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This report compares the relative profitability and sustainability of Maine farms integrating crops and livestock with comparable non-integrated or conventional farms. Potato and dairy systems coupled for only two years had greater profitability compared to conventional systems. Profitability increased in the short term in two ways. First, potato farms grew more of their primary cash crop. Second, dairy farms expanded cow numbers, increasing profitability assuming increasing returns to scale. Coupled systems integrated for more than ten years (long term) had more favorable profitability and sustainability measures than short-term couplers since greater manure-nutrient credits were taken for potatoes and silage corn. The picture improved even more if potato yields increased in the long term, as suggested by long-term rotation plot studies in Maine. Even if coupling is more profitable than nonintegrated systems, it still requires farms to be in close proximity and for farmers to have adequate working relationships.
Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station
integrated agricultural systems
Hoshide, A.K., T.J. Dalton, and S.N. Smith. 2004. Representative farm budgets and performance indicators for integrated farming practices in Maine. Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station Bulletin 850.