Survey and Economic Analysis of Montana Farms Utilizing Integrated Livestock-Cereal Grain (Ley Farming) Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $91,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Chengci Chen
Montana State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: lentils, peas (culinary)
  • Animals: bovine, sheep


  • Animal Production: grazing - rotational, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Concerns regarding economic and environmental sustainability of wheat-fallow systems have led researchers and producers in Montana to search for more sustainable cropping systems. The Australian ley farming system that integrates livestock and cereal grain productions provides many benefits, including replacing fallow with a ground cover of high quality animal forage, competing with weeds and fixing atmospheric N for plant use. Dr. Jim Sims of MSU and other researchers began to evaluate and promote ley farming in the early 1970s, and several producers have attempted to adopt the technology in Montana. However, following Sims' retirement in the mid-1990s, there was limited follow-up work done on ley farming in Montana. With the funding support from SARE, several small- to medium-scale research projects have recently been established in Wyoming and North Dakota. These studies are still in research plot scale and, to date, no producer has adopted whole-farm scale ley farming in Wyoming and North Dakota. In this proposed project, the research team will survey producers in different geographic regions of Montana to assess the current production systems, knowledge and interest in ley farming. Representative producers will be selected and interviewed to identify the experiences of success and problems encountered regarding ley and conventional farming systems. The research team that consists of two agronomists, a soil fertility specialist, a livestock specialist and an agricultural economist will analyze the information and problems identified. On-farm demonstration plots will be established and workshops will be held to provide knowledge and problem solutions to producers who are interested in or have been practicing integrated livestock/cereal crop production systems in Montana and Wyoming.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The specific objectives of this proposed project are:

    1)Survey the current crop and livestock production systems in Montana and assess the current awareness and knowledge on Australian ley farming.

    2)Conduct an in-depth assessment on the successes and problems (agronomical and economic) of representative producers and farms practicing ley farming.

    3)Demonstrate the adaptability of newly developed annual legume species, disseminate this information and educate producers in the incorporation of these crops into their cropping systems.

    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.