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The profitable integration of cropping and livestock in Southern Australia

Did you know low-risk, high-margin agriculture is possible in mixed farming systems?

Project start date: 07 November 2016
Project end date: 06 September 2018
Publication date: 06 February 2019
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb, Grassfed cattle
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Mixed farming is an opportunity to optimise synergies between cropping and livestock within a single enterprise.

This project reviewed benchmark data, conducted a skills audit and applied a risk-analysis tool to define the primary profit drivers in mixed farming systems throughout southern Australia.

MLA has delivered a series of workshops and produced nine management guidelines and nine factsheets to identify and highlight the key profit drivers of successful integration of these systems.


This scoping project aimed to better define the unique profit drivers in mixed farming systems and determine the best way to integrate cropping and livestock enterprises to generate stronger business performance.

Key findings

  • Guidelines, factsheets and workshops were developed from nine of Australia's agro-ecological zones to ensure regionally specific data and outcomes.

  • The successful, long-term integration and increased business performance of mixed farming is driven by four key profit drivers:

  1. Gross margin optimisation: a measure of operational efficiency, influenced by income generation and variable cost control.

  2. Low cost business model: influenced by a farm's structural efficiency and reflects the overhead cost structure of the business.

  3. People and management: successful management of a mixed enterprise business is driven by effective management of people and the capability of the management team.

  4. Risk management: this allows resilient businesses to incur a production shock and maintain suitable levels of financial performance.

Benefits to industry

Developing robust benchmarks for mixed farm enterprises (including financial and production indicators and targets) can increase understanding and implementation of the key profit drivers to improve profitability.

MLA action

MLA has consulted with agricultural advisors, Rural Directions, to develop a Profitable Grazing Systems package, which could be either be an off-the-shelf package or a series of workshops continuing on from those used in this project.

Future research

Ongoing engagement with the producers involved in this project could help increase industry understanding of mixed enterprise business performance and demonstrate that mixed-farming principles are robust in the longer-term.

Related resources

MLA publications

MLA presentations

More information

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Primary researcher: Rural Directions