Should you farm with just one crop or type of livestock, or diversify your farming business? Surely it is better not to keep your eggs in one basket? But the issue is not as black and white. Some farmers may want to specialise, while others might not have the space or resources to diversify.
Still, it is worth the while to look into it. Shadrack Mbele from Lindley in the Free State is here to tell you why it is important to consider diversifying your farming business.
Why should you diversify?
“It is vital for you not to concentrate on only one thing on the farm,” is one of the first things Mbele said when called for an interview.
He himself diversified his dairy farm by adding crops when dairy farming stopped being profitable enough. Now he farms with crops such as soya beans, maize and sugar beans. He also has a few sheep.
He lists two main reasons in support of having a mix of livestock and crops on your farm:
Unpredictable weather conditions
“We sometimes have very dry conditions, sometimes we have heavy rains,” Mbele says. “It is possible to lose your entire crop or fail to produce a yield.”
It is in difficult times that it’s good to have a variety of crops as some might fare better in more extreme weather. Alternatively have livestock as well as crops. Livestock are more likely to survive harsher conditions as you can shelter them and provide them with food and water if nature does not.
Livestock depend on crops
Even if a crop gets ruined during a drought or heavy rains and you run into trouble, all will not be lost.
Mbele says that you will still have crop material to use as animal feed. “Your animals will feed on the residues of your crops. These animals will be able to pay your debt.”
With which crops and livestock should I farm?
If you want to diversify and farm with crops and livestock, Mbele says the best combinations will vary depending on your environment.
In the Eastern Free State where he farms, he recommends farming with beef or sheep and various crops such as maize, soya beans, sunflower and dry beans.
It also depends on the size of your farm and whether or not it can support livestock grazing as well as crops.
Crops and livestock have minimum economic units, meaning you need to have more than a certain number of hectares or livestock for it to be viable and to make a profit. If your farm is too small to accommodate these numbers, it would be more difficult to diversify.
Another problem you might face when you want to diversify, is finding the finances to do so.
“It is difficult to find the finances to buy animals to diversify from crop farming,” says Mbele. But if you can, diversifying will be the smart and safe option.
NTV Uganda has a farming series called Seeds of Gold on YouTube. Watch their video on How to generate more profit from mixed farming if you want to learn more about this topic: