Forage and Pasture Educational Program for Extension, FSA, and NRCS in the Pacific Northwest

Final Report for EW05-012

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $90,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Glenn Shewmaker
University of Idaho
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Project Information


We developed and provided education and training in support of improved pasture and grazing management. The target audience was Cooperative Extension educators; Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Conservation Districts personnel; Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees; and other USDA, state, and local personnel. These people are now better prepared to extend the knowledge to pasture operators through local workshops, tours, and farm visits. We have provided training materials and a program for grass physiology in relation to grazing, plant materials available including legumes in mixes, fertilization, irrigation, and grazing management. The training materials including course syllabus, outlines, reference material, and Powerpoint (TM) presentations are now available. Summarization of forage prediction data was completed in a Master of Science Thesis by Laura Hooper. The production of a Pasture and Grazing Management Guide was completed in 2009 and printed books will be available in early 2010.

Project Objectives:
  • Develop curricula to educate and train extension, NRCS, Conservation Districts, FSA, and other USDA and state personnel about forage physiology, plant growth and development, plant-animal relations, and management of integrated pasture-livestock systems.

    Improve extension and USDA personnel understanding and implementation of the principles of management intensive grazing featuring multi-day workshops conducted on demonstration ranches; hands-on workshops on cooperator’s operations; the development of extension bulletins; peer reviewed publications; and the development of a grazing manual for irrigated pasture with a western perspective.

    Develop a mentoring or support system for Pacific Northwest educators and graziers trying to implement sustainable grazing practices on irrigated pasture through the use of a list server, newsletter, and/or other appropriate communication technology.

    Collect data and develop reliable prediction equations to publish estimates of forage biomass for a range of canopy heights of several different forages. Develop a pasture stick for extension, NRCS, and producers to evaluate production on PNW pastures.

    Develop a pasture monitoring guide and score sheet, similar to the one developed by NRCS in Missouri, to facilitate practical forecasting and budgeting of forage production and to encourage the sustainable practices of grazing and pasture management. Emphasis will be placed on the benefits of plant diversity, ecosystem processes to the economics of a sustainable system and environmental and wildlife benefits from active goal-setting, monitoring, and management.


According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (2002), the acreages of cropland used only for pasture or grazing were 743,835 (Idaho), 997,717 (Oregon), 525,969 (Washington), and 602,341 (Utah). Many domestic pastures in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) are generally continuously stocked season-long. Pastures grazed longer than 30 days without recovery periods have a harvesting efficiency of 40% or less (Gerrish and Roberts 1999). High stocking rates and low stock densities are common, leading to severe grazing in non-uniform patterns, which limits re-growth potential and overall yield. Pacific Northwest domestic pastures typically produce 50% or less of their potential due to poor production and poor harvesting efficiency.

Forage agronomists from the Northwest recognized this as an opportunity to develop and provide education and training in support of improved pasture and grazing management. The target audience was Cooperative Extension educators; Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Conservation Districts personnel; Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees; and other USDA, state, and local personnel. These people can then extend the knowledge to pasture operators through local workshops, tours, and farm visits. There is an excellent educational program for producing alfalfa from seed to feed. This program, the Alfalfa Intensive Training Seminar, has educated 900 crop advisors, extension personnel, and producers from several countries and most of the states in the U.S. There are some local or state programs for educating and training grass farmers and livestock producers, but no well organized or developed training for grass physiology in relation to grazing, plant materials available including legumes in mixes, fertilization, irrigation, and grazing management. It would be difficult for a single state to develop a viable program, but combining the resources and personnel from the PNW, we were able to provide a viable professional training program in the PNW.

Pacific Northwest livestock operators currently lack local research and extension support for increasing the productivity of domestic pastures and reducing the use of mechanically harvested feeds through strategies that increase the use of livestock for harvesting. Most livestock operators lack the skills, and in some cases, the motivation to apply advanced pasture management techniques. Thus more continuing education and extension are necessary improve the sustainability of livestock producers.


Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Mylen Bohle
  • Steven Fransen
  • Thomas Griggs

Education & Outreach Initiatives



A curriculum was developed to educate and train extension, NRCS, and FSA and other USDA and state personnel about forage physiology as it is related to grazing management. Forage specialists from Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Utah developed curricula, presentations, and demonstrations.

As outreach, we presented four workshops which included lecture/discussion and hands-on demonstrations in the field. In 2006 workshops were held in Prosser, WA from 23-25 May 2006, and Logan, UT from September 21-23, 2006. There were 70 students from: state agriculture departments (1), extension (25), NRCS (31), conservation districts (8), industry (4), college student (1), and producer (4) occupations. The workshop used seven extension, two ARS, one industry, and four producer instructors. In 2007, workshops were held in Prineville, OR from 15-17 May and Salmon, ID from 18-20 September. There were 55 students from: state agriculture departments, extension, NRCS, conservation districts, industry, college student, and producer occupations. The seminar/workshop used seven extension, two ARS, two industry, and four producer instructors. A detailed class syllabus and program were drafted and revised based on evaluations and experience with the workshops.

While conducting the training sessions, a team was assembled to work on the development and distribution of Extension publications on grazing management of irrigated pastures, culminating in the development and publication of a PNW pasture management guide or handbook. A number of pasture handbooks are available throughout the US. However, the majority are a physical compilation of the Extension and research bulletins from various institutions, and do not comprehensively address the principles and practices. Our goal was to have a more unified format focusing on grazing principles and ecosystem processes integrating the land, water, livestock and human resources in the Intermountain context.

Data in the Northwest was desired to develop height-based predictive equations for pasture yield for both pre-graze and post-graze situations for several grass species and mixed pastures.
Procedures: Suitable pastures of each type were identified for sampling. Within each pasture, nine sampling locations were selected based on pasture stand density. Each site was identified based on pasture type, stand density, species composition, replication, and date. Sward canopy height with a pasture stick, bulk density with a rising plate meter, and above ground biomass were determined on each plot. In each sampling sequence, data was collected immediately following grazing, at one week intervals following grazing, and immediately prior to grazing. Our goal was to have samples representing a wide array of height conditions in real-world pasture operations to make the predictive equations more robust and applicable across most of the area.

Outreach and Publications

The objectives of the third phase of this project were to produce a pasture monitoring form and guide; and publication of an intensive pasture and grazing management guide. PASTURE AND GRAZING MANAGEMENT IN THE NORTHWEST is a Pacific Northwest Extension Publication PNW 614. There are 17 chapters and a glossary by 36 authors from Cooperative Extension, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, and a private consultant. Authors are located in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and West Virginia. The 208 page document edited by Glenn E. Shewmaker and Mylen G. Bohle is published by the University of Idaho Extension. This is the first comprehensive management guide for pastures and grazing in the Northwest. Proofs were approved on December 18, 2009 and the book is in the process of being printed, thus the copyright date of 2010. Below are the contents of the guide book.

Pasture and Grazing Management in the Northwest

Edited by Glenn E. Shewmaker and Mylen G. Bohle

Pacific Northwest extension publications are produced cooperatively by the three Pacific Northwest land-grant universities: Washington State University, Oregon State University, and the University of Idaho.

Published by University of Idaho Extension, Moscow, Idaho 83844-2338
© 2010 by the University of Idaho
All rights reserved. Published 2010

This publication was partially funded by Western SARE Professional Development Program Grant EW05-12.

To order additional copies: In Idaho, call (208) 885-7982, e-mail, or fax (208) 885-4648
In Oregon, call (541) 737-2513, fax (541) 737-0817, or go online
In Washington, call (800) 723-1763 or go online


Introduction – 1
C. Cheyney and G. Shewmaker
Chapter 1 Pasture Resources, Goals, and Planning – 3
S. Williams and S. Baker
Chapter 2 Species Selection and Grazing Management Guidelines – 7
D. Ogle, L. St. John, and K. Jensen
Chapter 3 Soils, Fertility, and Nutrient Management for Pastures – 21
G. Shewmaker, R. Koenig, D. Horneck, M. Bohle, G. Cardon, and S. Jensen
Chapter 4 Pasture Renovation, Planting, and Establishment – 31
B. McLain, S. Fransen, and G. Shewmaker
Chapter 5 Growth, Development, and Defoliation Responses of Pasture Plants – 41
S. Fransen and T. Griggs
Chapter 6 Principles of Pasture Irrigation -53
H. Neibling, M. Bohle, and C. Falen
Chapter 7 Weed Management – 67
R. Whitesides and M. Bouck
Chapter 8 Insect, Mite, and Related Pests of Pacific Northwest Pastures – 73
G. Fisher, A. Dreves, M. Bohle, and D. Hannaway
Chapter 9 Disease and Nematode Management – 79
O. Neher
Chapter 10 Nutritional Needs of Grazing Animals – 91
C. Engel, T. Fife, and J. Hall
Chapter 11 Pasture Plant Composition and Forage Nutritional Value – 107
T. Griggs, J. Church, and R. Wilson
Chapter 12 Health Considerations for Grazing Animals – 119
D. Cash, A. Hulting, D. Hannaway, and M. Bohle
Chapter 13 Foraging Behavior and Grazing Management – 133
K. Crane, J. Glaze, and G. Shewmaker
Chapter 14 Grazing Systems and Methods – 139
T. Griggs, G. Shewmaker, and J. Church
Chapter 15 Grazing Cell Design and Installation – 149
J. Gerrish and C. Cheyney
Chapter 16 Estimating Forage Production, Monitoring, and Evaluating the Grazing System -161
G. Shewmaker, B. Gillaspy, S. Fransen, T. Griggs, and L. Hooper
Chapter 17 Economics and Risk Management in Grazing Systems -177
W. Gray and M. Bohle
Glossary -195
References -200
Authors -204
Color plates follow page 204

Pasture Tools
Three spreadsheets were developed to assist producers, extension, and advisors. The Pasture ruler calibrations.xls and Idaho RPM calibration.xls spreadsheets assist in calibrating the pasture stick, rising plate meter, and falling plate meter. The Grazing wedge.xls spreadsheet allows forage biomass records to be kept and is easily used to create a grazing wedge, which graphically displays the amounts of available forage at any one time. These are down-loadable from the following web site:

Summarization of pasture data has progressed with publication of the following abstract:

Hooper, Laura, G.E. Shewmaker, and T.C. Griggs. 2008. Relationship of sward height and herbage mass for orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss.), and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) in a pasture system. Abstract, 61st Annual Meeting Society for Range Management, 27-31 January 2008, Louisville, KY.

More complete summarization of forage prediction data was completed in a Master of Science Thesis by Laura Hooper in May 2007, University of Idaho.

Shewmaker,G.E., L.K. Hooper, and T.C. Griggs. 2010 (in press). Predicting herbage mass in irrigated orchardgrass. In Proceedings IV National Conference on Grazinglands, 13-15 December 2009, Sparks, NV; Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative.

Evaluation of Logan Workshop: The second workshop in Logan trained 40 students, used 4 core and 5 guest instructors and involved 2 producers and their operations.
Students were given pre-tests which were then collected so they wouldn’t study and take notes from them. Identical post-tests were given at the end. Students were instructed they could identify their exams with some semi-anonymous designation, such as initials or a brand, use their name, or have their test anonymous. We could pair 35 pre- and post-tests, and they scored a 27% improvement from 39% in the pre-test to 63% accuracy in the post-tests. Several students noted on the evaluations that the tests were very technical. The tests were technical by design to make sure we could account for improvement, but we subsequently revised the tests to better determine understanding of concepts for future workshops.

A summary of evaluations for 23 presentations and lab or field exercises rated from 1 (low value) to 5 (high value) by 36 participants was 0, 3, 16, 37, and 44% for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 ratings, respectively.

Evaluation of Prineville and Salmon Workshops: At Prineville, we could pair 15 pre- and post-tests and they scored a 29% improvement from 41% in the pre-test to 70% accuracy in the post-tests. A summary of evaluations for 23 presentations and lab or field exercises rated from 1 (low value) to 5 (high value) by 36 participants averaged 4.3 overall for both workshops. Most comments were appreciative of the information and wanted more time allowed for presenters, even though the program was a full 3 days.

Outcomes and impacts:

Producers who implement managed grazing practices may reduce annual cow production cost by up to $100 per cow. This reduction in costs allows for a major improvement in economic sustainability. Domestic pastures may have increased carrying capacity due to: 1) higher harvesting efficiency and greater photosynthetic capacity due to managed grazing; 2) increased understanding of managed grazing systems; and 3) placing higher value on maximizing pasture productivity.

Information Dissemination: Information was disseminated through presentations, discussions, workshops, Extension publications and articles in the popular press, newsletters, web sites and personal inquiries.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Better working relationships were developed across state lines, institutions, and agencies. The curriculum, lesson plans, Powerpoint(TM) presentations, and expertise developed by this project are now available to others. All of the above was extensively used in a national effort by the Cool Season Grass Initiative to do similar training. At the June 2009 American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) in Grand Rapids, MI a similar workshop was given with instructors being able to adapt our project to their needs. The workshop was highly successful and will be expanded in a workshop to be given at the 2010 AFGC meeting in Springfield, MO.


Potential Contributions

Increased Extension Educator and NRCS Knowledge Base: As a result of implementing our professional development program, extension educators and NRCS personnel have a greater awareness of forage agronomy, pasture production, and the relationship to grazing. This will lead to extension to producers and the public who will have a greater awareness and understanding of the economic, ecological and social benefits of intensively managed permanent pastures.

Future Recommendations

This project was highly rewarding and appreciated by professionals. Other states would benefit from similar programs. Colleagues from Alaska and Wyoming (NRCS) were interested in bringing the program to their states. A grant with travel, materials, and facilities funding would enable the team to provide the training to other locations.

This professional development workshop was intended as a train-the-trainer workshop with technical, in-depth knowledge. Some in the evaluations wanted more applied/practical instruction. We highly recommend that attendees attend the Lost Rivers Grazing Academy sponsored by the University of Idaho Extension:

During this project there were several discussions about research needs and hypotheses to be tested: 1) After the summer solstice (June 21) do some cool season grasses, i.e. smooth brome grass, go dormant or merely require a long time for crown buds to develop?; 2) some research from Europe on perennial ryegrass suggests that once a tiller has 3 fully expanded leaves there is not much benefit to allowing it to mature further since leaves will eventually senesce, does this occur with orchardgrass, brome grasses, fescues in our environment?; 3) more research on the nonstructural carbohydrate levels associated with different canopy structures and subsequent light interception and response to grazing is needed.

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.