Mixed Farming is common worldwide.
In spite of a tendency in agribusiness, research and teaching towards specialized forms of farming.
Obviously, mixed farming has both advantages and disadvantages.
For example, farmers in mixed systems have to divide their attention
and resources over several activities, thus leading to reduced economies of scale.
Advantages include the possibility of reducing risk, spreading labour and re-utilizing resources.
The importance of these advantages and disadvantages differs according to the socio-cultural preferences of the farmers.
The biophysical conditions as determined by rainfall, radiation, soil type and disease pressure.
Trees in and on the edge of a crop field generally reduce the grain yield, but the combination of the trees (for fodder and timber) and crops is valuable, because each of the components produces useful products for the farm (people and animals included).
- Mixed farming exists in many forms depending on external and internal factors.
- External factors are weather patterns, market prices, political stability, technological developments, etc.
- Internal factors relate to local soil characteristics, composition of the family and farmers’ ingenuity.
FORMS OF MIXED FARMING
Mixed farming systems can be
classified in many ways – based on land size, type of crops and animals,
geographical distribution, market orientation, etc.
Three major categories, in four different modes of farming, are distinguished here. The categories are:
- On-farm versus between-farm mixing
- Mixing within crops and/or animal systems
- Diversified versus integrated systems
The modes of farming refer to different degrees of availability of land, labour and inputs, ranging from
plenty of land to a shortage of land.
On Farm Mixing
PIGS IN SWEDISH CROP ROTATIONS
Mixing within crop and/or animal systems
Diversified versus Integrated systems
INTEGRATED FARMING SYSTEMS
- The best known type of integrated mixed farming is probably the case of mixed crop-livestock systems.
- Cropping in this case provides animals with fodder from grass and nitrogen-binding legumes,
leys (improved fallow with sown legumes, grasses or trees), weeds and crop residues.
- Animals graze under trees or on stubble, they provide draught and manure for crops, while they also serve as a savings account.
- Sheep styon wasteland (the Ginkelse hei) in the Netherlands used to house animals and collect dung.
MIXING OF LIVESTOCK
- By keeping several species, farmers can exploit a wider range of feed resources than if only one species
- In pastoral areas, camels can graze up to 50 km away from watering points, whereas cattle are limited to a grazing orbit of 10-15 km.
- Camels and goats tend to browse more, i.e. to eat the leaves of shrubs and trees; sheep and cattle generally prefer grasses and herbs.
- Different animal species supply different products; e.g. camels and cattle can provide milk, transport and draught power, whereas goats and sheep tend to be slaughtered more often for meat.
- Chickens often provide the small change for the household, sheep and goats are sold to cover medium expenditures, while larger cattle are sold to meet major expenditures.
- Keeping more than one species of livestock is also a risk-minimizing strategy.
- An outbreak of disease may affect only one of the species, e.g. the cow, and some species or breeds are better able to survive droughts and thus help carry a family over such difficult periods.
- Advantage can also be taken of the different reproductive rates of different species to rebuild livestock holdings after a drought.
- For example, the greater fecundity of sheep and goats permits their numbers to multiply quicker than cattle or camels.
- The small ruminants can then be exchanged or sold to obtain large ruminants.
LIVESTOCK AND CROP PRODUCTION
- Agropastoralists in Nigeria use the hoof action of livestock to prepare land for growing small cereals.
- They concentrate cattle on a small area of cleared land and then broadcast the seed over the broken soil surface the following morning.
- Similarly, goats in parts of the Near East are sometimes used to weed crops. The goats are allowed to satisfy their initial appetite on natural pasture and are then put into cereal fields where they selectively eat the herbs.
- Pastoralists from such systems in West Africa and on the Indian subcontinent also exchange cattle and crop products with crop farmers.
- Cultivators receive manure, labour and, less important, milk in return for cash, grain and water rights traded to pastoralists.
- Entrustment of livestock from crop farmers to pastoralists follows more or less the same rules. In return for taking care of the herd, herders receive either cash, or cropland, or labour for the cropland or a share of the milk and the offspring.
VILLAGE AGROFORESTS IN JAVA
- Village agroforests have existed in Java since at least the tenth century and today comprise 15-50 percent of
the total cultivated village land.
- They represent a permanent type of land use, which provides a wide range of products with a high food value (e.g.
fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs) and other products, such as firewood, timber and medicines.
- In their small plots, often less than 0.1 ha, Javanese peasants mix a large number of different plant species. Within one village, up to 250 different species of diverse biological types may be grown: annual herbs, perennial herbaceous plants, climbing vines, creeping plants, shrubs and trees ranging from 10 to 35 m in height.
- Livestock form an important component of this agroforestry system – particularly poultry, but also sheep
grazing freely or fenced in sheds and fed with forage gathered from the vegetation.
- The animals have an important role in nutrient recycling.
- Fish ponds are also common and the fish are fed with animal and human wastes.
- Natural processes of cycling water and organic matter are maintained; dead leaves and twigs are left to decompose, keeping a continual litter layer and humus through which nutrients are recycled.
- Compost, fishpond mud and green manures are used on cropland.
- These forms of recycling are sufficient to maintain soil fertility without the use of chemical fertilizers.
- Villagers regulate or modify the functioning and dynamics of each plant and animal within the system.
Source from: FAO.org