Forage and Pasture Educational Program for Professionals in the Northwest

Final Report for EW11-019

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $71,058.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: University of Idaho
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Glenn Shewmaker
University of Idaho
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Project Information


Western 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.

Project Objectives:

  1. 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 with a western perspective.
  2. 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.
  3. Collect data from producers practicing rotational grazing to determine tiller dynamics in response to grazing and develop recommendations for a range of canopy heights of several different pasture forage species.
  4. Distribute PNW614 to pasture advisors and demonstrate how to use it to consult with grass farmers and livestock producers, 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.
  5. Demonstrate the proper use of the pasture stick and rising plate meter and prediction equations we developed in EW05-12 for extension, NRCS, and producers to evaluate production on PNW pastures.


A needs assessment survey indicated an opportunity to provide education and training in support of improved pasture and grazing management. The highest priority topics, scored from 0= no need to 5= high need, and score in parentheses were: establishment and interseeding (4); irrigation and water requirements (3.9); soils, fertility, and nutrient management (3.8); integrating fence and livestock water development (3.8); and weed management (3.8).  The target audience was Extension educators; Natural Resource Conservation Service and Conservation Districts personnel; forage seed industry representatives; and other USDA, state, and local personnel.  These educators, trainers, and service providers can then extend the knowledge to pasture operators through local workshops, tours, and farm visits.  Five workshops were presented in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Utah.  A detailed class syllabus and program developed with WSARE funded professional development grants was revised based on evaluations and experience with the workshops.  The program provided 12 hours of classroom lecture and discussion and 10 hours of laboratory and field demonstrations and exercises.  This program provided comprehensive and focused training on genetics and seed certification to grazing management and animal behavior on pastures.  This integrated curriculum is not available in land grant universities.


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  • Mylen Bohle
  • Steven Fransen

Education & Outreach Initiatives



Five workshops were presented in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah. The seminar/workshop used extension, ARS, NRCS, forage seed industry, and integrated producer instructors as needed.  The detailed class syllabus and program developed with EW05-12 has been revised based on evaluations and experience with the workshops and the needs assessment.  The curricula is designed to include about half of the time in a lab or field environment where students get hands-on experience, and not just another PowerPoint lecture.

There are some local or state programs for educating and training 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 western universities and USDA provided a viable professional training program in the West.

Outreach and Publications

Shewmaker, G.E., D.B. Hannaway, and S. Fransen. 2015. Forages and Grasslands in the Pacific Northwest. Chapter 2 p. 37-62. In Ghosh, PK, Mahanta, SK, Singh, JB, and Pathak, PS (Eds). 2015. Grassland: A Global Resource Perspective. Range Management Society of India, Jhansi, India.

Shewmaker, G.E. 2015.  Grazing Investigation: Have we robbed the grass bank? Progressive Forage Grower 16(1):16-17.

Shewmaker, G.E. 2013.  The perfect pasture. P 26 In Hay and Forage Grower August.

Shewmaker, G.E., and C. Falen. 2013.  Plan for summer slump with warm-season annual forages. Progressive Forage Grower 13(4):6-8.

 Falen, C., and G. Shewmaker. 2013.  Yield and quality of unconventional annual forages.  Progressive Cattleman April 2013:34-35.

 Falen, C., and G. Shewmaker. 2012.  Yield of winter cereal forages for extended grazing potential. Progressive Cattleman September 2012:30.


Pasture Lands of the Pacific Northwest; poster presentation at 6th National Conference on Grazing Lands; 13-16 December 2015, Grapevine, TX.

Shewmaker, G.E.  2013. Optimizing Light Interception by Rotationally-Grazed Pasture Canopies; poster presentation at 5th National Conference on Grazing Lands; 11 December 2013, Orlando, FL

Shewmaker, G.E.  2012. How Much Carbon Can Be Sequestered in Pastures, American Forage and Grassland Council Annual Conference, 31 January 2012, Louisville, KY

Shewmaker, G.E. 2011. Light Interception by Rotationally-Grazed Orchardgrass (Dactylis Glomerata L.) Canopies; American Forage and Grasslands Council Annual Meeting, 12-15 June 2011, French Lick, IN

Outcomes and impacts:

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 their relationship to grazing.  This  will lead to extension of that knowledge and skills to producers who will have a greater awareness and understanding of the economic, ecological, and social benefits of intensively managed permanent pastures.

Producers who implement managed grazing practices may reduce annual cow production cost by up to $100.  Improvement in economic condition will be the result of increased carrying capacity of pastures due to: 1) higher harvesting efficiency and greater photosynthetic capacity due to managed grazing; 2) increased understanding of managed grazing systems; 3) placing higher value on maximizing pasture productivity; and 4) extending the grazing season which can reduce winter feed costs.

Number of Acres/Animals Impacted: The 2007 Ag Census indicates Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah have 118 million acres of pasture and grazing land. Assuming 10 acres per AU for a grazing season this grazing land could support up to 12 million AU.  If $100/AU savings were realized, this would be a $1.2 billion savings to livestock producers.

Actual Positive Economic Impact (Dollar Value) to Farm and Ranch Families: For a typical ranching operation of 350 cows, this would represent an annual savings of $35,000, if the $100 per cow were realized. This would be a substantial increase in the standard of living for these producers. In addition, a portion of this savings, would be spent to improve the operation and improve the living standard of the families involved. The industry economic multiplier for cattle is 1.7 (Coupal, 1997; Taylor, 2001).  Thus, if the entire $35,000 were to be used purchasing goods and services, an impact of up to $59,500 from that operation to the economy might be realized.  The $143 million savings outlined above could have a multiplier impact of up to $243 million in the PNW.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Five workshops were completed in regional areas of the Northwest and trained a total of 165 professionals (Table 1).


Future Recommendations

There are portions of our workshops taught at some land grant universities, but not in a comprehensive pasture and grazing management workshop.  Some universities no longer teach Forages, i.e. the University of Idaho.  In addition, many range management and animal science majors do not have an opportunity to learn pasture and grazing management.  Further, most forages or range science curriculum merely introduce grazing management but do not cover the important principles.  There will be a continuing need to provide workshops in this area in the foreseeable future.

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.