Training Educators and Agricultural Professionals on Sustainable, Pasture-based Dairy Systems

2009 Annual Report for ES09-096

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $89,321.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Dennis Hancock
Univ. of Georgia

Training Educators and Agricultural Professionals on Sustainable, Pasture-based Dairy Systems

Summary

The number of Management-intensive Grazing (MiG) dairies in the South is increasing substantially. In Georgia alone, cows on MiG dairies have increased from <1% to nearly 6% of the dairy herd since 2006. Faculty and staff of the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University propose to educate our target audience (Cooperative Extension Agents, technical personnel from USDA-NRCS, and policy and technical personnel in departments of agriculture in collaborating southern states) about grazing dairies with the aim to overcome misconceptions and biases about MiG dairy systems. To accomplish these goals, we have three objectives: 1) expose the target audience to MiG dairy systems; 2) present and discuss research relevant to the social, economic, and environmental viability of these operations; and 3) allow for shared-learning between our target audience and their peers from states/regions who have worked with MiG dairy systems. In the initial activity, educators and agricultural professionals will visit MiG dairies and be exposed to the many facets of pasture-based dairy systems. The second activity will be organizing a one-day conference consisting of two sessions: a morning session where researchers will present and discuss relevant research from SSARE-funded and other projects in Georgia and other southern states; and an afternoon session where invited speakers (peers of the target audience) will share the challenges and opportunities for the pasture-based dairy industry faced by other states. The impact of these efforts will be assessed by tracking the knowledge and opinions of participants before, immediately after, and 6-months after the activities.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The goals of this project are I) to educate our target audience (Cooperative Extension Agents and appropriate technical personnel from the USDA-NRCS and departments of agriculture from throughout the South) about management issues facing MiG dairies and II) to empower these professionals to be better able to contextualize management recommendations and decisions to better fit MiG dairy production schemes.

To accomplish these goals, we have set forward three overall objectives for this project: 1) expose these educators and agricultural professionals to MiG dairy systems by visiting example dairies and the men and women that operate them; 2) present and discuss relevant research findings from projects in Georgia (some of which were SSARE-funded) and other southern states, while emphasizing the environmental, social, and economic implications of MiG dairy systems; and 3) bring in peers of our target audience from other states and regions who work with MiG production systems to detail their experiences and the issues that they find most challenging.

Accomplishments/Milestones

The original plan was to hold a large tour of the grazing dairy in Georgia. We still anticipate implementing this plan. However, because our funding was delayed past key deadlines which enable us announcing this training opportunity to Extension personnel in Georgia and surrounding states, this large tour will be delayed. This has actually been fortuitous, as this has allowed us to do a series of smaller programs in Georgia and arrange for additional trainings in the Southeast for producers and agricultural professionals. Furthermore, it makes more sense for us to hold the Grazing Dairy Summit in the late winter of 2011, in order to better align this meeting with the needs of our professionals and our dairy producer-hosts.

As a result, our training efforts have evolved into a focus at three scales. The first scale, termed the “micro-scale” herein, is currently being implemented. The micro-scale efforts are ones where we hold smaller and informal meetings/pasture walks where the target audience is invited to attend and a specific emphasis is placed on providing information to them that is unique to their needs (i.e., publications, presentations, video lectures, etc.). The first of these was held on June 5, 2009 near Waynesboro, GA. In attendance were 24 members of the target audience from GA and SC. In addition to providing relevant research findings from projects in Georgia (some of which were SSARE-funded) and other southern states, we emphasized the environmental, social, and economic implications of MiG dairy systems. Afterwards, we visited two individual pasture-based dairy operations. Subsequently, we have helped to form a regional (GA, FL, and a few folks from SC) pasture-based dairy managers network (a peer-to-peer learning group) and have visited 2 farms in GA and 1 in FL. At each of these events, members of our target audience have been invited to participate and engage with our network members. In total, these events have provided training to 12 members of our target audience. We have also put together a meeting that targeted producers AND agricultural professionals which address grazingland management issues. At this meeting (held March 23, 1010 in SC), training participants heard a presentation from a pasture-based dairy family in SC. In this meeting we had 18 members of our target audience. It is important to emphasize that all of these “micro-scale” trainings were done in addition to work proposed in the original proposal. However, we have recognized that the situation has changed substantially since this project was first proposed (i.e., the major changes in the economic conditions have accelerated the growth of the pasture-based dairy industry in GA and surrounding states).

The second scale, termed the “meso-scale” herein, is currently being planned. This includes the “Pasture-Based Dairy Tour.” We currently are planning on providing this tour in July of 2010. We have been meeting with and planning to include members of the University of Missouri’s Pasture-Based Dairy Team. The Team from MU are world-renowned for their Extension and Applied Research effort in this area of sustainable agriculture. We look forward to adding them to the team of professionals involved in this effort.

The third scale, termed the “macro-scale” herein, is also currently being planned. This scale includes the multi-day classroom and hands-on learning experience (i.e., the Grazing Dairy Summit). This is being planned for the late winter of 2011.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

It is difficult to ascertain the impact of activities to date. The evaluations that we have done have demonstrated that over 87% of target audience-participants will be utilizing the information we have provided in upcoming trainings. Once the “Pasture-Based Dairy Tour” and the “Grazing Dairy Summit” are completed, we will have a better idea of how these efforts have impacted our target audience and the producer/consumers that they serve.

Collaborators:

Dr. Thomas Terrill

terrillt@fvsu.edu
Research Scientist
1005 State University Drive
Fort Valley, GA 31030
Office Phone: 4788256814
Dr. John Andrae

jandrae@clemson.edu
Assoc. Professor
Clemson University
274 Poole Ag Sciences
Clemson, SC 29634
Office Phone: 8646563504
Dr. Will Getz

getzw@fvsu.edu
Extension Animal Science Specialist
Ft. Valley St. Univ.
1005 State University Drive
Fort Valley, GA 31030
Office Phone: 4788256955
Dr. Dennis Chessman

dennis.chessman@ga.usda.gov
State Grazinglands Specialist
USDA-NRCS – GA Office
355 E. Hancock, Stop 207
Athens, GA 30601
Office Phone: 7065462061
Dr. Nicholas Hill

nhill@uga.edu
Professor
Univ. of Georgia
3111 Miller Plant Sciences Building
Athens, GA 30602
Office Phone: 7065420923