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.
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.
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.
4.2018 - 3.2021
Project funding number: 2817OE009
Funding program: EU - ERA-NET Core Organic Cofund
Project status: ongoing