Integrated Livestock Farming System: Scope, Limitations, Sustainability and Economic Importance


Livestock plays a significant role in rural economic development by supplementing family income and generating gainful employment, especially for landless laborers, smallholders, and marginal farmers, as well as for women. Historically, livestock rearing has been recognized as an integral part of the agricultural sector, and it has been observed that combining livestock with other farming systems such as fisheries, apiculture, horticulture, agro-forestry, etc. can be more productive and sustainable than specialized and intensive systems. This system of combining livestock with different farming systems termed as Integrated livestock farming system (ILFS) which helps in efficient utilization of natural resources and wastes/organic residues and involve recycling of bio resources. For example paddy straw a by-product from rice crop can be used as a valuable input for mushroom cultivation or as a source of dry fodder for dairy animals. Similarly, spent of mushroom cultivation (used straw) can be used as a raw material in compost or vermicompost pits and by-products from dairy unit like dung can be used as fish feed or raw material for vermicompost unit. In this way an integrated approach to farming can becomes more beneficial than monoculture and specialized farming and it can generates employment around the year along with additional income.

Why to adopt Integrated Livestock Farming System?

A system of integrated livestock farming is based on the philosophy that “there is no waste” and “waste is only a misplaced resource that can be transformed into another useful material for another purpose”. It is a way of efficient waste utilization generated under different farming systems and assists the farmers in becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant. At present most of the farmers have small and fragmented land holding (< 1 ha) and area under crop cultivation is also shrinking day by day resulting in decrease in productivity from different crops. In agricultural operations the sowing and harvesting of crops are seasonally dependent and during other times of the year the farmers are free and under this scenario, integration of livestock sector with different farming systems can provides income and employment round the year and can meet the household’s requirements of the farmers with small land holding.

Different approaches under Integrated Livestock Farming System (ILFS)

There are different approaches farmers can adopt to implement ILFS for better utilization of their landholdings and to establish a source of sustainable income round the year as explained below in brief:

  1. Crop livestock farming system

Combinations for adoptions can be:

  • Horticulture-Agriculture-Cattle/Goat/sheep farming system.
  • Fodder-Vegetable-Dairy farming system.

In integrated crop livestock farming system, agriculture crop residues can be used for feeding animals, while livestock manure can increase agricultural productivity by improving soil fertility and fortifying nutrients that reduce the use of chemical fertilizers. A healthy cow excretes over 4,000-5,000 kg dung, 3,500-4,000 L urine on an annual basis which can be applied as manure to the fields as a replacement of chemical fertilizers after proper composting.

  • Crop livestock fishery farming system

Under this different crop, livestock and fisheries components can be combined as:

  • Crop-Goat/Cow-fish farming system
    • Crop-Azolla-cattle-fish farming system
    • Crop-Fish-Pig farming system

In this crop residue i.e. paddy straw after rice crop harvesting can be fed to livestock. The manure from livestock can be applied in agriculture fields to improve soil fertility by increasing the availability of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil. On the other hand fish production can be associated in rice fields where rice fields can provide better planktonic, periphytic and benthic food to fishes. In Livestock plus crop farming system the fishes are reared without any additional feed, with the help of available dung from livestock which is used to initiate zooplankton and phytoplankton growth. Fishes like rohu, catla, mrigal, grass carp, common carp and silver carp are well adopted in integrated system.

The fish stocking rates may vary from 8000 to 8500 fingerlings per hectare. A species ratio of 40% surface feeder (Silver carp and catla), 20% column feeder (rohu), 20 to 30% bottom feeder (common carp and mrigal) and 10 to 20% macro vegetation feeder (grass carp) are preferred for higher fish yields under integrated farming sysems.

  • Crop livestock backyard poultry farming system

Integration of livestock with crop and backyard poultry farming can improve the food security as well as farmers’ incomes. Backyard livestock comprising of sheep, goats, pigs and poultry provide emergency sources of income for family. Bird scavenges on the undigested grains in dung as well as on the threshing wastes in the fields. Backyard poultry also predates the insect and pests which are responsible for incidence of diseases in the crops.

  • Crop livestock poultry fishery farming system
  • Horticulture/Agriculture-Pig-Poultry-Fisheries farming system.
  • Horticulture/Agriculture -Goat/Sheep-Duck-Fish-Poultry farming system

Duck/Pig/Poultry plus fish farming system can be integrated to reduce the cost of fertilizers and feeds in fish farming. Poultry can be reared near or over the fish ponds in which the poultry excreta will directly drop into fish pond and get recycled. In two tier housing system in integrated farming the upper floor can be used for rearing poultry and lower for pig over a fish pond. Excreta from poultry utilized by pig and pig excreta by fish and further it helps in better growth of zooplankton and phytoplankton which are eaten by fish and in this way the resources get recycled.

  • Crop livestock fishery biogas/vermicomposting system
  • Agriculture-Dairy- biogas-fisheries farming system.
  • Horticulture/Agriculture-Goat/sheep-vermicomposting farming system.

Dung from livestock used for biogas production which can be utilized in cooking and electricity production etc. and slurry produced used as a fertilizer for crop production. Vermicompost can be produced from the cow dung which has better quality as a fertilizer for field crops in terms of high fertility and productivity.

  • Small ruminants-Silvipastoral farming system

In this system, a combination of improved pasture species or a mix of grasses is grown on one piece of land along with perennial trees. The animals graze on tree leaves and loop the leaves as fodder. During the lean period, this system reduces the cost of concentrate feed for animals by solving the problem of green fodder.Livestock species mainly include cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat and pigs. Neither fisheries nor poultry are considered livestock, even as they have been studied together, and forestry, sericulture, and apiculture are not included but have been integrated into livestock farming.

Scope of ILFS

A system of integrated farming is meant to mimic the natural principle of producing food throughout the year by using animals, plants, birds, fishes and other aquatic organisms. Farming enterprises include crop, livestock, poultry, fish, tree crops, plantation crops, etc. A combination of one or more enterprises with cropping, when carefullychosen, planned and executed, gives greater dividends than a single enterprise, especially for small and marginal farmers. Farm as a unit is to be considered and planned for effective integration of the enterprises to be combined with crop production activity. Integration of farm enterprises should be done based on many factors such as:

1. Soil and climatic features of the selected area.

2. Availability of resources, land, labour and capital.

3. Present level of utilization of resources.

4. Economics of proposed integrated farming system.

5. Managerial skill of the farmer.

In the context of India, there are a number of situations and conditions that can be alleviated by an ILFS. The situations ideal for the introduction of ILFS where farmer wishes to improve the soil quality, earn more profits, reduce waste disposal and use of chemical fertilizers.

Advantages of ILFS

  1. Productivity: IFS provides an opportunity to increase economic yield per unit area per unit time by virtue of intensification of allied enterprises with livestock.
  2. Profitability:  Reduction in cost of production and linkage of utilization of waste material and elimination of middleman interference in most inputs used. No extra cost is involved for fertilizer which can be generated inside farm. Cost benefit ratio is increased thereby, improving purchasing power of farmers.
  3. Sustainability: Organic supplementation through effective utilization of by-products of linked component is done thus providing an opportunity to sustain the potentiality of production base for much longer periods.
  4.  Balanced Food: All nutrient requirement of farmer’s family can be meet by consuming different sources of nutrition like vegetables/pulses, fruits, eggs, milk and meat products.
  5. Environmental Safety: Waste materials are effectively recycled by linking appropriate components, thus minimize environment pollution. Dung>Biogas + slurry utilize in different process of cooking, lighting, engine fuel and slurry as fertilizer.
  6. Recycling: Effective recycling of waste material (crop residues and livestock wastes) with less reliance to outside inputs – fertilizers, agrochemicals, feeds, energy, etc.
  7. Income Rounds the year: Due to interaction of enterprises with crops, eggs, milk, mushroom, honey, cocoons silkworm, it provides flow of money to the farmer round the year. There is higher net return to land and labour resources of the farming family.
  8. Saving Energy: Utilization of biogas as fossil for cooking, electricity and engine fuel for pumping water helps in conserving energy.
  9. Meeting Fodder crisis: Plantation of perennial legume fodder trees on field borders and also fixing the atmospheric nitrogen. By-product and waste material of crops are effectively used as fodder and product like grains can be used as feed for poultry and pig.
  10.  Employment Generation: Combing crop with livestock enterprises would increase the labour requirement significantly and would help in reducing the problems of under employment to a great extent. ILFS provide enough scope to employ family labour round the year.
  11. Increasing Input Efficiency: ILFS provide good scope to use inputs in different component greater efficiency and benefit cost ratio.


  1. A lower digestibility and protein content of crop residues leads to lower nutritional benefits. It is technically possible to increase the structure and functionality of crop residues by physical or chemical treatment, but it is not feasible for small, poor farmers because it requires machinery and chemicals that are expensive or not readily available.
  2. Crop residues have the primary role of regenerating soil, however they are neglected too often or misapplied.
  3. Intensive recycling can cause nutrient losses.
  4. If manure fertilizer use efficiency cannot be improved, production and transportation costs will rise, as well as the surpluses lost to the environment.
  5. Chemical fertilizers are preferred over manures for their quicker and easier uses.
  6. Manure transportation is an important factor in manure use because mixed farms tend to use more manure in comparison to crop farms. Investments are required to improve the intake and digestion of crop residues.


  1. Intensification of agriculture which is currently occurring in most farming systems favours livestock based integration.
  2. Poor soil fertility, unavailability or increases in prices of fertilizers, and labour shortages, have forced farmers to rely on alternatives such as manure and traction.
  3. Farmers can grow crop in the wet season and engage in livestock enterprises in the dry season.
  4. Livestock enterprises are more lucrative than crop farming so it is advantageous to integrate livestock into farm activities.
  5. Many indigenous, emerging and developed technologies are available to support sustainable crop–livestock integration.

Sustainability through ILFS  

A sustainable livestock development must encompass an integrated farming system that includes efficient soil, water, crop, and pest management practices, which are cost-effective and environmentally friendly. The system allows for self-sustainability since the system is self-sustaining and reduces dependency on external inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, etc. The system provides balanced and rich nutrition to the farming family as well as reduces the money spent on cultivation and increasing profit margins on the same piece of land, which is a part of maintaining sustainability. On any farm, four natural ecosystem processes like energy flow, water cycle, mineral cycle and ecosystem dynamics work. By balancing food production, profitability, safety, animal welfare, social responsibility, and environmental care, the principles of ILFS are meant to be reconciled with those of sustainable development.

Economic importance

A livestock-based integrated farming system improves the economic viability of small and marginal farmers by increasing the yield per unit area per unit time. In integrated farming system, since more than one component is involved, yields and net returns assessment of this system becomes important. ILFS generate incomes to other families as labour requirement generally increase and labour will be busy round the year than traditional farming. Based upon economic returns, desired models can be promoted among the farmers. Table no. 1 and 2 shows economic viability of ILFS models developed in different states of the India in terms of high net returns in comparison to prevailing systems.

Table no.1 Economic viability of ILFS models developed in different states of the India having equal or greater than one hectare.

StatesPrevailing systemNet returnSuggested ILFS ModelNet ReturnsReferences
KeralaRice + Fishery181725 .58  Coconut+ Banana + Poultry + Goat + Cow  1964503 .57  Sabu et al., 2020
TelanganaRice-Maize1,38,373Crop-dairy-hen-sheep-rabbit-quail-manure6,09,160Goverdhan et al., 2018
KarnatakaSole crop red gram, paddy and cotton43632.69/haCrop – Dairy – Vermicomposting151414.3  Rashtrarakshak et al., 2016
Crop – Dairy (2 cows, 1 buffalo) – Goat rearing159071.3  
Crop – Dairy – 3 Sheep – 3 Goat rearing183221*
BiharCropping alone (Rice-Wheat)53000Crop-Fish-Goat19900.3Kumar et al., 2017
Telangana  Paddy-Brinjal-Cotton-Goat36918.4Srinika et al,. 2017
KarnatakaCrop (Maize, cotton, Bengal gram, vegetables)58,488/haCrop-Dairy-Poultry-Vermicompost -Fishery 1,50,170/haDesai, 2015
RajasthanCrops-Dairy (Cow and buffalo)33385 /haCrop-livestock-horticulture (Fruit, Vegetable and flowers)  52161  Singh et al., 2013
*System had higher benefit cost ratio

*System had higher benefit cost ratio

Table no.2 Economic viability of ILFS models developed in different states of the India having equal or less than one acre.

StatesPrevailing systemNet returnsSuggested ILFS ModelNet ReturnsReferences
MizoramFish only (Rohu, Silver carp and Grass carp) (0.06 acre pond)15545.2Fish-pig48023.19*  Sahoo & Singh, 2015
Punjab Cropping (Rice + Wheat)32,328 per acreCrop-Dairy-Fish farming53,030Singh et al., 2020
Nagaland  Agriculture-Horticulture-Fishery-Piggery (5 pigs)24394 per acre*Kumar et al., 2018
Agriculture-horticulture-fishery-poultry (50 bird), mushroom unit and Azolla (15 m2)32040 per acre
Agriculture-Horticulture-Fishery with a duckery unit at the bank of pond.11720 per acre
Horticulture-Fishery-Piggery (3 pigs)14840 per acre
BiharRice – Wheat  46122 /2 acreRice-Wheat-Vegetable-Dairy-Fishery150865Kumar et al., 2012
ChhattisgarhCrop + 2 bullocks + 1 cow14184Crop-2 Bullocks-1 Cow-1buffalo -10 Goats- 10 Poultry -10 Ducks33076Ramarao et al., 2006
*System had higher benefit cost ratio

*System had higher benefit cost ratio


Integrated livestock farming system is an economically viable avenue for marginal and small farmers for livelihood security and sustainability. Conventional cropping system cannot fulfil household requirements of farmers and they need to switch to integrated farming system now. ILFS not only ensuring economic returns but also generating employment for families, maintain ecological balance through nutrient recycling and environment protection. Adoption of ILFS will double farmer income and provide nutritional security without adverse effect on environment and natural resources.


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