Progress report for ES19-146
Electric fencing technology is critical to the adoption of adaptive grazing management for livestock species, and for incorporation of livestock into integrated cropping and horticultural systems. Adaptive grazing management uses a variety of grazing techniques in a dynamic management approach, which when effectively employed decreases erosion, encourages deeper plant rooting to improve drought resilience, improves plant species diversity, and improves water quality. However, lack of understanding of how to maintain a high level of power on electric fences, troubleshoot fencing problems, and effectively using temporary electric fences has limited adoption, and in some cases, caused farmers to abandon adaptive grazing management. North Carolina State University will team extension specialists from 1862 and 1890 institutions, mentor farmers, grazing specialists from conservation agencies, and fence industry representatives from six states within the southern region to teach farm advisors how to teach farmers to effectively adopt and manage electric fence technology through a one-day hands-on course. We will develop a training curriculum and kit for each state and make this available to the newly trained advisors to conduct subsequent farmer trainings. Participants from the advisor training and farmer trainings will learn the main components needed to successfully install and maintain electric fences, how to utilize this technology to improve grazing management and how to troubleshoot issues associated with electric fences. Pre and post-test evaluations at trainings will allow us to determine effectiveness of trainings. Follow-up surveys will be sent to participants to determine how many farmers received this training from a trained advisor.
- Develop a clear understanding of how electric fences work and how to approach electric fence troubleshooting.
- Become familiar with the wide variety of permanent and temporary fencing technology available and its importance in adaptive grazing management.
- Learn how to conduct an effective training session on managing and troubleshooting electric fences for farmers by using the provided training materials and training kit.
The goal of the project is to improve the temporary electric fence mangement skills of extension agents, conservationists and other advisors working with pasture-based livestock producers. We are working with a team of extension specialists in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Virginia to deliver a consistent message across the region. Training kits have been developed which include all major temporary electric fence accessories including a variety of posts, reels, wires, energizers and miscellaneous accessories. These kits were packed into “job site boxes” and zipper golf bags so that all the items needed are handy and organized. These kits will be transported to the cooperating states to be used in advisor training sessions, and they will be left for future producer training sessions in each state.
The majority of tasks needed to deliver a successful training were completed in 2019 and early 2020. However, due to the global pandemic related to COVID-19, all workshops have been postponed to Fall 2021.
In 2019, a meeting with electric fencing industry representatives took place on June 27, 2019 to ensure they were committed to supplying necessary electric fence equipment for our training kits and were comfortable being a part of the in-person training. We were happy to have both Gallagher Inc., and Pasture Management Systems, Inc. agree to support our program as they are the two major sources of electric fencing materials in the southeastern US. Further, both companies committed to giving our group discounted pricing for all electric fencing materials purchased for the training. On August 16, 2019, our group held our first virtual meeting. States represented during the meeting were Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. During our meeting we identified farms and/or university locations that could host our training in each state. Further, we identified potential dates that would work for each state. A Google drive account was created for the curation of educational materials needed for the training. Finally, the group started a list of items needed for the training kits that would be used during the hands-on portion of the training. Action items to complete for the next meeting were to:
- Finalize training dates for each state.
- compile educational materials for each state.
- Finalize training kits to order items.
- Build an agenda and promotional flyer to distribute to states for advertising
Our group held a second virtual meeting on January 10, 2020 in which we confirmed training sites and dates, approved items to be ordered for the training kits, approved agenda and promotional flyer, and completed the curation of educational materials to one single Google drive account. All states involved in the training were present during this meeting. On March 3. 2020, 6 training kits were built in Raleigh, NC by the North Carolina participants of the grant. Items in the kit will provide a great opportunity for participants of the training and the eventual farmers to be exposed to the majority of tools used and needed to be successful in using electric fencing as a tool for better grazing management. All these teaching supplies are packed in hard shell transportation cases (for small and compact items including energizers, reels, accessories) and zipper golf bags (for posts, ground rods, etc). These kits will be taken to each state for the advisor training sessions and then left for them to use in future farmer trainings.
Our group has approved rescheduling trainings in 2021 for similar dates and same locations as previously agreed upon. During the time leading up to the training our group plans to:
- Build a strong pre and post evaluation tool to be used by all states.
- Gather more input from our two farmers who are involved in this grant.
- Customize educational materials for each state to meet the differing needs of each state.
As of this report we have yet to reschedule the training sessions because meeting limitations in each state are still in flux, such that most meeting facilities are waiting to confirm meetings scheduled and many other postponed activities are also in the process of being rescheduled. We expect to hold a planning meeting in June of 2021 to get the workshops on the calendar, and to review the educational agenda and presentations. We will conduct a training session in North Carolina for agents and other advisors during the summer of 2021 so that we can practice the presentations before visiting the other states. This demonstration is pretty involved, and with a year of inactivity the lead instructors will need to review the presentations and have a chance to recall important take home messages to be delivered.
The grant team is thankful to SARE for the patience and support we have received during the pandemic. We have converted many programs to virtual delivery, but felt strongly that this project really needs face to face delivery. If further delays are experienced due to future developments with the pandemic we will move to developing on-line training and will complete the objectives of the project with that format.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Teach extension agents and advisors in 5 states about how to effectively teach farmers to use temporary electric fence.
Training sessions will be established in each cooperating state to show how to effectively hold a temporary electric fencing workshop. We will set up demonstrations on one or more private farm in each state to do the training. We will combine the use of a sit down presentation on the major aspects of temporary electric fence management, and follow with hands-on demonstration of how to make the key take home points to an audience gathered to learn about this important technology.
Advisors including Extension Agents and Conservationists will gain the skills to hold an effective training on how to use temporary electric fencing technology. Participants will become familiar with the many kinds of accessories available including a variety of posts, reels, polywire/polytape, lightening protection, and testers. After the training participants will have access to the training kit that will be shared across the state to present the training to farmers and additional advisors.