MIX-ENABLE - Grazing together: cattle and broilers


 (c) Thünen-Institut/Jacqueline Felix

Mixed livestock farming for improved sustainability and robustness of organic livestock production

Specialisation increases also in organic farming. Even if there are more than one species on a farm they usually will be managed separately. Partners from seven EU-countries investigate the potential of a higher integration between farm components.

Background and Objective

Integrating two or more animal species with crop production or agroforestry on a farm potentially provides many benefits including more efficient pasture use and parasite management. However, organic mixed livestock farms (OMLF) tend to specialize or display limited integration between farm components. This limited integration may reduce the practical benefits of OMLF. Therefore, we aim to (i) characterize OMLF in Europe, especially their level of integration between farm components, (ii) assess their sustainability and robustness to adverse events, (iii) compare their performances with those of specialized farms, (iv) integrate the knowledge developed on OMLF into models that can simulate their performances against climatic and economic variability, (v) conduct farm-level experiments to generate knowledge about OMLF (to feed into the models) and (vi) co-design with farmers more sustainable and robust OMLF.


We will survey OMLF to collect technical and socio-economic data. Then we will enlarge existing concepts and methods to assess the level of integration between farm components and apply these methods to surveyed OMLF. We will also develop an indicator system for integrated assessment of OMLF and apply it to connect the sustainability and robustness of surveyed OMLF with their level of integration among farm components. In parallel we will conduct farm-level experimentation of organic specialized and mixed livestock situations for the comparison of specific aspects of animal husbandry (e.g. pasture use,animal health). We will extend farm simulation models to OMLF and analyze the benefits and drawbacks of livestock diversity. Using these models, we will develop and implement participatory methods to co-design with farmers sustainable and robust OMLF. To inform practice and policy-making, we will communicate our results to shed light on the potentialities of OMLF and the way to manage it sustainably or the way to reach it starting from a specialized farm.

Data and Methods

Within each of the three experimental years we will compare the effects of grazing i) single dairy youngstock, ii) single broiler chicken and iii) a mixed system consisting of dairy youngstock and broiler chicken. Effects on health (i.e. faecal egg count in dairy cattle and salmonella burden of chicken) as well as on  performance (weight gain) will be recorded. Data sampling will include sward height before and after animals graze the paddock to estimate feed intake. In addition, the behaviour of co-grazing animals towards each other will be observed.

Links and Downloads



Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)
    (national, öffentlich)


4.2018 - 9.2021

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 2817OE009
Funding program: EU - ERA-NET Core Organic Cofund
Project status: finished


hits: 7

  1. Hübner S, Barth K (2021) Does mixing cattle with broilers on pasture yield any benefits? Book of Abstracts Ann Meet EAAP 27: 373
  2. Hübner S, Barth K (2021) Hähnchen weiden mit Rindern. Bauernzeitg - Ratgeber Ökolandbau:22-23
  3. Hübner S, Barth K (2021) MIX-ENABLE - Gemischtbeweidung von Rindern und Broilern. Trenthorst: Thünen-Institut für ökologischen Landbau, 2 p, Project Brief Thünen Inst 2021/34, DOI:10.3220/PB1639562275000
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 814 kb
  4. Hübner S, Barth K (2021) MIX-ENABLE - Mixing young cattle and broilers. Trenthorst: Thünen Institute of Organic Farming, 2 p, Project Brief Thünen Inst 2021/34a, DOI:10.3220/PB1639562699000
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 805 kb
  5. Schanz L, Hintze S, Hübner S, Barth K, Winckler C (2021) Single or mixed: Comparing behaviour of single- and multi-species groups of young cattle and broiler chickens on pasture. In: Dwyer CM, Harris M, Rahman SA, Waiblinger S, Rodenburg TB (eds) "Developing animal behaviour and welfare: Real solutions for real problems" : Proceedings of the 54th Congress of the ISAE, 2-6 August 2021 ; Online congress. p 236
  6. Hübner S, Barth K (2020) Ein Broilerleben unter Rindern. Naturland Nachr(6):54-55
  7. Simon G, Seidel J, Müller J, Kälber T, Barth K (2019) Gemeinsame Weidenutzung durch Jungrinder und Broiler. In: Mühlrath D, Albrecht J, Finckh M, Hamm U, Heß J, Knierim U, Möller D (eds) Innovatives Denken für eine nachhaltige Land- und Ernährungswirtschaft : Beiträge zur 15. Wissenschaftstagung Ökologischer Landbau ; Kassel, 5. bis 8. März 2019. Berlin: Köster, pp 284-285