Using Videos as a Teaching Tool: Improving Profits and Rangelands Through Application of Behavioral Principles

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $80,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Beth Burritt
Utah State University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed formulation, free-range, feed rations, range improvement, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: extension
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, riverbank protection
  • Pest Management: biological control
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation

    Proposal abstract:

    Current arguments suggest that livestock degrade rangelands and riparian ecosystems, and that the only solution is to protect waterways with fencing or to remove livestock from rangelands altogether. Livestock have also been blamed for decreased biodiversity and an increase in invasive species. Meanwhile economic pressures combine with these societal and environmental pressures, making it increasingly difficult for agricultural-based businesses to survive and thrive. Now, two decades of research indicate that the solution to these problems may be the animals themselves. By understanding principles of behavior, we can modify our livestock practices to change the behavior of animals. The foundation is simple: Behavior depends on consequences. Favorable consequences increase and aversive consequences decrease the likelihood of a behavior recurring. When combined with the effects of early experience, interactions with peers, and variety and changes in plant composition over the growing season, this seemingly simple principle has enormously complex ramifications. Indeed, demonstrated successes on the ground indicate that behavior of livestock can be effectively modified and managed to: 1) reduce invasive species and increase forge availability by training animals to include a wider variety of forages in their diets; 2) improve rangelands and riparian areas by training animals to distribute themselves across uplands and hillsides and to leave streams and ponds; and 3) reduce costs for finishing animals by reducing stress and allowing animals to mix their own diets. We will begin production on the video and economic analyses in the fall of 2006. By fall of 2007, a rough draft of the video will be ready for review. The final video will be finished and ready for mailing by summer of 2008.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will enhance producer sustainability and profitability by demonstrating the economics of using behavior principles as an alternative farm/ranch management system. We will develop clear, concise and engaging videos that show how actual producers have improved their profitability by using behavior principles in their operations to increase forage availability, reduce costs for capital improvements, such as fencing, and for finishing livestock. The videos will be designed based on an understanding of innovation diffusion theory and how producers decide to adopt new technologies. Videos will be supplemented with a handbook that includes: additional information on behavior principles and their use; discussion topics extension professionals might use at workshops or presentations; and evaluation and implementation tools that professionals and producers can use to determine how to best implement these new techniques.

    The final products will be distributed through the BEHAVE Facilitators Network (BFN), a WSARE-PDP funded project that includes over 100 facilitators and extension professionals in ten western states. We will also be sending them to the 89 NRCS professionals in the western region who have attended the Plant-Herbivore Interactions short course with Dr. Fred Provenza and Beth Burritt, and to each State Extension and NRCS Office in the Western Region.

    Evaluations of the materials will be conducted through the BEHAVE Facilitators Network. BFN evaluations include input from BFN Facilitators and participants in workshops, and the collection of data on the effectiveness of materials at increasing understanding. This Project Contact is also the Program Coordinator for BFN. She will be collecting and analyzing the BFN evaluations of the videos and handbook.

    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.