Training and Education Outreach to NRCS and University of California CES staff to Convey Animal Nutrition

Final Report for EW01-010

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $81,950.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Federal Funds: $22,610.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $17,000.00
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Thomas Wehri
CA Association Resource Conservation Districts
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Project Information


The project study provided NRCS and UCCE with needed information and data analysis as to the applicability of the use of NIRS and NUTBAL in California. Many producers received assistance as a result of the projects joint effort of NRCS and UCCE specialist and were provided needed education and outreach materials that assist in their managing California's rangelands. This project supplied needed training and supporting materials for local specialist.

Specific activities include the completion of the California Annual Rangeland Forage Quality and Evaluation of the Texas A&M Fecal NIRS System Prediction of Digestibility and Crude Protein using In Vivo Estimation by Angle Jinks (UCD Graduate Student) with recommendation that NIRS equations must be derived using samples from the same population that the equation will be later used to predict. This was accomplished by coordination all efforts with Texas A&M University GANLAB and a recommended curve modification were suggested for California’s annual grasslands. Results are reflected in the comparison of the curves on five California rangeland sites.

The project provided training and outreach information for NRCS range specialist on the NUTBAL program and its applicability to California annual grazinglands. Education and outreach information was developed by this project on livestock forage nutritional values using NIRS and NUTBAL software programs. These results were presented to producers via outreach posters and informational booth with fact sheets showing percent crude protein and percent digestible organic matter in defined MLRA regions and using annual time frame as hand out materials on the percent of crude protein and digestible organic matter. The project completed outreach and education information at 10 events that had both technical specialist and producers present. In excess of 2,500 people had access to the project information. Draft range technical notes were developed and are to be issued by California NRCS.

A final report, which reflects all findings and results of the project, was completed and is available in both electronical and hard copy.

Project Objectives:

Increase understanding of animal nutrition by California ranchers.

Evaluate and validate use of the NUTBAL program on California annual grasslands.

Conduct training sessions for NRCS, UC Cooperative Extension, Resource Conservation District employees and Directors, other range specialist, and ranchers.

Increase the number of ranchers using Animal Nutrition and Forage Quality (ANFQ) technology (including ‘NUTBAL’ software) to improve operations.

Increase rancher’s net income and encourage sustainable use of rangeland resources.

Develop case histories; written summary reports, PowerPoint slide presentation, and display board educational tools.

Poll students and ranchers before and after training, and at the close of the two-year period, to determine the increase in knowledge, skill, and capacity deriving from this effort.


The grazing land project in California consists of 3 major elements. The first involved the evaluation of the NIRS use and its applicability to California's annual grasslands. The second was the sampling and data interpretation on rangelands throughout the state by NRCS personnel from 1997-2003. Third was training on the use of Nutritional Balance (NUTBAL) software program and outreach component to NRCS and UCCE employees who would convey the animal nutrition skills to the ranchers and producers and education and out reach of the projects findings.

Evaluation of NIRS was completed via a controlled thesis study conducted by Angie Jinks, University of California Graduate student under the guidance of UCCE personnel. Concurrently NRCS and CARCD analyzed the GAN Lab results from samples collected by NRCS and UCCE for the period of 1997 to 2003 by MLRA region to determine average values for CP and DOM. These findings were correlated with 5 case studies completed with the ranchers on their operations. Based on results, recommendations and findings were completed and the results are reflected in this report.

The outreach element involved development of training materials on the use of NUTBAL, completion of technical materials for the NRCS Technical Guide, and outreach meeting with associated partners and producers. The MLRA evaluation, outreach and education activities were managed and completed by CARCD with assistance of NRCS.


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  • Melvin George
  • Jon Gustafson
  • James Oltjen

Education & Outreach Initiatives



The project included direct assistance and input from all partners. The prime leadership was provided by the Project Coordinator, Thomas Wehri, of CARCD. For the project the following methods were used for development and review of project projects.

All display and outreach materials were developed by CARCD and were reviewed and concurred by NRCS.

The evaluation by Angie Jinks was completed under the leadership of Dr. J. W. Oltjens, University of Califonia.

The evaluation procedure of the MLRA regions included a general description of the MLRA. The samples present in the MLRA were summarized into like units such as native grasses, irrigated perennials, sedges, etc., and the average CP and DOM of the samples were plotted. These sample sets were evaluated using the fecal test results and were field reviewed using case studies completed by NRCS range specialist. Using all collected information, conclusion statements were completed. Appendix C of the Final Report provides a write up, CP and DOM plots, and conclusions per MLRA. All technical materials were reviewed and approved by NRCS Range Specialist.

Outreach and Publications

The project outreach efforts included training for technical specialists and data and range information to specialists and producers. The following outreach efforts were completed.

NUTBAL training to 7 of California range specialists.

Pilot workshop for producers in Susanville, California

Poster and Presentation at 2003 CARCD Annual meeting

Poster and presentation at the 2nd National GLCI conference in Nashville, TN

Technical presentation at the Western Region SRM meeting in Park, Utah.

Poster at joint SWCS/GLCI conference, May 2004.

Poster of findings and fact sheets at the California Cattlemen's Convention, November 2004.

Poster of finding and fact sheets at the GLCI conference, November 2004.

Poster of findings and fact sheets at CARCD annual meeting, November 2004.

Publications included the issuance of the final report with the evaluation of the collected data by MLRA regions. Thirty Hard copies were printed and 10 copies in electronic format were reproduced.

Development of 7 fact sheets for 7 MLRA regions for use with producers. Two hundred and fifty copies of each fact sheet were printed and were used with the display poster. Copies are available for use in the local field offices of NRSC.

Developments of draft technical notes were completed and are to be issued by NRCS.

The University of California provided an Analysis of the Use of the Texas A&M Grazing lands Animal Nutrition Laboratory Fecal Near Infrared Reflective Spectroscopy Predication Equation with California Annual Rangeland Forages.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Project accomplishments are:
Completion of two-day training session on “NUTBAL” presented by Texas A&M instructors to seven NRCS Area Range Conservationist.

Completion of a three-day Rangeland Mgt. Specialist Workshop from February 26 to March 1, 2002 involving CA NRCS Range Specialists as well as range and watershed instructors from University of California, Davis and UC Berkeley, and Agricultural Research Service.

Completion of pilot local training session presented by NRCS and UCD Cooperative Extension on April 29, 2002, with several ranchers and agencies in attendance. Several trials were established as a result of the training session. Ceci Dale-Cesmat, NRCS Range Conservationist, administers these studies. As part of this session a training book and guide were developed and will be used at all local training sessions.

Completion of “Analysis of all collected samples for validation of NUTBAL” program as it applies to California’s annual grazing lands. Graduate student Angie Jinks completed thesis on findings.

Completed correlation of UCD research findings with the Texas A&M University GANLAB assistant director Doug Tolleson. Incorporation of the findings is planned for 2004.

Completion of summary data set on last 5 years of NUTBAL samples. Results reflected 1,107 samples that were made on 69 different ranches. Samples involved 15 different field personnel.

Completed poster of current findings and presented results at the California Association of Resources Conservation Districts Annual Meeting with attendance of 225 people. Results presented at Second National Conference on Grazing Lands, Nashville, TN. Total attendance was in excess of 1,200 people. California partnership had 19 people in attendance. In conjunction with Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) presented finding of NUTBAL and project in a poster/display. In addition, six presentation were made in concurrent sessions.

Partner staff of NRCS presented findings of case studies on Forage Quality/Livestock Monitoring in California at the Second National Conference on Grazing Lands based on the use of the NUTBAL information. Presentation involved a PowerPoint presentation of findings.

Angie Jinks and Ceci Dale-Cesmat presented information and preliminary findings of studies at the National SRM meeting in Park City, Utah.

Display and participated in SWCS/GLCI conference "Creating a vision for managing grazing landscapes in transition". Conference was May 6-8, 2004, with 120 specialist and some ranchers in attendance.

Display with findings at California Cattlemen Convention, Sacramento, CA, November 12-13, 2004. 600 participants in attendance with majority being California ranchers.

Display with findings at GLCI conference on "Strategies for Sustainability," November 15-16 in Paso Robles, CA. 150 participants in attendance with 1/3 ranchers, 1/3 academics, and 1/3 technical specialists.

Display and findings at CARCD Annual Conference, San Luis Obispo, CA November 17-20, 2004. 225 participants with 1/2 RCD directors and/or staff and remainder being partner agency technical staff.

Completed and reproduced seven fact sheets with findings and distributed to interested personnel at conferences. Remaining materials to be distributed to local NRCS and RCD field offices for use with local ranchers.

Final Report completed reflecting all findings of the project. Distribution is to NRCS range conservationists and associated UCCE personnel.


Potential Contributions

This study resulted in technical supporting data and material, which leads to validation of the ‘NUTBAL’ software program for use on California’s annual grazing lands. The project provided data and material, which will be included in the FOTG for NRCS and will enhance the use of the program by resident ranchers.

The developed materials will be useful for existing and new specialists employed by NRCS, and partner personnel of the California UCD Extension Service. The development of the material for the Field Office Technical Guide and associated fact sheets will be a means for providing information to ranchers and producers and the use of the NUTBAL program on their ranch.

Follow-up with participating ranchers and producers clearly showed that each ranch operation is unique. The use of the NUTBAL program requires the technical specialist to work with the producer to reflect their particular herd, location, and management. Each year in California, available crude protein and digestible organic matter quality on annual grasslands are greatly influenced by the timing and quantity of rainfall and associated temperature regimes. Management is a vital element for any ranching operation. The study showed NUTBAL could be an effective tool in assisting the individual rancher; however, the tool must be developed for each operation.

The completed training and educational outreach benefited the NRCS technical specialists and associated producers of California that use annual grazing lands in their operations. It is expected the increased knowledge will result in increased income to the producer through increased calving successes and decreased feeding cost, while increasing gains with better conditioned animals.

The study produced fact sheets and information for use in Coastal Redwood Belt (MLRA 4B), Central California Coast Range (MLRS 15), Sacramento Valley (MLRA 17), Sierra Nevada Foothills (MLRA 18), Klamath and Shasta Valleys and Buttes (MLRA 21), Sierra Nevada Mountains (MLRA 22A), and Malheur Plateau (MLRA 23). Additional information is required for Siskiyou-Trinity Area (MLRA 5), Southern California Mountains (MLRA 20), Southern Cascade Mountains (MLRA 22B), Carson Basin and Mountains (MLRA 26), Southern Nevada Basin and Range (MLRA 29), and Colorado Desert and Imperial Valley (MLRA 31) before needed fact sheets and information can be made available in those areas. This project had limited information from these areas.

The effort of educating technical specialists, ranchers, and producers is an ongoing effort. To continue this effort the California Grazing Land Coalition, supported by the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), will continue to provide regional education seminars on grazing lands and will continue the educational outreach with the materials developed and completed as a result of the project. The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and its staff provide excellent field days, seminars, and technical assistance to the ranching community of California.

The partnership of UCCE, NRCS, and the Coalition, composed of the California Cattlemen's Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Woolgrowers Association, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, Western United Dairymen, Western Growers Association, California-Pacific Section of the Society of Range Management, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society, is dedicated to continue the coordinated technical assistance, education, and related assistance programs that conserve and enhance healthy and productive private grazing lands.

Future Recommendations

Future Support of California Grazinglands Effort

With the completion of the project activities for continuing coordinated technical assistance and educational and outreach reach efforts will be assumed by the California Grazing Land Coalition. The coalition supported by financial assistance by NRCS will provide for the continuations of a part time coordinator of activities. The coordinator will receive all developed materials as a result of the completed project and will continue displays and presentations throughout California. The project findings and fact sheet information will be added to the newly completed web site

Additional Needs
The completion of the project clearly showed the needs for additional information for areas of the state where limited information exist. Presently there exist limited information on the states southern ranges and associated percent of crude protein and digestible organic matter available in these desert types of vegetation. If additional information could be obtained with NUTBAL the information could be used to develop additional fact sheets and other general data. This would be excellent areas for the coalition to focus it's work in the following years.

Information Products

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.