Skip to main content

Paths to last in mixed crop–livestock farming: lessons from an assessment of farm trajectories of change

  • J. Ryschawy (a1), N. Choisis (a1), J. P. Choisis (a1) and A. Gibon (a1)

Mixed crop–livestock systems, combining livestock and cash crops at farm level, are considered to be suitable for sustainable intensification of agriculture. Ensuring the survival of mixed crop–livestock systems is a challenge for European agriculture: the number of European mixed crop–livestock farms has been decreasing since 1970. Analysis of farming system dynamics may elucidate past changes and the forces driving this decline. The objectives of this study were (i) to identify the diversity of paths that allowed the survival of mixed crop–livestock farming and (ii) to elucidate the driving forces behind such survival. We analysed the variety of farm trajectories from 1950 to 2005. We studied the entire farm population of a case study site, located in the ‘Coteaux de Gascogne’ region. In this less favoured area of south-western France, farmers have limited specialisation. Currently, half of the farms use mixed crop–livestock systems. The data set of 20 variables for 50 farms on the basis of six 10-year time steps was collected through retrospective surveys. We used a two-step analysis including (i) a visual assessment of the whole population of individual farm trajectories and (ii) a computer-based typology of farm trajectories on the basis of a series of multivariate analyses followed by automatic clustering. The European Common Agricultural Policy, market globalisation and decreasing workforce availability were identified as drivers of change that favoured the specialisation process. Nevertheless, farmers’ choices and values have opposed against these driving forces, ensuring the survival of some mixed crop–livestock farming systems. The trajectories were clustered into five types, four of which were compatible with mixed crop–livestock systems. The first type was the maximisation of autonomy by combining crops and livestock. The second type was diversification of production to exploit economies of scope and protect the farm against market fluctuations. The other two types involved enlargement and progressive adaptation of the farm to the familial workforce. The survival of mixed crop–livestock systems in these two types is largely dependent on workforce availability. Only one type of trajectory, on the basis of enlargement and economies of scale, did not lead to mixed crop–livestock systems. In view of the current evolution of the driving forces, maximising autonomy and diversification appear to be suitable paths to deal with current challenges and maintain mixed crop–livestock systems in Europe.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Agreste 2010. Agreste-Rapports Publics – RICA Réseau d'Information Comptable Agricole – Tableau standard RICA 2002–2008.
Antrop, M 2005. Why landscapes of the past are important for the future? Landscape and Urban Planning 70, 2134.
Chatellier, V, Guyomard, H 2008. Le bilan de santé de la PAC, le découplage et l’élevage en zones difficiles. INRA Sciences Sociales Recherches en Economie et Sociologie Rurales, 18.
Choisis, JP, Thévenet, C, Gibon, A 2012. Analyzing farming systems diversity: a case study in south-western France. Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research 10, 605618; doi: 10.5424/sjar/2012103-533-11.
Choisis, JP, Sourdril, A, Deconchat, M, Balent, G, Gibon, A 2010. Understanding regional dynamics of mixed crop–livestock agricultural systems to support rural development in South-western France uplands. Cahiers Agriculture 19, 97103.
Cialdella, N, Dobremez, L, Madelrieux, S 2009. Livestock farming systems in urban mountain regions. Differentiated paths to remain in time. Outlook on Agriculture 38, 127135.
ComMod 2005. La modélisation comme outil d'accompagnement. Natures Sciences Sociétés 13, 165168.
Dedieu, B 2009. Qualification of the adaptive capacities of livestock farming systems. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia 38, 397404.
Dolédec, S, Chessel, D 1987. Rythmes saisonniers et composantes stationnelles en milieu aquatique. I – Description d'un plan d'observations complet par projection de variables. Acta Oecologica, Oecologia Generalis 8, 403426.
European Commission (EC) 1999. Specialised Holdings and More Intensive Practices. Retrieved April 10, 2012, from
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 1995. Digital Soil Map of the World and Derived Soil Properties. Land and Water Digital Media Series 7. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
Garcia-Martinez, A, Olaizola, A, Bernués, A 2009. Trajectories of evolution and drivers of change in European mountain cattle farming systems. Animal 3, 152165.
Gibon, A, Balent, G, Olaizola, A, Di Pietro, F 1999a. Approche des variations communales des dynamiques rurales au moyen d'une typologie: cas du versant nord des Pyrénées Centrales. Options Méditerranéennes 27, 1534.
Gibon, A, Sibbald, AR, Flamant, JC, Lhoste, P, Revilla, R, Rubino, R, Sorensen, JT 1999b. Livestock farming systems research in Europe and its potential contribution for managing towards sustainability in livestock farming. Livestock Production Science 61, 121137.
Hill, MO, Smith, AJE 1976. Principal component analysis of taxonomic data with multi-state discrete characters. Taxon 25, 249255.
Lamine, C, Bellon, S 2008. Conversion to organic farming: a multidimensional research object at the crossroads of agricultural and social sciences: a review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 29, 97112.
Lemery, B, Ingrand, S, Dedieu, B 2005. Agir en situation d'incertitude: le cas des éleveurs bovins allaitants. Economie Rurale 288, 5769.
Mazoyer, M, Roudart, L 2006. A history of world agriculture from the neolithic age to the current crisis. Earthscan, New York, 528 pp.
Mottet, A, Ladet, S, Coqué, N, Gibon, A 2006. Agricultural land-use change and its drivers in mountain landscapes: a case study in the Pyrenees. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 114, 296310.
Moulin, CH, Ingrand, S, Lasseur, J, Madelrieux, S, Napoléone, M, Pluvinage, J, Thénard, V 2008. Comprendre et analyser les changements d'organisation et de conduite de l’élevage dans un ensemble d'exploitations: propositions méthodologiques. InL’élevage en mouvement : flexibilité et adaptation des exploitations d'herbivores (ed. B Dedieu, E Chia, B Leclerc and CH Moulin), pp. 181196. Editions Quae, Paris, France.
Mulaik, SA 1993. Objectivity and multivariate statistics. Multivariate Behavioral Research 28, 171203.
Poux, X 2004. Une analyse environnementale des accords de Luxembourg : une nécessaire réforme de la réforme Le Courrier de l'environnement de l'INRA 51, 18 pp.
Potter, C, Lobley, M 1996. The farm family life cycle, succession paths and environmental change in Britain's countryside. Journal of Agricultural Economics 47, 172190.
R Development Core Team 2011. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, URL
Rueff, C, Choisis, JP, Balent, G, Gibon, A 2012. A preliminary assessment of the local diversity of family farms change trajectories since 1950 in a Pyrenees mountains area. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 36, 564590.
Russelle, MP, Entz, MH, Franzluebbers, AJ 2007. Reconsidering integrated crop–livestock systems in North America. Agronomy Journal 99, 325334.
Ryschawy, J 2012. Understanding the adaptive capacities of sustainable mixed crop-livestock systems in European less favoured areas. A case-study in the French Coteaux de Gascogne. Thesis PhD. Toulouse University, France.
Ryschawy, J, Choisis, N, Choisis, JP, Joannon, A, Gibon, A 2012. Mixed crop–livestock systems: an economic and environmental-friendly way of farming? Animal 1722–1730. Available on CJO 2012 doi:10.1017/S1751731112000675.
Seré, C, Steinfeld, H 1996. World livestock production systems: current status, issues and trends. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 127, Rome.
Sourdril, A, Du Bus de Warnhaffe, G, Deconchat, M, Garine, E, Balent, G 2006. From farm forestry to farm and forestry in South-Western France as a result of changes in a ‘house-centred’ social structure. Small-scale Forest, Economics, Management, and Policy 5, 127144.
Vermersch, D 2007. L’éthique en friche. Editions QUAE INRA, collection update sciences and technologies. QUAE INRA, Paris, 117 pp.
Veysset, P, Bebin, D, Lherm, M 2005. Adaptation to Agenda 2000 (CAP reform) and optimisation of the farming system of French suckler cattle farms in the Charolais area: a model-based study. Agricultural Systems 83, 179202.
Wilkins, RJ 2008. Eco-efficient approaches to land management: a case for increased integration of crop and animal production systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B – Biological Sciences 363, 517525.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 1751-7311
  • EISSN: 1751-732X
  • URL: /core/journals/animal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

RYSCHAWY Supplementary Material

 Word (575 KB)
575 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed