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


    A survey of 4200 farmers and ranchers indicated that 43% of farms in Montana have both livestock and crops. Annual legumes may rotate with wheat for annual cropping to replace fallow-wheat system. On-farm demonstrations were conducted at both organic and conventional farms and included legume adaptability, compatibility and rotation studies. Growing winter pea and lentil for cattle grazing on organic farms followed by winter wheat produced the highest net return. On conventional farms, growing pea for hay and lentil for green manure had greater net returns than continuous wheat, while growing lentil for grain followed by winter wheat produced the greatest net return.

    Project objectives:

    This project addressed the Western SARE goals of enhancing the quality and productivity of soil, conserving soil and water resources, promoting crop and livestock diversification and evaluating the environmental and economic implications of adopting sustainable agricultural systems.

    The specific objectives of this proposed project were:

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

    2) Conduct 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 on 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.