When thinking about switching to a different farming system, one of the first questions many farmers want answered is: "How will this work financially?" The Chippewa 10% Project developed the Cropping Systems Calculator to help answer this question by allowing farmers to plug in various planting and grazing scenarios and weigh the financial pros and cons of each option.
This easy-to-use Excel-based tool (see example below) allows you to compare two crop rotations, each up to six years in length, and provides average yearly returns as well as a year-by-year breakdown. The Calculator takes into account the crop-specific costs for many popular crops, but also the overhead costs of the entire farm operation. The default values are gathered from the FINBIN Database for either a 10- county region in the Chippewa River Watershed in west-central Minnesota or a 9-county region in southeastern Minnesota. The defaults for southeastern Minnesota include options for organic and non-organic operations.
A version with Illinois specific defaults is now available. Regionally specific defaults are split up between northern, central, and southern Illinois with row crops, perennials, cover crops, and grazing crop options.
A Sample Rotation
Click on the image below to see an example of how the Cropping Systems Calculator can help determine a viable rotation.
The Calculator also allows farmers to compare various grazing systems on a per-acre basis. Based on the Grass-fed Beef Calculator from the Pasture Project (an initiative of the Wallace Center at Winrock International), farmers can compare types of cattle (cow/calf, stocker, feeder-to-finish, custom) as well as management style (continuous, basic rotational, managed intensive, mob grazing). The opportunity to compare row crops to a grazing system is one of the unique features of the Calculator.
The calculator does not provide a definitive income level for the following season, but it does produce a solid estimate of the possible range of returns a farmer can expect.
Try it for Yourself
The Cropping Systems Calculator is available here. Watch this page for updates. For more information or questions, contact LSP's Rebecca Wasserman-Olin at 612-722-6377 or via e-mail.
Do you represent an agency or group interested in adapting the Cropping Systems Calculator to your specific watershed or region? Contact Rebecca Wasserman-Olin directly via e-mail to discuss the possibility of working together to create a customized version of the Calculator.
Other Decision Making Tools
Click here to check out other tools for helping you make decisions about what continuous living cover system is the best fit for you.