Advanced Training in Sustainable Production Systems in the Northern Great Plains

Final Report for ENC03-074

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2003: $63,556.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Roger Gates
SDSU Extension
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Project Information


Four trainings were held over three years at various locations in the target area for this project. The first training was held in Bismarck, ND and focused on introducing the Integrated Resource Management (IRM) approach to Community Based Ag educators for solving producer issues. Training was provided on farm and ranch management, range, livestock, and complex systems. The Balance Scorecard was introduced and IRM teams were organized and a Specialist was assigned to each team.

The teams' first assignment was to find a cooperating producer to work with management issues.

The second and third trainings (2005 & 2006) focused in-depth about systems responses to management changes and were led by educators, and included hands-on use of the Balanced Scorecard.

The final training held in December 2006 was an opportunity for each team to present their producer's management plan and gain feedback from other IRM teams. The Balanced Scorecard, which was published in September 2006 was made available to all educators in the IRM process.

Project Objectives:

·Producers increased use of community based agricultural advisors (CBAA), management tools, and information in decision-making
·Producers helped train teams to analyze complex systems
·CBAA improved their awareness, understanding of key factors in sustainability
·CBAA developed strategic plans to incorporate production system knowledge into programs
·CBAA developed working relationships with other CBAA in ND and SD
·CBAA better understand adult ed, information dissemination
·CBAA enhanced presentation skills

·Producers improved decision-making capabilities
·CBAA gained knowledge/confidence to teach components and interrelationships of ranching systems
·CBAA developed network of coaches
·CBAA have begun using teach/coach/mentor in programming and teaching efforts
·CBAA developed regional integrative teams to work with producers to improve sustainability of ranching

·Sustainability of operations immediately impacted by project teams was enhanced
·Producers trusted CBAA and used their assistance to solve production problems
·Producers used CBAA as coaches in analyzing complex systems, identifying key leverage points
·CBAA experienced greater job satisfaction, improving longevity in their positions


Community based agriculture advisors (CBAA), both from the Cooperative Extension Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service, requested additional training in sustainable livestock production. This training is valuable to improving the viability and functionality of rural communities.

This project focused on long-term outcomes of having CBAA work in integrative teams to help producers improve profitability and sustainability of ranching, to have producers trust and utilize CBAA as coaches in making complex management decisions, and for improved CBAA job satisfaction and longevity.

CBAA gained understanding of adult education and presentation skills. They became more comfortable with basic concepts of ranch management, range management, livestock production, complex systems, and teach/coach/mentor methodology. They completed a process of using integrative teams to solve problems, while gaining an awareness of the complexities of production systems and needs of producers.

Education & Outreach Initiatives



-Conducted in-depth, hands-on trainings for CBAA by Specialists in integrated study areas.

-Used teach-coach-mentor method to encourage CBAA to lead subsequent trainings, with Specialists acting as mentors.

-Teams recruited volunteer producer families to advise in addressing complex systems.

-Used Balanced Scorecard method to address producer management issues.

-Trusting, longer-term relationships between IRM teams and producers were developed.

-Evaluations were given after each training to evaluate effectiveness.

Outreach and Publications

-Extension Circular 922 jointly published by SDSU and Texas A&M-Kingsvilled titled "Using the Balanced Scorecard for Ranch Planning and Management: Setting Strategy and Measuring Performance" authored by Barry Dunn, Roger Gates, Jack Davis and Agustin Arzeno. 2006.

-150 copies distributed by IRM teams.

-450 copies distributed at the request of bankers, producers and ag advisors.

- Extension Circular 924 jointly published by SDSU and Texas A&M-Kingsvilled titled "Strategic Management and Scenario Planning in Ranching: Managing Risk in Dynamic Times" authored by Roger Gates, Barry Dunn, Jack Davis, Agustin Arzeno and Marty Beutler. 2007.

-400 copies provided to producers, educators and agricultural lenders in training session and by request.

Outcomes and impacts:

-Five IRM teams successfully completed the training and gave final reports on their cooperating producer. Teams consisted of 3-7 CBAA and 1 Specialist.

-Evaluations after the last training showed that participants ability to approach complex systems was greatly improved;they learned specifics on developing a business plan, taking resource inventories.

-Teams developed trusting relations with producers

-Team members learned where to go to get help.

-More than half of all participants agreed to continues either working within their current IRM team or developing an new team.

-150 Balanced Scorecards were distributed by IRM team members.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

-142 combined participants (CBAA and Specialists) at all four trainings held June 2005-December 2006.

-Participants were trained in a variety of topics including accounting, ranch management, range and livestock production, marketing, nutrition, and personality dynamics.

-Many of the trainings were led by educators, implementing the teach-coach-mentor approach.

-Extension Circular 922 published by SDSU and Texas A&M-Kingsvilled titled "Using the Balanced Scorecard for Ranch Planning and Management: Setting Strategy and Measuring Performance" authored by Barry Dunn, Roger Gates, Jack Davis and Agustin Arzeno.

-Five IRM teams successfully delivered final ranch business plans at the final wrap up.


Potential Contributions

Community-based agricultural advisers from two states and two agencies completed this training project. They are better equipped to form multi-disciplinary advisory teams and to approach agricultural production challenges from a systems approach. These educators and advisers will contribute to the sustainability of the operators and operations they work with by offering a more comprehensive assessment of challenges faced as well as more complete perspective of potential opportunities. The experience in team building and team operation will complement their individual technical skills by providing ready access to a more complete set of skills and information.

Future Recommendations

The publications developed during this project provide an excellent starting resource for ongoing training in a systems approach to agricultural production, particularly range livestock production. Continued training should enhance the skills of current and future educators.

Future efforts should attempt to integrate training and team formation beyond the agricultural emphasis. Incorporating other "areas of emphasis" such as community development, family science and youth would amplify and expand the ability of educators to work holistically with families and their communities.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.