Developing Mentor Networks for Enhanced Outreach in the Range Livestock Industry

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2004: $17,988.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $61,250.00
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, vaccines, watering systems, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: windbreaks
  • Education and Training: decision support system, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement, indicators, soil stabilization, wetlands, wildlife
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, public participation, analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities


    The Cowboy Logic: Ranch Mentoring Network is housed within the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition. It is comprised of older experienced ranchers, innovative new ranchers, educators, agencies, and agricultural college students who intern with various mentors.

    The Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition is an independent organization of ranchers, interest groups, and agencies whose mission is to collaborate on projects that improve the management and health of Nebraska grazing lands and ensure long-term stability of rangeland resources. The NGLC is funded through grants from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund, the Nebraska Rural Development Commission and the Sandhills Task Force.

    The creation of the Cowboy Logic: Ranch Mentoring Network was formed around ten successful ranch families who came together to start a pilot mentoring program. These families had been recognized for their longtime sustainable agricultural practices on their individual ranches, and were nominated by their peers for their years of implementing sound conservation and stewardship practices.

    • Create a list of established ranch stewards who are willing to mentor other ranchers
    • Learn from the trials, triumphs, and experiences of successful ranchers
    • Open door to grass management experts
    • Share alternatives and different perspectives
    • Grass root effort to share and discover common objectives and goals
    • Forge new ideas and share them

    1. Develop list of mentors
    2. Mentors were selected based on their history of stewardship and conservation, and were nominated and approved by the NGLC board of directors.
    3. Develop training and communication portals
    a. A website and chat room, University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Ranch Practicum, and mentor/mentee relationships were means of contributing to ideas exchange, which benefit both the mentor and mentee.
    b. A brochure listing the stewards and highlighting benefits of the stewardship program was produced. Copies were placed in all Nebraska NRCS offices.
    c. Conduct training seminars for stewards.
    4. Develop internship program
    a. A critical component of this program was linking interested students to ranchers who not only need summer help, but are also willing to instruct and provide a variety of experience. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Chadron State College were two of several institutions that participated in the program.
    5. Seek additional funding
    a. Apply for grant money to expand and continue the original program.
    6. Encourage rancher to rancher interaction
    a. Using the methods listed above, as well as word of mouth, participants encouraged other ranchers to utilize the resources of the Ranch Mentoring Network.
    7. Form regional networks among stewards
    a. Based on a successful model in the Southwest corner of Nebraska, the goal was to create similar networks across the state.

    Advisor, Dana Larsen, Ord, NRCS
    Advisor, Brent Plugge, Kearney, UNL-Extension
    Advisor, Jerry Volesky, North Platte, UNL
    Advisor, Bob Broweleit, Mullen, Sandhills RC&D
    Board/Steward, Jim Carr, Atkinson, Chairman
    Board/Steward, Rod Christen, Steinauer
    Board/Steward, Kevin Fulton, Litchfield
    Board/Steward, Lynn and Marlene Myers, Lewellen
    Board/Steward, Jack and Michelle Wendell, Brewster
    Board/Steward, Chris and Sherry Vinton, Whitman, Treasurer
    Board, Scott Cotton, Chadron, Vice Chairman
    Board, Ross Garwood, Amelia
    Board, Jim Luchsinger, Valentine, The Nature Conservancy
    Board, Paul Swanson, Hastings
    Steward, Courtney Kirchner, Alliance
    Steward, Larry Lange, Carleton
    Steward, Arnold Mendenhall, Hickman
    Steward, Sid Salzman, Ainsworth
    Steward, Kevin Schultz, Superior
    Steward, Vern and Marjean Terrell, Mirage Flats
    Steward, Brock and Heidi Terrell, Alliance
    Steward, Mitch Stephenson, Lincoln
    Steward, Boyd Atkinson, Benkleman
    Steward, Homer Buell, Rose
    Steward, Jim Choquette, Upland
    Steward, A.B. Cox, Mullen
    Steward, Wayne Eatinger, Thedford
    Steward, Terry Enfield, Arthur
    Steward, Ernie Erxleben, Bartlett
    Steward, Dave and Loretta Hamilton, Thedford
    Steward, Eric Hansen, North Platte
    Steward, Dick Helms, Arapahoe
    Steward, Harlow and Barbara Hill, Wauneta
    Steward, Jon Imick, Fairburg
    Steward, Mike Kelly, Sutherland
    Steward, Linda Kemp, Tryon
    Steward, John Linder, Blue Springs
    Steward, Jack and Carol Maddux, Wauneta
    Steward, John Maddux, Imperial
    Steward, Randy Mathewson, Potter
    Steward, Marlene Moore, Wallace
    Steward, Gail Nason, Tryon
    Steward, Doug Olsen, Harrisburg
    Steward, Rex and Nancy Peterson, Gordon
    Steward, Jeff and Connie Pribbeno, Imperial
    Steward, Jim and Ron Rimpe, Superior
    Steward, Seth and Courtney Terrell, Hay Springs
    Steward, Bruce and Vickie Troester, Marsland
    Steward, Harry and Jean Younkin, Lakeside
    Staff, Tamara Choat, Elmwood

    Mentor Selection
    The original list of selected mentors contained ten individuals, couples or ranches. In 2008, that list has grown to more than 30 individuals, couples or ranches that have agreed to share their knowledge and experience with other ranchers and/or the general public.

    Communication Portals
    An original website was developed for the program: In 2008, additional grant funds were used to develop a new, comprehensive and updated web site portal at that will encompass and allow greater information exchange among the mentor network, ranchers and the general public. A brochure listing the stewards and highlighting benefits of the stewardship program was produced in approx. 2006. Copies were placed in all Nebraska NRCS offices, and plans are underway for a revision in 2008. Additionally, in 2008 a new booth was designed and two banner stands promoting NGLC and the Ranch Mentor Network were created.

    Three participants finished a summer internship program in 2006. The internship program places college students with successful ranchers to provide hands-on experience of ranch management and the resources that come with it to supplement their college courses. Five state colleges have inquired about participation of their students as interns for next year. In 2008, the program is looking to reevaluate and restart the intern program.

    Seminars on improved communication skills and “how to be a ranch mentor” were held in both 2007 and 2008. In 2007 six people attended. In 2008 more than 35 attended. In 2008, small regional groups were formed from among the 35 stewards present to discuss topics of interest to their areas. Based on these topics of interest, workshops and seminars will be held in the various regions.

    In 2006 a ranch tour was conducted at Mike Kelly’s ranch near Sutherland, NE, and a tour was carried on for a range short course at Chadron State College, Chadron, NE. Mentors reached two hundred fifty people.

    In 2008, additional workshops and seminars were held across the state, including:
    • Nebraska Grazing Conference, Aug. 12-13, Kearney, NE
    o Primary sponsor of 2008 conference
    o Attendance = 250 people
    • Greg Judy Seminar, Sept. 5, St. Paul/Wolbach, NE
    o Greg Judy featured speaker
    o Attendance = 55 people
    • Reeves Ranch Tour, Sept. 5, St. Paul/Wolbach, NE
    o Seminar on multi-species grazing, chemical control, prescribed burning and MOB grazing
    o Attendance = 55 people
    • Multi-Species Grazing Seminar, Sept. 25, Scottsbluff, NE
    o Hosted seminar on utilizing animals other than cattle to control invasive species
    o Attendance = very low
    • Multi-Species Grazing Tour, Oct. 1, Box Butte, NE
    o Hosted on-site tour to view goats grazing invasive species
    o Attendance = 33 people
    • EQIP Invasive Species Meeting, Sept. 26, Trenton, NE
    o Worked with Trenton NRCS to host seminars and tour of invasive species
    o Attendance = 33 people
    • Loess Canyons Burn Seminar, Oct. 14, Curtis, NE
    o Worked with Loess Canyons Prescribed Burn Association to host burn meetings and tour
    o Attendance = 65 people
    • Imperial Drought Workshop, Nov. 19, Imperial, NE
    o Worked with local NRCS group to host series of speakers talking about protecting grass in drought conditions
    o Attendance = 57 people

    Network Development
    NGLC and the Cowboy Logic program continued to support activities of the Southeastern Range Club, which has approximately 10 key members, led by steward and NGLC Board Member Rod Christian. In addition, NGLC Chairman Jim Carr launched a similar group, The Ranch Management Club, based in the O’Neill area, which has approximately 40 members. NGLC also continues to support the work of the Loess Canyons Rangeland Alliance, which is a similar model of a local working group. Development of additional networks is a continued goal of NGLC and the Ranch Mentoring Network.

    Since 2006, twenty-plus talks have been given at Nebraska drought meetings, the Governor’s Grazing Conference, the Tri-State Grazing Symposium, Conservation Security Programs, Nebraska Society of Range Management annual meeting, the National SARE Conference, and intern/mentees mentoring to peers, with over two thousand people reached.

    Press Coverage
    American Angus Journal, Western Livestock Journal, and Nebraska Farmer magazines printed news releases pertaining to the Ranch Mentoring Network. University of Nebraska-Lincoln provided coverage in an array of media. A three-night-series on mentoring, rotational grazing/conservation, and ranch management was aired by KNOP-TV of North Platte, NE. KNOP-TV broadcasts to ten thousand homes. This feed was picked up by RFD-TV and run on the American Agriculture program. Six press releases were issued in 2008, which resulted in more than 100 media hits, including the International Herald Tribune — the international version of the New York Times. In particular, an article on using goats for multi-species grazing garnered hits from more than 10 states across the U.S.

    The greatest thing learned from implementation of the Cowboy Logic: Ranch Mentoring Network is that there is a need for this program. Ranchers and landowners from across the state have provided feedback that they appreciate the outlet to learn from others in their field.

    The program has accomplished everything and more than what we originally set out to do. We all learn from each other, which is the premise of the mentoring program. Society now has a better understanding of stewardship, management practices, and what it means to be neighbors, and great friendships have developed in the process.

    Throughout the process of developing this network, we became aware of two critical drawbacks of the program that we had to change.

    1. Do not use the term “mentor”
    Based on feedback given at the 2007 Stewards Training program, it was decided that the term “mentor” is a negative aspect of the program, because as a title it places someone in a position of authority or superiority, in which none of the stewards felt comfortable. It was decided to change the term to simply “steward,” and all participants would be considered stewards, as opposed to mentors or “mentees.” For the past year, and from here out, the program has been called Cowboy Logic: Ranch Stewardship Network.

    2. Passive versus active enrollment
    We realized that a brochure and a list of names on a web site were not critical components to drawing people into the program, and were too passive of means of encouraging participation. Instead, utilizing the resources of new staff and active stewards, we are seeking to improve active enrollment of participants by making personal calls, emails and mailings to request their involvement. This is for both group events and one-on-one stewardship sharing events.

    As the Cowboy Logic: Ranch Stewardship Network is an education-based project, the majority of the outreach methods have been discussed in the previous “Results” section. Additional examples of promotion methods for this outreach will be attached, including:
    a. Press releases
    b. Event programs
    c. News clippings
    d. Event reviews

    We are grateful to the North Central Region SARE Program for the financial support provided through this grant, and do not have any recommendations for change.

    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.