Energy Transfer Through Ecosystems – Intensive Farming

Energy Transfer Through Ecosystems – Intensive Farming

Modern methods of intensive farming try to get around this loss, both in terms of energy input and productivity, by increasing the efficiency of energy conversion. It aims to maximise the yield, whether that is crops, meat or milk.

Three main ways include:

  • the use of fertilisers
  • the use of pesticides, biological agents and pest control
  • the intensive rearing of domestic livestock


Matter and Energy

Organisms require both matter and energy. It’s not possible to destroy, create or use up either but they differ in fundamental ways

  • Matter or chemicals (measured in kilograms) can be solid, liquid or gas. The total matter on Earth is constant which makes this planet a closed system. The matter which makes up an organism is known as its biomass. Chemical energy can be stored within matter.
  • Energy (measured in joules) comes in a variety of forms, like heat, chemical, light and kinetic. When energy is ‘lost’ it usually meant lost as heat which is radiated off onto space. In terms of energy, Earth is an open system and energy is constantly entering and leaving the planet.


Intensive Rearing

Intensive rearing, or factory farming, is where livestock are reared in confined conditions. The main products are meat, eggs and milk. This type of farming uses the following processes:

  • Livestock is kept indoors most, if not all of the year, and in a high density. The collective body heat prevents as much heat being lost through respiration and less energy is spent on muscle contractions as the animals hardly move. This means that more food can be converted into biomass.
  • They’re fed specialised, high-energy feed. It’s high in nutrients so the animals grow at a faster rate. It’s also low in plant fibres making it easier to digest and meaning less energy is lost in faeces.
  • Antibodies are administered to the animals to prevent the spread of infectious disease, due to the way they’re densely packed together.
  • Fast growing livestock is selectively bred and slaughtered before reaching adulthood.
  • Livestock bred outside feeds off pasture which has been fertilised to increase energy intake.

By denying the animals space to move less energy is ‘wasted’ but there are obvious ethical issues concerning the welfare of the animals and how essential such farming really is.