Combining Livestock and Crops: Improving Soil Health and Increasing Farm Profitability

Farmers have historically utilised cattle to graze uncultivated land, feed on cropped areas and weeds, and eat leftover vegetables and orchard trash. Livestock composted plant biomass, resulting in manure that improved soil organic matter and fertility. Meat, milk, fibre, and skins are all provided by livestock, as well as draught power.

By Dr. Rizwan Maqbool

Animals helped diversify the farm produce base, provided an extra source of income, assisted in weed and pest management, increased farm resilience, and provided growers with the freedom to sell farm products (crops, animals, or both) at appropriate periods. A failing crop, for example, may still be used by cattle, providing “farm insurance.”

In modern agriculture, specialties that separate animals from crops have tended to be favoured. Specialized mechanical equipment, fertilisers, weedicides, insecticides, and fungicides have all been utilised by farmers. Weed, pest, soil fertility, and soil health concerns have become increasingly difficult to control under these specialised systems as the cost of agricultural inputs has risen significantly. As a result, it appears that many farmers would benefit from reintroducing cattle to their operations.

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Our forefathers and grandfathers recognised and appreciated the advantages of integrated agricultural and animal systems. Recent research has shown that keeping livestock on the farm can increase organic matter, enrich soil (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and many other micronutrients essential for plant growth and development), increase soil life, improve soil biodiversity, reduce pest problems by grazing to remove pest habitat, remove weeds in fallow land, reduce farm waste by grazing residues, leftover spoiled vegetables and dropped fruits, and reduce farm waste by grazing residues, leftover spoiled vegetables and dropped fruits w

During droughts and fodder scarcity seasons, livestock farmers may benefit from planting crops, mostly due to lower feed costs. Profit and coercion to sell out cattle at low rates can be distinguished by using their farm produce for animals. By removing larvae and habitat and disrupting the disease cycle, grazing animals on farms deposit manure and grazing action boosts plant development and eliminates weed, pest, and insect problems. Gazing alfalfa, for example, can help to minimise weeds and weevil larvae. All of these farm duties are served by livestock while herbicides, pesticides, fertilisers, and fuels are saved. Money that is saved is money that is earned. Livestock also helps to improve crop yields in the future. Adding livestock to farmlands improves soil quality and minimises the flow of nutrients and pesticides from the farm, among other benefits. Other sustainable farming methods may help farms maintain production and profitability in the face of climate change.

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Soil compaction is a genuine worry when animals are allowed to remain on land; yet, studies found that the combined crop-animal system had no effect on infiltration rate after nine years. Another issue that may be addressed by understanding the nutritional demands of animals at various stages of the production cycle is the optimal nutrition of cattle fed on weeds or agricultural waste. Poultry is the ideal alternative for orchards because it does not cause tree damage. Sheep, on the other hand, can be grazed in orchards under monitoring to ensure that the animals do not consume the bark. Because goats prefer woody plants, they should not be allowed in orchards. Before bringing animals to the property, there are a number of logistics to consider. The following suggestions may aid in the transition to a crop-livestock integrated system. Begin modestly to give yourself time to learn the new system, ask farmers who manage animals, and find a veterinarian; a mentor is priceless. By enhancing soil health and diversifying farm products, combining crops and cattle on farmland strengthens each component and agricultural system, reducing risks under weather extremes and climate change scenarios. However, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of the region’s financial, infrastructure, and market conditions.

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Summary

Keeping livestock on-farm can increase organic matter, enrich soil (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and many other micronutrients essential for plant growth and development), increase soil life, improve soil biodiversity. Livestock also provide manure to benefit the soil organic matter and soil fertility. Adding livestock on farmlands improves soil quality, reduces the flow of nutrients and pesticides from the farm, and other sustainable farming practices. Many logistics need to be understood before adding livestock to the farmland. Poultry is the best option for orchards due to the reason not to damage the trees.

Author: Dr. Rizwan Maqbool PhD (Canada) Assistant Professor Department of Agronomy,University of Agriculture,Faisalabad.

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