Role of Livestock in Organic Farming
“ Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field” says President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In other word, unless you’ve lived it, you don’t know as much as you think you do. Farming is a profession of hope. Every year the spring comes. And every year we plan those crops and try again.
Organic farming can be defined as a system of management and agricultural production that combines a high level of biodiversity with environmental practices that preserve natural resources and has rigorous standards for animal welfare. Livestock integration plays a major role in the life of farmers. It provides food, income, employment and many other contributions to the farming community. Every nation must diminish its reliance on external sources for its fundamental need-sustenance. A critical piece of food security is that every one of the sources of info ought to be locally accessible and cheap. Only a can guarantee this. The whole farming input sources are given by the cow. Mixed farming involving crops and livestock integration has been a way of life since the beginning of agriculture. It is widely realized that this is the only method of providing additional income and employment to the families.
Livestock on an organic farm play a key role
- Nutrient cycling-Nitrogen fixed by legumes and other nutrients consumed by livestock during grazing are returned to soil via manure and urine. Managed carefully, livestock and manure can play an important role in nutrient cycling on the organic farm. In feedlots, it is necessary to store and dispose of manure and urine in an environmentally acceptable manner.
- Weed control– Livestock are used extensively for weed control on organic farms. For example, they can graze down weeds either before sowing a crop or after crop establishment for weed control and to enhance tillering. Crops can be selected for their palatability. Livestock selectively graze out weeds and avoid the less palatable crop.
- Pasture and crop establishment-Livestock can assist in preparing ground for planting. For example, they can assist with stubble management by grazing and trampling stubble.
- Insect and disease control– The pasture phase in a mixed cropping system builds a critical fertility and structure building phase into rotations and interrupts the potential for the growth of insects and disease.
- Livestock nutrition- Organic farming aims to provide a diet which livestock is most adapted to consume. Organic husbandry does not aim to maximize weight gain at the expense of animal health and happiness. While good nutrition aims to achieve adequate yields, it has an enormous effect on animal health and is therefore very important in disease prevention.
For example, in organic pastures, herbs such as chicory, plantain, yarrow and caraway are often added. Deep-rooted native species can recycle and make available nutrients that otherwise may be unavailable deep in the soil profile. Legumes such as lucerne can supply organic nitrogen to the grass component of pastures and help to recycle deep nutrients. Nutrient imbalances are less likely to occur in organically raised livestock where plant nutrients are provided by the balancing of soil fertility and the soil’s biological activity rather than water-soluble nutrients.
- Land preparation for cropping: Farm animals such as pigs can plough rough or new land before planting vegetables or grains, reducing tillage and weed control costs.
- Soil water storage: It results in greater soil water storage capacity, mainly because of biological aeration and the increase in the level of organic matter.
- Providing energy: Excreta are the basis for the production of biogas and energy for household use e.g. cooking, lighting or for rural industries. Fuel in the form of biogas or dung cakes can replace charcoal and wood.
- Different forms of manures: Farmyard manure, Sheep and goat manure, Poultry manure, and other concentrated organic manures.
Therefore, livestock farming system offer scope to promote organic agriculture and carry-over of carbon and nutrients from over cropping season to the next. Organic farmers having healthy farm animals can produce satisfying result over a long period of time. Good health and welfare of the animals are main concern.
About the Author:
Sangam Dangal; B.Sc. Ag
Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science