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Modern Livestock Facilities

When people think of a pig farm or a dairy, they often think of a pig wallowing in mud or a black and white cow out on a green pasture.  But the fact of the matter is that most of the pigs, chickens and cattle raised in the United States are raised indoors or in penned lots for at least part of their lives.  There are many benefits to raising animals indoors (as there are with raising animals outdoors).  Here we will try and explain some of the reasoning behind moving animals indoors.

When did we start raising livestock indoors? 

The switch to raising livestock indoors started in earnest in the 1950s and 1960s.  The systems that we currently use for chickens and pigs, where the animals spend their entire lives indoors, have been prevalent since the 1980s. 

Why are food animals raised indoors?

There are many benefits to raising animals indoors.  Foremost is the fact that animals raised indoors are much more protected from various diseases and predators. Producers can also more closely monitor the health of the animals as well as ensure their proper diet.  Well managed indoor facilities generally produce healthier, more efficient animals.

What are the cons?

Raising animals indoors does pose some challenges.  The producer must provide all the nutrition requirements as the animals can not make up for deficiencies by rooting or foraging.  Producers also have to closely monitor the health of the herd as some diseases can spread rapidly when animals are concentrated.  The manure generated makes a great fertilizer, but proper storage and handling is essential to minimizing any environmental impact. 

What do these facilities look like inside?

Indoor livestock facilities come in all shapes and sizes.  Broiler houses (chickens raised for meat) are usually very simple with the birds raised in large open rooms.  Layers are often raised in cages that are elevated off the ground.  Pork facilities can be much more complex as sows, piglets and large pigs have very different needs and are often housed in separate units.   Dairies are usually much more open with large windows or curtains that can remain open depending upon the weather.   Well managed indoor facilities are well-lit, well-ventilated and generally cleaner than most people expect. 

Tour the inside of a modern pork farm below.


Have any questions?  Submit them to us here.

Paul Ebner, PhD
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Animal Sciences



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