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

2010 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


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 over 10% 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.


The original plan was to hold one large tour of a grazing dairy in Georgia. We have altered this plan to include the touring of two pasture-based dairies that will represent two distinct dairying styles (1: total ration consists of >75% as pasture; 2: total ration consists of 50-60% as pasture). Because our funding was delayed past key deadlines that enable us announcing this training opportunity to Extension personnel in Georgia and surrounding states, the tour had to be delayed from the anticipated date in 2010 to what is now planned for May 18, 2011. 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 at this point in 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, has already been 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.). To date, we have held 4 of these micro-scale events. In total, these have provided 24 hrs of training time to an average attendance of 24 members of the target audience from GA, SC, and FL. 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. One outcome that reaches beyond the scope of our original target audience is that we have helped to form a regional (GA, FL, and a few folks from SC) network of pasture-based dairy managers in a peer-to-peer learning group. Members of our target audience have helped to facilitate, 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, 2010 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, included the “Pasture-Based Dairy Tour.” This tour was provided in July 2010. We, along with experienced facilitators and team members from the University of Missouri’s Pasture-Based Dairy Team, provided this tour.

The third scale, termed the “macro-scale” herein, has now been planned and will be happening next month (May 19th) in Aiken, SC. Referred to as the “Pasture-based Dairy Summit,” this training includes classroom and hands-on learning experiences. The agenda for this meeting and additional information about it can be found here: Invitations have been sent to all of the Directors of Extension, State Conservationists, and Secretary/Commissioners of Agriculture in each of the states and territories that fall under the auspices of the Southern SARE Region’s territory.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

It is difficult to ascertain the impact of activities to date. The evaluations that we have done have demonstrated that nearly 90% of target audience-participants will be utilizing the information we have provided in upcoming trainings that they will facilitate. Once the “Pasture-Based Dairy Summit” is completed, we will have a better idea of how these efforts have impacted our target audience and the producer/consumers that they serve.


Dr. Thomas Terrill

[email protected]
Research Scientist
1005 State University Drive
Fort Valley, GA 31030
Office Phone: 4788256814
Dr. John Andrae

[email protected]
Assoc. Professor
Clemson University
274 Poole Ag Sciences
Clemson, SC 29634
Office Phone: 8646563504
Dr. Will Getz

[email protected]
Extension Animal Science Specialist
Ft. Valley St. Univ.
1005 State University Drive
Fort Valley, GA 31030
Office Phone: 4788256955
Dr. Dennis Chessman

[email protected]
State Grazinglands Specialist
355 E. Hancock, Stop 207
Athens, GA 30601
Office Phone: 7065462061
Dr. Nicholas Hill

[email protected]
Univ. of Georgia
3111 Miller Plant Sciences Building
Athens, GA 30602
Office Phone: 7065420923