Overview of the Poultry & Livestock Industries

Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

Raising animals can be both enjoyable and profitable. In this lesson we will learn about the land, labor and management, capital, and feed of the poultry and livestock industries.

Agriculture Industries

As a child many of us fell in love with animals. Maybe you were interested in jungle cats, or perhaps it was farm animals. For some kids, the love of animals turns into a career and a livelihood. There are many branches within the agriculture industry, but the focus of this lesson will be on the poultry and livestock industry. Come along as we learn what it takes to turn a love of farm animals into a job that is both rewarding and profitable.


Obviously, you can't have livestock or chickens without having somewhere for them to live. A few animals often fall under the umbrella term, livestock. Livestock are those animals that are considered an asset and are considered profitable. Typically we think of cows, hogs, sheep, and even sometimes horses. For all species you need quite a bit of land for them to be happy and healthy.

For instances, a cow who has a calf needs 1.5 to 2 acres of pasture in order to find enough food to eat. Sheep on the other hand need around 1 acre for about six sheep. While hogs do not typically graze in a pasture, they too still require some land. This is because they need shelter, and adequate room to move around and be comfortable. Some large hog facilities have multiple lots, which are their pens, and they are spread out among a few acres or even more depending on the size.

Chickens are smaller and eat less than other livestock, and so don't need so much land. Six chickens can comfortably live in a pen that is 90 square feet. While they do not need a lot of land, some farmers with smaller flocks give their chickens more land and allow them to free range, which means to wander around their property looking for bugs and anything else they find tasty.

There are large commercial chicken facilities that use much more land, not because the chickens have more room to live, but because the buildings they are housed in are large and, like hog facilities, can be spread out over several acres.


Raising livestock requires hard work. It can be very labor intensive to feed, doctor, help with births, and perform basic maintenance. Sometimes the labor comprises of only members of the family, but corporate farms and operations require much more help. Some large facilities employ hundreds of individuals to help in feeding and property management.

Veterinarians will help keep the animals healthy and aid in the birth of baby animals if there are complications. And, large operations even employ nutritionists and other specialists to make sure their animals are getting the best feed and diet possible.

Typically the farmer who owns the operation manages it. But sometimes large corporate operations will hire a college graduate that has experience with management


So how much money does it take to raise livestock? Well, it varies from operation to operation. For example, purchasing cows is much pricier than chickens. If you are buying calves after they are weaned from their mother, you can expect a calf that weighs around 600 pounds. Now take that weight and multiply it by the current market price.

For example, if the current price is $200 per hundredweight you can expect to pay around $1200 per calf. Hogs and sheep also use weight and market prices, and chickens can range between $2-$5.

You will also need enough money to purchase barns, equipment, enough acres to hold all of your animals, and enough money to supply them with the feed they need. This could be anything from a bale of hay ($3-$5 per bale), corn (which also depends on the current market price), minerals, and any other bagged feedstuff that your animals need. As for land, it is usually priced per acre and varies greatly by state. Buildings also vary by state, but an adequate sized barn can cost in the tens of thousands.

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