The World Census of Agriculture declared that there are 570 million farms all over the world. Out of which 500 million farms come under family farms. More than 90 percent of these farms are less than 2 hectares in size. 69% percent of the land in the United Kingdom is for farming.
About 476,000 people are employed in the agricultural sector. The agricultural industry generates approximately 0.62% of the GDP of the country. Rural areas are mainly involved in agriculture. South West area of the United Kingdom is known for keeping livestock and East-West region is mainly known for growing crops.
The average size of the farms in the United Kingdom is between 20 hectares to 100 hectares. Despite a large number of subsidies to farmers, fertile soil, advanced technology and skilled manpower, the country has relatively low farm earnings. High prices of land, low earning and absence of enough farmland are some of the reasons that the youth do not want to engage in agriculture. The average age of people that are involved in agriculture is 50. The government has been making efforts to increase the profits and income of the farmers. Activities like organic farming and generation of other diversified activities of farming are encouraged by the government to encourage agriculture.
Lack of energy security, increasing prices and climate change gives the farmers the opportunity to explore the use of biofuels as alternative sources of energy.
Distribution of Farming Types
Physical factor like climate, precipitation and topography etc affect the structure of farming in every area. These factors help farmers in deciding the type of crops that can be grown in a certain area. Other factors human factors like presence of markets nearby influence the intensity of the farms and give rise to farming types such as organic farming, market gardening etc.
Types of Farming and Distribution in the UK
1. Arable Farming
Arable farming includes crop production. Many factors such as soil, water, nutrients, air, light and climate influence the growth of crops. This type of farming is commonly practised in the south-east areas. These areas have warm summers with a low, fertile and flat surface. Arable lands generally have good transport networks and farms are located near markets in large cities and towns such as London.
Oats, wheat and barley are the main cereal crops of the United Kingdom. Other than these crops peas and beans, sugar, beet and potatoes; and fodder crops such as rape, kale, cabbages and vetches are grown. Apples and pears are popular fruits in this region. Hay is used in the form of animal feed.
Summer, spring and autumn are preferable seasons for the sowing of seeds. Frost resistant crops like beans, cereals and vetch are usually sown in autumn. Seeds sown in spring season are vulnerable to drought in the month of May or June. Dibbling, ploughing, drilling, and broadcasting are some traditional methods of sowing seeds. Out of these, drilling is the most inexpensive and works great for dry conditions.
2. Pastoral Farming
Keeping animals for wool, eggs and milk has been part of pastoral farming. Animals not only give by-products but are also used as labour. Example – Donkey and Horse.
The major part of the United Kingdom’s agricultural output is the result of animal farming. Sheep, pigs, poultry and cattle are common animals that are used as meat. Sheep are used for wool while goats and alpacas are used for its high-quality wool like angora. Eggs are the product of poultry farming while milk and its products are part of cattle farming.
Many farms are made for special purposes. For example, beef is obtained from early maturing breeds as they produce high yields. For this, special farms are maintained and pigs are bred which can store more fat in their muscles.
Cattle Farming – About 17,000 dairy farms are running in the UK. Mostly, dairy farms are located in the west part of the country. The wet and warm climate in the west and south-west part supports dairy farming. The land in this region is flat or hilly with gentle slopes. Good road networks in the western region help farmers in sending their produce in the market in the nearby cities. The British Friesian is a breed of cow that is used to obtain milk while beef is obtained from Aberdeen Angus.
Pig farming – East Anglia and Yorkshire are mainly known for pig farming. About 4,600 farms are there in the UK that are involved in the rearing of pigs. Out of 90 percent of the pork it produces, only 40 percent is used for ham and bacon. Some breeds of pig-like Cumberland, British landrace, British Saddleback, wild boar are popular. The government has made Dangerous Wild Animals Act, 1976, which makes it compulsory for farmers to take the permission of the local authorities if they want to breed pigs.
Sheep Farming – More than 41,000 sheep farms are the present UK. The different types of terrains in the UK results in the breeding of more than 90 breeds of sheep that are being reared. The hilly, upland and lowland areas have different types of sheep which provide different types of wool. Breeds like Swaledale, Dalesbred, Derbyshire are found in hilly areas and are known for their ability to resist extreme climates. Devon & Cornwall Longwool is an upland breed. Upland breeds are more prolific than hilly breeds and live better on less sloped areas.
UK imports most of the lamb from New Zealand but it is the largest lamb producer in Europe.
Goats and Poultry – The UK also has a few farms that are involved in the breeding of goats for milk and meat, and poultry for eggs on a small scale.
3. Mixed Farming
Mixed farming comprise the growing of crops and keeping of animals on the same farm. It is necessary that relief and climate should be ideal for both animals and crops. Flatland, fertile soil, warm and slightly wet climate is good for mixed farming. Also, it is better to have a good road network for easy reach to the markets. Mixed farming is done in Central Scotland and Central England and some other regions across the UK.
Market gardening comprises growing high-value crops such as vegetables, fruits and flowers that are near to markets. Proper finance is required for market gardening. East Anglia, London and areas near Birmingham are known for market gardening.