Westside Pasture Calendar for Agricultural Professionals in the Pacific Northwest (PNW)

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $74,555.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Washington State University Extension
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Steve Fransen, PhD
Washington State University


  • Agronomic: annual ryegrass, clovers, grass (misc. perennial), hay, medics/alfalfa
  • Animals: bovine, camelids, equine, goats, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy, meat


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, feed management, grazing management, grazing - continuous, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, manure management, parasite control, pasture renovation, pasture fertility, preventive practices, rangeland/pasture management, stocking rate, watering systems
  • Crop Production: fertilizers, irrigation, nutrient management, water management
  • Education and Training: extension, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, risk management, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Western Oregon and Washington (“the westside”) have similar climates, soils, crops, farming systems, and urban growth issues differing greatly from the rest of the Pacific Northwest. Over 2 million pasture acres and 1.1 million grazing animals lie between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains (WA NRCS, 2011; USDA Census, 2012; OR NRCS 2012). This area is experiencing increased numbers of new and small acreage farming. Unfortunately, this greatly increases the risk of pasture abuse by inexperienced landowners with little animal husbandry or natural resource management knowledge. Through day-long workshops, the proposal project team will travel to eight westside locations and train 200 to 400 Extension faculty, NRCS and Conservation District personnel, consultants, farm advisors, Master Livestock Advisors, and progressive producers about best pasture management principles. The featured resource will be the Western Oregon and Washington Pasture Calendar (“Pasture Calendar”). The Pasture Calendar is an innovative handbook developed by a team of specialists incorporating pasture management techniques unique to the westside. This easy-to-use handbook is designed for professional advisors for management, improvement, and sustainability of westside pastures. The trainings will emphasize sustainability through protecting water quality, threatened and endangered species, and soil quality while reducing noxious weed invasion and increasing forage production. Long-term improvement in economic viability, environmental health, and social acceptance are expected. This proposal uses the successful format of WSARE PDP EW05-12 and EW11-019 but is adapted for a single training day. Training materials include the Pasture Calendar, reference materials, pasture measurement sticks, and PowerPoint® slides.

    Introduction: Western Oregon and Washington have environmental similarities in climate, soils, pasture crops and farm type and size, differing greatly from lands east of the Cascades. Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains, this area is about 600 miles North-South by 150 miles East-West and home to approximately 2,250,000 pasture acres and 1.1 million livestock (sheep, beef, goats, dairy, horses and miscellaneous) grazing primarily cool season grass pastures. The environment is relatively warm and dry in summer with cool, wet winters that is well-suited for pasture and livestock production. Many families have relocated to this region for the mild climate, proximity to the Pacific Ocean, outdoor activities, a higher quality of life, and opportunity for rural lifestyle. This recent relocation resulted in a dramatic increase in small farm owners, most lacking traditional agriculture knowledge. For example, in western WA, farms consisting of 1 to 9 acres increased from 6,536 to 10,559 owners between 2007 and 2012, respectively, a 38% increase. Farm sizes of 10 to 49 acres, showed a more dramatic change, with 6,715 in 2007 to 12,980 in 2012, nearly 49% increase for about 2 million pastured acres (USDA Census, 2007 and 2012). A brain drain will occur when knowledgeable educators and agency staff retire in a few years, leaving remaining agency, faculty and new hires, often without adequate sustainable pasture training, to advise and assist westside farm owners. The Pasture Calendar was developed with that looming challenge in mind. It is predicted to serve as a major regional pasture management resource in the future. Westside pastures typically border running water, so poor pasture management and mis-managed grazing in riparian zones can result in nutrient and sediment runoff, placing water quality in jeopardy. This imperils several locally-listed threatened or endangered species (Lackey, 2000). To address the increased needs and issues of westside grazers, agency personnel and Extension faculty need the  Pasture Calendar tool and training to advise farm owners on sustainable pasture planning and grazing practices. The Pasture Calendar consists of ten specific and sequential pasture growth periods for westside grasslands, separated by two week intervals and encompassing a full year. Each period is associated with six critical concepts:

    1. Overview
    2. Environmental factors
    3. What plants are doing
    4. Management needed
    5. Things to avoid
    6. Other considerations. Understanding these six concepts on a year-round basis will help producers improve pasture and grazing management, thereby increasing forage production, achieving a positive economic return, and reducing negative environmental impacts.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Three major goals for the Pasture Calendar project are:

    1. Review, revise, and update the Pasture Calendar before publication.

    2. Introduce the Pasture Calendar to the agriculture community (agency, faculty, advisors, farmers) through four single-day intensive training workshops in western OR and four in western WA. Each workshop will be held at a strategic location, based on trainee needs and projected audience of advisors. We plan to have a Pasture Calendar trained advisor in every county on the westside.

    3. Evaluate knowledge and assess economic impacts of training pre-, post-, and six months post-training. Surveys will ask trainees to document Pasture Calendar use and identify strengths and weaknesses of the training as they engage in farm planning activities.

    The objectives for this PDP project are:

    1. Significantly improve use, understanding and tools to agency personnel, Extension faculty and advisors on principles of grass production and grazing management principles taught in the Pasture Calendar.

    2. Provide single-day hands-on training at eight intensive, in-depth strategic site workshops using the innovative, peer-reviewed but not yet published, Pasture Calendar to 200 to 400 advisors with a western WA/OR perspective.

    3. Provide training management tools focused on improving habitat for threatened and endangered species through improved water and soil quality, reduced erosion, and improved vegetative vigor in pastures bordering water bodies.

    4. Emphasize to trainees that sustainable systems with environmental, wildlife and economic benefits are possible through active goal-setting, monitoring, and land management.

    5. Evaluate trainee knowledge gained using pre- and post-SNickers (Long and Fransen, 1988) methods, including projected economic impacts on small farm grazing operations using principles taught during training. A six-month follow up post-evaluation will be used to measure longer term adoption of the Calendar, it’s strengths and weaknesses and how to better use the principles of production, grazing management and ecosystem services for westside grazers.

    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.