Livestock farming has recently come under close scrutiny, in response especially to environmental issues. Farmers are encouraged to redesign their livestock farming systems in depth to improve their sustainability. Assuming that modelling can be a relevant tool to address such systemic changes, we sought to answer the following question: ‘How can livestock farming systems be modelled to help farmers redesign their whole farming systems?’ To this end, we made a literature review of the models of livestock farming systems published from 2000 to mid-2009 (n = 79). We used an analysis grid based on three considerations: (i) system definition, (ii) the intended use of the model and (iii) the way in which farmers’ decision-making processes were represented and how agricultural experts and farmers were involved in the modelling processes. Consistent rationales in approaches to supporting changes in livestock farming were identified in three different groups of models, covering 83% of the whole set. These could be defined according to (i) the way in which farmers’ decisions were represented and (ii) the model's type of contribution to supporting changes. The first type gathered models that dynamically simulated the system according to different management options; the farmers’ decision-making processes are assumed to consist in choosing certain values for management factors. Such models allow long-term simulations and endorse different disciplinary viewpoints, but the farmers are weakly involved in their design. Models of the second type can indicate the best combination of farm activities under given constraints, provided the farmers’ objectives are profit maximisation. However, when used to support redesigning processes, they address neither how to implement the optimal solution nor its long-term consequences. Models of the third type enable users to dynamically simulate different options for the farming system, the management of which is assumed to be planned according to the farmers’ general objectives. Although more comprehensive, these models do not easily integrate different disciplinary viewpoints and different subsystems, which limits their usefulness as support tools for redesigning processes. Finally, we concluded about what specific requirements should be for modelling approaches if farmers were to be supported in redesigning their whole livestock farming systems using models.