Intercropping is not widespread, but could be beneficial for the cereal farmer and the beef cattle farmer. In our example, a beef cattle farm is experimenting with intercropping in their fields and, if successful, will dare to recommend it to various neighbouring beef cattle farmers. The beef cattle farm sows a cereal-based crop mix (rye + legume) in spring , making silage at the stage of milk maturity. And then sows cabbage and turnips in strips. Which is then grazed in October to November. Suitable intercrops and systems still need to be tested and found for Estonian conditions. Soils are tested with soil compaction tester- before and after crop grazing to overcome the fears of farmers that crazing compacts the soil.
Impact on farm performance
The main benefits are that this GP results in a good bilateral beneficial relationship between farmers where both sides benefit. This becomes more important at a time when mineral fertiliser prices are continuing to rise. The main challenges were that cereal farmers do not yet appreciate the effects of organic manure and grazing and are not interested in such a combination. The problem is also that more than 50% of beef cattle farmers in Estonia are organic, they are not allowed to graze fields that are under conventional production. The key success factor for implementation is measuring osil health, to show the farmers that the soil health is improved.
Three main lessons learned for implementation are: 1. More feed for cattle for longer period and a better soil quality, 2. This GP can improve relations between neighbours by sharing costs, 3. This GP can improve the quality of the meat and test the effect of different crops on fattening.
Impact on other thematic areas
Socioeconomic Resilience: This good practice results in extra feed for animals after the normal grazing period
Animal Health & Welfare: The longer grazing period is good for animal health and welfare
Production Efficiency & Meat Quality: The effect of different crops on fattening and meat quality have to be evaluated.
Environmental Sustainability: Cover crops stimulate soil live, enhance soil structure and protect the soil from nutrient leaching and erosion.
Article: '5 tips for nutrient management this fall and next spring'
Article: 'Grazing cover crops'
Author Airi Kulvert, Estonia