Farms across the Midwest are seeing the benefits of adopting even just the first four of the five soil health principles: armoring the soil, minimizing disturbance, increasing plant diversity, and keeping soil covered.  But what about going beyond no-till and cover crops? Come see the fifth soil health principle, “integrating livestock,” in practice at Match Made in Heaven field days in six states this summer.  Crop/livestock integration will be on display, demonstrating grazing of  crop residues, cover crops, and annual forages. Host farmers will share how livestock integration works on their farms and how it benefits soil health as well as the balance sheet.  To find the field day in your state check the MMIH website at

The field days are part of  the regional project “Match Made In Heaven: Livestock + Crops” which takes a look at how integration can work in real life, turning ideas into practice.  “In each state we are working with  farmers who have been experimenting with integration over a series of years and we’re excited that they’re open to sharing their experiences,” said Amy Fenn, the MMIH Project Coordinator.  “There are challenges to bringing livestock onto cropland, we want to see how farmers are overcoming the barriers and how they feel about it after getting a few years in.”

The field days will kick off on Thursday, June 27 in Iroquois County, Illinois, at the partnering farms of Doug Hanson and his daughter Maddie.  All are welcome for a day of learning at this father/daughter linked operation, which will highlight grazing cover crops, managed grazing paired with a cow/calf feedlot, direct marketing beef, and more.  The day will begin with a field tour highlighting innovative practices at Doug’s farm in the morning and end with lunch and presentations at Maddie’s farm.  A lunch of Hanson family beef will be shared, please register in advance to ensure a plate.  Registration and additional info at

Case studies are another part of  the MMIH project.  Six farm case studies will allow readers to “peek under the hood” at  how integration works on each farm, both production-wise and financially.  “Each operation is unique in how they’ve made integration work and we’re excited to highlight some of their practical innovations in these case studies ,” said Laura Paine,  the project’s co-lead and former beef grazier.  “These farmers are seeing dramatic soil health improvement for their cropping enterprises with the added benefit of reducing fertilizer and pest management costs. Livestock enterprises can use cover crops and crop residue to stretch the grazing season and save on feed costs.”  The first two studies, from Iowa and Wisconsin, are complete and have been posted on the project’s website.

Match Made In Heaven: Livestock + Crops” is a collaboration of over 50 agriculture and natural resource groups in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Participating organizations include crop and livestock associations, state and federal agencies, universities, soil and water groups, and both crop and livestock farmers.  The Match Made In Heaven project is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under agreement number 2021-38640-34714 Am 3 through the North Central Region SARE program under project number LNC21-453.

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About the Author: Jennifer Jones

​As Research Agronomist for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), Jennifer Jones works on behalf of Illinois soybean farmers in the development and the implementation of conservation agricultural research and outreach programs. She supports research efforts and helps communicate both in-field and edge-of-field research and validation studies to ISA’s farmer audiences; leads demonstration of conservation agriculture practices; and raises awareness of best management and continuous improvement practices for conservation agriculture in Illinois. Contact Jennifer at

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