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Although mixed farming has existed since very long where crops and livestock are integrated, however, the last 50 years has seen a trend towards specialization of single crops, diversified vegetables or livestock.

Benefits of practicing Integrated Farming Systems or Integrating Livestock and Crop Operations:

  1. Farmers for their crops would benefit from the improved flow of nutrients from manure produced from a livestock enterprise, which is especially true when one considers areas that are deficient in soil phosphorus. Feeding forages and grains through ruminants (cattle, sheep, goat) will help overcome the deficiency by improving the availability of phosphorus, thus leading to higher yields and higher income.
  2. Nitrogen from manure is also fairly rapidly available to plants during the growing season, which might be in the form of poultry manure (if you practice poultry farming alongside your crop) that contains very little carbon and have high nitrogen availability, in comparison to sheep or horse manure with high amounts of carbonaceous material such as sawdust or shavings that tends to tie up nitrogen when applied to the soil.
  3. By raising livestock alongside growing your crops, you are introducing a rich source of nutrients that can be used for direct application and/or composting. Furthermore, manure and compost applications contribute to soil health management by improving soil organic matter, biological activity and potential disease suppression, which manifest itself quickly and include improved soil nutrient cycling, improved soil structure, better water holding capacity in droughty soils and improved drainage in heavy soils.
  4. Livestock offers a use for crop residue and waste, which can help reduce disease while providing an inexpensive source of feed for livestock.
  5. Most importantly, adding livestock products to the marketing mix can help improve cash flow and ensure income all year-round which can help tide over difficult times.
Some of the major advantages of integrated farming:
  1. Enhance the productivity of your farm land and also enhances productivity of the farmer.
  2. Increase the per capita profitability.
  3. Keep your field under continuous production.
  4. Decreased reliance on external inputs and costs. Let’s take the example of mixed cropping of animal husbandry and crop farming where the crops and animal components are supposed to complement and support each other. For example, the crop farming gives feed to the animals, and in turn, the animals can supply fertilisers (natural fertilisers are any day better than their synthetic counterparts) to the crop, which reduces the need and cost of fertilisation and animal feed. The animals (such as cattle and sheep) can also perform weeding which reduces the need for and cuts down on the cost of herbicides.
  5. Reduce external inputs (like fertilisers and pesticides) as integrated farming system recycles much of its wastes, which, in turn, reduces greenhouse gases emissions, whether directly or indirectly due to requirement of less fossil fuel in the production and distribution of fertilisers and pesticides due to lower demand.
  6. Stabilize your income as a producer as you are not depending solely on one activity. Should one activity fail (due to low price or pests or diseases), you are still assured of income from the other activities.
  7. Outbreak is the norm in monoculture where there is uniformity of species especially over a large area, which can be overcome by increasing biodiversity (through mixed farming) which would mean less risks of pests and diseases outbreak in the farm.

Outlining the most profitable livestock animals:

Cattle (cows and bulls) – It is the best livestock to raise on your farm. It features at top of the list because not only will you get a decent payout for each animal you raise (milk, butter, cheese), but cattle are remarkably low maintenance. The fact that one ‘desi cow’ can help make manure for 25 acres of land is the biggest advantage of rearing a desi cow, which is an effective alternative to chemical fertilisers that will enhance productivity in the long run alongside maintaining soil health.

The hump of a desi cow absorbs 100 percent sunlight which gets absorbed in milk and cow dung, which, in turn, gives us more nutritious milk and cow dung that can be used as an effective alternative to chemical fertilisers, which can enhance productivity in long term while maintaining the soil health, and enhance the microbial population.

Chickens- In poultry farming, mostly chickens are farmed in great numbers, primarily for meat and eggs. Chickens are fantastic income generator for small and marginal farmers due to the constant production of eggs by hens (the real money-maker for chickens) and their breeding capabilities. Poultry droppings are a rich source of nitrogen and organic material and hence, are considered valuable as fertilisers.

Goats- Goats offer a multitude of income opportunities for small and marginal farmers, not only can you sell their meat and milk, but you can also rent them out for weed and foliage control. Moreover, goat milk is considered a healthy substitute to offerings from dairy cattle. Furthermore, an average goat produces over a ton of manure every year, which is great for fertilising your fields. Goat manure is a good source of minerals like potassium, potash, and nitrogen. Goat manure can be used in nearly any type of garden, ranging from flowering plants, herbs, to vegetables, and fruit trees. The best thing is that the naturally dry pellets are very easy to collect and apply, and are far less messy than many other types of manure, and can help farmers produce healthier plants and crop yields.

Bees- The biggest advantage with honey bees is they provide farmers a hands-off livestock that mostly takes care of itself. You can generate income is by renting out whole hives to other farms to properly pollinate their crops, and of course, you can use them to help your own crops as well.
Gain profits from selling honey, bees wax and through hive rentals.

Rabbits- The market for rabbits is growing exponentially, making it a good option for farmers to invest in. You can sell them as pets, and their meat, manure and pelts are in huge demand.

Pigs- Although pigs have a bad reputation for smell and messiness, but the truth is they are clean farm animals and are magnificent farm animals to keep on your homestead. They are low maintenance and are prolific breeders (their litters can often consist of as many as 11 piglets). They are obviously a great meat source, but make sure you raise the babies for a year to get sufficient meat from them. Manure from the disposal of pigs is very useful for agriculture.

SANF GREENMENS PVT LTD recommends that you maintain livestock like goats, cows, and sheep to secure an additional income. Aside from that, it will also provide you with the by-products like gobar that will be beneficial in the production of natural fertilisers (it is advised to follow natural farming methods only and rely completely on the fertilisers prepared by you) for your crops.

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