Animal Genetic Resources include all species, breeds and strains that are of economic, scientific and cultural interest to agriculture, now and in the future. Common species include sheep, goats, cattle, horses, pigs, buffalo and chickens, but many other domesticated animals such as camels, donkeys, elephants, reindeer, rabbits and rodents are important to different cultures and regions of the world.
Animal domestication began some 12 000 years ago when people began selecting animals for food, fibre, work power and other agricultural uses. Livestock provide valuable products, such as hides, wool and manure, that are important both for subsistence and as sources of income for rural communities.
Livestock process forage and crop waste, inedible to humans, into nutritionally important food products. Approximately 40 percent of the total land available in developing countries can be used only for some form of forage production.
Animals account for 19 percent of the world’s food directly. They also provide draught power and fertilizer for crop production, bringing their overall contribution up to 25 percent. In addition, livestock serve as very important cash reserves in many of the mixed farming systems.