Implementing Rotational Grazing Practices on Livestock Operations in Maryland

Progress report for LNE20-397

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $78,076.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Dr. Amanda Grev
University of Maryland
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Project Information

Summary:

Problem and Justification:

Continuous grazing is typically defined as a one-pasture system in which livestock have unrestricted access to the entire pasture area throughout the grazing season.  Although it is a simple system to implement and manage, it often results in uneven grazing patterns where parts of the field are under or overgrazed.  This in turn leads to poorer forage quality, a loss of ground cover in overgrazed areas, the emergence of weeds and undesirable plants, and a decrease in stand production and longevity.  In comparison, rotational grazing practices are known to improve forage production and yield potential, increase forage quality and the persistence of desirable species, and decrease weed and erosion problems.  As a result, rotational grazing systems can offer economic and environmental benefits in the form of increased carrying capacity, greater animal production per acre, prolonged grazing days, a reduction in hay feeding, faster recovery, and decreased nutrient runoff.  However, many Maryland livestock producers have not adopted these best management practices and continue to utilize continuous grazing systems.  Reasons for the lack of implementation may include a lack of knowledge regarding the benefits of rotational grazing, a resistance to change, or a misunderstanding regarding the time and resources needed to implement rotational grazing.

Solution and Approach:

We propose that educational programming on the benefits and strategies behind rotational grazing together with assistance in designing a personalized, farm-specific rotational grazing system will help increase adaptation of these best management practices.  To accomplish this, a series of field days and grazing schools will be hosted across the state of Maryland.  These educational events will cover the basics of rotational grazing and will be hosted at demonstration sites where producers can see successful implementation of the grazing practices described.  In addition to these educational programs, producers who commit to implementing rotational grazing practices will also be enrolled in an individualized on-farm grazing program.  This program will entail in-person farm visits across multiple years, at which experts will assist with collecting and analyzing soil and pasture samples, completing a detailed pasture assessment, addressing questions and concerns, and designing a personalized grazing plan.

Milestones and Performance Target:

Attendance at field days and grazing schools will be measured and is expected to exceed 600 participants across the 3-year timespan.  Participants will be asked to fill out program evaluations to indicate learning gains and post-program outcomes.  A minimum of 20 livestock farms will be enrolled in the individualized grazing program and will commit to increasing the number of acres utilized as rotationally grazed pasture throughout the state of Maryland.  In addition to the evaluations, pasture assessments completed at initial and follow-up farm visits will allow for a comparison of on-farm measurements across years.

Performance Target:

As a result of grazing education and on-farm guidance, 20 livestock farms will implement rotational grazing on at least 30 acres, resulting in 600 acres of rotationally grazed pasture and an improvement in net farm income due to increased forage productivity, quality, and carrying capacity and improved soil fertility.

Introduction:

As the number of producers interested in grazing increases, and the benefits behind good grazing management continue to become more transparent, there is not only a need but also a desire for educational programming and assistance by producers. The goal behind this project is to provide educational programming and assistance in order to increase adaptation of grazing best management practices like rotational grazing. To accomplish this, a series of field days and grazing schools will be hosted across the state of Maryland, and interested producers will also be able to enroll in an individualized on-farm grazing program. Unfortunately, due to the hands-on nature of these activities, at this point the project team has been unable to implement the educational programming and on-farm visits due to the ongoing pandemic. However, several producers have indicated their interest in this project and have agreed to participate once we are able to begin.

Research

Involves research:
No
Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

The educational components of this project were designed to be in-person, hands-on learning activities. At this point, such activities have had to be delayed due to the ongoing pandemic and the inability to have in-person meetings or events. The project team has decided it would be better to delay rather than attempt to complete these activities in a virtual format, we plan to proceed in 2021 instead.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers will participate in one of the year one educational field days to learn more about specific topics pertaining to rotational grazing and pasture management and have opportunities to see these practices in action. As a result they can adopt at least one new best management practice on their farm.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2020
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Due to the ongoing pandemic, in-person educational field days were not able to be completed in 2020. We plan to complete this milestone in 2021 instead.

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers will take their grazing education one step further by attending one of the year one grazing schools to continue to expand on their knowledge and have opportunities to gain hands-on experience implementing these practices in a small group setting. As a result they will initiate a grazing plan for their farm and implement the use of at least one new pasture management tool or best management practice on their farm.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2020
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Similar to the educational field days, the grazing schools planned for 2020 also had to be delayed due to the ongoing pandemic and the inability to host in-person events. Since these were designed to be very hands-on learning activities, the project team felt it would be better to delay and to attempt to complete this in a virtual format. We plan to complete this milestone in 2021 instead.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers will be enrolled in the first year of the individualized grazing program which will provide them with an opportunity to interact one-on-one with experts on their farm. As a result they will complete a full pasture assessment, take soil and forage samples, and generate a detailed grazing plan with recommendations and strategies specific to their own farm.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2020
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Unfortunately, the on-farm visits planned for 2020 had to be delayed due to the ongoing pandemic and the inability to travel and meet in person. However, the project team has been working to enroll producers for this component of the project and has several producers who have shown interest and agreed to participate. We plan to follow through and complete this milestone in 2021 instead.

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

The producers enrolled in the first year of the individualized grazing program will complete a follow-up visit in the year following their initial farm visit. As a result they will have an opportunity to complete a follow-up pasture assessment, measure progress made in the past year, and discuss challenges and questions that have come up and how those might be overcome for future years.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers will participate in one of the year two educational field days to learn more about specific topics pertaining to rotational grazing and pasture management and have opportunities to see these practices in action. As a result they can adopt at least one new best management practice on their farm.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers will take their grazing education one step further by attending one of the year two grazing schools to continue to expand on their knowledge and have opportunities to gain hands-on experience implementing these practices in a small group setting. As a result they will initiate a grazing plan for their farm and implement the use of at least one new pasture management tool or best management practice on their farm.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers will be enrolled in the second year of the individualized grazing program which will provide them with an opportunity to interact one-on-one with experts on their farm. As a result they will complete a full pasture assessment, take soil and forage samples, and generate a detailed grazing plan with recommendations and strategies specific to their own farm.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

The producers enrolled in the second year of the individualized grazing program will complete a follow-up visit in the year following their initial farm visit. As a result they will have an opportunity to complete a follow-up pasture assessment, measure progress made in the past year, and discuss challenges and questions that have come up and how those might be overcome for future years.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers will participate in one of the year three educational field days to learn more about specific topics pertaining to rotational grazing and pasture management and have opportunities to see these practices in action. As a result they can adopt at least one new best management practice on their farm.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers will take their grazing education one step further by attending one of the year three grazing schools to continue to expand on their knowledge and have opportunities to gain hands-on experience implementing these practices in a small group setting. As a result they will initiate a grazing plan for their farm and implement the use of at least one new pasture management tool or best management practice on their farm.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities:

5 Consultations

Participation Summary:

5 Farmers

Performance Target Outcomes

Target #1

Target: number of farmers:
20
Target: change/adoption:

Following grazing education and the generation of individual grazing plans at on-farm visits, producers will implement best management practices for rotational grazing on their farm.

Target: amount of production affected:

A minimum of 20 livestock farms will implement rotational grazing on at least 30 acres, resulting in 600 acres of rotationally grazed pasture.

Target: quantified benefit(s):

Producers will each adopt at least two new best management practices for rotational grazing. These best management practices will increase forage productivity and quality, extend the grazing season and increase pasture carrying capacity, and improve soil fertility, resulting in an overall improvement in net farm income.

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.