A typical case of mixed farming is the combination of crop cultivation with dairy farming or in more general terms, crop cultivation with livestock farming. Mixed farming may be treated as a special case of diversified farming. This particular combination of enterprises, support each other and add to the farmer’s profitability.
Advantages of Mixed farming:
- Farmers can keep their fields under continuous production.
- It enhances the productivity of the farm land
- It increases the per capita profitability
- Both farmings compliment each other.
- It enhances the productivity of the farmer also.
- Reduce dependency on external inputs and costs. In the example of mixed cropping of animal husbandry and crop farming the crops and animals components can complement and support each other. For example, the crop farming gives feed to the animals, and in turn, the animals can supply fertilizers to the crop. So this reduces the need and cost of fertilization and animal feed. The animals (such as cattle and sheep) can also perform weeding which reduces the need for herbicides.CIPAV system from Columbia, for example, incorporates fuel generation where crop wastes are fed into a biodigester which then generates fuel for use in the farm (for running farm machinery and equipment). This reduces external fuel dependency.
- A simpler mixed farming system is aquaponics where the fish wastes are useful as fertilizers for the vegetables (like lettuce) and the lettuce, in turn, clean the water for the fish. Another similar setup and benefit is rice-fish farming in northeast Thailand and China where fish (like tilapia and carp) are bred in the rice field waters.
- Because the mixed farming system recycles much of its wastes, this reduce external inputs (like fertilizers and pesticides). This in turn reduce greenhouse gases emissions, whether directly or indirectly because less fossil fuels are required in the production and distribution of fertilizers and pesticides due to lower demand.
- It stabilizes the income of the farmer because the farmer is not depending solely on one activity. Should one activity fail (due to low price or pests or diseases), the farmer can still get income from the other activities.
- Increased biodiversity means less risks of pests and diseases outbreak in the farm. Outbreak usually occurs in monoculture where there is uniformity of species especially over a large area.
Disadvantages of mixed farming:
- Because a mixed farming system consists of multiple activities running simultaneously, this makes the control, monitoring, and maintenance of the farm more difficult than a monoculture where only a single activity is run.
- Some times one activity may hinder the other activity.
- For the same reason above, the farmer needs to be knowledgeable (or an expert) in more than one area as compared to a monoculture farmer. A mixed farming farmer is running several activities at once, there may be management problem.
Advantage: Mixing Encourages Sustainability
Although mixed farming can have higher initial and opportunity costs because of the greater diversity of supplies and equipment needed, there is also the possibility that the resources can be re-utilized between ventures. For example; the manure produced by dairy cows can be spread on crop fields and reduce the amount of fertilizer required. If the same dairy farmer also plants feed corn, he can sell some and reserve some for his own herd. Mixed farmers can rotate their fields, letting cropland rest for several years, which contributes to a farm’s sustainability by reducing or eliminating its reliance on chemical fertilizers.
Disadvantage: Limited Capacity
One of the largest disadvantages of mixed farming operations is that they tend to be limited in capacity. An operator must spread his resources, such as time, money, labor and land over two different ventures. For example; a farmer who plants crops and raises beef cattle cannot plant as much corn as the farmer who only grows crops. Therefore, he cannot take advantage of the economies of scale that are inherent to large setups, such as reduced costs and increased efficiency.
Disadvantage: More Resources Required
Mixed farming generally requires more resources, another clear disadvantage. For example; a farmer who only grows wheat needs planting and harvesting equipment, such as plows, disks, planters, sprayers and combines. A farmer who milks dairy cattle in addition to growing wheat requires more equipment, such as a mixer wagon, bucket tractor and skidsteer. As a result, the opportunity costs of mixed farming tends to be higher than single-focus farming.