This project was part of a comprehensive effort by the Central Wisconsin River Graziers Network, in cooperation with local agricultural related agencies to promote the environmental, lifestyle and profit advantages of adopting M.I.G. The SARE phase of the project focused on educating the agricultural educators and bankers in Marathon County and Lincoln County, Wisconsin, about the environmental lifestyle, and profit advantages of having farmers implement Management Intensive Grazing. A local Conservation Specialist working in the Land Conservation Department worked with the UW-Extension agent and grass based farmers in the Network to accomplish our objectives.
The objective of this specific SARE project is as follows:
1. Educate local agricultural educators and bankers about the benefits of Management Intensive Grazing.
2. Develop grazing farm pasture walks and a curriculum for high school and technical college agricultural educators to follow so that Management Intensive Grazing can be successfully taught to our current and future farmers.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Each objective is being met by utilizing all fields of expertise of the people involved in our grazing network. The project was broken down into two phases.
This project began by initiating personal contacts with agricultural educators and bankers to explain the basics of grazing-based farming. All educators and bankers in Marathon and Lincoln County were invited to all the pasture walks and other grazing-based farming field events that we held in 1998 and 1999.
We then started working with the high school and technical school agricultural educators. Each educator was personally invited to attend a training session on grass-based farming. The basics of grazing-based farming were explained to them as well as the economic, lifestyle and environmental benefits. An in-depth discussion was held with the educators to assess their current views of grazing-based farming and how to best implement grazing-based farming into their curriculum. All educators were provided with a UW-Extension Grazing Reverence Materials Manual. A brainstorming session was held with the educators which provided the foundation for our grazing curriculum. All agricultural educators and bankers in the Marathon and Lincoln Counties were invited to all of our grazing-related training events, including 23 pasture walks, 5 demonstrations, and 2 winter conferences.
Our next portion of objective 1 was to educate the bankers about the benefits of management intensive grazing. In addition to inviting the local bankers to our pasture walks through our mailings, we also encourage Graziers to personally invite their own bankers to pasture walks. This has worked rather well and we usually have one or two bankers at each pasture walk. We generally have one or two pasture walks each month. In addition to this we held a one-day meeting in October of 1998 for bankers. The day was spent reviewing the economic benefits of M.I.G. and the financial status of three local graziers and the economic impact of successful graziers on the community. We also had a pasture walk just for bankers at two local grazing-based farms where we reviewed the farms’ current economic status and then toured their farms to discuss the management of their grass-based farms. At both meetings the graziers also discussed how they are able to maximize projection and net profit while protecting the environment and improving their family lifestyle.
The second educational phase was the development of a curriculum for the agricultural educators to follow. This was done the second year of the project. The primary development was overseen by the Conservation Specialist. A thorough investigation into the current curricula available from UW-Madison and other schools that have grazing courses was conducted. Appropriate course material was used from all existing sources to avoid duplicating useable materials already available. A general joint curriculum was then developed for both the High School and Technical College levels. The curriculum was developed primarily by Joe and Christy Tomandl who currently operate a 60 cow grass-based dairy but were high school Agriculture teachers until the Spring of 1998. The curriculum was reviewed and approved by advisory members from the Grazing Network, UW-Extension, NRCS and key agricultural educators. The curriculum (included in the report) consists of classroom instruction of basic grass management techniques, the tools needed to properly manage a grass-based farm and instruction on the environmental and lifestyle benefits of Management Intensive Grazing. The classroom curriculum provides the basics of M.I.G. We have encouraged instructors to tie the in class curriculum with follow up visits to grass-based farms to expose students to active profitable grass-based livestock farms. We were given an unexpected opportunity to provide a much wider instruction and distribution of the grazing curriculum than what we expected. We were invited to hold a training session to train both High School and Technical School Agricultural instructors at the statewide conference for the Wisconsin Association of Vocational Agriculture Instructors. We provided a curriculum and video to over 325 instructors at this conference. In addition we provided hands on training on how to use the curriculum to 21 instructors at the conference at a two-hour training session. The curriculum and video was also distributed to all of the high school and technical college agriculture instructors in Marathon and Lincoln Counties who did not attend the conference.
Outreach and Publications
1. Management Intensive Grazing Curriculum: Compiled and written by Joe and Christy Tomandl, Graziers, Marathon County, WI- May 1999
2. Beginners Grazing Guide- A guide developed as part of our comprehensive project. It is intended to be used as a resource guide by farmers interested in adopting or starting up in M.I.G. It was also supplied to all area agricultural educators and bankers. Compiled by Paul Daigle, Conservationist Specialist
The assessment goal of this project was evaluate each of its two phases.
Phase I was evaluated by the number of participants who attended the training session. Our goal was to have fifty percent (50%) of the agricultural educators attend our training session. We had 7 out of the 15, or 47% of the area high school and technical college instructors attend the first meeting to introduce the concept of M.I.G. and gather the background information we needed to begin our curriculum development. At the meeting no evaluation was completed. This was done for the agricultural educators when phase II was completed, since phase I tuned into a training session/brainstorming session to help curriculum development.
We had four full time agricultural bankers out of a possible 12 attend our classroom training session or 33% for M.IG, our goal was 30% (in addiction we estimate that there are another 17 bankers who handle a small portion of their loans as agricultural loans, these bankers were not contacted personally, although they were invited to all of our meetings and pasture walks). All four or 100% of the bankers either support or strongly support M.I.G. as a management option after attending our training session, the bankers main concern is that realistic business and financial plans are developed for a grazing farm, just as they would for any other business. At the pasture walks, we had a total of nine bankers attend the two pasture walks set up specifically for bankers. They indicated in their survey that they strongly support M.I.G. as a management option. They indicated that they have seen very good cash flow plans from most of the grass-based farmers that they currently work with. Our goal was to have seventy-five percent (75%) of the participants leave the training sessions believing they can support the idea of grass-based farming in their respective occupations. We have exceeded that goal by having 100% believe they can support M. I. G.
The evaluation of Phase II of the project was fairly easy to measure. The curriculum was developed and presented to the agricultural educators at their summer conference. We had 21 educators attend the training session at the conference. The educators were evaluated after the training session. The most significant outcome was that all of the educators indicated they are very likely or positive that they will implement the curriculum into their classroom. Since not all of our local agricultural educators were able to attend the training conference, the curriculum was mailed to them and then they were contacted individually two months after they received it to see if they were going to implement the curriculum. According to the phone survey, out of the fifteen educators nine (60%) indicated that they were planning to implement all or some of the curriculum this year. Our goal was to have fifty percent (50%) of the agricultural educators start to implement the curriculum by the second year of the project. So we have exceeded our goals for all portions of our project.
We held several separate training sessions for this project, and they are as follows:
Session1 –Title: Introduction to Management Intensive Grazing for Agricultural Educators.
Date: August 12, 1998
Attendance: 7 agricultural instructors representing 6 high schools and 1 Northcentral Technical College
Instructors: Conservation Specialist—Introduction to M.I.G., UW-Extension Agent—Are Graziers Making Money?, and Three Farmers—Why and How M.I.G. Works on My Farm
Session 2—Title: Pasture walk for Agricultural Lenders
Date: Two pasture walks were held the summer of 1998
Attendance: A total of 9 bankers were in attendance
Instructors: Conservation Specialist and Host Farmers conducted pasture walk of farms, UW-Extension Agent reviewed financial performance of host farms.
Session 3—Title: Are Graziers Making Money
Date: November 16, 1998
Attendance: 4 out of 12 local full-time agricultural bankers.
Instructors: Conservation Specialist—What is Management Intensive Grazing?, UW-Extension Agent—Are Graziers Making Money?, Three Farmers—Why and How M.I.G. Works on My Farm, review of financial records
Session 4—Title: Wisconsin Association of Vocational Agriculture Instructors (WAVAI) Annual Summer Converence. Topic: Introduction to Management Intensive Grazing Curriculum
Date: June 29, 1999
Attendance: 325 grazing curriculums with videos were distributed to educators at the conference 21 educators attended our breakout training session on the curriculum (there were 20 concurrent training session to choose from).
Instructors: Conservation Specialist—Introduction to Management Intensive Grazing and why it is a viable management option for today’s farmers, Farmers/Curriculum developers Joe and Christy Tomandl—Introduction of M.I.G.
General Grazing related training events held in 1998 and 1999
General Pasture Walks—A total of 23 were held in 1998 and 1999. They were all hosted by local Grziers in our Network. Attendance averaged about 35 people, which included 1-3 bankers, 1-2 educators and the remainder being local farmers.
Grazing Demonstration projects
A total of 5 field demonstration days were held. Four were demonstration on how to install high tensile electrical fencing. Attendance averaged about 25 people, which included 1-2 bankers and educators and the remainder being local farmers new to M.I.G. The other demonstration featured a grass-based heifer raising demonstration. Attendance was at about 135, which included 2 agricultural educators with their classes (total of 75 students), 3 bankers, several local veterinarians, and the remainder being local farmers.
Two conferences were held. A total of 230 people attended the conferences which included 4 bankers and 2 educators. The conferences were taught mainly by eight experienced graziers, two UW=Extension agents, a local dairy nutritionist, and the Conservation Specialist. Topics included: Getting started in Grazing; raising heifers on pasture; manure management on pasture; balancing the ration of a grazing cow; are Graziers making money?; and managing pastures for optimum quality and quantity.
Two unexpected sessions were also held in 1998
The first session included a visit to a local Grazier’s farm by our Governor and our State Secretary of Agriculture. The two were led on a pasture walk by the host Grazier; they were accompanied by our Grazing Network advisory board and several local politicians. The participants were educated about the general benefits of M.I.G. including the environmental, lifestyle and profit advantages of M.I.G. The second session was held at a different farm and included the State Secretary of Agriculture, State Secretary of Department of Natural Resources, our State Senator, two State Representatives, and seven County Board members. The participants were led on a pasture walk of the farm. The main emphasis was on the environmental benefits achieved with M.I.G.
The information and curriculum we developed is already being implemented by agricultural educators around the state. According to a recent UW-Madison survey, over 15% of existing farmers and over 50% of the new farmers with livestock will be using M.I.G. as a management practice by the year 2000. With the high number of new graziers, it is imperative that good reliable information needs about M.I.G. needs to be taught to them at all education levels. Our network definitely believes that education is the key to the future of livestock farming in Wisconsin and our educational efforts will continue into the future. We are currently trying to lobby the local counties to provide permanent funding for the Conservation Specialist’s position to continue to carry out our Network’s mission. We hope to continue our efforts to educate the graziers, agricultural educators, and bankers about the benefits of M.I.G.
I believe we could do further work with both the agricultural educators and bankers.
In working with the agricultural educators we could do several things to continue to improve on what we have done already.
1. Provide guided tours of grazing-based farms to high school and technical school classes to expose them to experienced and successful graziers.
2. We could have guest Graziers go into the classroom to explain their farming operations.
3. We could follow up on the suggestions made in the evaluations to keep training educators how to use the curriculum and also keep it available to new teachers.
The agricultural bankers need to continually be made aware of successful graziers and to learn how M.I.G. is a management practice that is a viable management option for their clients.