Development of Sustainability Checksheet, Manual and Workshops to Train Educators Planning Beef Programs

Final Report for ES97-031

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $69,936.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Federal Funds: $26,500.00
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Ron Morrow
NCAT/ATTRA
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Project Information

Abstract:

A group of individuals (producers, NRCS personnel, county extension agents, and NCAT/ATTRA technical specialists) developed a beef farm sustainability check sheet. The check sheet is designed to stimulate critical thinking of producers and educators in establishing priorities to attain profitability, ensure environmental integrity farms and maintain quality of life for farm families. The check sheet contains over 200 questions to assess a farm with primary emphasis on cow-calf production on pasture programs. Workshops were taught in collaboration with the University of Tennessee Highland Rim Experiment Station and the Middle Tennessee Experiment Station. Training sessions were held for NRCS personnel in Northwest Arkansas.

Project Objectives:

1. Through the design, evaluation, and subsequent us of a sustainability check sheet, educators and producers will learn what to consider in assessing a beef cattle farm.

2. Through the use of a manual on sustainable beef cattle management, educators and producers will learn the complex (biological, financial and social) interrelationships that must be considered when planning and improving beef cattle enterprises in a whole-farm context.

3. Potentially 180 educators and producers will be trained, through two sustainable beef management workshops, to recognize and assess these interrelationships.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:
Project Situation

This project was intended to stimulate critical thinking of beef cattle producers through development of a checksheet for assessment of farm sustainability and subsequent training of educators and producers in use of the checksheet. Additionally, publications to support portions of the checksheet have been assembled into a notebook used for training. The intent was to establish a systems perspective and present interrelationships rather than components, and to present series of questions educators could use to work with farmers to illustrate how one decision can impact other decisions and outcomes.

Outcomes and impacts:

Objective 1. Through the design, evaluation, and subsequent us of a sustainability check sheet, educators and producers will learn what to consider in assessing a beef cattle farm.

A group of individuals (producers, NRCS personnel, county extension agents, and NCAT/ATTRA technical specialists) developed a beef farm sustainability check sheet. This diverse set of individuals took ownership of a project and learned from each other to help farmers through forming teams. The check sheet contains over 200 questions to assess a farm with primary emphasis on cow-calf production on pasture programs. The questions are not designed to determine if a farm is sustainable but rather to determine individual areas of the farm that could be improved. The questions are designed to show the interrelationships of decision making. They also provide a basis for educators, whose expertise may be in another area, to have questions they can ask the farmer.

The check sheet is available to ATTRA callers as a standard materials item and is on the ATTRA website as well. During this calendar year, 106 persons from 33 states have requested the checksheet. Over nine hundred persons have “hit” the checksheet on the website. A presentation on the check sheet was made at the Southern SARE PDP meeting in Memphis in 1998. A poster was used at the meeting in 1999. Additionally, presentations on the sustainable beef workshop and check sheet were made in 1998 at the Southern American Society of Animal Science meetings. A poster presentation was made at the SARE meeting in Austin in 1998. Other presentations have been made to county cattlemen’s groups and various workshops in other states.

Objective 2. Through the use of a manual on sustainable beef cattle management, educators and producers will learn the complex (biological, financial and social) interrelationships that must be considered when planning and improving beef cattle enterprises in a whole-farm context.

A notebook of ATTRA publications, research reports, and other information was assembled to be used in workshops, as the precursor of the manual. Publications updated or developed for the project are now available through ATTRA by request or through the ATTRA website:

Integrated Parasite Management
Assessing the Pasture Soil Resource
Nutrient Cycling of Pastures
Sustainable Soil Management
Matching Livestock and Forage Resources in Controlled Grazing
Meeting the Nutritional Requirements of Ruminants on Pasture
Introduction to Paddock Design and Fencing-Water Systems

Objective 3. Potentially 180 educators and producers will be trained, through two sustainable beef management workshops, to recognize and assess these interrelationships.

The first workshop using the check sheet as a base learning tool was held October 7-9, 1997, at the Highland Rim Experiment Station in Springfield, TN. Enrollment was 42 producers, extension agents and NRCS personnel from seven states. The second workshop was taught September 21-23, 1998, at the Middle Tennessee Experiment Station in Spring Hill, TN. Enrollment was 23 producers and educators from eight states. Three two-day workshops for Arkansas NRCS personnel were held in Fayetteville, Russellville, and Marshall, AR with a total attendance of 93 persons. ATTRA specialists participated in a sustainable agriculture conference in Kingsport, TN February 26-27, 1999, and presented four sessions on the checksheet and conducted a pasture walk for approximately 40 people. A conference on sustainable beef management was held in collaboration with Heifer Project Internation in Epes, Alabama, March 26-28, 1999.

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.