Integrated crop-livestock systems in Australian agriculture: trends, drivers and implications

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Bell, Lindsay; Moore, Andrew ORCID ID icon


Journal Article

Agricultural Systems



Australia has a long history of successful mixed farming. This review considers the integration of Australian cropping and livestock production from three perspectives: as a factor in land use change, a means of meeting farmers’ multiple objectives and a consequence of individual management practices. Since about 1995, the proportion of cropped land has been increasing on Australian cropping farms while livestock numbers have decreased. Land use patterns in the north-eastern, central and south-western regions of the cropping zone have diverged. Despite these changes, mixed farms still dominate Australia’s broadacre farming regions. The continued importance of mixed farming in Australia motivated us to explore what various forms of crop-livestock integration have to offer. Sumberg’s (2003) account of the dimensions in which farming enterprises are integrated can be simplified for Australian broadacre agriculture. For most purposes it is sufficient to consider a nested set of 4 integration options: “specialization” (not integrated organizationally), “separation” (integrated organizationally only), “rotation” (integrated organizationally and spatially, but not temporally) and “synchronization” (integrated in all 3 dimensions). We review the farmer objectives that enterprise integration can meet and the constraints that limit it, relate these objectives and constraints to the dimensions of integration, and use a dynamic simulation model to make a first quantification of the economic risk reduction provided by enterprise diversification. Constraints imposed by limited labour, capital, and management attention cannot be overlooked; this is especially relevant in Australia where labour efficiency is constantly driven higher. We characterised a range of agronomic practices that involve crop-livestock integration against the dimensions of integration and the farmer objectives they affect. We find few relationships between various farm objectives and the kind of integration practises involved. Though, practices that result in closer integration in time and space generally require greater management attention; practices that do not integrate in space typically require an increase in external inputs. History suggests that current commodity price ratios may be sufficient to slow or reverse the overall land use trend away from livestock production. In the longer term, forecast increases in worldwide demand for meat, energy costs and soil resource constraints will all maintain pressure on Australian cropping farms to maintain mixed systems; however reduced availability of labour relative to capital will push land use toward cropping. Valuing the benefits and costs associated with differing degrees of enterprise integration is a major research challenge that will require insightful application of both biophysical and economic models.


modelling; rotation; land use; productivity, sustainability; labour

Agricultural Systems Analysis and Modelling

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Crown copyright © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Journal article - Refereed


Bell, Lindsay; Moore, Andrew. Integrated crop-livestock systems in Australian agriculture: trends, drivers and implications. Agricultural Systems. 2012; 111:1-12.

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