Mixed farming, often referred to as inter cropping, is a type of agriculture wherein multiple crops and/or livestock are cultivated and reared on the same piece of land. This farming practice helps farmers diversify their income streams, enhance soil health, and eliminate the risk of crop failure. The practice of mixed farming dates back thousands of years with evidence dating back to ancient civilisations like the Aztecs where farmers grew beans, squash, and corn together in a system termed as the ‘Three Sisters’. In modern times, farmers cultivate crops like wheat, barley, and oats along with legumes like beans and peas which help fix nitrogen into the soil, enhancing soil fertility. At the same time, livestock like cattle, sheep, and pigs are raised along with crops that are a good source of manure for fertiliser and a means to control weeds and pests.
In Australia, mixed farming is a popular farming practice, especially in regions with limited rainfall and challenging farming conditions. For example, farmers might require maintaining multiple crops and livestock species which requires more labour and specialised knowledge. Additionally, changing weather patterns and competition for water resources make it difficult for farmers to maintain sustainable farming practices. Despite these challenges, mixed farming is an essential aspect of Australian agribusiness.
In this blog, we have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of mixed farming for you to get a deeper insight into this type of farming.
Mixed Farming: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Diversification: One of the major advantages of mixed farming is diversification. Cultivating crops and rearing livestock simultaneously helps farmers spread their risks and minimise losses in case of issues such as crop failures, diseases or pests affecting their crops or animals. For example, if a farmer only focuses on crop cultivation and there is a drought, the possibility of running losses increases. But, if the same farmer practices mixed farming, wherein he cultivates crops and raises animals at the same time, he/she can sell the animals as an income source and sustain the farm.
- Efficient Use of Resources: Since the same crop is used for cultivating crops and raising animals, mixed farming acts as an efficient use of resources. For example, animals can graze on the crops’ residue after harvest which minimises the requirement for added expenditure in terms of fertilisers and animal feed. This in turn minimises production costs and increases profitability.
- Higher Productivity: Mixed farming enhances productivity as it allows farmers to use their land effectively. For example, when animals are raised on a farm, their manure acts as fertilisers for crops, enhancing soil fertility. This leads to higher yields and higher income for farmers.
- Risk Management: Mixed farming aids in better risk management as farmers can diversify their income streams. In case a product fails, farmers can rely on other products for income. This minimises the risk of total income loss and ensures farmers’ sustainability.
- Sustainability: As we know, mixed farming reduces the need for external inputs like fertilisers and pesticides. This leads to a reduction in the use of chemicals which in turn protects the environment ensuring farm sustainability.
- Specialised Skills: For mixed farming to be successful, farmers would require specialised skills and knowledge of both animal husbandry and crop management. This can be challenging for farmers who lack the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out both activities effectively.
- More Workload: Mixed farming requires more farmer involvement as farmers need to take care of both crops and animals. This is a time-consuming process resulting in fatigue and burnout for some farmers.
- High Capital Investment: In the initial stages, mixed farming requires high capital investment. These investments include the need to purchase livestock, seeds, equipment, and more. This can prove to be a challenge for farmers lacking the necessary capital to start their farming business.
- Disease and Pest Management: Mixed farming involves a lot of challenges when it comes to disease and pest management as diseases and pests can spread easily from animals to crops and vice versa. Farmers, therefore, need to monitor and manage their crops and livestock constantly, which is a time-consuming and costly process.
- Market Risks: Mixed farming can be risky when it comes to marketing the products as farmers need to find markets for both their crops and animals. This is challenging especially if there is an oversupply in the market, resulting in low prices.
Despite the challenges of mixed farming, this practice has proven to be effective, especially in areas with scarce land where farmers require resource optimisation. Therefore, delving into the advantages and disadvantages is essential while venturing into mixed farming.
If you are conducting market research about successful farmers in Australia who practice mixed farming, contact us at KG2 Australia. Our largest and most comprehensive database on independent farmers will give you a better insight into the country’s agribusiness.