Farming is a large industry in the UK, and pastoral farming is a big part of that industry. Pastoral farming includes the breeding of various types of livestock for milk, eggs, wool and meat. Historically, the breeding of livestock for their labour was also included in this. Today the largest pastoral farming practices in the UK focus on the breeding and raising cattle, sheep and pigs. Poultry farms are also prevalent, and there are even small numbers of goat farms.
Cattle farms are normally specialized either towards dairy or meat production, but some also produce both. Normally, a different breed of cow is used for dairy than for meat. In the UK it’s the British Friesian that holds the top spot for dairy cows, overtaking the Dairy Shorthorn that was once the most popular. The reason why this particular breed has gained such popularity is due to its high milk yield, as well as a relatively high beef quality. When it comes to beef breeds, it’s the Hereford and Aberdeen Angus that reigns supreme in both popularity and quality. The Beef Shorthorn, much like its dairy counterpart, was once a widespread breed, but lost out to more modern breeds.
The UK is also known for its high quality lamb meat, with sheep farms being especially prevalent in Wales and the Scottish Highlands. The UK is, as of today, the largest producer of lamb in Europe, yet still has a net import of lamb. In addition to producing much sought after meat, sheep farming also helps manage the landscape in a very healthy and environmentally friendly way. Where production of wool used to be an important part of sheep farming, this has now become practically obsolete, and sheared fleeces are even treated as a waste product.
Pig farming is another large part of the UK’s pastoral farming. The pig breeds that are popular today are mainly intensively farmed hybrids, which give the farmer a higher yield. Some farms also keep wild boar, although the regulations for farming these animals are strict, and the farmer needs permission from local authorities to be able to keep them. In addition to producing meat, pig farming also provides slurry, which can be used to fertilise different types of crops.
In addition to these main farming animals, you’ll most likely also run into a resident mouse catcher and a watchdog when you visit a British farm. Many sheep farmers also still keep herding dogs, and it’s not uncommon to run into a chicken or five, even if you’re not visiting a poultry farm.