Training for sustainable year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management in the Southern Region

Final Report for ES11-107

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $69,843.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Uma Karki
Tuskegee University
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Project Information

Abstract:

Pasture-based goat production is becoming one of the important enterprises for livestock farmers in Alabama and neighboring states. However, most livestock farmers have not adopted sustainable forage programs and depend on hay and supplementary feedstuff during times of reduced forage availability. The goal of this project was to develop a comprehensive training program to increase the productivity, quality, and production duration as well as to improve management of existing pastures for sustainable livestock production. Project objectives were: 1) to develop comprehensive training curricula for year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region; 2) to train field-level extension and technical-assistance personnel and lead farmers on year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region. Tuskegee University and PadmaDal Memorial Foundation collaborated in this project.  Other key partners in the project were Alabama Natural Resources Conservation Service, Auburn University, Mississippi State University, Langston University, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Training curricula in the form of a handbook – Sustainable Year-Round Forage Production and Grazing/Browsing Management for Goats in the Southern Region was developed, used for training sessions (2), and distributed to other institutions with goat Extension program. The handbook is available online for the public free of charge (http://www.tuskegee.edu/sites/www/Uploads/files/About%20US/TUCEP/Livestock%20Program/Year-RoundPasture_Handbook.pdf). A complementary educational video was developed and available online (http://youtu.be/wq9wTE7-HkA). Field-level extension and technical-assistance personnel and extension specialists serving the goat producers in different Southern States (36) and lead goat producers (16) were trained. Impact study of the project showed that it was very useful to improve the knowledge of the participants, improve the service of the professional trainees, and make the farm practices more sustainable for the producer participants.

Keywords: Educational video, Field-level extension and technical-assistance personnel, Training, Training curricula (handbook), Southern State

Project Objectives:

  1. To develop comprehensive training curricula on year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region

  2. To train field-level extension and technical-assistance personnel and lead farmers on year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region

Introduction:

Pasture-based meat goat production is becoming popular among small-scale livestock farmers in the Southern Region. Most of the farmers in this region, especially Alabama and neighboring states, have perennial warm-season pastures chiefly dominated by bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon), or dallisgrass (Paspalum dilatatum). These grasses produce forage mainly from April to October (Ball et al., 2007) resulting in a ‘winter slump’ period from November to March. During this period, farmers need to invest in supplementary feedstuff such as hay, agricultural byproducts, or commercial feed to sustain their livestock. Even during peak warm-season production, lactating and young growing animals require supplementary feed because of poor quality of warm-season grasses.

Sustaining livestock on supplementary feeds for a long period each year is costly because it involves 1) investment to buy feedstuff and to develop and maintain storage facilities, 2) extra labor to feed animals, and 3) storage and feeding loss of feedstuffs. Thirty percent or higher loss of hay dry matter may occur when stored unprotected in open fields (Ball et al., 2007). Farmers may make negligible or no money when production costs are high. To make pasture-based livestock production sustainable, improvement of existing pastures and their sustainable management is essential. Productivity, quality, and production duration of warm-season pastures can be increased by introducing and maintaining cool-season grasses and legumes. These forages produce during the cooler portion of the year ranging from October to April or May depending on the species. Similarly, warm-season legumes can be planted to supplement warm-season grazing (Ball et al., 2007). A SSARE-funded research (Karki et al., 2009) has established that incorporation of legumes increases forage productivity and quality. This research found a 40 percent increase in productivity and 27 percent increase in nitrogen content (quality) of available spring forage when crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) was overseeded into bahiagrass pasture as compared to the same pasture managed with commercial nitrogen fertilizer in Americus, Georgia. Similar to warm-season pastures, cool-season pastures can be improved by incorporating and maintaining warm-season forages.

For the sustainable use of pastures, adoption of an appropriate grazing system is necessary because forage species differ in tolerance to grazing pressure. For example, prostrate species can withstand continuous close grazing; however, semi-erect and erect species are susceptible to damage from such grazing. Rotational stocking with a suitable rest period or continuous stocking at a rate low enough to leave higher stubble heights is required to manage these susceptible species (Ball et al., 2007). Also, grazing methods should prevent tall species from attaining levels of growth that shade the growth and survival of shorter species. Moreover, mixed-species grazing of cattle and goats can reduce weed problems and maximize forage utilization, minimize gastrointestinal parasitic problems (Miller, 2004), and increase meat production per unit pasture (Walker, 1994).

The improvement of the existing pastures and managing them sustainably by adopting sustainable grazing systems as mentioned in the previous paragraphs would be possible by training and educating extension and technical assistance personnel, and providing them with the ready-to-use training materials. These personnel are the one who work at the ground level serving farmers – communicate with them on a regular basis, train them, and provide them with the technical services. Objectives of this project were 1) to develop comprehensive training curricula on year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region, and 2) to train field personnel and lead farmers on year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region.

References

Ball, D.M., C.G. Hoveland, and G.D. Lacefield. 2007. Southern Forages, Fourth ed. International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), Norcross, GA.

Karki, U., M.S. Goodman, and S.E. Sladden. 2009. Nitrogen source influences on forage and soil in young southern-pine silvopasture. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 131:70-76.

Miller, J. 2004. Internal & external parasites of goats. http://www.jackmauldin.com/documents/article7.pdf. Accessed Oct. 1, 2010.

Walker, J.W. 1994. Multispecies grazing: the ecological advantage. Sheep Research Journal Special issue: 52-64.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Ken Cearley
  • Dr. Misty Edmondson
  • Dr. Stephen Enloe
  • Nick Frontiero
  • Dr. Nar Gurung
  • Dr. Steve Hart
  • Eddie Jolley
  • Dr. Lila Karki
  • Dr. Rocky Lemus

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

Objective 1. To develop comprehensive training curricula on year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management in the Southern Region

A team of experts from Tuskegee University, PadmaDal Memorial Foundation, Alabama Natural Resources Conservation Service, Auburn University, Langston University, Mississippi State University, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service worked together to develop a comprehensive training curricula on year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region in the form of a handbook. The purpose of developing this handbook was to extensively increase the training and educational opportunities for goat producers in the Southern Region on sustainable year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management. The handbook consists of a wide range of topics relevant to year-round forage production and sustainable grazing/browsing management, specifically focusing on goats. Chapter 1 highlights the importance of year-round forage production and its sustainable management. Chapter 2 presents the definition and classification of forages. Agronomic aspects such as soil test, lime and fertilizer application, land preparation, forage selection, inoculation of legume seeds, and forage establishment have been presented in Chapter 3. This chapter also includes forage physiology, stockpiling program, and forage quality and testing. Chapter 4 discusses on grazing behavior of animals and their influence on pastures, and different grazing systems. Various structures and facilities such as perimeter and cross-fencing, shelter, facilities for goat handling, feeding, and watering that are required for a pasture-based goat operation are presented in Chapter 5. Important aspects of sustainable grazing management such as time to begin and end grazing different types of forages, grazing and resting periods required for commonly grown forages, harmful effects of inappropriate grazing, and suitable grazing systems and management strategies to match the given pasture situations have been discussed in Chapter 6. Common predators and their identification and management strategies have been presented in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 includes strategies on disaster preparedness and handling disaster aftermath for livestock including goats. Chapter 9 presents the descriptions and benefits of common browse species adapted to the Southern Region and their sustainable management strategies. Different types of supplementary feeds for grazing goats, and their selection and feeding schemes have been discussed in Chapter 10. The identification, biology, and management tactics of pasture weeds are presented in Chapter 11. Chapter 12 presents the concept and type of erosion that can occur under a grazing situation, and conservation planning to mitigate erosion. Common parasites and diseases of goats under grazing/browsing condition, and their management approaches have been described in Chapter 13. Chapter 14 consists of basic economic concepts, record keeping, and some economic calculations and analyses with few examples of goat operations before and after pasture improvement and adoption of sustainable grazing practices. Most of the chapters include hands-on activities to be incorporated during the training sessions. An educational video to complement this handbook was also developed.  

When field personnel are trained by subject matter specialists on the content of this handbook, including the hands-on activities, these field personnel are expected to be able to conduct similar training sessions for goat producers in their working areas by using this handbook as a guide. Field personnel can also use this handbook as a reference material to develop various fact sheets and articles to fulfill the needs of their clientele. Additionally, a complementary educational video was developed incorporating the basic information presented in the handbook, relevant pictures, videos, experiences and benefits obtained by participating producers from pasture improvement and sustainable grazing management, and opinion of experts on different topics. Use of handbook and the complementary educational video will be very effective while conducting educational programs for goat producers, especially in the Southern Region.

Objective 2. To train field-level extension and technical-assistance personnel and lead farmers in year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region

Field-level extension and technical-assistance personnel and extension specialists involved in serving the goat producers in different Southern States were invited to participate in the training sessions. A three-day, curricula-based training program was conducted at Tuskegee University Caprine Research and Education Unit, March 26-28, 2013, and another 2-day training on March 25-26, 2014 at the same venue. Field-level extension and technical-assistance personnel as well as extension specialists from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas (36) attended the training. Moreover, goat producers from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana (16) attended the training as well. Number of training sessions and trainees were more (200%) than the initial project target. Short-term impact of this training was assessed by conducting the pre- and post-tests. For assessing the longer-term impact, most of the trainees who participated the training session conducted in 2013 were visited and interviewed nine to eleven months after the completion of training session.

Outreach and Publications

A training handbook – sustainable year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region – and its complementary educational video are the main publications. Year-round forage production and sustainable grazing/browsing management has been one of the major focus programs of the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (TUCEP). Several field days and training workshops relevant to this topic are being conducted in various counties in Alabama. Moreover, TUCEP personnel are serving as resource persons to other institutions upon request to promote year-round pastures and sustainable grazing/browsing management.

A training handbook – Sustainable Year-Round Forage Production and Grazing/Browsing Management for Goats in the Southern Region – and its complementary educational video are the main publications. Electronic copies of these materials are available online (Handbook: http://www.tuskegee.edu/sites/www/Uploads/files/About%20US/TUCEP/Livestock%20Program/Year-RoundPasture_Handbook.pdf; Video: http://youtu.be/wq9wTE7-HkA) Year-round forage production and sustainable grazing/browsing management has been one of the major focus programs of the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (TUCEP). Several field days and training workshops relevant to this topic are being conducted in various counties in Alabama. Moreover, TUCEP personnel are serving as resource persons to other institutions upon request to promote year-round pastures and sustainable grazing/browsing management.  Furthermore, the project work and outcomes were presented at various scientific conferences, seminars, training programs, and community meetings, some of those are presented below.

Karki, U., L. Karki, N. Gurung, R. Lemus, S. Hart, K. Cearley, S. Enloe, E. Jolley, and M. Edmonson. 2014. Sustainable year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management education program. The American Dairy Science Association® (ADSA®), the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS), and the Canadian Society of Animal Science (CSAS) Joint Annual Meeting, Kansas City, Missouri, July 20–24. (Abstract and poster presentation)

Karki, U. 2013. Year-Round Pastures for Goats: Sharing Project Experiences and Outcomes. The second National Goat Conference, September 15-19, Sheraton Greensboro Hotel, Greensboro, North Carolina. (Abstract and poster presentation)

Outcomes and impacts:

Project outcomes were ready-to-use training curricula in the form of a handbook (sustainable year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management for goats in the Southern Region) and an educational video to complement the handbook. The handbook is available online at this link: http://www.tuskegee.edu/sites/www/Uploads/files/About%20US/TUCEP/Livestock%20Program/Year-RoundPasture_Handbook.pdf. This link is also available at the Southern SARE and eXtension Goat Industry websites.  The complementary video can be viewed in YouTube (http://youtu.be/wq9wTE7-HkA). Individuals who do not have access to the internet, but interested to be educated on the topics included in the handbook and video can request hard copies of the educational materials by contacting the Livestock Specialist at Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (karkiu@mytu.tuskegee.edu).  

Other outcomes of this project were trained professionals (extension specialist, field-level extension and technical assistance personnel – 36) and lead goat producers (16) (including three women leaders representing the National Women in Agriculture Association). Short-term impact results showed 29 percent increase in the knowledge of trainees. The training evaluation results revealed that majority of the trainees rated the content (95%) and quality (90%) of the program excellent or very good. All trainees expressed that the training was useful to adopt the sustainable year-round forage production and grazing/browsing management system. Most of the trainees (89%) reported that they gained useful knowledge and skills by participating in the program. Longer-term impact assessment showed the following impacts reported by professional and producers trainees.

  • Professional trainees implemented the educational activities in their service areas:
    • Organized 36 different educational events and served 987 producers within one year or less after they were trained.

    • Provided technical service to 436 livestock producers on improving pastures and managing them with sustainable grazing systems.

    • Distributed/disseminated a large number of educational materials (29489)

    • Posted relevant notifications, news, and messages (599) on social media, web pages, blogs, or through emails.

  • Producer trainees improved the farming practices mainly as listed below, and also provided technical support to their fellow producers

    • Improved fencing and other facilities

    • Practiced weed control, soil test, liming, and fertilization in pastures

    • Planted cool-season and/or warm season forages

    • Adopted rotational grazing system or developing this system

    • Started or were considering keeping records and doing economic analyses of their operations

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

A team of experts (9) from different institutions (as mentioned under Objective 1 in Methods Section) in the Southern Region got a chance to develop a closer working relationship while collaborating in this project. Comprehensive training curricula in the form of a handbook have been developed; the handbook contains a wide range of topics relevant to sustainable, pasture-based goat productions in the Southern Region. This handbook has been rated as very useful educational material by goat producers and professional. An educational video to complement the training handbook have been developed. Trained extension specialist and field-level extension and technical assistance personnel (36) are conducting the educational programs, disseminating the educational materials, and providing technical services to goat producers in their working areas on improving pastures and managing them well with sustainable grazing systems. Similarly, trained lead goat producers (16) were found to improve their production practices as mentioned above under “Outcomes and Impacts”.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

The training handbook and complementary educational video have an enormous potential to increase the educational opportunities for goat producers in the Southern Region in particular, and in other regions of the country in general. Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension is continuously utilizing these materials to educate extension professionals and goat producers. Similarly, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension recently used this handbook as a resource material while conducting its browsing school, a training program for goat producers, in 2014. Moreover, the trend of using these materials in educating goat producers is increasing. To promote the education program for goat producers throughout the Southern Region and beyond, several copies of this handbook have been already mailed to various land-grant Universities with goat Extension program (Purdue University – 9 copies, Lincoln University – 15 copies, North Carolina A&T University – 5 copies, Florida A&M University – 5 copies, Fort Valley State University – 5 copies, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff – 5 copies, Tennessee State University – 5 copies, Alabama A&M University – 5 copies, University of Maryland Eastern Shore – 5 copies, Alabama Cooperative Extension System – 8 copies). Making this handbook available to other universities and institutions with goat Extension program is ongoing. Moreover, professional and individuals involved in pasture-based goat industry outside USA will also benefit from these materials. Close to 1000 views of this handbook online already indicate that people are taking advantage of this material. Furthermore, the trained professionals under this project have already initiated the education of goat producers through different means (conducting educational programs, disseminating educational materials, and providing technical services) as mentioned earlier under the “Outcomes and Impacts” in this report. Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program has included sustainable year-round forage production and grazing/browsing as one of the major, continuous Extension programs for pasture-based goat producers as well as other livestock producers using this handbook as the main reference material.

Future Recommendations

Southern SARE funding has made it possible to bring experts from different institutions together and collaborate to improve the needed educational opportunities for goat producers in this region. Such funding should continue in the future as well.

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.