Mixed-type farms can boost efficiency and cut costs -- plus spark your interest
We live on a main road in the south east and almost every day we see big loads of straw heading north and west. When transport costs are added, this straw will not be cheap.
Margins in today's farming are so tight that added costs, such as transport and middle handlers, are a luxury that cannot be afforded. In recent decades, the trend has been towards specialisation, but will mixed self-sufficient-style farming make a comeback? There are also efficiencies in complementary enterprises on the same farm. Tillage and livestock can dovetail well on the one site.
In a similar vein, the income in beef and sheep cannot carry a spate of movements through marts. When animals and products are moved, extra cost is incurred. I'm certainly not saying that marts should be closed. Marts deliver an essential farming service, but let's be aware that all costs eventually come from the primary producer's pocket.
I know that not every Irish farm is suited to arable crops and tillage, but many all-grassland farms could carry some tillage as well.
Let me look at some of the in-built efficiencies in more mixed-type farming.
Positives for livestock
- Straw and cereals are available at first cost. Crimping and proprionic additives now allow for long-term, on-farm, low-labour cereal storage without the vermin threat.
- Having some of the land in arable crops facilitates extra stock-carrying capacity under the Nitrates Directive.
- A root crop, such as fodder beet, provides a high carrying capacity per unit of land.
- Fresh reseeds give extra grass and reduced threat from parasites. This boosts livestock performance, especially lambs.
- Tillage in the rotation makes it easier to control weeds, such as thistles, docks, ragworth, nettles, etc.
- More stock can be outwintered on catch crops.
Positives for tillage
- Grass breaks support a recovery in soil organic matter and fertility.
- Dung and slurry recycled on-farm cuts fertiliser cost and boosts fertility.
- It also improves cash flow.