There are two very divergent schools of thought in the world of livestock management. Much of the conventional industry doesn’t even consider livestock rearing as an agricultural practice. Livestock are simply recipients of agricultural commodities. But, it can be argued, that this divorcing of animals from agriculture has played a large part in building our broken food system.

We know a diversified farm is a healthy farm. Integrating forage crops for pastured livestock into standard grain and vegetable rotations can improve soil health, increase carbon sequestration and increase economic returns for farmers. These systems allow traditional crop farmers to creatively add seasonal pasture of calves, dairy cows, heifers, beef cattle, or small ruminants as a new “crop” in their rotations, with the potential to sell the livestock at the end of the grazing season, eliminating many of the costs and maintenance requirements of standard livestock production. The systems also allow dairy farmers who own their cows to have greater flexibility in planning feed and pasture production for their operations.

To help farmers take advantage of these unique rotation systems, Rodale Institute is studying the integration of pasture into grain and vegetable crop rotations to measure impacts on crop and forage yields, soil health, the environment and the bottom line. We’ve also started heritage breed chicken, hog and goat demonstration projects to identify best management practices that can be environmentally and economically lucrative on a small-scale.