Animals on the Farm
The south and east of England may have been turned over to arable farming in a big way, but farms in much of the rest of Britain still rely on farm animals for their main income. The United Kingdom is home to millions of dairy cows and sheep, and large numbers of, together with smaller numbers of pigs, goats and poultry.
Of these, dairy cows are probably the most important, for almost everyone drinks milk and relatively little is imported. The main dairy regions are in western England, the lowlands of Scotland, and south-east Ireland — all areas with a cool but mild climate — and the cow most used is the high-yielding familiar black and white Friesian, accounting for about four-fifths of all dairy cows. Beef farming is rarely mixed with dairy farming these days — though all-purpose breeds used to exist — and it takes place mainly in upland areas, leaving more favoured land for more profitable enterprises.
Britain has long been a nation for sheep, and at times in its history was said to have more sheep than people. Today there are over 40 million sheep, kept mainly as a source of meat rather than wool, and the numbers are still growing.
Pigs are kept in many parts of the country, and most are now maintained in intensive all-year-round warm conditions, with concentration on high-yielding breeds like the Large White. Goats are coming back into fashion, full use being made of their ability to eat almost anything, and they are kept mainly for their milk, which is a nutritious alternative to cow’s milk.
With all these forms of livestock, and with poultry too, there has been a long history of their use in Britain, and new breeds have succeeded old as fashions and needs have changed. There is now a very real concern to ensure that the best of our outmoded breeds do not die out, but are retained, perhaps as future genetic material.