Types of Mixed Farming System

Mixed farming is one of the old methods of farming which is still in existence, despite modernization, call for specialization in agriculture. There are many factors affecting the choice of mixed farming by farmers. The factors can be classified into two: external and internal factors. The internal factors are those factories beyond the control of the farmers such as access to farmland, environment, government policies, technological development, market trends and so on. The internal factors are those factors which the farmers have control over. They include availability of resources, labour, famers' ingenuity, etc.

Mixed Farming

This is a farming system whereby both crops and livestock or different crop species or livestock species are raised on the same farm. In a mixed farming practice, the farmer may keep cows for milk, chickens for eggs, and also grow maize and hay and various other food crops to feed his animals. Many farmers adopt this farming system to leverage on its advantages.

There are other farming systems

Advantages of Mixed Farming

It leads to land maximization where there is limited farmland

It allows for diversification and risk management. Risk of total loss is reduced, as it is unlikely that both the farm animals and crops will fail.

Animal manure can be added to the soil to increase soil nutrients and improve soil fertility.

Unwanted crops produce can be used to feed the livestock.

It leads to more efficient use of farm labour

Total yield is often increased

It leads to production  of various food items and essential nutrients in one place at same time.

Leads to increased revenue for the farmer, and the national economy at large.

Disadvantages of Mixed Farming

The capital investment is high in terms of buildings and equipment, and to buy the livestock.

Maintaining animals can be expensive in terms of vaccination and treatment for diseases.

Maintenance costs are spread out and tend to be much higher.

If animals break loose, they may get into the crops and destroy them.

It discourages specialization and expertise.

Mixed Farming Systems

Mixed cropping system

Mixing within livestock

Mixed crop-livestock systems

Integrated culture system

Polyculture system

Mixed Cropping System

Alt: = "photo sowing maize, beans cassava on same farmland"

Mixed cropping involves the cultivation of two or more different crops on same land in a farming season such as cassava and maize, cowpea and millet, tomatoes and pepper, and so on. These usually consist of a major and minor crops. It is also referred to as multi cropping system. Mixed cropping can be practiced in two ways:  interplanting and intercropping.

Interplanting: In interplanting, the crop planted first is harvested first, and obviously, the second crop is harvested later.

Intercropping: In intercropping, the crop planted first is harvested second, while the crop planted second is harvested first. Example: if yam is intercropping with cowpea, the yam is planted before cowpea, but cowpea is harvested before yam.

Some of the benefits of mixed cropping include:

Helps to improve soil fertility, especially if the farmer knows which crops to plant as companions.

One crop may provide ground cover or shade for the other crop, and prevent soil erosion during heavy rainfall.

Reduces the risk of crop failure, as both crops are unlikely to fail.

Ensures the farmer of a regular supply of food over the entire season. 

Helps to check the growing and spread of weeds, as the growing area is entirely covered with food crops

Mixed cropping equally has some drawbacks:

Planting nutrients in the soil can be used up much quicker, especially if incorrect combinations are used.

It is difficult to use mechanized farming because the entire area is planted.

There can be serious competition among certain crops struggling for water, sunlight and space.

In some cases, insect pests may become more widespread, as they have a continuous supply of food to feed on.

Mixed Livestock System

Alt: = "photo of cows and sheep grazing together"
Cattle and sheep grazing together
Source: agupdate.com

This is a practice of rearing more than one type of animal on same farm. Cattle and sheep can be kept in same farm. A farmer can keep poultry for eggs, sheep and coat for their meat and wool, cattle for meat and dairy. Even pastoralists (monadic herders) practice mixed livestock type of mixed farming since their livelihood depends on the management of different feed resources and animal species — they graze cows and sheep together on same pasture.

Mixed Crop-Livestock System

Alt: = "photo of cattle grazing under coconut tree"
Cattle grazing under coconut tree
Source: fao.org

In a mixed crop-livestock farming practice, the farmer may keep cows for milk, chickens for eggs, and also grow maize and hay and various other food crops to feed his animals.

Mixed crop-livestock farming reduces the risk of total loss, as it is unlikely that both the farm animals and crops will fail at same time. Another benefit is that manure from animal can be added to the soil to increase soil nutrients and improve soil fertility, and unwanted crops produce can be used to feed the livestock. 

Integrated Culture

Integrated culture is the rearing of fish with either of crops or livestock within the same culture environment. For instance rice-fish, cattle-fish or poultry-fish. Tilapia and catfish are suitable for culture with poultry or rice. In this mixed farming, rice are usually planted in fish pond (natural or earthen ponds), and poultry pend build on top of fish pond. Plants planted in a fish culture use fish waste and manure, and supply the fish with dissolved oxygen. While the chicken dung from poultry build on top of fish pond increases the algae growth in the fish pond.


Polyculture is the rearing of two or more species of fish together in the same pond.

Ikechukwu Evegbu

Ikechukwu Evegbu is a graduate of Statistics with over 10 years experience as Data Analyst. Worked with Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. A prolific business development content writer. He's the Editor, Business Compiler

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