livestock in pasture

Types of Livestock Farming

There are several ways you can classify livestock farming. Regardless, it is important to know all the various types of livestock farming commonly practiced today.

Types of livestock farming can be broken down into intensive vs. extensive farming, the type of animal being farmed, livestock feeding methods, and more.

In this article, we’ll explain the various types of livestock farming so you can be informed about different ways that livestock farming can be classified.

Intensive vs. Extensive Livestock Farming

One of the most important distinction between types of livestock farming is intensive and extensive livestock farming.

These are two different approaches to livestock farming (and other types of farming) which both have advantages and disadvantages.

Read the sections below to learn about how each type of livestock farming works.

Intensive Livestock Farming

cows in factory farm

This type of livestock farming is a modern approach which has developed largely from improvements in technology.

Intensive livestock farming, also known as factory farming, is a type of livestock farming that focuses on maximizing output per acre and minimizing cost.

Intensive livestock farming also requires a large upfront investment because of the technology and resources used, which results in higher productivity and ultimately a lower cost per unit. Intensive farming operations typically have a large labor force, lots of machinery, and operate in a limited space.

There are many criticisms against intensive livestock farming, such as poor treatment of animals and negative environmental impacts.

Extensive Livestock Farming

sheep in pasture

This type of livestock farming is the opposite of intensive farming.

Extensive livestock farming is a type of livestock farming that involves large pastures and low investment, which results in low output per acre.

A great example of extensive livestock farming is the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania.

The Maasia herd their cattle to new areas every season to take advantage of naturally occuring grasslands and other resources. They allow pastures to replenish naturally before using them again. This requires very little investment since no re-planting takes place, but they operate across large masses of land and the output per acre is very low.

3 Most Popular Types of Livestock Farming by Animal Type

Everyone knows that there are different types of animals that are used in farming.

Since there are so many different types of farm animals, we’re just going to cover the 3 most common types of livestock used for farming: cattle, pigs, and chickens.

Each section will provide a brief explanation about why these animals are so popular to farm.

Cattle Farming

There are nearly 1 million cattle farms in the United States alone! This makes cattle farming the most popular type of livestock farming in the U.S. (Source)

Most people are familiar with the main products that cattle are farmed for: meat and dairy. Cattle are also farmed for leather and beauty products (keratin from the hair, horns, and hooves).

Chicken Farming

Chicken farming is another popular type of livestock farming, with 233,770 chicken farms in the United States (Source).

There are two major products that chickens are farmed for: chicken meat and eggs.

Chicken meat is one of the most common proteins to use in a food dish, so it makes sense that chickens are such a popular type of livestock farming. Additionally, eggs are another very common food item enjoyed by most households in the U.S. and around the world.

Pig Farming

There are more than 60,000 pig farms in the United States (Source). This brings pig farming as the third most popular type of livestock farming.

There are many popular food products that come from a pig, such as bacon, sausage, and ham. Other products that come from pigs include gelatin, antifreeze, and violin strings! (Source)

Types of Livestock Feeding Methods

There are 3 main types of livestock feeding methods that we’ll be touching on with this article: grazing, confined, and semi-confined livestock feeding.

These could also be considered a type of livestock farming, since they are various methods of raising livestock. They are connected with intensive and extensive types of livestock farming.

Grazing Livestock Feeding

grazing cattle

The grazing method of feeding livestock is pretty straightforward.

Grazing allows the animals to roam free and eat the grass supplied by the pasture.

Grazing is used by extensive livestock farming operations since the cattle have access to large pastures. This also helps reduce the investment cost of raising livestock since the farmer does not need to purchase feed.

There are many different methods of grazing that can be used, which you can read about here.

Confined Livestock Feeding

confined cattle feeding

Confined livestock feeding is a method of feeding livestock in which the animals are confined into a particular spot for at least 45 days out of the year or within an area less than 50 percent vegetation or ground cover (Source).

This livestock feeding method is used in intensive farming operations, since the operation focuses on maximizing the output per acre.

Feeding livestock using this method is usually quick and easy. It is typical to use a large feeding trough that runs the entire length of the confined spaces, allowing for access to food and water for each animal. This long trough is often easily replenished by machine.

Semi-Confined Livestock Feeding

Semi-confined livestock feeding is when both grazing and confined methods are used to raise livestock.

For example, a semi-confined livestock feeding operation may use grazing to feed their livestock in the summer, then move the livestock indoors for confined feeding in the winter when grass is unavailable.

Livestock Mobility

moving sheep across road

Livestock mobility is another way to classify types of livestock farming.

Livestock mobility is the method in which the livestock are moved and managed. These types of livestock farming vary a lot by country. For example, nomadic herding is popular in Africa and sedentary livestock farming is common in the United States.

Nomadic Herding

Nomadic herding is the practice of moving the livestock to new areas in search of fresh pasture.

This is not simple pasture rotation! Nomadic herders travel will occasionally travel upwards of 100 miles to find new pastures. They typically follow irregular patterns, rather than returning to the same pastures in rotation over time.


Transhumance is a way of moving livestock in which livestock are moved to different locations depending on the season. This allows the livestock to have access to lush pastures for grazing.

Transhumance is similar to nomadic herding, however this method of moving livestock follows a specific rotation instead of irregular patterns. Nomadic herders will often settle into transhumance over time as they learn the best spots to raise their livestock.

Transhumance usually follows the seasons, so the livestock are transported to more appropriate locations depending on the current season.

Sedentary Livestock Farming

Sedentary livestock farming is when livestock stay in the same area. This method has becoming more popular due to factory farming, strict geographical borders, and the use of dedicated buildings for livestock.

Depending on the type of livestock farming operation, the livestock may still have access to pasture for grazing, but the farmer has the ability to supplement their diet if good pasture becomes unavailable.

Leave a Reply