Integrated Grazing Systems Planning and Decision Support for Improved Sustainability and Environmental Quality
The overall goal of this project was to assess grazing strategies that improve profitability and sustainability while reducing environmental pollution resulting from grazing systems. The goal for this specific one-year planning grant was to develop a research and Extension plan, coordinated among several institutions in the Southern region with input from beef producers, which would attain the overall goal.
1.) Formulate (and build on existing) multi-disciplinary teams to develop a research and education plan for assessing sustainability (from both an enterprise and farm-level profitability and environmental quality aspect) of grazing strategies.
2.) Plan for development of a research/Extension project and select a site where the project team could apply selected strategies for integrated resource management (IRM) of a grazing system for beef grazing, including monitoring/verification of the profitability and water quality impacts of the selected systems.
3.) Plan for comparison of the IRM systems to a conventionally managed grazing system (i.e. only one field) for both profitability and environmental impact on the proposed intensively monitored site.
4.) Plan for later Extension of the project results to additional demonstration sites and to other producers through workshops and training opportunities. Present the advantages of IRM for grazing systems as documented in the project for both profitability and environmental quality.
The following specific procedural steps were followed:
1.) Identified a working group of 32 people to coordinate development of the proposal representing different states, disciplines, areas of expertise and interests from within the Southern Region.
2.) Assembled the group at the University of Kentucky in Lexington in June1994 to discuss goals and objectives for the project development.
3.) Assigned sub-group responsibilities of coordination of three aspects of the proposal development: a) grazing system research and modeling, b) hydrologic research and modeling and c) dissemination and application of results.
4.) Conducted preliminary analyses to aid in project planning using the GRAZE model for determining pollutant loading rates from cattle and selected field scale models to analyze potential stream pollution of a particular farm system. Undergraduate students were employed to make preliminary model analyses.
5.) Re-convened representatives of the group a second time as a smaller working group to discuss the results of the analyses, and to finalize the project goals and objectives.
6.) Prepared the final consensus draft for submission to SARE/ACE, with input from all institutions involved and from the producers involved.
During the grant period, the major project objectives were accomplished as follows:
A 32-person team was assembled for developing the coordinated project proposal, and the group came to a consensus as to the goals for the proposed three-year project “Integrated Grazing Systems Decision Support for Sustainability.” A four-track project approach was formulated that would have attained the goals of the group for developing a sustainable grazing system planning tool and the supporting research information. The project proposal was developed and submitted to SARE/ACE for funding. This planning grant was instrumental in beginning/reinforcing the dialogue between diverse groups interested in improved grazing system management for water quality in riparian zones in the Southern region.
An EPA 319 grant was funded to the UK College of Agriculture in cooperation with the NRCS and Kentucky Division of water to identify and coordinate nine producer sites for demonstrating and testing the ideas discussed by the project team regarding riparian zone grazing management. Several members of the project group are also associated with this project, which was just recently initiated. This project includes no decision support tool development, but will aid in providing the needed data for extrapolation of research and demonstration of BMP concepts to other sites. However, only limited data acquisition support was available for this project, due to funding constraints.
Comparisons were made between continuous and rotational grazing systems using the GRAZE computer model. Results demonstrated the economic advantages to producers for rotational grazing systems as compared to continuous grazing. This supports the BMP for riparian zone management of use of rotational grazing management. The principles of the EPIC model were identified as applicable for implementation with the GRAZE model for decision support. However, graduate student support will be needed to implement the union of these two models to accomplish the objectives of the planning grant.
Information regarding controlled/rotational grazing and its potential impact on water quality improvement was disseminated at field days, Extension meetings and through the popular press and media.
This one-year planning grant enabled the diversified group described in this report to be formed, and allowed for the development of a full proposal to SARE/ACE. Although the information on grazing system impact on water quality in riparian zone farms will be obtained over a longer time frame since the full project was not funded, the linkages formed by this planning project should prove to hasten that process. An EPA 319 grant that was funded has enabled some of the work to proceed at a limited level.
A second proposal has been submitted to SARE/ACE for collecting the much-needed data on cooperating producer farms. Also, a proposal for development of the decision support system is being formulated for submission to the USDA NRI by another sub-group of the project team. If funded, these projects should help to attain the goals of the original grant.