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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Interactions between animal enterprises and marketing strategies shape organic multispecies farming systems

Benoit, Marc; Martin, Guillaume; Steinmetz, Lucille; Ulukan, Dephne; Bernes, Gun; Brock, Christopher; de la Foye, Anne; Grillot, Myriam; Magne, Marie-Angelina; Meischner, Tabea; Moerman, Marie; Monteiro, Leonardo; Oehen, Bernadette; Parsons, David; Primi, Riccardo; Schanz, Lisa; Winckler, Christoph; Dumont, Bertrand


One of the key ways to improve the sustainability of agricultural systems is through diversification, taking advantage of synergies between farm enterprises. Among diversified systems, multispecies livestock farms with at least two animal enterprises have rarely been studied. We explored 95 organic farms from six countries, accounting for the proportion of animal enterprises, sales management, workforce size, and work organization. The study reveals various types of interactions between animal enterprises. Complementarities were observed between ruminant and monogastric enterprises, particularly fertilizer transfer from monogastric manure to grasslands. Milk production was often associated with on-farm processing and short distribution channels, which enhanced farm viability and reduced its dependency on herd productivity. Eleven out of the 95 farms combined above-average production efficiency, on-farm processing, and the majority of sales in short distribution channels. Their labor productivity converged toward 22 livestock units per annual work unit, regardless of the number of workers. Combining farm structure; livestock production efficiency; social elements, such as the workforce; and sales management led us to distinguish four types of farms: (i) small and very autonomous grassland farms with on-farm processing and short distribution channels; (ii) dairy farms associated with a high-density pig or poultry enterprise, whose feed purchase contributes to high rates of cattle feeding self-sufficiency and stocking rate; (iii) large farms with an extensive, grassland beef enterprise associated with either sheep or monogastrics; and (iv) dairy sheep associated with goat or beef cattle on rangelands, with high added-value products enhancing salaries. This study highlights for the first time the diversity of organic multispecies livestock farms and how consistent patterns of interactions among farm structure, livestock management, sales management, and workforce management shape them. The results are a preliminary basis for designing policy interventions aiming to scale up organic farming and value social assets of diversified and small farms.


Organic farming; Mixed farming; Diversification; Farm typology; Short channel

Published in

Agronomy for Sustainable Development
2023, Volume: 43, number: 6, article number: 77

      SLU Authors

    • Sustainable Development Goals

      End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
      Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
      Agricultural Science

      Publication identifier


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