Farming Techniques

Only about 10% of the biomass produced at one trophic level is transferred to the next. This is due to several factors:

  • Some biomass gets used up for respiration
  • Not all parts of the consumed animal are eaten
  • Some of the biomass is excreted as faeces

To improve food production, modern farming methods aim to make biomass transfer more efficient.

Organic Farming

Organic farmers aim to produce high-quality food using sustainable methods that benefit the entire food system.

Free-range chickens, for example, have the freedom to roam and find their own food, in addition to the food they are provided.

However, a problem with free-range chickens is that they use up a lot of the biomass they consume for respiration. When chickens are outside, especially in colder conditions, their bodies use more energy to maintain a constant temperature. This means there is less biomass available for growth and the production of eggs.

This is also the case with many other outdoor farm animals, such as cows and sheep.

Intensive Farming

Intensive farming, also called factory farming, is a more mechanised technique that is used to achieve high yields. It involves more use of inorganic fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.

To achieve a higher yield, the farming process must be made more efficient. The efficiency can be improved by restricting energy transfer from farm animals to the environment. This can be achieved by:

  • Limiting the movement of animals
  • Controlling the temperature of the animal’s surroundings

Livestock raised in confined spaces

Intensive farming usually involves putting livestock in small cages or pens, so they use less energy for movement. This can also involve controlling the surrounding temperature of the livestock. By maintaining livestock at an optimal temperature, they use less energy to regulate their body temperature.

If livestock do not have to expend as much energy for movement and staying warm, then there is more energy available for growth.

An example of this is the raising of chickens in temperature-controlled sheds where they are crammed together.

Inside these sheds, the limited space restricts the movement of the chickens. Unlike free-ranged chickens, their surroundings are kept warm and they are fed a high-protein diet. So they often grow faster and produce more eggs than free-range chickens.

Similarly, cows can be raised in confined spaces. Limiting their movement and controlling their surrounding temperature will also lead to greater food production.

Confining livestock in this way can be more efficient, as less biomass is wasted, and farmers can control the food the animals consume. However, these crowded conditions can increase the risk of spreading infectious diseases.

Use of antibiotics in livestock

In factory farming, animals are frequently administered antibiotics to prevent the onset and spread of infectious diseases. While this can help reduce the risk of illness, it can also increase the likelihood of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

Removal of hedgerows

Farmers often remove hedgerows from fields to accommodate larger farming machinery. While this can increase efficiency and food production, it also reduces biodiversity and can create pollution from the larger machines.”