BEHAVE Facilitator's Network

Final Report for EW04-016

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2004: $99,702.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Federal Funds: $22,000.00
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Kathy Voth
Utah State University
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Project Information


The BEHAVE Facilitators Network sought to train individuals who work for state extension agencies and NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) across ten western states in the principles that govern the diet and habitat selection of livestock. To meet this goal we created the BEHAVE Facilitators Network (BFN) Handbook. We held workshops for facilitators in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming. Over the course of the project, we trained 145 individuals and distributed 185 BFN handbooks. Based on evaluations from participants, workshops were well organized and provided new and useful information. We created the BEHAVE Facilitators Network website: to provide facilitators with additional examples, current research, workshop feedback and identify members in the network. We currently keep facilitators updated with new research through our bimonthly newsletter and plan to contact each member in the future. We sent a follow-up survey in the summer of 2008 to all facilitators and received 53 responses. Surveys indicated about half the respondent are using the new information.

Project Objectives:

Our primary objective was to educate 110 state extension personnel and personnel from the Natural Resources Conservation Service about the power of using animal behavior to manage animals and agricultural and ecological systems. Our objectives were:

Create the BEHAVE Facilitators Network Handbook

Conduct workshops and distribute training materials to 10 participants per state in 10 western states.

Create the BEHAVE Facilitators Network website.

Create additional examples and project updates in PowerPoint for recently trained facilitators based on new information and requests from workshop participants.

Follow-up with facilitators in each state to evaluate the usefulness of the training and network.

Understanding how to shape animal behavior will ultimately help producers improve animal production, the land, and their economic viability.


Pasture- and range-based operations face social, environmental and economic challenges. Changing social values influence use of rangelands and public lands. Drought and invasive species decrease forage for livestock. Managing for these issues can be expensive. Fencing livestock out of riparian areas is costly, and reducing numbers or removing livestock from rangelands further erodes producers’ income. Efforts to improve biodiversity and decrease invasive species using herbicides add to a producer’s costs. Control of invasive species in the United States costs an estimate at $12 billion annually. Concerns over adverse environmental effects of herbicides, evidence that herbicides alone cannot prevent the spread of weeds, and economic pressures, leave producers, weed specialists, and range scientists looking for ecologically and economically viable ways to manage. We need a different approach.

The answer to these issues may lie in the animals themselves. Two and a half decades of research along with successful application by producers indicate that behavior of livestock can be effectively modified and managed to 1) enhance and maintain biodiversity of rangelands, 2) restore pastures and rangelands dominated by invasive species 3) create more balanced use of riparian areas and uplands, 4) improve wildlife habitat and 5) increase production efficiency and herd health. Using livestock as the solution is a natural for resolving both environmental and economic issues, especially when one understands the origins of animal behavior and the ability of people to change our behavior as well as our livestock’s. Behavior depends on consequences. Positive consequences increase a behavior’s frequency, and negative consequences decrease it. A producer can use this knowledge to change habitat selection of livestock, increase the variety of forages they consume, and improve the health of the pastures and rangelands. Not only is this a kinder, gentler way to manage livestock, it is also a means for improving quality of life for producers and enhancing their bottom lines, using what’s in their heads (knowledge of behavior) rather than what’s in their wallets (more expensive technology). Unlike the infrastructure of a ranch including corrals, fences, and water development, behavioral solutions typically cost very little to implement and are easily transferred from one situation to the next.

As an example, Wyoming rancher Bob Budd used behavioral principles to improve riparian habitat, increase use of upland areas by cattle, reduce invasive species, and increase habitat for migrating songbirds. He used a rider (negative consequence) to move animals out of stream bottoms and onto upland areas where the forage was better (positive consequences). As a result, weaning weights are up, and he has increased his herd from 600 to 800 animals. The estimated economic benefits, compared to fencing, amount to $1 million over 30 years.

Other examples include Montana rancher, Ray Banister who altered his grazing management to encourage cattle to utilize unpalatable and palatable species simultaneously to lessen aversive effects of toxins. His pastures are intensively grazed and then rested for 2 years. As a result his 7,200 acres has some of the highest vegetation cover and diversity in the state even during periods of drought. The opposite can be seen across the west.

Finally, Kath Voth a consultant in Colorado has used behavioral techniques to train cattle to eat invasive species such as spotted and diffuse knapweed, Dalmatian toadflax, leafy spurge, Canada, distaff and Italian thistle and black mustard. Her techniques are inexpensive, easy to use and provide a means to help control invasive species by turning weeds into forage.

The purpose of this proposal was to develop a network of individuals 1) trained in behavioral principles, 2) ready and able to teach others and 3) capable of helping producers implement behavioral solutions to problems. Establishment of this network focused on Western SARE’s program goals of making the most efficient use of natural biological cycles and controls, promoting good stewardship, enhancing environmental quality and productivity, and enhancing the quality of life for farmers/ranchers by increasing income. The network itself met the Professional Development Program goals by focusing on increasing the knowledge base of participants in sustainable agriculture methods, providing them with the capacity and skills to provide training to others, and to incorporate the new information and techniques into their other educational activities.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Roger Banner
  • Mike Borman
  • Tracy Brewer
  • Beth Burritt
  • Jay Davison
  • Linda Hardesty
  • Hudson Hill
  • Larry Howery
  • Roger Ingram
  • Robbie LeValley
  • Fred Provenza
  • Shannon Williams

Education & Outreach Initiatives



We proposed to create the network of trained, agriculture professionals called the BEHAVE Facilitators Network (BFN) to increase understanding and application of behavioral principles to 1) increase environmental integrity, 2) quality of life for people and animals, and 3) economic viability of agricultural enterprises. To meet this goal, we hosted a workshop at Utah State University in the fall of 2005 and invited extension personnel from 10 Western states who agreed to serve as state coordinators. During the workshop, state coordinators received information about the network, adult learning styles, adoption and innovations, how to put on a workshop and most importantly principles of livestock behavior. They also receive a Behave Facilitators Network Handbook as well as resource DVDs and CDs. (For a listing of the materials coordinators received see Accomplishments and Milestone section.) State coordinators reviewed materials and suggested how we might improve materials. Suggestions were incorporated into materials that were used in individual state workshops.

From January 2006 to March 2008, state coordinators hosted a workshop in their home state. Workshops were held in Logan, UT; Saratoga, WY; Salomon, ID; Corvallis, OR; Lake Moses WA; Auburn, CA; Miles City, MT; and Winnemucca, NV. Our goal was to train 10 extension or NRCS personnel in each state. Workshop attendance varied by state. We trained 11 in Arizona, 21 in California, 4 in Colorado, 6 in Idaho, 31 in Montana, 22 in Nevada, 13 in Oregon, 9 in Utah, 13 in Washington, and 14 in Wyoming. Facilitators received the updated information and materials given to state coordinators. In addition, we provided 40 additional notebooks to individuals who work in an extension capacity. Evaluations were conducted at most workshops to determine if participants thought the workshops were worthwhile and how well they understood the material. They were also given an opportunity to make suggestions to improve the workshops.

We created a section on the BEHAVE website ( specifically for facilitators in the network ( The website describes the network, lists participants in the network by state, posts materials contained in the handbook, as well as feedback from state workshops, additional examples and research. We also began sending an electronic newsletter to all workshop participants late in 2006 to keep them updated about current research and application of behavioral principles.

In summer of 2008, we sent a survey to workshop attendees to assess if the materials were being used and if attendees were aware of any projects on the ground that used principles of animal behavior. Evaluation forms were sent twice during the summer of 2008.

Outreach and Publications

Voth, K. and B. Burritt. 2006. BEHAVE Facilitators Guide. Western SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education), Logan, UT. 262 pp.

Burritt, B. and K. Voth. 2008. BEHAVE: Tools for changing the way your students think about livestock and for improving producer profitability and sustainability. Resources CD. Utah State University, Logan, UT.

Outcomes and impacts:

We trained 10 state coordinators and 135 facilitators in behavioral principles. Data gathered from workshop evaluations revealed that workshop participants rated our workshops 3.7 out of a possible 4, with 3 meaning agree and 4 meaning strongly agree. Workshop participants were asked to evaluate workshop presenters, slide shows, videos and the notebook. Several participants commenting that the BEHAVE Facilitators Workshop was one of the best trainings they had attended in a long time.

We distributed an additional 40 notebooks to various personnel working as educators.

Educators in Nevada and Utah have incorporated a presentation about behavioral principles into the Nevada Rangeland Management Schools for Ranchers. Educators in Wyoming tell me that they have given several talks on the principles of animal behavior to producers.

Based on our follow-up survey, 20% of respondents said the workshop fundamentally changed the way they viewed grazing animals and half had used the information gained at the workshop in at least one presentation.

A project was initiated in California using aversive conditioning to train sheep eat vegetation in the understory of the vineyards but to avoid eating grapevines. Several individuals across the West are training cows to eat weeds.

We presented a poster at the NACTA (North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture) Meetings and handed out about 40 CDs that contained slide shows created for BFN, as well as videos of producers talking about behavior and animals demonstrating behavioral principles, fact sheets, behavior jeopardy, instructions for laboratory demonstrations, the online web course, behavior facts with references, the book Foraging Challenges. CDs were given to teachers of Agriculture and Natural Resources as well as extension personnel from around the country.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Created the BEHAVE Facilitators Handbook:

We created the handbook early in 2006. Our ten state coordinators then reviewed it. We modified the notebook after receiving their comments. The notebook includes: 1) a description of the BEHAVE Facilitators Network, 2) tips and hints for successful presentations and workshops, 3) information about learning styles and adoption of new information, 4) copies of PowerPoint slides, 5) 26 fact sheets, 6) examples of applying behavior principles in livestock and wildlife management, and 7) step-by step instructions for training animals for demonstrations. It also includes 3 CDs and 4 DVDs. CDs include: 1) 9 annotated slide shows that overview the principles of behavior, 2) an online course about behavior, 3) a video CD designed for producers entitled "Using livestock behavior on your operation." DVDs include: 1) "Foraging behavior," 2) "Turning cows into weed managers," 3) video clips of animals demonstrating behavior principles, and 4) interviews with producers. The materials also include the book "Foraging Behavior: Managing to Survive in a World of Change"

Conducted workshops and distribute training materials to participants in 10 western states:

We held workshops for facilitators in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Over the course of the project, we trained 145 individuals and distributed 185 BFN handbooks. Based on evaluations from participants, workshops were well organized and provided new and useful information.

Created the BEHAVE Facilitators Network website:

We created the BEHAVE Facilitators Network website:

The website includes: 1) a list of facilitators by state, 2) research updates from the BEHAVE project, 3) additional examples for facilitators, 4) pdf files of the BFN handbook, 5) presentation tips, and 6) workshop feedback and summaries.

Follow-up survey:

We sent out 145 surveys via the Internet and received 53 responses. Results are outlined below:

Of the 53 respondents 26 strongly agreed and 27 agreed that the training was a good use of their time.

About 20% of respondents said that the workshop fundamentally changed the way that they viewed managing animals, 40% said it clarified observation made in the field and the remaining 40% said they were familiar with the BEHAVE project but that the workshop gave them additional information and materials.

We distributed 5 slide shows at the workshops. Twenty-four of the respondents had never used the slide shows, 15 had used them once or twice and the remaining 11 had used the slides shows 3 or more times. Slide shows were used equally in presentations.

According to the survey, facilitators used the information learned at the workshop when talking one-on-one with producers or to add behavioral materials to existing slide shows. Twelve had never used the information.

Seventy-four percent of respondents knew producers who were using behavioral principles in their operation. The practices used by producers were keeping animals with desired behaviors, multi-species grazing, improving livestock distribution with supplements, training cows to eat unpalatable plants including weeds, using social behavior to train young animals, raising own replacement heifers, training animals to eat unconventional feeds, and low stress livestock handling. Twenty-three facilitators responded to the question “Where did producers get information about behavioral principles?” Fifty-six percent said the BEHAVE project.

Those who have not used the information from the training cited lack of time as a primary reason. Other reasons listed were need more training, changing jobs, or lack of opportunity.

About half of the respondent had used the BEHAVE Facilitators Network. Those that had not used the website cited lack of time as the primary reason.

Most respondents couldn’t think of any additional resource that we might create would be useful. Some respondents felt they needed additional training to feel comfortable using the information in the field.

Overall, respondents said the information provided at the workshop was excellent.


Potential Contributions

This project is instrumental in increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of experience and learning on diet and habitat selection of livestock and large wild ungulates. This information is rarely taught as part of a range or animal science curriculum. Consequently, many of our workshop participants, even recent graduates, were unaware of the research being conducted on animal behavior at USU and other universities. This network not only provided a means to gain to information about the topic of animal behavior but also provided support materials for participants to learn more about the topic. Most importantly, it gave participants materials to present in their own workshops.

According to surveys conducted at the end of many workshops, workshop participants rated their understanding of the information presented as 2.56 on a scale of 3 with 3 meaning “I understand completely” and 2 meaning “I can review the guide to understand.” After the training many felt confident to put on their own workshops about behavior.

Future Recommendations

Beth Burritt plans to follow-up with state coordinators and facilitators to explore opportunities for putting this information on the ground and possibly developing new areas to use current research. SARE could aid in the transfer of new knowledge by funding specific demonstration projects such as training cows to eat weeds, using low-moisture block to improve cattle distribution, increasing utilization on poorly palatable plants, and increasing biodiversity with grazing. Follow-up surveys revealed that some facilitators were using the information in the field but others felt they needed more training to really apply the principles.

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.