In this article we will discuss about the zoning of livestock farming and agricultural activities.
Animal farming is most important in the temperate areas, mainly because the European peoples, who have settled in temperate areas all over the world, have traditionally practised a type of mixed farming in which both animals and arable crops are raised. When they migrated to the empty temperate lands, they found that conditions were well-suited to this type of farming system.
At one time mixed farming was practised on a mainly subsistence basis, and all farmers tended to grow much the same crops or keep much the same animals, with only slight regional variations reflecting local climatic or terrain conditions, but as time has gone on and transportation systems have improved, a pattern of regional specialization has been built up, whereby animals or crops, though still often raised together, are chosen to match local conditions.
The conditions that govern the location of different livestock farming activities are of two kinds. Firstly, there are the physical conditions of climate, soil, and terrain, and secondly, there are the economic conditions, such as transport availability and land values.
Is There any Clear Pattern?
The pattern of land use which emerges as a result of the interaction of these factors is similar to the urban zoning. Agricultural, and especially livestock zones continue the concentric pattern which is found in many towns.
Briefly the arrangement of livestock farming activities is as follows:
1. Dairy farming is found nearest to the towns and main centres of population.
2. Cattle and other animal fattening are found at a distance somewhat further from the towns.
3. Stock rearing, mainly of cattle which are later taken to other areas for fattening, is found at a greater distance from urban centres.
4. Sheep rearing is found in outlying areas distant from towns.
This pattern is found in many areas. For instance, in Britain, dairy farming is concentrated in regions near the main urban centres, e.g. Lancashire, lowland Scotland. Cattle and sheep fattening is carried out mainly in the Midlands and parts of southern England, while stock rearing is a major activity of the more favoured parts of Highland Britain. Sheep are kept mainly on the wet, wind-swept uplands.
The great diversity of relief within a small area, and the large number of urban centres, the relatively short distances to be travelled and the good network of communications in Britain, all make the pattern somewhat difficult to trace, but it is very clear in such areas as the U.S.A. east of the Rockies, or Argentina.
In the U.S.A. the main dairy-farming region is the Hay and Dairy Belt, which extends from New England and the north Atlantic states to the Great Lakes shorelands. The distribution of dairying closely matches the areas of densest population and the proximity of large towns such as New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago. Beyond this region is a belt of mixed farming with the emphasis on cattle growing and fattening.
This includes the Corn Belt but extends into the southern states. Cattle, and other animals such as sheep (for meat production) or pigs, may be reared and fattened in the mixed farming belt or may be brought for fattening from the more distant stock- rearing regions of the western plains. Such sheep as are kept in the U.S.A. are found mainly in the extreme south-west, in Texas, far from population centres.
In the case of Argentina, dairy farming is concentrated on the Plata coastlands and around Buenos Aires. The surrounding region is devoted mainly to fodder crops such as alfalfa and corn for cattle fattening. Beyond this belt is a region of more extensive cattle farming, and sheep raising is concentrated in the sparsely peopled Patagonian region.
How does this Pattern Arise?
Land use is, of course, intimately related to physical factors such as climate or terrain, and it is possible to explain the zoning of livestock farming solely in terms of physical factors. For instance in the U.S.A. the Hay and Dairy Belt is situated in an area of moderate rainfall, cooler, more moderate temperatures and lush grasslands.
The Corn Belt has ideal conditions for corn growing, it is warmer than the Hay and Dairy Belt, but still receives moderate rainfall (about 1,015-1,145 mm/40 —45 inches). The stock rearing area further west is unsuitable for cattle fattening or the growing of fodder crops because of its drier climate but is still suitable for cattle raising. Sheep, being more hardy, and tolerating poorer pastures, are found in dry or semi-arid regions.
The same climatic pattern is followed in Argentina from the rich well-watered coastlands to the semi-arid plateau-lands of Patagonia. Australia has similar relationships between livestock farming and climate, so that, while cattle are raised in northern Australia, they are fattened for market on the better pastures of the east.
Sheep are kept for wool in the semi-arid interior, but those raised for meat are found in better- watered areas. In New Zealand, the moist, warm climate of North Island is suited to dairy farming, while the South Island is given over mainly to sheep, for wool on the drier Canterbury Plains, and for meat in the wetter coastlands.
Physical factors are by no means the only determinants of land use, however. Several economic factors also come into play.
Dairying must be located near the main centres of population in order that the highly perishable milk can be readily transported to the towns. Those more distant areas where physical factors favour dairy farming but the market is not large enough or near enough must produce less perishable dairy products, e.g. Wisconsin at the western extremity of the Hay and Dairy belt is distant from most of the major mid-western towns and thus concentrates on butter production; New Zealand has only a small population and must export its dairy produce in the form of butter and cheese.
Dairy products are highly valued, and so long as the land is good, farms do not need to be very large. As a result, dairy farmers can afford to set up their farms on expensive land near to towns; no extensive type of farming can be economically carried out near major towns because the cost of the large areas of land required would be too great. Several other types of intensive livestock rearing such as pig rearing or poultry farming, which require little land and are market orientated are also found near urban centres.
The raising of animals for meat needs somewhat larger farms, but must also be relatively near the main urban markets. It is thus found in an area surrounding the dairy farming region. Good transport networks allow the meat to be marketed fresh or slightly chilled. Where the production from areas with favourable physical conditions exceeds local demands, it must be preserved by chilling, freezing or canning.
Stock rearing can be carried out at greater distance from the urban market, especially if the animals are transferred to fattening centres nearer the towns before being slaughtered. The marginal land, distant from centres of population, where land values are relatively low, can be used for this extensive type of cattle farming. However, distance from markets means that direct marketing of meat from such regions is usually uneconomic.
Extensive cattle farming will be carried out wherever conditions permit, because cattle are far more valuable than sheep, except where mutton is a popular meat, e.g. Britain, New Zealand, Australia. The demand for the meat raises the value of sheep in these countries, and they may be kept in much the same areas as cattle.
In general, however, cattle are preferred and it is only economic to keep sheep in regions unsuitable for cattle. Thus, even though the quality of the animals could be improved by better pastures, sheep are normally kept on the poorest land.
Since towns tend to grow up in the more favoured areas of any given country, such marginal land is also, in practice, the most distant from urban centres. Sheep kept for wool can, however, be kept at great distances from their markets because wool is not perishable and is relatively easily transported.
On marginal lands, a great deal of land is required to support one animal, but in areas distant from the towns and of poor potential, land values are extremely low and thus farmers can afford to own very large holdings.
Does Economic Zoning of Land Use Apply to Other Farming Types?
The same combination of physical and economic factors affects all types of farming. Although the zoning of livestock farming is most demarcated and has therefore been dealt with in greater detail, it is also possible to discern zones of activity in crop growing. Market gardening, the most intensive form of agriculture, is found on smallholdings near large towns.
The high value of the crops makes it possible for farmers to own or rent highly-valued land, which may be in demand for city expansion, house-building or factories. Fodder crops, associated with livestock farming for meat, are also found fairly close to towns. Cereal cultivation, which is a more extensive type of farming, can be carried out much further afield, because the crops are less perishable and can be transported over great distances without being harmed.
In tropical countries a pattern also emerges. Nearest to the towns will be market gardens, though these are generally less numerous in tropical than in temperate countries, mainly because of differences in traditional diet. Livestock rearing, too, is more restricted. Beyond the immediate environs of the towns will be found food crops, such as cereals, and cash crops, grown on either plantations or smallholdings.
These will be near lines of transport to ensure easy export and access to urban markets. Access to transport is especially important in tropical countries where transport networks are usually less well-developed than in temperate areas. Beyond the zone of commercial agriculture will be found more extensive farming types, such as shifting cultivation and nomadic herding for subsistence, which occupy the land furthest from towns and least valuable for other types of exploitation.
Such farming types are only economically viable because a subsistence economy is not dependent on access to market. Another extensive form of land use in both temperate and tropical regions is forestry; this may be either an extensive type of agriculture if trees are replanted, or may simply represent an exploitive economy. In some countries the most remote regions remain forested simply because settlement and agriculture has not yet penetrated those areas, and where transport is lacking they may not be exploited at all.
The pattern of agricultural types, though related to economic factors, is not always so well-zoned as in the examples quoted. Several factors can upset the ideal pattern. The most important is the existence of specially favourable climatic or other conditions for certain crops.
Thus, for example, market gardening is not only carried out near towns, but also in mild climatic areas, e.g. south-west England, Florida, the French Riviera, or in cool highlands in the tropics, e.g. the Cameron Highlands, which are relatively distant from the major markets.
It can only be developed if transport links are well-developed and demand is great enough to offset transport costs. Certain other crops such as tobacco, vines, fruits also require special conditions and may distort the simple pattern in some respects. Whatever the crop or agricultural type, however, its location in a particular area is always the result of an interaction between physical and economic factors.