Farming Systems – A look at an integrated livestock and crop farm

Why Re-Examine Diversified Farms?

Beef production is a major component of the U.S. agricultural economy. This sector provides a significant source of protein to the world population.

Much of the early livestock production in this country was based on self-sufficiency needs.  A farmer grew the feed for the livestock, fed it to the livestock raised on the farm, fed their family and marketed or bartered any excess production.  

The government farm program policies of the 1960’s were based on supply management and periods of large production of grains, followed by incentives to reduce production.  That all changed with the Russian grain sales of 1972, and the call went out for more grain production.  A clear and dedicated farm policy changed to a market oriented grain production policy and the race to expand farming operations to capture international grain markets was on.  During the 1970’s, farmers began to specialize in one enterprise, either livestock or crop production, but not always both.  Integrated livestock/crop farms didn’t necessarily disappear, but the farmers looking to expand began to focus on one or the other.  This led to custom-cattle feeding in the Middle Southwestern US, dairy feeding in California, and contract hog production in the Upper Midwest.  Large numbers of crop production acres were dedicated to crop production for four months of the year with the balance of the season land was idle and bare.

Fast forward to the decade of the 2000’s:   Livestock farms are larger than 1972.  Crop farms are larger than 1972.  We’ve experienced wide swing’s in livestock and crop production profitability.  We’ve experienced wide swings in the value of just about every input in agriculture that determines enterprise profitability.  Some question the sustainability of current practices relative to profitability, environmental soundness, and future food production for a growing world population.

What Did We Do?

This 9 part video series chronicles a real beef feedlot and corn crop farm in Iowa and how they gain efficiencies in both the crop and beef feeder cattle enterprises by incorporating cover crops over the winter, harvesting them for cattle feed, and returning the manure nutrients back to the system for grain production.  This leads to both an economically and sustainable integrated system in modern times. 

Farming Series 1 – A brief introduction to the 8 part video/audio series detailing a feedlot/crop farm

Farming Series 2 – A 3-minute session on harvesting corn silage, handling and storage

Farming Series 3 – Planting a rye crop

Farming System Series 4 – Irrigation on Newly planted rye

Farming Systems Series 5 – Measuring Soil Test

Farming Systems Series 6 – Feeding the cattle

Farming Systems Series 7 – Managing the feedlot

Farming Systems Series 8 – Spring Rye Crop growth and harvest

Farming Systems Series 9 – Planting the corn crop


Joe Lally

Iowa State University

Farming Systems video/audio series

712.263.9729 – cell

515.294.1496 – office

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