An Educational Program for Traditional and Non-Traditional Beef Production

2012 Annual Report for ENE12-122

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $64,396.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: Penn state University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. John Comerford
Penn state University

An Educational Program for Traditional and Non-Traditional Beef Production


Northeastern beef farmers are uniquely positioned to produce varying beef products with sufficient potential to consumers in a $600 million industry. A recent survey among 28 extension educators in Pennsylvania and New York with responsibility for delivering beef production and marketing information indicated a wide range of skills about environmental, human health, marketing, and basic production practices for traditional, organic, natural, and grass-fed beef. On a scale of “none” to “extensive” skill level, average responses were moderate or less. A followup “test” related to these topics resulted in only two educators answering all questions correctly. There is a defined need to provide additional skills for delivering information for both traditional and non-traditional beef production and marketing practices in the Northeast.
The solution to a lack of skills among educators for traditional and non-traditional beef production is a method to educate, create learning opportunities, create information resources, and provide a forum for farmers to receive the information. The source of the information should include both farmer interaction and science-based delivery. These sources will allow a more complete skill set to emerge because on-farm information and experiences can be coupled with science-based data to allow delivery of complete information with more utility to producers. Delivery of information should be made directly as well as digitally. Thus, farmers can share expertise from other farmers while having unbiased data available to assess the possible impact on their farm, environment, customers, and markets.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. A. Pre- and Post survey and testing will increase educator skills by 75%.

    The project participants have indicated a need for additional skills for educating beef farmers. One outcome for the project is that the participants have made measurable and effective addition of the skills needed.

    B. 20 educators will participate with a future potential audience of 1,000 farms with 25,000 cattle

    The ultimate beneficiary of the project is the beef farmer, particularly those with non-traditional enterprises. Across the two states, 1000 farms will be represented in the regional and local educational programs. On-site and post-program evaluations will document adoption of information by farmers, as well as the quality of information delivery. Educational materials housed on a single web site has the potential of reaching many more across the country.

    C. Increased educator expertise and confidence in their delivery of information will increase the number of educational programs for beef farmers in the two states by 25%.

    With additional skills and expertise in diverse beef production systems, educators will provide more opportunities for farmers to learn. This will include both educator and farmers trainers. Non-serviced, non-traditional beef producers will have greater educational opportunities.


Twenty-two beneficiaries in the project participated in farmer problem identification sessions, completed pretests on many facets of beef production, identified program planning, participated in educational tours, and participated in educational webinars. Additional training sessions and webinars are expected to be completed by March , 2013. Since funding did not become available for the project until June, 2012, the activity schedule was revised and condensed as much as possible, and some activities related to development of educational tools was changed by a 6-month period.

January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012:
1. Participants identified
Twenty-two participants were recruited for the project. The participants are extension educators from New York (12) and Pennsylvania (10). The educational responsibilities for the participants ranged from agricultural county generalist, farm management and records specialist, food marketing specialists, and beef cattle specialists.

2. Farmer advisory group identified
Farmers were recruited and six were identified to provide advice and input for the project. Four farmers participated in a day-long exchange with program investigators to outline the process and events needed to complete the project. The pretest is shown below.

3. Pre-test developed by project leaders and farmer advisers
Project leaders prepared a pre-test that was completed by participants. The pretest is shown as an added file.

4. Pre-test completed and reported

The beneficiaries completed the pretest and the grades were recorded. Of the 55 questions presented, there was an average of 26 wrong answers.

5. Identification of key educational needs

Four farmer advisers met in a day-long session to provide an overview of the project, provide input to training opportunities for beneficiaries, identify key educational needs of farmers for different beef production enterprises, and to provide input on delivery of information to farmers. The farmers represented organic producers, traditional cow/calf and purebred producers, feedlot managers, meat processing and marketing, and grass-fed production. A key educational need across all enterprises was identified as grazing and pasture management, and basic production methods related to efficiency and profitability for all enterprises was desired. Delivery of information was determined to be face-to-face and on-site if possible. Meat marketing methods could be delivered as a packaged, digital program in the public arena. Beneficiaries were assigned topics determined by farmer advisers. The beneficiaries were to develop an educational program for the topic as Powerpoints, video, or fact sheets.

6. Survey of current educational opportunities conducted.

Verbal discussion of programs in place was done with emphasis on how the programs could be changed to reflect farmer adviser input.

1. Four regional educational conferences planned

Input from farmer advisers and beneficiaries recommended there be a meat marketing “shortcourse” developed in a digital format. This was to include fabrication of a carcass, processing issues (including labeling and packaging), price discovery, customer identification and recruitment, and working with farmers markets, internet sale, freezer beef sales, CSA’s and food service sales. Pennsylvania educators adopted this task as one of the regional meetings to be conducted. This project was to be completed by June 1, 2013. The second program identified in Pennsylvania was one that had the title” Genetic Solutions for Meat Quality and Consumer Satisfaction.” This program will be presented at the Pennsylvania Cattleman’s College in March and will include information for traditional and non-traditional beef enterprises. Additionally, local educational sessions were planned. In Pennsylvania this included the completion of 5 on-farm workshops focusing on fall herd management and facilities, and grazer workshops in Spring, 2013. In New york, the "Field to Fork" conference will provide information to farmers and consumers about beef, and a genetic improvement webinar followed by on-site producer meetings will inform farmers about using genetics to improve their cattle and their products.

2. Tour and speaker curriculum established

A tour was planned and conducted with PI’s and beneficiaries in southeastern Pennsylvania. The tour was designed to elaborate traditional cattle feeding enterprises, grass-fed beef production, organic and direct sales, natural beef production, non-traditional production methods, and non-traditional marketing concepts. Farm operators were interviewed extensively to determine why they used the enterprise, what their challenges were, and what their expectations were for the future of their business.

3. Tours and speaker curriculum completed

The tour was completed in October, 2012. A series of webinars were conducted in November and December, 2012 that included the following topics:
Grass-fed Beef Production and Economics
Genetics and Sire Selection
Natural Beef Production
Meat Quality
Economics of Cow-calf Enterprises
Economics of Feedlot Production
Feedlot Nutrition
Breeding and Reproduction
Marketing Feeder Calves
Additional educational programs will be completed by March 1, 2013 to focus on pasture and grazing management. All webinars were archived for use by beneficiaries as teaching tools.

1. Fact sheets and Powerpoints developed

Educational programs are now being developed and will be completed by June 1, 2013.

2. Fact sheets and Powerpoints reviewed

Review of educational materials will be completed by June 1, 2013.

3. Post-test compiled and completed

The post-test will be completed after the completion of the educational programs by March 1, 2013.

Northeast SARE Professional Development Program
Project ID: ___ENE12-122 ____________________
Principal Investigator: __J. W. Comerford_____________________________________________
Annual Report year: _2012______________
Final Report year: ___2013_____________
Milestone Activity: Extension, Farmers
Farmer advisory program 2, 4
Beneficiary program planning 22, 4
Beneficiary pretest 20
Educational tours 22, 6
Webinars 22
Management workshops 4, 116

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Five on-farm workshops were conducted in Pennsylvania that focused on fall herd management (nutrition, health, management) and animal handling facilities. One hundred sixteen people attended the programs. Evaluations indicated across the 5 programs:

Learn Anything? Knowledge Increased? Make Changes?
1=yes, 0=no 1=none,5=considerable yes=1, 0=no
Yes= 100% 3.86 yes=81%


Dr. Mike Baker
Assoc. Professor
Cornell University
149 Morrison Hal
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072555923