SLU news

Are mixtures of animals on farms the way to a more sustainable production?

Published: 09 May 2018
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On April 4th-6th, the kick-off meeting of the MIX-ENABLE project took place in Toulouse, France. Twenty-five researchers from 7 countries met to plan the first stages of this project. The CORE Organic Cofund project MIX-ENABLE aims to deepen our understanding of organic mixed livestock farming (i.e. integrating two or more animal species) in Europe, to find sustainable and robust forms of the production, and to propose improved models and strategies.

Integrating two or more animal species with crop production or agroforestry on a farm potentially provides various benefits, including more efficient pasture use and parasite management. However, most organic livestock farms are specialized and the few organic mixed livestock farms tend to display limited integration between farm components (crops, pastures and animals), i.e. limited interactions over space and time between these components. This limited integration may reduce the potential benefits of having more than one animal species. Therefore, the MIX-ENABLE project will explore the conditions of sustainability and robustness of organic mixed livestock farms in Europe, especially the influence of integration between farm components on the aforementioned factors.

In this project, 20 farms per country will be surveyed to assess the level of integration between farm components. An indicator system for integrated assessment will be developed and applied to associate the sustainability and robustness of the surveyed farms with their level of integration among farm components. In parallel, farm-level experiments comparing specialized and mixed livestock production will be conducted for the comparison of specific aspects of animal husbandry (e.g. pasture use or animal health). The obtained knowledge will be integrated into models that can simulate organic mixed livestock farm performances against climatic and economic variability. Using these models, more sustainable and robust organic mixed livestock farms will be created through co-design workshops with farmers.

The results will be communicated to practice and policy-makers to shed light on the potential of organic mixed livestock farms, and more specifically on the ways to manage these farms sustainably, as well as how to convert from a specialized farm.

Coordinator of the project :

Guillaume Martin, INRA, France guillaume.martin@inra.fr

Partners:

BOKU (Austria), CRAW (Belgium), FIBL (Switzerland), Forschungsring (Germany), IDELE (France) , ITAB (France), INRA (France), SLU (Sweden) , Thünen Institute (Germany), Tuscia University (Italy)


Contact at SLU

David Parsons, Professor/Head of Crop Section
Department of Agricultural Research for Northern Sweden, SLU
david.parsons@slu.se, +46(0)90-786 8714

Gun Bernes, Experiment Group Leader 
Department of Agriculture Research for Northern Sweden, SLU
gun.bernes@slu.se, +46(0)90-786 8744

Page editor: johanna.wallsten@slu.se