Christian Abadie, Laguian Mazous, France – 11th of November 2015

Being an arable farmer I sometimes forget about the livestock boys but the visit today reminded me that the practice of companion cropping and intercropping has just as much relevance to the livestock industry. In fact it is probably easier to utilise and see the benefits than in arable crops because you don’t have to worry about harvest separation as it goes in whole crop, weed control is not such an issue as a few weeds in the bottom will be cut and ensiled. So today my blog is for the livestock boys.

The visit today was with Christian Abadie (centre with the knife, Sarah Singla to his right was my host for the evening)

image

Christian is well know around here. In fact I gate crashed another farmers meeting. About 40 farmers from near Sarah’s had got on a bus and driven 4 hours just to see him for the afternoon and then they went home in the evening. The reason seems to be is because he is getting amazing results from no-till and companion cropping. Christian has 100ha and 60 milking cows. 20 years ago he needed all of the 100ha for silage to feed his cattle now he only needs 20ha and the other 80ha he uses to grow cash crops.

The field we were standing in had been planted with Rye, Peas and Beans after Maize.image

Unlike most livestock farmers Christian only harvest the cobs from the maize and leaves the stalk and leaves for the soil. This year he harvested 20t of maize with 250kg/ha of Nitrogen. When he harvests the maize he has the harvester header very high. This means there is not much residue on the ground and this means he can no till the following crop in easily. Then after he has planted the following crop he mows the stalks down and leaves it as a mulch. Previous to this crop was a whole crop of peas and triticale which was cut and ensiled in May. Christian always has at least two sometimes three crops per year and says this year from the field we were standing in he got 50t/ha of biomass.

image

Next year he wants to try maize, sunflower and vetch together. He thinks between the 3 of them the silage will contain a good mix of protein and energy for the cows. As most modern varieties of sunflower are shorter than maize he wants to use older taller varieties otherwise the maize will dominate the sunflower. He in the past has used Lucerne with oats, Lucerne with maize and vetch with maize. The vetch gives the silage more protein.

Christian’s son is going to take over the farm next year and wants to expand so they have built a huge new building

image

I guess he wants to house a lot more of these

image

From what I understand the cows are inside permanently.

Below is Christian’s planter

image

He plants on narrow rows. 37.5cms instead of 75cms. He has seen a lot better yields and less weeds. This is the second time I have heard this. When I spoke to a weed scientist in Manitoba he said wide rowed corn was stupidity in terms of weed control as there is so much bare soil. Apparently I found out today that maize is planted in wide rows due to historical reasons. They used to need the space between the rows to be able to fit horses up them. I always thought it was due to the modern harvesting equipment.

His drill is a Semeato

image

From a non livestock person I found this visit very interesting.

image

Speaking to the visiting livestock farmers afterwards they too found it very thought provoking. Thank you Christian for your time and once I got used to the strong accent I understood most of it I think!