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What Is Animal Husbandry?

Animal husbandry is the science behind the breeding and care of cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and other farm animals. Find out more about animal husbandry degrees and careers here.

Animal Husbandry Definition

Those wondering 'what is animal husbandry?' should know that animal husbandry is used as an agricultural term to describe how farm animals are bred and cared for, typically by farmers. The science of animal husbandry is usually grouped within the broader term of animal science. Animal husbandry can be thought of as the more hands--on duties and responsibilities concerning farm animals. It may apply to animals like cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, and more.

Animal Husbandry Degree

Although there may be some postsecondary courses available specifically in animal husbandry, the United States typically groups the subject within an animal science degree program. Animal science degree programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels. Some of these programs, typically at the master's level, may be available in online formats.

At the bachelor's level, some degree programs may allow students to further specialize within the field of animal science and focus on areas like production, livestock merchandising, or ranch operations, which may include more animal husbandry-related topics. In a bachelor's degree program in animal science with a focus on production, students may take courses in topics like:

  • Ranch management
  • Reproduction
  • Animal nutrition
  • Animal breeding
  • Feeds

Other beneficial courses for those pursuing an animal husbandry-related career may include topics in other fields, and some of those options might be available online. For example, those wishing to run their own farm or animal breeding program for profit may benefit from free online business administration courses that teach basic business concepts. Another helpful option may be online courses in genetics that can help get at the science behind breeding animals to be healthy and productive.

Animal Husbandry Careers

Most animal husbandry careers are within the field of agriculture and require people to work closely with livestock and other animals commonly found on a farm as they care for and breed these animals. Explore a few of these careers more in depth below.

Agricultural Workers

An agricultural worker is a broad term that includes both animal breeders and farm and ranch animal farmworkers. Animal breeders utilize genetics to cross animals that will likely produce the best product or carry a desirable trait. Farm and ranch animal farmworkers generally help care for (this includes feeding, medicating, and herding) a wide range of farm animals that are typically raised to produce a product.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that animal breeders made a median annual salary of $37,060 and farmworkers (for farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals) made a median salary of $26,560 in 2018. The projected job growth for animal breeders was 3% from 2018 to 2028 while the outlook for animal farmworkers was -3% (a decline) over the same time period.

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers are responsible for overseeing the operations of an agricultural establishment. These managers may help develop a plan for raising livestock based on disease, market conditions, and other factors. They may also be responsible for buying animal-related supplies, like feed, and/or selling livestock and their products.

The BLS reported an annual median salary of $67,950 for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers in 2018. The BLS also reported a job outlook of -1%, which means little or no change from 2018 to 2028.

Animal Scientists

Animal scientists study farm animals and may help develop new techniques in animal husbandry based on their research. These scientists may study topics like reproduction, genetics, nutrition, animal disease and more to figure out ways to increase the growth and production of animals. They may also explore ways to reduce disease and death rates and help farmers learn about the most effective animal care methods.

As of 2018, the BLS reported that animal scientists made a median annual salary of $58,380. The job outlook for these scientists was 7% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.