Diversified Livestock Farms

I've said it on Sound Advice and I will keep saying that sustainable livestock need sustainable crops. Proper crop rotation and the feeds produced are important features on a sustainable livestock farm.

Long-term complex crop rotations are better for soil health and productivity. Long-term means 10 years plus; complex means 3 row crop species at minimum, plus forages.

If these diverse crops are used as the basis for feeding livestock, it drives two logical consequences:

  1. A combination of forage and grain utilizing livestock species. In other words ruminant animals and monogastrics. Think beef plus poultry or dairy plus swine.
  2. That a more complex rotation will provide feedstuffs we might not use currently such as winter wheat, or winter barley and that livestock rations might need to change with cropping systems.

Combining both forage and grain-based species onto the same landbase has synergistic benefits in terms of agronomy and protein productivity. But, am I suggesting a return to the mixed farm of yesteryear and children's songs?

No! I am talking about livestock centres of sufficient scale that each is of critical mass as an economic unit. The key is to have the feed production and manure usage distributed over a common land base either by agreements between independent farms or a larger family business. This ensures the soil gets multiple crops, grazing and manure types across all the acres in question.

This has been Christoph Wand, Livestock Sustainability Specialist with OMAFRA for Sound Advice encouraging you to think about what diversity looks like in your livestock rearing and crop growing business. Follow me on Twitter @CtophWand.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Christoph Wand, Livestock Sustainability Specialist
Creation Date: 24 March 2017
Last Reviewed: 24 March 2017