This paper presents the results of a study into farmers' management of nutrient dynamics in a short-fallow farming system in northern Nigeria. The research described and quantified the main nutrient flows into and out of the farming system, and determined the nutrient balance of farmers' landholdings. A model of nutrient cycling within the farming system was developed, which showed that there is a transfer of nutrients from rangeland and fallow fields to cropped fields through grazing livestock and the application of livestock manure to fields. Farmers' strategies to improve soil fertility on their landholdings through increased use of animal manure or village refuse depend on their ownership of livestock, to provide the manure, and animal traction to transport manure from their household or common access village refuse heaps to the fields. The effect of rising population density on the nutrient cycle is discussed in relation to the various groups within the communities. It is concluded that as population rises, a more integrated farming system may develop, which would improve nutrient cycling, but limit cattle rearing.