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Agriculture (encompassing farming, grazing, and the tending of orchards, vineyards and timberland) is the production of food, feed, fiber and other goods by the systematic raising of domesticated plants and animals.
Agriculture is the process of producing food, otherwise known as farming.
Agri is from the Latin ager ("a field"), and culture, from the Latin cultura ("cultivation" in the strict sense of "tillage of the soil"). A literal reading of the English word yields "tillage of the soil of a field". In modern usage, the word agriculture covers all activities essential to food/feed/fiber production, including all techniques for raising and "processing" livestock. Agriculture is also short for the study of the practice of agriculture — more formally known as agricultural science.
The history of agriculture is a central element of human history, as agricultural progress has been a crucial factor in worldwide socio-economic change. Wealth-building and militaristic specializations rarely seen in hunter-gatherer cultures are commonplace in agricultural and agro-industrial societies—when farmers became capable of producing food beyond the needs of their own families, others in the tribe/nation/empire were freed to devote themselves to projects other than food acquisition.
As of 2006, an estimated 36 percent of the world's workers are employed in agriculture (down from 42% in 1996), making it by far the most common occupation. However, the relative significance of farming has dropped steadily since the beginning of industrialization, and in 2006 – for the first time in history – the services sector overtook agriculture as the economic sector employing the most people worldwide. Also, agricultural production accounts for less than five percent of the gross world product (an aggregate of all gross domestic products).

Ancient origins
Developed independently by geographically distant populations, systematic agriculture first appeared in Southwest Asia in the Fertile Crescent, particularly in modern-day Iraq and Syria/Israel. Around 9500 BC, proto-farmers began to select and cultivate food plants with desired characteristics. Though there is evidence of earlier sporadic use of wild cereals, it was not until after 9500 BC that the eight so-called founder crops of agriculture appear: first emmer and einkorn wheat, then hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax.
By 7000 BC, small-scale agriculture reached Egypt. From 9000 BC the Indian subcontinent saw farming of wheat and barley, as attested by archaeological excavation at Mehrgarh in Balochistan. By 6000 BC, mid-scale farming was entrenched on the banks of the Nile. About this time, agriculture was developed independently in the Far East, with rice, rather than wheat, as the primary crop. Chinese and Indonesian farmers went on to domesticate mung, soy, azuki and taro. To complement these new sources of carbohydrates, highly organized net fishing of rivers, lakes and ocean shores in these areas brought in great volumes of essential protein. Collectively, these new methods of farming and fishing inaugurated a human population boom dwarfing all previous expansions, and is one that continues today.
By 5000 BC, the Sumerians had developed core agricultural techniques including large scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping, organized irrigation, and use of a specialized labour force, particularly along the waterway now known as the Shatt al-Arab, from its Persian Gulf delta to the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. Domestication of wild aurochs and mouflon into cattle and sheep, respectively, ushered in the large-scale use of animals for food/fiber and as beasts of burden. The shepherd joined the farmer as an essential provider for sedentary and semi-nomadic societies.
Maize, manioc, and arrowroot were first domesticated in the Americas as far back as 5200 BC. The potato, tomato, pepper, squash, several varieties of bean, Canna, tobacco and several other plants were also developed in the New World, as was extensive terracing of steep hillsides in much of Andean South America.
In later years, the Greeks and Romans built on techniques pioneered by the Sumerians but made few fundamentally new advances. The Greeks and Macedonians struggled with very poor soils, yet managed to become dominant societies for years. The Romans were noted for an emphasis on the cultivation of crops for trade.
Agriculture in the Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, Muslim farmers in North Africa and the Near East developed and disseminated agricultural technologies including irrigation systems based on hydraulic and hydrostatic principles, the use of machines such as norias, and the use of water raising machines, dams, and reservoirs. They also wrote location-specific farming manuals, and were instrumental in the wider adoption of crops including sugar cane, rice, citrus fruit, apricots, cotton, artichokes, aubergines, and saffron. Muslims also brought lemons, oranges, cotton, almonds, figs and sub-tropical crops such as bananas to Spain.
Renaissance to present day
A tractor ploughing an alfalfa field
The invention of a three field system of crop rotation during the Middle Ages, and the importation of the Chinese-invented moldboard plow, vastly improved agricultural efficiency.
The amount of workforce dedicated to agriculture tends to decrease
After 1492, a global exchange of previously local crops and livestock breeds occurred. Key crops involved in this exchange included the tomato, maize, potato, cocoa and tobacco going from the New World to the Old, and several varieties of wheat, spice and coffee going from the Old World to the New. The most important animal exportations from the Old World to the New were those of the horse and dog (dogs were already present in the pre-Columbian Americas but not in the numbers and breeds suited to farm work). Although not usually food animals, the horse (including donkeys and ponies) and dog quickly filled essential production roles on western hemisphere farms.
By the early 1800s, agricultural techniques, implements, seed stocks and cultivars had so improved that yield per land unit was many times that seen in the Middle Ages. With the rapid rise of mechanization in the late 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the form of the tractor, farming tasks could be done with a speed and on a scale previously impossible. These advances have led to efficiencies enabling certain modern farms in the United States, Argentina, Israel, Germany, and a few other nations to output volumes of high quality produce per land unit at what may be the practical limit.
In 2005, the agricultural output of China was the largest in the world, accounting for almost one-sixth world share followed by the EU, India and the USA, according to the International Monetary Fund.


Livestock is the term used to refer (singularly or plurally) to a domesticated animal intentionally reared in an agricultural setting to make produce such as food or fibre, or for its labour.
Livestock may be raised for subsistence or for profit. Raising animals (animal husbandry) is an important component of modern agriculture. It has been practiced in many societies, since the transition to farming from hunter-gather lifestyles.

Origins of livestock
Animal-rearing has its origins in the transition of societies to settled farming communities rather than hunter-gatherer lifestyles. Animals are ‘domesticated’ when their breeding and living conditions are controlled by humans. Over time, the collective behaviour, life cycle, and physiology of livestock have changed radically. Many modern farm animals are unsuited to life in the wild. Goats and sheep were domesticated around 8000 BC in Asia.[citation needed] Swine or pigs were domesticated by 7000 BCE in the Middle East and China. The earliest evidence of horse domestication dates to around 4000 BC
Types of livestock
The term "livestock" is nebulous and may be defined narrowly or broadly.
On a broader view, livestock refers to any breed or population of animal kept by humans for a useful, commercial purpose. This can mean domestic animals, semi-domestic animals, or captive wild animals. Semi-domesticated refers to animals which are only lightly domesticated or of disputed status. These populations may also be in the process of domestication.
In practical discussions, some people may use the term livestock to refer just to domestic animals or even just to red meat animals.
Purpose of animal rearing
‘Livestock’ are defined, in part, by their end purpose as the production of food or fiber, or labour.
The economic value of livestock includes:
the production of a useful form of dietary protein and energy.
Dairy products
Mammalian livestock can be used as a source of milk, which can in turn easily be processed into other dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, kefir, and kumis. Using livestock for this purpose can often yield several times the food energy of slaughtering the animal outright.
Livestock produce a range of fiber/textiles. For example, sheep and goats produce wool and mohair; cows, deer, and sheep can make leather; and bones, hooves and horns of livestock can be used.
Manure can be spread on fields to increase crop yields. This is an important reason why historically, plant and animal domestication have been intimately linked. Manure is also used to make plaster for walls and floors and can be used as a fuel for fires. The blood and bone of animals are also used as fertilizer.
Animals such as horses, donkey, and yaks can be used for mechanical energy. Prior to steam power livestock were the only available source of non-human labour. They are still used for this purpose in many places of the world, including ploughing fields, transporting goods, and military functions.
Land management
The grazing of livestock is sometimes used as a way to control weeds and undergrowth. For example, in areas prone to wild fires, goats and sheep are set to graze on dry scrub which removes combustible material and reduces the risk of fires.
During the history of animal husbandry many secondary products have arisen in an attempt to increase carcass utilization and reduce waste. For example, animal offal and non-edible parts may be transformed into products such as pet food and fertilizer. In the past such waste products were sometimes also fed to livestock as well. However, intra-species recycling poses a disease risk, threatening animal and even human health (see bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), scrapie and prion). Due primarily to BSE (mad cow disease), feeding animal scraps to animals has been banned in many countries, at least in regards to ruminants.


A cowboy (Spanish: vaquero) tends cattle and horses on cattle ranches in North and South America. The cowboy is normally an animal herder most commonly in charge of the horses and/or cattle, whereas the wrangler's work is more specific to horses. In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work in and participate in rodeos, and many cowboys work only in the rodeo.

The English word cowboy has an origin from several earlier terms that referred to both age and to cattle or cattle-tending work.
The word "cowboy" first appeared in the English language about 1715–25 CE. It appears to be a direct English translation of vaquero, a Spanish word for an individual who managed cattle while mounted on horseback. It was derived from vaca, meaning "cow." This Spanish word has a long history, developed in part from the Latin word vacca. In addition to Latin roots, there may be Arabic influence as well. Another English word for a cowboy, buckaroo, an Anglicization of vaquero, reflects the archaic Spanish pronunciation of vaquero, suggesting the possibility of a close relationship to the Arabic word bakara or bakhara, also meaning "heifer" or "young cow." The Spanish language contains a number of words based on Arabic, most originating with Islamic people from North Africa and the Middle East, who had a powerful influence on Spanish history beginning with the Muslim conquest of Hispania in the 8th century and the Andalusian society they established.
The word cowboy also had English language roots beyond simply being a translation from Spanish. Because of the time and physical ability needed to develop necessary skills, the American cow "boy," (as well as the vaquero) often began his career as an adolescent, earning wages as soon as he had enough skill to be hired, (often as young as 12 or 13) and who, if not crippled by injury, might handle cattle or horses for the rest of his working life. In the United States, a few women also took on the tasks of ranching and learned the necessary skills, though the "cowgirl" (discussed below) did not become widely recognized or acknowledged until the close of the 19th century.
Originally, the English word "cowherd" (similar to "shepherd," a sheep herder) was used to describe a cattle herder, and often referred to a preadolescent or early adolescent boy, who usually worked on foot. (Equestrianism required skills and an investment in horses and equipment rarely available to or entrusted to a child, though in some cultures boys rode a donkey while going to and from pasture) This word is very old in the English language, originating prior to the year 1000 CE. In Antiquity, herding of sheep, cattle and goats was often the job of minors, and still is a task for young people in various third world cultures.
Though the term "cowboy" became somewhat disassociated from age (even today, the phrase "old cowboy" is not considered an oxymoron), the low wages and low social status of the job kept the term "boy" in use, though ultimately it became simply a label for the job itself, and even a term of pride However, the word "boy" was also used to refer to any hired help (sometimes with racist overtones), or, more positively, to refer to closeknit groups of men as in the expression "one of the boys" — a brotherhood. Today, use of the term "boy" to refer to hired help is an anachronism, and terms such as "hand," "ranch hand" or "hired hand" are used to refer to ranch workers in general.
On western ranches today, the working cowboy is usually an adult. Sole responsibility for herding cattle or other livestock is no longer considered a job suitable for children or early adolescents. However, both boys and girls growing up in a ranch environment often learn to ride horses and perform basic ranch skills as soon as they are physically able, usually under adult supervision. Such youths, by their late teens, are often given responsibilities for "cowboy" work on the ranch, and ably perform work that requires a level of maturity and levelheadedness that is not generally expected of their urban peers.

The Spanish developed what we now consider the cowboy tradition, beginning with the hacienda system of medieval Spain. This style of cattle ranching spread throughout much of the Iberian peninsula and later, was imported to the Americas. Both regions possessed a dry climate with sparse grass, and thus large herds of cattle required vast amounts of land in order to obtain sufficient forage. The need to cover distances greater than a person on foot could manage gave rise to the development of the horseback-mounted vaquero.
During the 16th century, the Conquistadors and other Spanish settlers brought their cattle-raising traditions as well as their horses and cattle to the Americas, starting with their arrival in what today is Mexico and Florida. The traditions of Spain were transformed by the geographic, environmental and cultural circumstances of New Spain, which later became Mexico and the southwestern United States. In turn, the land and people of the Americas also saw dramatic changes due to Spanish influence.
The arrival of horses was particularly significant, as equines had been extinct in the Americas since the end of the prehistoric ice age. However, horses quickly multiplied in America and became crucial to the success of the Spanish and later settlers from other nations. The earliest horses were originally of Andalusian, Barb and Arabian ancestry, but a number of uniquely American horse breeds developed in North and South America through selective breeding and by natural selection of animals that escaped to the wild. The Mustang and other colonial horse breeds are now called "wild," but in reality are feral horses — descendants of domesticated animals.
Thus, though popularly considered as a North American icon, the traditional cowboy actually comes from a Hispanic tradition, which evolved further, particularly in the Central States of Mexico, Jalisco and Michoacán, where the Mexican cowboy would eventually be known as a "charro", as well as areas to the north that later became the Southwestern United States. Most vaqueros were men of mestizo and Native American origin while most of the hacendados (owners) were ethnically Spanish.
As English-speaking traders and settlers moved into the Western United States, English and Spanish traditions, language and culture merged to some degree, with the vaquero tradition providing the foundation of the American cowboy. Before the Mexican American War in 1848, New England merchants who traveled by ship to California encountered both hacendados and vaqueros, trading manufactured goods for the hides and tallow produced from vast cattle ranches. American traders along what later became known as the Santa Fe Trail had similar contacts with vaquero life. Starting with these early encounters, the lifestyle and lingo of the vaquero began a transformation which merged with English cultural traditions and produced what became known in American culture as the "cowboy".

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