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Publication #SS-AGR-20

The Role of Livestock in Integrated Peanut/Cotton Cropping System Economics1

D. L. Wright, J. J. Marois, S. George, and T. W. Katsvairo2

The first cattle in the United States were brought to Florida in 1513 by Ponce de Leon. Over the centuries, the role of cattle in agriculture has changed from subsistence mixed farming, where farmers kept both cattle and crops, to specialization, where for some farmers, cattle production became their sole agriculture business. The current economic situation and environmental and wildlife concerns favor the integration of livestock into peanut/cotton farming systems as well as other row crops. This discussion will be on a long-term rotation of a four-year cropping system that includes two years of bahiagrass followed by peanut and then cotton with small grain winter grazing in place of the traditional peanut/cotton rotation. An overview of this farming system is given in the EDIS publication SS-AGR-126 Sod/Livestock Based Peanut/Cotton Production Systems: The Next Generation Conservation Cropping System! (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag258) and also on our website at http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/programs/sod_rotation.shtml.

Row crop growers stand to reap several benefits from including cattle in their farming systems. In the course of grazing, cattle reduce chances of fires, control weeds, and make use of plants that cannot be digested by humans (i.e., changing low-energy grass to high-protein beef or milk). Livestock provides a fallback alternative for using crops when grain quality or quantity is not good enough to be sold or harvested. In the case of the proposed livestock integrated peanut/cotton cropping system, bahiagrass can be baled and fed to the cattle, or, alternatively, the cattle can graze bahiagrass. Livestock fit well with the cover crop system and can graze throughout the winter. In winter, small grain are grown on land that would be used for peanuts and cotton in summer. This enables farmers to achieve higher carrying capacity, and more intensive summer and winter grazing increases income from livestock. Livestock manure provides recycled nutrients and other beneficial properties important to soil quality and plant growth. Livestock manure increases soil organic matter, and manure and urine also raise the pH and K level. Cattle recycle a considerable amount of N, and this can reduce N application while maintaining plant growth. Likewise, yields of cotton and peanut are higher after grazing cover crops vs. non-grazed cover crops.

Expansion and intensification of agriculture and associated tillage have robbed wildlife habitat and reduced plant and animal biodiversity and numbers. It is necessary for humans to provide habitat for wildlife preservation for future generations. Many animal species including ground-nesting birds, deer, wild turkey, quail, and rabbits all live in close proximity to humans. Diverse cropping systems result in diverse plants likely to attract insects, which in turn will attract birds. Rotating perennial grasses through row crop land increases plant species composition and wildlife habitat.

Economics of the Crop/Livestock Farming System

Cotton and peanut yields have increased slowly over the past 15-25 years until the past few years, while the cost of production has continued to rise. Our research has shown that incorporating livestock into traditional peanut/cotton or other row crop rotations greatly increases the profitability for farmers. We have an interactive business model growers can use to evaluate the economic feasibility of a four-year livestock/peanut/cotton/sod rotation for their own farms. The model can be found at http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/programs/sod_rotation.shtml. Farmers can input values for their farm scenarios and find how the system works for them.

Generally, results from the model show low net returns at the beginning of the integrated farming system compared to the traditional peanut/cotton rotation. However, returns quickly increase and can be can be 3-7 fold greater compared to the conventional peanut/cotton rotation by the 4th year in the system. The low profits at the beginning of the rotation are a result of conventional crop yields with standard rotations. The greater returns in years 3 and 4 are from the cattle revenue and greater returns from crops with higher yields. Even if the grower does not have cattle but adopts the sod rotation, the sod-based rotation would still be more profitable than the conventional peanut/cotton rotation, because of the higher crop yields from the rotation. As pointed out earlier, bahiagrass hay or seed can be sold for income. Many small row crop farmers in Florida have small cattle herds, and they may buy hay from their neighbors. Likewise, farmers who may not want to invest in cattle can still incorporate livestock into their rotations through contract grazing or working with a neighbor who has cattle. Thus, they gain the advantages of integrated farming without actually owning cattle.

Conclusion

An integrated sod/livestock peanut/cotton farming system adds value above the traditional peanut/cotton rotation. This system increases yield and profitability and allows for wildlife proliferation. While the integration of crop and livestock systems is challenging because it requires new knowledge and greater management skills, the potential rewarding returns from these systems should make farmers willing to learn to manage cattle. Complete details on the sod rotation, including the effect on plant and soil health, weeds, diseases, pests, and yield, are also available on our website (http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/programs/sod_rotation.shtml) and in other publications on EDIS (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/).

Tables

Table 1. 

Cost, returns, and profits for the conventional compared to the livestock based peanut/cotton cropping system.

Enterprise

Yield/Acre

Units

Area

Cost ($)

Returns ($)

Profits ($)

Conventional peanut and cotton rotation

Peanut

3900

lbs

67

40200

52260

12060

Cotton

650

lbs

67

40200

30485

-9715

Cotton

650

lbs

67

40200

30485

-9715

Total

 

 

200

120600

113230

-7370

First year in sod rotation

Peanut

3900

lbs

50

30000

39000

-9000

Cotton

650

lbs

50

30000

22750

-7250

Bahia 1

3

tons

50

12935

15000

2065

Cotton

650

lbs

50

30000

22750

-7250

Total

 

 

200

102935

9950

-3435

Second year in sod rotation

Peanut

3900

lbs

50

30000

39000

9000

Cattle

68

head

50

24301

37500

13199

Bahia 1

3

tons

50

12935

15000

2065

Cotton

650

lbs

50

30000

22750

7250

Total

 

 

200

97236

114250

17014

Third year in sod rotation

Peanut

5500

lbs

50

30000

55000

25000

Cattle

68

head

50

24301

37500

13199

Bahia 1

3

tons

50

12935

15000

2065

Cotton

650

lbs

50

30000

22750

-7250

Total

 

 

200

97236

130250

33014

Fourth year in sod rotation

Peanut

5500

lbs

50

30000

55000

25000

Cattle

68

head

50

24301

37500

13199

Bahia 1

3

tons

50

12935

15000

2065

Cotton

950

lbs

50

30000

33250

3250

Total

 

 

200

97236

140750

43514

Footnotes

1.

This document is SS-AGR-20, one of a series of the Agronomy Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date July 2006. Revised November 2015. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

D. L. Wright, professor; J. J. Marois, professor; S. George, Biological Scientist; North Florida Research and Education Center; and T. W. Katsvairo, former post doc.; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication do not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.