Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

James A. Larson

Committee Members

Christopher C. Clark, Chad Hellwinckel, Dayton M. Lambert


The purpose of this research was to evaluate the economic tradeoffs and land use dynamics of incorporating switchgrass into the farm plan of a representative middle Tennessee cow-calf operation. A net revenue simulation and multi-year mathematical programming model was used to find the optimum mix of switchgrass and cow-calf enterprises that will maximize whole farm net revenues over 30 years on a representative middle Tennessee beef farm under both average and above average management. Land use changes predicted by the mathematical programming model were used to assess the carbon change associated with incorporating, or transitioning to, switchgrass production.

For a wide range of output prices, switchgrass production was found to be not only competitive with, but generally more profitable than cow-calf production in the region. When whole farm net revenues were maximized over time, all cattle was typically sold off within the first five years and switchgrass was produced on all farm acres at the end of the 30 year period. This finding was consistent across all switchgrass prices, discount rates, and operating capital levels used in the optimization models. On-farm greenhouse gas emissions appear to be reduced when acreage is transitioned from cow-calf production to switchgrass production, but this may result in a carbon leakage to a nearby region merely displacing emissions rather than offsetting emissions. Results of this research may be used to encourage Middle Tennessee cow-calf producers to begin growing switchgrass as a means of increasing net revenues.

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