No-till Livestock-Grain Rotation for Diversified Farms

2008 Annual Report for SW06-066

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $125,122.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Federal Funds: $13,737.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $8,997.00
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Stephen Bramwell
WSU Dept. Crop and Soil Sciences
Lynne Carpenter-Boggs
Washington State University

No-till Livestock-Grain Rotation for Diversified Farms


This project was created to develop the potential for integrated livestock-grain low-disturbance farming systems for the Palouse region. Through producer-researcher-extension working groups the advantages, issues, and barriers to such systems have been identified, discussed, and iteratively refined.

Although many producers still see good economic potential for such integration, economic conditions have changed considerably in the past year. Wheat and other grain commodity prices have skyrocketted, as have fertilizer and fuel prices. Economics of livestock integration are not only changing, but diversifying and becoming more complex. Agronomic and management questions must be addressed before a complete picture can emerge. The most common producer question, how to transition from pasture to row-crop production, is being addressed directly through trials on a cooperator farm. Long-term Agroecosystem Research Trials are being used to compare several rotation options including crop-livestock integration.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. Form a producer-researcher-extension work group to assess and develop wheat- pasture systems for the wheat-farming region in Washington and Idaho.

    Utilize this working group to identify locally relevant goals, needs, impediments, and potential solutions concerning cereal-pasture systems

    Build upon previous and ongoing SARE-funded research to further adapt/develop cereal-livestock management practices for the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho. Describe at least two integrated cereal-livestock systems appropriate for trials PCFS and local farm sites

    Compare soil quality and environmental impacts of four management treatments at the PCFS, consisting of integrated organic cereal-livestock, non-integrated organic minimum-disturbance cereal, CRP, and perennial polyculture cropping systems

    Develop comparative nutrient and operating budgets in a WSU Cooperative Extension business report format (Hinman and Schirman, 1997)

    Develop comparative energetic analyses of alternative cropping systems, using energy accounting, to determine energy efficiency of our four cropping systems


  1. Sheep were introduced at the PCFS in summer 2008. A very late spring caused delays in grazing the sheep, and reduced forage production.

    One field day was held at the PCFS to present and discuss the project with producers and policy-makers.

    Field plots at a cooperator’s farm are being studied to assess the agronomic and economic effects of organic wheat after alfalfa.

    Nutrient, economic, and environmental analysis of management options at PCFS are being assessed and summarized.

    Three manuscripts are in preparation:
    The case for crop-livestock integration in the Palouse, and research needed.
    Economic assessment of organic crop-livestock integration at Thundering Hooves farm.
    Soil changes and economic outcomes from five agroecosystems at PCFS.

    Two resultant lines of study have been developed and funded:
    Carbon sequestration consequences of various PNW agroecosystems.
    Continued and broadened investigation (in both method and location) of organic low-disturbance take-out of pasture and alfalfa.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The demonstration and discussion of integrated crop-livestock systems has coalesced many inspiring people around the topic. Over the past year several new and continuing projects have developed, stemming from or related to the present project. We are involved with one farm in particular where CRP and wheat lands are being converted to organic grass-fed beef. In coordination with this SARE project, economic and environmental goals and effects will be assessed, as will the replicability of this model across the current dryland agroecosystem of central and eastern Washington.

Despite dramatic increases in the commodity prices of wheat and most other grains, input prices particularly fertilizer and fuel prices are also so high that profitability is still in question. The options of renting out pasture ground (so that new infrastructure costs are limited) and/or organic grain production are definitely increasingly interesting in the minds of many producers and researchers. The topics of CRP take-out and crop-livestock integration will be focal points of a symposium at WSU this October.


Joel Huesby
Thundering Hooves
2021 Isaacs Ave.
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Office Phone: 5095229400
Mark Stannard
Pullman, WA 99164-6211
Office Phone: 5093356892
Melissa Lines
Skylines Farm
4551 Highway 6
Harvard, ID 83834
Office Phone: 2088758747
Steve Fransen
Associate Crop Scientist
24106 N. BUNN RD.
Prosser, WA 99350-8694
Office Phone: 5097869266
John Pearson
Pearson Farm and Fencing
Colfax, WA
Office Phone: 5092880161
Steve Vanvleet
310 N MAIN ROOM 209
Colfax, WA 99111-1894
Office Phone: 5093976290
John Reganold
WSU Crop and Soil Sciences
Pullman, WA 99164-6420
Office Phone: 5093358856