Dickinson Research Extension Center ~ 1089 State Avenue, Dickinson, ND 58601
Carr and W.W. Poland. 2003. Reducing input costs with multiple enterprises. Proc.,
Dynamic Cropping Systems: Principles, Processes, and Challenges. p. 124-132.
Integrating crop and livestock enterprises can enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of agricultural production units in the Great Plains. Production of forage is essential for successful integration of both enterprises. Forages offer soil and pest management benefits when incorporated and managed properly in rotations with grain and seed crops. Moreover, forages can provide traditional grain and seed crop producers with access to new markets. Nevertheless, less than 10% of agricultural land in the Great Plains is dedicated to integrated crop-livestock systems. Lack of broad regional application, government incentives, managerial expertise, suitable farm-ranch infrastructure, and tradition have been identified as obstacles to developing integrated crop-livestock systems. Recent concerns about the bio-security of domestic food production systems, unstable fertilizer and fuel prices, a growing demand for multi-disciplinary research, and other factors have renewed interest among crop and livestock scientists in developing integrated agricultural systems. Unfortunately, the discontinuation of many long-term rotation studies, beginning in the 1950s, has resulted in a general lack of current research on integrated crop-livestock systems in the context of emerging crop production methods. Moreover, there has been a tendency among crop and animal scientists to work at solving problems within their discipline and to avoid interdisciplinary research. However, a few working groups of crop and livestock scientists have been formed to develop modern strategies for integrating crop and livestock enterprises in the Great Plains. Strategies range from providing forages and alternative feedstuffs to livestock that are confined for much of the year to systems where livestock are pastured on native range and in short rotations with grain and seed crops. This work must continue and should be expanded to include studies that incorporate crops, livestock, and emerging management concepts where long-term as well as short-term benefits of integrating crop and livestock enterprises can be documented. For this to occur, incentives must be provided for agricultural scientists to participate in multi-disciplinary research on integrated crop-livestock systems.