Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Striking a balance between livestock and the environment

Mixed farming builds resilience into agriculture

Bullocks in a field at Drumlara, Between Kilcock and Summerhill Co Meath. Picture Credit : Frank Mc Grath
Bullocks in a field at Drumlara, Between Kilcock and Summerhill Co Meath. Picture Credit : Frank Mc Grath
Organic vegetable and fruit grower Grace Maher
Grace Maher

Grace Maher

As farmers around the country calculate the damage from recent weather extremes it once again illustrates just how vulnerable the sector is in the face of changing weather patterns.

Agriculture is on the climate change front-line and finding the delicate balance between reforming agricultural practices, food security and the sustainable use of natural resources is on-going.

One thing that is certain is that we must build resilience into farming systems so that they can better adapt to climatic challenges.

Mixed farming

Organic farming is widely acknowledged as a method of farming that reduces the impact on the environment, making it a good climate mitigation option.

One method of building resilience is mixed farming, something that is practiced widely in the organic sector.

This incorporates growing cash crops and livestock in a manner where the crop and animal components complement each other.

Productivity

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Some of the benefits of mixed farms are that they increase overall productivity, and they reduce the dependence on external inputs as crops grown are fed to livestock and animals fertilise the land growing the crops.

While mixed farms do require expertise in many areas, they also ensure the holding is less volatile as it spreads risk across different enterprises.

The additional benefits are fewer greenhouse gas emissions as nutrients are recycled in the system requiring less additional inputs.

Mixed farms also score well on biodiversity, ensuring farmers are delivering on eco-system services.

These farms tend to be species rich and nourish biodiversity making them not only more sustainable units for food production but also more climate resilient.

Grace Maher is development officer with the IOFGA, grace.maher@iofga.org.

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