Crop-livestock farming is an agricultural production system which combines one or more crops (intended for sale and/or feeding of animals) and at least one type of livestock. Such a system tends towards agroecology when animals are fed by crops and grasslands, which are fertilized in return by their faeces. Crop-livestock farming exists at farm-level or between several farms (at least two) which coordinate between one another for the management of material flows (grain, fodder, manure) or via an economic organization (eg a cooperative) managing these flows.
Compared to a specialized agricultural production system (in crops or in livestock), crop-livestock farming with a agro-ecological aim is a form of integrated farming: crops provide grain (cereals and grain legumes) and crop residues (straw, by-products) or fodder (alfalfa hay, etc.) to the animals which, in return, provide organic excreta (slurry, manure) to the crops. This integration between crops and livestock promotes the autonomy of the system with regards to inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, livestock feed, etc.). Finally, crop-livestock farming allows a better resilience of the system in the face of climatic and economic hazards.
The evolution of agriculture in France, via the agricultural innovation system (research, training, council, banks, etc.), has led to the development of crop-livestock farming systems which generally have a limited integration among crops and livestock. A mere coexistence between crops and livestock is simply equivalent to organizing flows of materials (grain, fodder, effluent) via the market according to a logic of specialized agricultural production systems. These systems do not induce a real crop/livestock integration in the agro-ecological sense: they therefore do not offer the expected benefits in terms of autonomy and resilience. To develop an agro-ecological crop-livestock farming, coordination between crops and livestock is necessary over time (for example through crop successions) and over space (for example through crop rotation).
References to explore
Bell, L. W., & Moore, A. D. 2012. Integrated crop–livestock systems in Australian agriculture: Trends, drivers and implications. Agricultural Systems, 111, 1–12.
Hendrickson, J. R., Hanson, J. D., Tanaka, D. L., & Sassenrath, G. 2008. Principles of integrated agricultural systems: Introduction to processes and definition. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 23(4), 265.
Martin, G., Moraine, M., Ryschawy, J., Magne, M.-A., Asai, M., Sarthou, J.-P., … Therond, O. 2016. Crop–livestock integration beyond the farm level: a review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 36(3).