Community benchmarks for productivity and profitability for diversified pastured livestock farmers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $14,326.00
Projected End Date: 04/15/2020
Grant Recipient: Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dr. Franklin Egan
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine, poultry, sheep, swine


  • Animal Production: feed management, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, meat product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning

    Proposal abstract:

    Diversified pastured-livestock farming has become a popular business model for beginning and family-scale
    farmers, but a lack of clear benchmarks for productivity and profitability may be hindering the continued
    improvement of these systems. Many farmers are attracted to this model because of the relative low initial capital
    requirements and the high price points achievable through direct-to-consumer marketing, but staying in business
    can prove very challenging. Inconsistent recordkeeping systems on individual farms and a lack of current,
    publicly available data may prevent these farmers from clearly understanding their farm’s financial position and
    finding strategies to become more profitable. If pastured-livestock farms are to become a more widespread
    feature of a sustainable food system, these farmers will need to set and improve benchmarks including animal
    production, meat yield, net profits, gross margins, and net returns on assets. In this project, the Pennsylvania
    Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) will work with a team of diversified pastured-livestock farms to
    establish effective protocols for farm recordkeeping, share management and financial data for 2016 and 2017,
    and set community benchmarks for farm performance. Farmers will participate in workshops where they examine
    their farm’s performance relative to the community benchmarks, identify common management challenges, and
    explore new strategies for improved outcomes. Project results and insights will be communicated to a wider
    audience through field days, a conference presentation, and a fact sheet distributed through print and online

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our objective is to establish shared benchmarks for productivity and profitability on pastured livestock farmers, so
    that farmers can clearly understand how their performance varies over time and how their farm compares to peer
    farms. Collaborating farmers will help develop a common recordkeeping framework for sharing data on animal
    numbers, live weights, and meat yield, as well as data on expenses and revenues, separated by poultry, pig, and beef enterprises. We will develop a flexible recordkeeping framework that will allow for paper-based and
    spreadsheet approaches, but we will also engage participants with modern decision support tools, including
    FarmOS, an open source farm management application, and Quickbooks, a structured financial recordkeeping
    program. Project staff at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) will help organize this
    data into community benchmarks for production and profitability that will be shared with the network of
    collaborating farms through reports, workshops, and field days. Workshops will involve exploring detailed reports
    of farm data and benchmarks, identifying common management challenges, and exploring new strategies for
    improved outcomes. Results will also be shared with a wider agricultural community through field days, a fact
    sheet archived on PASA’s website and a presentation at PASA’s 2018 annual conference.

    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.