If you’ve got cows, you likely do something like this: number of cows x days on feed = tonnes of hay/forage needed.
But what if you’ve got land, but no livestock, and want to include perennial forage in rotation? Have you ever sat down and done this: number of acres x tonnes of feed produced = number of cows needed to make that into beef?
That, in a nutshell, is the basis for a very neat Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affair project focused on soil health, farming sustainability, and crop diversity.
Christoph Wand, livestock sustainability specialist for the province, has taken the approach that livestock production can be and is a vital part of a sustainable crop rotation because of two huge factors: the utility of forage produced and the necessity of returning much needed carbon to the soil cycle.
But most grain farmers don’t want livestock because of the year-long care, and many livestock producers don’t care to invest in machinery that just depreciates…if we’re talking about a return to mixed farming, in principle, how do we make that work?
Wand and his team are proposing a different way of looking at mixed farming — one that involves convincing land owners that a renter with a 10-year, forage-rich cropping plan provides long-term advantages over a (possibly) higher cash rent. Part B is that farmers themselves figure out ways and means of using or marketing the produced forage either for their own livestock use, or for neighbouring farms.
With about 40% of Ontario farmland rented each year, the opportunity for these types of land rental agreements is massive. In the interview below, Wand outlines the concept, how it works, the social implications, and why the system works best with both ruminant and monogastric protein-makers in the mix.
The OMAFRA actsheet “Renting Your Land Sustainably” (Order Number 17-005) will be available soon.