Making pasture walks more than just a walk in the pasture

2013 Annual Report for ENC10-119

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $72,060.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: DATCP
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Laura Paine
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Making pasture walks more than just a walk in the pasture


annual report

Over 140 pasture walks are held each year in Wisconsin, but the quality of the educational experience provided can vary dramatically. At its best, a pasture walk blends farmer-to-farmer learning with the sciences of plant physiology and animal nutrition; at its worst, a pasture walk is simply a walk in the pasture. This project seeks to merge the established informal communication and education mechanisms that serve grazing farmers with institutional research-based resources. Recognizing the strengths of both of these approaches, we have created a structure that integrates them and provides agency and non-profit staff engaged in grazing education a forum for sharing ideas, information, and expertise. A good grazing educator needs expertise in adult education, plant and animal science, and facilitation of farmer-led discussions, among other things. Among the Extension agents, Land Conservation and NRCS staff, experienced farmers, and others who work with graziers, few have all of these skills, and all would benefit from the expertise others bring to the table as well as from access to research-based information tailored to their region. This project has the goal of ‘leveling the playing field’ so that a farmer in any region will have a similar high quality educational experience no matter whose pasture they’re walking.



Objectives/Performance Targets

Short-term outcomes include 1) establishment of an information sharing network among university, agency and grant-funded non-profit staff working with graziers in the region, 2) increased awareness among these personnel of the strengths and qualities of both research-based information and farmer-to-farmer learning for this audience, and 3) more effective integration of resources and programming among all parties whose common goal is providing high quality education on managed grazing. Intermediate outcomes include 1) wide-spread availability of consistent, information-rich educational opportunities for farmers wishing to establish a pasture-based system or improve their existing system provided by a robust collaborative network of educators and technical assistance providers, and 2) as a result of building these resources and structures, increased numbers of well-managed, pasture-based livestock farms.






In 2013, our planning team met on 3/4/13, 4/30/13, and 6/11/13, either in person or via conference call. We worked on specific planning for the three workshops we conducted in 2013 and also planned at least three workshops for 2014, including a workshop on the economics of grazing in March, a workshop on fine-tuning pasture skills (grass/legume/weed ID & management) in June, and a workshop focused on using legumes in pastures planned for the fall. In 2013, we conducted three workshops for grazing educators on January 17, March 19 and June 26. Summaries of each workshop: January 17: Workshop on resilient grazing systems for climate change. 36 participants. Topics included a keynote from E. Ann Clark, a presentation & a panel discussion on resilient grazing systems for a changing climate in WI by UW-WI climate scientists and local producers. This was followed by a presentation by E. Ann Clark on re-integrating crop and livestock production. March 19: Planning for our future: Opportunities for partnership and financial support. 31 participants. This was a roundtable discussion and networking workshop on partnering with other grazing networks, agencies and “out of the box” funding sources. Presentations from successful project leaders who have found funding for grazing projects from WI-DNR, US-Fish & Wildlife Service and other “unlikely” partners. June 26: Integrating grazing management with soil health. 31 participants. Topics included a presentation on soil health topics such as understanding soil health & the relationship between grazing and soil health, new soil fertility recommendations from WI-UWEX, a presentation on how to measure effectiveness of grazing programs (surveys/evaluations). There was also a farm tour and presentations on ways for grazing specialists to demonstrate how to measure and demonstrate soil health and fertility.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

We evaluated all workshops using SurveyMonkey. The January 17 session during the GrassWorks Annual Grazing Conference evaluation was integrated into their conference eval. January 17, 2013- For this session on climate change and how it can affect grazing, we dedicated the whole afternoon to panel discussions and presentation from UW-Madison climate researchers and from E. Ann Clark of Canada. Thirty six Extension, NCRS, Land Conservation, producers and grant-funded educators attended. Evaluation results are as follows: •When asked to rate the session quality, 100% of participants rated their understanding high or very high after the training. March 19, 2013-For our Planning for our future: Opportunities for partnership and financial support session we had more of a roundtable discussion of the current funding status of the grazing specialists/networks present and what partners they’ve reached out to. There were . Thirty one educators, agency staff and local non-profit representatives attended. •Over 50 percent of participants rated the event high or very high in terms of valuing what their colleagues are doing and planning around Wisconsin for grazing. •Fifty-five percent indicated that the value of the presentation by a local grazing specialist on partnering and documenting outcomes was high. •Quality of the presentations was ranked high or very high by 100% of participants, with many of them writing down how they’ll incorporate the ideas/strategies learned into their own grazing programs. June 26, 2013 Our third workshop, on integrating grazing management with soil health brought together a wide array of knowledgeable presenters. We had presenters from NRCS, UWEX, Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D), DATCP and Organic Valley giving presentations on soil health and how grazing can help retain and regain it. • There were 31 participants for Land Conservation Departments, NRCS, UW-Extension ag agents, and local grazing educators. When asked to rate the overall workshop – the results were rated very high (See table). Participants also rated their level of learning on the topics presented as moderate to quite a bit (see table 2).


We anticipate the 2014 sessions to create the same amount of grazing awareness and interest to continue the growth of this form of agriculture.


Dr. Dennis Cosgrove
Forage Extension Specialist
Univ. WI- River Falls
Room 312 Ag Science Bldg.
410 South 3rd Street
River Falls, WI 54022
Office Phone: 7154253989
Doug Marshall
Farm Business Management Instructor
Madison Area Technical College
300 Alexander Avenue
Reedsburg, WI 53959
Office Phone: 6085247800
Dr. Rhonda Gildersleeve
Grazing Specialist
Univ. WI. Extension
UW-Lancaster Agricultural Research Station
7396 State Road 35 & 81
Lancaster, WI 53813
Office Phone: 6087236243
Gerald Jaeger
GrassWorks, Inc.
N1387 Rolling Drive
Campbellsport, WI 53010
Office Phone: 9205334725
Brian Pillsbury
State Grazing Specialist
USDA Service Center
505 Broadway, Suite 232
Baraboo, WI 53913
Office Phone: 6083554420