I am challenging farmers to think differently about how their farm systems are set up, especially in terms of their reliance on concentrates and fertiliser inputs. There is an alternative approach to the current convention.
We are borrowing non-renewable resources from past and future generations to support this one. That is the very opposite of sustainable agriculture.
The take-away challenge is for farmers to assess whether their fertiliser costs are decreasing per pasture produced. Are you growing cheaper pastures?
Animal welfare is certainly a subject about which most people will have something to say. Most people’s opinions are firmly held and are based on their beliefs, culture and traditions, rather than on factual evidence. The broader community needs to understand that animal welfare is a very complex and multifaceted subject which cannot be reduced to one box.
The SWAN system is composed of soil, water, atmosphere and nutrient components. The best way to show how these integrated and interrelated measures reflect the journey of improving agricultural sustainability is to show a case study of a farm which has become more sustainable over the past five years.
The benefits of multispecies pasture are not only limited to the benefits mentioned in this blog, they are far greater. I have isolated these ones because they are the most pertinent and directly relate to farm profitability.
Having been in the dairy industry for just over 10 years, Rufus Dreyer is one of the early adopters of sustainable dairy farming practices in the area. He runs a farm just outside Humansdorp, close to Oyster Bay. Find out more about Rufus and his insights about dairy farming.
The unfortunate truth is that there are no silver bullets in farming. The agro-ecosystem is way too complex, with far too many interactions, to have a simple, single solution to challenges.
Nutrients are brought into the farm through the farm gate, and nutrients are removed through the farm gate. The question that needs to be asked is, are there more nutrients brought into, or removed from the farm system?
If farmers could challenge themselves and stop applying excessive nutrients in the form of fertiliser, especially N, and rather focus on building soil carbon, that would force the soil organisms to start working (mineralise organic matter) for their own nutrients.