Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
REVIEW

Livestock in no-till cropping systems – a story of trade-offs

James Fisher A D , Peter Tozer B and Doug Abrecht C

A Désirée Futures, PO Box 251, York, WA 6302, Australia.

B PRT Consulting, West Wyalong, NSW 2671, Australia.

C Department of Agriculture and Food, Northam, WA 6401, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: james@desireefutures.net.au

Animal Production Science 52(4) 197-214 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN11123
Submitted: 22 June 2011  Accepted: 23 December 2011   Published: 6 March 2012

Abstract

The trade-offs of incorporating livestock into no-till cropping systems were examined with respect to ground cover, water balance, nutrient cycling, pest management, whole-farm economics and farmer preferences. The hypothesis that livestock and no-till cropping enterprises may co-exist was investigated using a review of scientific literature and technical reports, information from farmer focus groups and an economic analysis based on case study data from farm consultants. The scientific review focussed on work from Australia, especially western and southern Australia, but also included research related to systems in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland and some related international work. The focus groups and case studies were from the cereal-sheep systems of western and southern Australia. It was concluded that the use of livestock in a no-till system is determined by the productive capacity of the land, the relative profitability of cropping and livestock, the management of herbicide-resistant weeds, sensitivity of soil to damage from grazing and trampling and the farmer’s passion, preference and willingness to apply increased management to livestock. Livestock are an important source of farm diversification and risk management. While net farm income tends to decline as the proportion of livestock increases, variation in net farm income also decreases, reducing volatility in revenue. Livestock need to comprise above 10–15% of net farm income to provide a positive impact on variability of return. Adaptation of mixed-farming systems through rotational grazing, temporary agistment of livestock or removal to non-cropping areas are all management options that may be utilised to remove or reduce potential negative impacts, improve integration and to realise triple-bottom-line gains.


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