the value of livestock improvement, more than anything else, has hindered such improvement. This, more than anything else, also accounts for the comparatively unimproved condition of the flocks and herds kept on so many of the farms of the United States and Canada.

Many cling to the idea that improvement is to be brought about chiefly through feeding. Because of the prevalence of this view very many of the growers of livestock do the work in an aimless way; grade sires are used indiscriminately; in-breeding is unconsciously practiced through the continued choice of sires from within the herd or flock; selection is based on false premises, and other injudicious practices, far too numerous to mention here, are followed.

As a result, the scrub is still in evidence on too many farms. (See p. 271.) In view of these facts, the importance of quickly diffusing light on this question becomes significant, and more especially when it is remembered that in the keeping of livestock correct practice and generous profits go hand in hand.

Livestock, Machines for Manufacturing Food. —

Livestock upon the farm should be regarded as machines for manufacturing agricultural products into forms more concentrated and possessed of a higher value. These products can then be shipped to better advantage than the materials could be from which they are made, since ordinarily the cost of shipping decreases with the increase in the concentration of the product shipped.

The concentration thus secured is usually very marked, as, for instance when bulky foods are turned into milk and flesh. In addition. to the freight thus saved, much coarse and bulk}- food grown upon the farm, which would otherwise be wasted, is given money.

The straw of what is termed the small grains, and corn stover, that is corn stalks without the corn, would be turned into money. While the animals are thus employed in manufacturing food into more concentrated products, they give back to the farms the greater part of the fertility contained in the food, where the management is correct.

Whenever, therefore, the living animal is used as a machine, it is important that this living machine does its work to the best advantage. If animals of a certain type will make more and better beef than those of another type, those of the first type should be given the preference by the grower of meat, and if cows of a certain type in the dairy will give a better return in dairy products for the food consumed than cows of an- other type, those of the first should, of course, be chosen by the dairyman.

Animal Breeding Comprehensive.— The breeding of livestock is a question at once comprehensive and many-sided. ^Notwithstanding that much has been gleaned in regard to the subject, it is likewise true that many of the influences which affect breeding’ are yet obscure or imperfectly understood.

Some of those principles are constant in their action as the law that like produces like, discussed in Chapter III., and some are variable and uncertain as the law of variation discussed in Chapter IV. Again, some of the influences that govern transmission act together and in conjunction, while others are antagonistic. It is impossible, therefore, at present to state in regular and orderly sequence all the divergent phases of animal breeding and the influences which affect it.

Indeed, it is highly probable that some of these have not been discovered, and it is quite certain that the degree of influence which each will exert is not known. Yet it will be correct to say, first, that it considers the principles that govern heredity as far as these have been determined.

Heredity is the transmission to the offspring of peculiarities possessed by the parents. These peculiarities may relate to form, function, qualities both mental and physical and to habit. The law that like produces like furnishes an illustration of these principles, as does also the law or principle of correlation discussed in Chapter VIII.

Second, it considers certain features of transmission not well understood, such as, for instance, atavism or reversion discussed in Chapter V. Third, it includes the effect of external influences on transmission and development as contrasted with those which may be termed internal and inherent. Of these very numerous classes are the influences of environment and food.

And fourth, it includes the application of every known principle of breeding and every feature of correct practice, to the improvement of animals in form and in all useful qualities.

It would be necessary, therefore, for the breeder who aims at the highest success in his work to have a wide grasp of the subject. He should be familiar with all the principles that govern breeding as far as known.

He should understand what is implied in a standard of excellence and should be able to sit in judgment on the value of pedigree. He should be versed in the effects of the environment on development. He ought to be familiar with recorded results in the making of breeds, in crossbreeding, and in improvement through up-grading, and he ought to know the feeding value of the foods available and the ends for which they are adapted, and also the methods of feeding and blending them so as to produce a given result.

The last item is a large factor, since it virtually covers the whole ground of feeding domestic animals.

A Problem Advanced and Difficult From what has just been stated it will be apparent, that the successful breeding of livestock furnishes one of the most advanced and difficult problems relating to practical agriculture. This arises not alone from the comprehensive character of the subject as outlined above, but also from irregularities in transmission, the causes of which are not well understood.

These crop up so unexpectedly and so frequently as to perplex the breeder betimes, and to make improvement less rapid than it would otherwise be. It is not surprising, therefore, that the number of those who have distinguished themselves in breeding is not numerous, not so numerous as that of states- men, who, by their successes, have graven their names on the records of imperishable history.

But the number will increase with the increased attention that has been given to the subject during recent years. Happily, however, the fundamental principles of the science of breeding which are essential to a fair measure of success are not numerous nor are they complex.

Fundamental Principles. — These include:

1. Breeding to a standard of excellence, ideal or real.

2. Breeding only from parents who conform to this standard to a marked degree.

3. Breeding from parents, more especially males, which have long been bred without intermixture of alien blood.

4. Mating animals so as to correct the defects of the parent in the offspring.

5. Practicing a selection at once rigorous and persistent.

And 6. Giving due attention to environment, sanitary conditions, and feeding. Breeding to a standard of excellence is considered in Chapter II.

The great necessity for breeding only from animals which conform to this standard is based on the first ana greatest law of heredity, viz. : that like produces like.

The necessity for breeding from parents purely bred is based on the increased certainty in transmission secured from such breeding. It has been noticed that when alien blood of one or more breeds is present to a marked degree, the tendencies to variation in transmission are also marked. This arises from the absence of what may be termed dominant or controlling blood elements. The physiological units of transmission, so to speak, that are similar, are not present in a sufficient number to form a preponderating, controlling factor in transmission.

With the elimination of alien blood there is an increase in dominant or governing properties in the direction desired, according to the end sought. By the time that alien blood is eliminated to be an inappreciable factor in ordinary transmission, the animals may be considered pure. But the dominance of the blood elements is further strengthened by carrying on the breeding in the same line. Theoretically, the increase in the dominance of properties would go on if the same line of breeding was continued, but it would cease after many years of such breeding. It is only theoretically true that the oldest breed is absolutely the most prepotent. The mating of animals is discussed in Chapter XXX., and selection is discussed in Chapter XXIV.

The influences of the environment are discussed in Chapter XXVIII., and less directly in some other chapters. Sanitary conditions are only incidentally discussed in the book, and the same is true of feeding, since the discussion of these more properly belongs to a work or works on the management and feeding of livestock.

Obscure Features of Breeding. —The features of breeding which are yet obscure and but imperfectly understood are such as relate to variations in transmission. They include the laws of variation and atavism. The existence of these laws has been deduced from the results which they have produced without being able to ascertain all the in- fluences that have led to the results. But since they are understood in part, their action can also be controlled in part.

For instance, it has been noticed that the tendency to variation decreases, as previously stated, with increased intensity in the purity of the breeding, and that the tendency to atavism transmission increases with increase in the admixture of alien blood. Such knowledge can, therefore, be turned into an excellent account in decreasing the tendency to variation in transmission and to atavism. They also include certain influences associated with conception, as the influence of a previous impregnation, intra-uterine in- fluences, and influences that determine the sex, dis- cussed in Chapters XIV., XV., and XVI., respectively.

These features of breeding are even less understood than those that relate to variations in trans- mission, hence they are even less under the control of the breeder. But experience has shown that something may be done to modify the results emanating from these influences. While, therefore, the obscured rites which becloud some of the features of breeding tend to hamper the breeder in his work, the influences that tend to produce uniformity in results are so many and so strong as to furnish a guaranty of at least measurable uniformity in results and in the direction sought.

The Chief Aim in Breeding. —The chief aim in breeding should be the improvement of animals in those qualities which have a definite value as meat, milk, wool, speed, and labor. These qualities are usually associated with more or less beauty and symmetry of form. It would be correct to say that the strengthening of these is in no way antagonistic to beauty and symmetry since they are never more markedly present than when they may be said to be the outcome of fitness for the desired end.

To illustrate: the draft horse perfectly equipped for his work, is quite as beautiful and symmetrical as the carriage horse perfectly equipped for his, but it is beauty and symmetry of a distinctive character. Useful qualities should never be sacrificed for what may be termed fancy points. For the definition of fancy points see page 21.

Concentration in the Search for Improvement. — The highest success has been achieved when the breeder has sought improvement in but one essential quality. In other words, the breeder whose chief aim is to effect improvement in meat production will succeed better if content Avith a moderate amount of milk production and vice versa.

The breeder of the draft horse cannot at the same time secure speed in a marked degree, nor can the breeder of the standard bred horse secure strength as in the draft horse. When high development is sought in but one direction the energies of the system may be made to act, as it were, in that one direction. They may be focused on the production of one end. But such concentration should never be carried as far as to react injuriously upon the system.

This result will certainly follow when what may be termed extremist development in one direction is sought, the breeders of the Saxony Merino sheep obtained a finer staple in the wool than the breeders of other types of the Merino, but they did so at the sacrifice of vigor. And those who have secured what may be termed phenomenal yields in milk production have done so in many instances at the sacrifice of the future usefulness of the cow. They drove the animal machine, as it were, at too high a pressure.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that high attainment in one di- rection is not necessarily antagonistic to the maintenance of a high degree of vigor. While it is true that the highest attainment in production is reached when the energies of the system act in one direction, it is also true that there is no inherent antagonism in the action of the same up to a certain limit in more than one direction. Up to that limit, therefore, it follows, that production may be attained in more than one line. Experience has taught that liberal production may be reached in two lines and even in more than two lines in the same animal.

For instance, liberal meat and milk production is frequently found in the same breed. “Up to a certain limit development in more than one direction is found mutually helpful. It is when development in one direction becomes very marked that it becomes detrimental to development in the other direction. It is quite possible, therefore, to secure even a high measure of development in more than one line of production for the same animal.

Whether marked development should be sought in one direction, or medium development in more than one, will depend upon conditions such as relate to soil, location, food production, markets, and the tastes of the individual. Experience has demonstrated that there is a place, and one of great importance, for the cow that ranks well in meat and milk production, for the horse that can plow in the field and carry loads to the market, for the sheep well up in the production of meat and wool, and for the fowl that lays eggs abundantly when alive and serves well for the table when dead. Such production is frequently spoken of as being dual in character, hence the term dual purpose cow.

The large place for the special or one purpose animal, no reasonable person will deny.

The Basis of Value in Animals. —The relative value of animals depends upon their adaptation to one or more uses and the returns they make for the food consumed. The best animals are those which convert the largest amount of food into animal products of the best quality and with the least possible waste in the materials fed. But a large consumption of food is not in itself a guaranty of profitable production.

The scrub steer is usually a large consumer of food, but in the assimilation of the food he is often faulty, hence, the increase in weight from calfhood to maturity is not what it would be from a pure-bred steer of one of the beef breeds, the consumption of food in both instances being the same. Or would the meat made by the first be as valuable as the meat made by the second. The only profit obtained from the food fed to the animal is from that assimilated beyond what is required for sustenance. Take, for instance, a dairy cow of correct form and with good assimilative powers in digestion.

A certain amount of food is required to keep running the machinery of her being. Xo return is obtained from this. The return comes from the food she consumes more than the food of maintenance. It is evident, therefore, that the profit from the cow will increase with the increase in her consumption of food over the food of maintenance. Other things being equal, then, the best returns will be obtained from animals that consume the most food in proportion to their life weight.

Regards, Coyalita

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