Andrzej Majerski’s farm is an organic family farm in Southern Poland (Małopolska region, Łącko district) of 24 ha which includes 10 ha of arable land (mowing-grazing usage), 1 ha of old orchards, 1.5 of new orchards and 12 ha of forest. The conversion of the farm to an organic system started in 2005 to provide value-added food products and improve farm income at the same time. The farmer is interested in protecting local varieties of apple trees to prevent their disappearance and maintain local cultural identity, but strengthening the competitive position of the agricultural enterprise is also a key priority in the region, where most of the land belongs to smallholders.
How does grazing cattle in orchards help to address economic problems?
As the potential development of the animal sector must be boosted and fully exploited after the continuing decline in cattle and sheep numbers in Poland, current policy is looking for alternatives to dairy farming to fill the existing market niche. Beef production, particularly using abandoned land resources seems an interesting opportunity for farmers. Moreover, value-added income can be improved by integrating livestock grazing with crop production. Here, rotational cattle grazing in traditional orchards gives grounds for a solution. Now, under climate change conditions, resistance and value of traditional varieties of fruit trees is invaluable. Considering animals as part of the balance can contribute to the diversification of production and extending the timing of cash flows.
How does it work?
The practice works can work in two ways: using existing old traditional orchards for the purpose of grazing (less expensive and easier) or planting different varieties of fruit trees, usually apples, on grassland/pasture lands (requires more effort and knowledge to properly manage the herd and protect the trees against browsing). In new systems, young trees are planted on pastures in N-S oriented rows at 7-10 m x 5-8 m spacing, depending on plot location and soil texture. Trees are protected with 1.4 m high electric fencing and fertilized with liquid manure (approx. 25-50 litres/tree). Paddock rotation is flexible, affected by weather, season and current sward cover. Extra open-air areas are maintained on the farm to let animals enter there during fruit harvest. The animals are of the Simental and Limousine breed, as the purchase of cross heifers was cheaper and sufficient to be used for small-scale grazing.
Environmental benefits of rotational cattle grazing in orchards
Silvopastoral orchards have proved to be an efficient and sustainable model of land management by smallholders operating in a diversified landscape. They offer shade and shelter for animals, limit fuel use by reducing the need to mow, and enhance nutrient cycling and soil fertility. The farmer observes that the grazed orchards are attracting rare birds such as hawfinch, European hoopoe, collared flycatcher, lesser spotted woodpecker. Due to the grazing activity of cows, fallen leaves and fruits are picked up, thus removing risks of pests and disease dispersion and reducing significantly destruction by voles. Finally, improving landscape values during the growing season can be clearly observed.
Profile of the farmer
The farmer, Andrzej, is an active member of farmer groups, promoting regional agricultural products. He is Vice President of local Association of Cattle Producers, creating a strong joint brand identity for grass-fed beef and placing on the organic market traditional Polish food, derived from mountain areas. Agroforestry is one of the key elements of the organization’s strategy.
More information about the farm can be found here
Association of Beef Cattle Producers “Pastwisko”
Siary 1, 38-307 Sękowa, Gorlice County, Poland.
oikoskrzywa [at] gmail [dot] com