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IDEAS Crop and Livestock Integration Project

Comparing the Environmental Tradeoffs and Synergies of Integrating Livestock into Cash Grain Cropping Systems

Specialization of livestock and crop production has led to rapid gains in farm productivity, efficiency, and the supply of abundant affordable food. However, the long-term sustainability of specialized farming systems has come under increased scrutiny. These include challenges associated with declining soil health, reduced resilience to extreme weather, nutrient losses into ground and surface waters, loss of biodiversity and habitat, and growing societal pressure to reduce the water and greenhouse gas footprint from agriculture.

A growing number of farmers are interested in reintegration of livestock into cropping systems but need better research-based information to guide their decisions.

In this project we are collecting on-farm data from 31 farms that utilize a range of approaches to crop-livestock integration. Through on-farm sampling and interviews we will quantify the environmental and economic outcomes associated with these different approaches.

IDEAS Farm-Types graphic
We assign participating farms to one of five “types” to compare environmental and economic characteristics.

The 31 farms participating in the study include 86 focus fields spread across eight different Ohio counties (Wayne, Holmes, Ashland, Stark, Mercer, Shelby, Darke, and Auglaize counties). We will work with area farmers to identify the most promising crop-livestock management systems that can balance economic and environmental objectives.

We expect continued societal concerns about sustainability and growing shortages and rising prices for crop production inputs (especially fertilizer) will lead to policy and market shifts that will incentivize greater crop-livestock integration. We want to help farmers prepare for that future. Based on our research and interactions with farmers, we will develop extension materials and recommendations to help with future decision making.

Project Objectives

  • Quantify the diverse environmental outcomes associated with each approach to livestock-crop integration under working farm conditions
  • Identify the economic performance and other factors that influence the adoption of each approach on representative regional livestock and cash grain farms
  • Develop whole farm models to quantify the environmental and socioeconomic tradeoffs and synergies associated with each approach to livestock-crop integration
  • Use a participatory on-farm approach throughout to better inform the research and guide the development of relevant and impactful extension/outreach outputs 

Project Team Members


  • Doug Jackson-Smith (Sociology, project lead)
  • Marilia Chiavegato (Integrated crop-livestock systems)
  • Ryan Haden (Soils)
  • Steve Lyon (Hydrology)
  • Ajay Shah (Integrated Modeling)


  • Cassandra “Cassy” Brown


  • Haley Campbell, Frank Becker, John Yost (Wayne)
  • Jamie Hampton (Auglaize)
  • Denny Riethmann, Ryan McMichael (Mercer)
  • Taylor Dill (Darke)


  • Hemendra Kumar
  • Amit Prasad Timilsina
  • Louceline Fleuridor


  • Ricardo Ribiero
  • Marina Miquilini
  • Quilina Rai


  • Andre Garcia
  • Mitchell Davis
  • Alyson Holzworth
  • Cassandra Stachler
  • Caroline Bensman
  • Rachel Coy
  • Duncan Hardy
  • Lauren Gallander

USDA graphic

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), grant no. 2021-68014-34142, “Comparing the Environmental Tradeoffs and Synergies of Alternative Modes of Integrating Livestock into Cash Grain Cropping Systems.”