An economic analysis of integrated crop-livestock systems in Iowa, U.S.A.

Hanna Poffenbarger, Georgeanne Artz, Garland Dahlke, William Edwards, Mark Hanna, James Russell, Harris Sellers, Matt Liebman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

Diversified cropping systems integrated with livestock production can provide substantial soil conservation and water quality benefits, yet farmers in the U.S. Corn Belt have shifted toward greater specialization of farming systems in recent decades. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the economic feasibility of re-integrating crops and livestock in farming systems of the U.S. Corn Belt. Using data on farming practices and yields from a long-term cropping systems experiment, we calculated annual revenue and costs of four farming systems–a simple corn-soybean rotation with and without cattle (2-yr cash and 2-yr integrated, respectively) and a diversified corn-soybean-oat/alfalfa-alfalfa rotation with and without cattle (4-yr cash and 4-yr integrated, respectively). Our analysis was conducted for a 405-ha parcel in central Iowa over the period of 2008 to 2015. To maximize the use of harvested crops, cattle enterprises differed for the 2- and 4-yr rotations: yearlings were finished using a diet of mostly concentrate feeds for the 2-yr integrated system and calves were backgrounded and finished using a diet of forages and concentrates for the 4-yr integrated system. We found that mean annual returns to land and management were similar among all four farming systems ($790 ha− 1 averaged across the four systems). The integrated systems exhibited greater variability among years in returns to land and management than the cash systems. In addition, total costs excluding land and management were four- to nine-fold greater for the integrated crop-livestock systems than for the cash crop systems. Labor requirements increased with crop rotation diversification by 59% (4-yr cash vs. 2-yr cash) and with integration of cattle by 217% (2-yr integrated vs. 2-yr cash) or 232% (4-yr integrated vs. 2-yr cash). We concluded that diversified crop rotations with or without cattle are profitable farming systems in Iowa, but require greater capital and labor inputs than the dominant 2-yr cash grain system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-69
Number of pages19
JournalAgricultural Systems
Volume157
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by Iowa State University Agronomy Department and by a grant from the US Department of Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (Project 2014-67013-21712). We thank Craig Chase and Guiping Hu for their initial work on this project, Meghan Filbert and Mark Rasmussen for their help developing cattle enterprises and feed rations, and Alejandro Plastina, Ann Johanns, and Lee Schulz for their advice on the enterprise budgets. We are grateful to Katherine Goode for statistical advice.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Crop rotation
  • Economic performance
  • Enterprise budget analysis
  • Integrated crop-livestock systems
  • Long-term agricultural research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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