The Systems 360° Initiative: Curriculum development and delivery of land management educational tools for Alabama cattle producers

Project Overview

ES16-129
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $74,298.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kim Mullenix
Auburn University/Alabama Cooperative Ex

Information Products

Alabama Beef Herd Planning Calendar (Decision-making Tool)
Systems 360 Discussion Group Curriculum - Water (Conference/Presentation Material)
Systems 360 Discussion Group Curriculum - Climate (Conference/Presentation Material)
Systems 360 Discussion Group Curriculum - Economics (Conference/Presentation Material)
Systems 360 Discussion Group Curriculum - Management (Conference/Presentation Material)

Commodities

  • Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - rotational, pasture renovation, pasture fertility, stockpiled forages, watering systems, winter forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, business planning, risk management, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Abstract:

    The Systems 360° Initiative is a discussion-based Extension program for Alabama beef producers to increase knowledge and application of sustainable land and animal management practices in the Southeast. The Initiative is a collaborative effort by an advisory group consisting of Alabama Cooperative Extension personnel (ACES; specialists and agents), Auburn University College of Agriculture faculty, the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association and state Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Administration (FSA) personnel. The goals of this project were to: 1) create decisions tools (webinar series, management handbook, and PowerPoint templates) and 2) provide in-classroom training and hands-on demonstrations to educators on the tools and related concepts to minimize environmental and economic risk in beef cattle production systems. These tools address forage, water, herd management, climate, and economic considerations in different eco-regions of the state. In 2016, the Systems 360 advisory group was formed and a needs assessment was conducted to determine a strategic plan for curriculum development. Curriculum development began in fall 2016, and resulted in the release of a series of YouTube videos, individual ag/natural resource publications, a printed beef systems handbook, and a cattle herd management calendar. Grant participants also participated in an ongoing statewide webinar series focused on forage-livestock management on an annual basis that is available at www.alabamabeefsystems.com. In fall 2016, a pilot producer-based discussion group (also known as a working group) was started in the Tennessee Valley region of Alabama to begin delivering components of the curriculum to stakeholders as they were developed. There were 24 producers in this program, which consisted of on-farm learning experiences involving Extension, NRCS, and FSA personnel. This program was completed in spring 2017. Full curriculum development was finalized in fall 2017. Additional technical educators were trained in spring 2018 after the full release of the curriculum, and a statewide effort to promote discussion-based educational training for livestock producers began. Five discussion-based producer working groups were started across the state in fall 2018, and are finishing their program efforts in spring 2019. There are 78 producers who enrolled in discussion groups statewide. 

    Project objectives:

    1) Formation of the Systems 360° Advisory Committee: A multidisciplinary Systems 360° Advisory Committee was formed in summer 2016 to develop and deliver a comprehensive curriculum related to improved land resource utilization in Alabama livestock operations. This integrated team consists of ACES personnel (specialists and agents), Auburn University College of Agriculture faculty, USDA NRCS, USDA FSA, Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association, and key beef producers. The advisory committee contributed towards this effort in two ways: a) development of educational decision tools and evaluations; b) provide in-service training opportunities to technical personnel statewide.

    2) Educational Resource Development: Develop interactive educational resources on soil, water, forage, climate and risk management in livestock operations. Target tools for development include web-based presentation platforms (webinars), as well as reference PowerPoint templates for use in future programming. Materials will be designed for use in future programs by Extension agents, NRCS, FSA, and will later become accessible by end users.

    3) Resource Training Programs: Members of the advisory committee provided training programs on Systems 360° curriculum and concepts for use in end-user programming. The target audience for these workshops include Extension agents, NRCS conservationists, FSA field representatives, and regional beef cattle leaders. These trainings will consist of both in-classroom and experiential learning opportunities to illustrate sustainable land management practices in beef production systems based on regional soil, water, forage, climate, and economic considerations.

    4) Producer Networks and Resource Implementation: The advisory committee  has created an evaluation tool to determine program satisfaction and application of management concepts discussed as part of the Systems 360 Initiative (beginning with the pilot working group in fall 2016/spring 2017). Following technical trainings, Extension agents implemented regional working group programs with producers focused on concepts presented during training events. Selected participants in these programs have been asked to participate in follow-up evaluations to determine long-term impacts beyond the timeframe of the proposed project.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.