Effect of Long-Term Integrated Crop and Livestock Systems on Forage Finishing, Soil Fertility, Nitrogen Mineralization, Carbon Sequestration, and Profitability

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $199,998.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2020
Grant Recipient: North Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Douglas Landblom
North Dakota State University-Dickinson Research Extension Center

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, peas (field, cowpeas), sunflower, wheat
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Crop Production: application rate management, continuous cropping, cover crops, crop rotation, double cropping, intercropping, multiple cropping, no-till, nutrient cycling, relay cropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, new enterprise development, risk management, value added, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, GHG emisson (CO2, CH4, N2O)
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, chemical control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, dryland farming, holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: earthworms, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation, quality of life, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Minimizing reliance on harvested feeds through grazing and extending the grazing season beyond that which is typical in western ND is a management strategy that enhances economic and environmental stability, especially when grazing is integrated into a diverse crop rotation. Systems integration in LNC11-335 identified that labor and inputs were reduced, soil fertility and crop yield improved, delayed feedlot entry of yearlings reduced days on feed and increased profitability, cow winter feed cost was reduced 2.8 times, and quality of life improved. Consumer demand for forage-finished beef is increasing by 25-30% per year and integrating forage-finished beef with fiber-based supplementation into the established crop rotation is a logical research succession, which needs to be continued to capture the long-term effect of integration on forage-finished beef grazing management, soil quality, nitrogen mineralization, carbon sparing, profitability, and farm family quality of life. The previous project established baseline soil bulk density, OM levels, seasonal soil nitrate-N fertility and end of season ammonium-N and nitrate-N levels. Since soil dynamics change slowly, extending the integrated research into years 7-9, is relevant to measure grazed and ungrazed soil quality dynamics in much greater detail. That is, maintenance of short and long-term carbon pools, water soluble soil organic nitrogen, seasonal soil NO3-N fertility, residual soil nitrogen pools, microbial CO2-C and soil C:N ratio change between crops within the rotation, soil GHG emissions, soil bulk density change, and soil water dynamics. On-farm cooperator demonstration projects will facilitate learning by evaluating perennial and annual forage sequence grazing for forage-finishing yearling steers on one farm and extended grazing for marketing heavy yearling steers on another. Two other farmer demonstrations will extend the winter grazing season after weaning grazing cover crops and corn on one farm and grazing cover crops followed by bale-grazing on another farm. Research data measuring long-term effects and on-farm cooperator projects will coalesce into a combined effort to increase awareness for agricultural and non-agricultural stakeholders providing a better understanding of integrated production principles, logistics, and economics. Response surveys will be used to evaluate producer awareness and willingness to implement. Outreach programming will blend traditional extension and journal publication methods with yearly NCR SARE multi-state webinars, community café meetings, forage-finishing beef production workshops, field walks, high school student field days, exercise-health-service group presentations, YouTube (How-To) videos, DVD documentary, and social media outreach to schedule events, post links, inform, educate, and measure internet response.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project research and extension team members will have significant output roles. The research results will be
    reported locally at the research site annually (Manning, ND: workshop-field tour at the research area; 40-45
    attendees/tour/year), regional café results reporting workshop-discussion groups (12 communities in SW North
    Dakota/year; 10-12 attendees/meeting/year), DREC annual report, nationally at either the Soil Science Society of
    America, American Society of Animal Science, or Agronomy sectional and annual meetings where poster and oral
    papers will be presented, and publications in refereed soil, animal science, and environmental science journals.
    Farmer-rancher cooperators perform a significant and important role and as data accumulates they will host
    workshop-training tours on their farms. The farmer-rancher cooperators are professionals with a desire to learn
    and teach their peers integrated crop-livestock systems through on-farm, producer-to-producer events. Producers
    learn best from their peers.

    The research team is comprised of animal, soils, agronomy, and environmental scientists, and Extension
    agronomy, animal, soil, and environmental stewardship specialists as well as a soils/biosystems engineering
    graduate student, and a visiting Turkish post doc research animal scientist. Collectively, outreach programming
    will post YouTube (How-To) videos, Instagram pictures, Facebook research summary and activity, web links,
    events schedule, and discussion. Scientists and extension specialists will address various aspects of this
    research at county meetings and workshop-training at the annual NDSU Research and Extension Conference
    held each fall. Team members are often invited speakers at NRCS and SCD meetings, regional and national
    seminars and symposia.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.