Since humans started farming thousands of years ago crop and livestock production systems have been integrated. Integration of crop and livestock systems enhanced profitability and environmental sustainability of farms and communities. (Russelle, Michael P., Martin H. Entz, and Alan J. Franzluebbers) Crop and livestock systems have always went hand and hand, that is, until the 19th century when farming became specialized resulting in separation of crop and livestock enterprises. Unfortunately crop and livestock enterprise integration is not nearly as common as it once was in this region. But today there are still many farmers who choose integrate crop and livestock enterprises. There are also local specialized crop and livestock farmers who work together and integrate their farms in order to receive some of the benefits of crop and livestock integration.
There are four main benefits of integrating crop and livestock systems:
“(I) Crops produced on the farm can be used to feed livestock; (II) livestock manure can serve as the primary source of nutrients for crop production, thereby cycling nutrients from the crops through the animals and back out onto the land; (III) livestock can serve as the sink for agricultural byproducts; and (IV) ruminant livestock encourage the establishment of perennial grass and legume forages as a primary feedstuff.” (Sulc, R. Mark, and Benjamin F. Tracy)
There are many reasons to integrate crop and livestock enterprises. One of the most common reasons to integrate these crop and livestock enterprises is to stabilize economic returns and farm income. Integration of crop and livestock enterprises help farmers manage risk. The more enterprises that a farm has the more resilient it is to unforeseen risks. These risks can include drought, diseases, and other production hindrances, and low commodity prices. Generally crop and livestock prices have an inverse relationship. When corn is high, livestock prices are lower. So when livestock are unprofitable grain crops should be profitable, and when corn is unprofitable livestock should be profitable. Crop and livestock integration helps stabilize economic returns and farm income by broadening a farmer’s financial portfolio.
Efficiency is a reason for the integration of crop and livestock systems. Integrated systems utilize resources that would not be utilized if crop and livestock systems are separated. Manure is one example of a resource that would not likely be utilized in a specialized production system unless it was sold to and utilized by a local crop farm. Utilizing manure as a fertilizer does two things. First it recycles nutrients, and second it spreads the manure out over an area. “Both N and P are causes for environmental concern when applied excessively.” (Russelle, Michael P., Martin H. Entz, and Alan J. Franzluebbers) If manure is piled up and left in a feedlot it will seep into and pollute water and the earth, and if we use it as a fertilizer it will not...