Developing Mentor Networks for Enhanced Outreach in the Range Livestock Industry

2005 Annual Report for FNC04-545

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:

Developing Mentor Networks for Enhanced Outreach in the Range Livestock Industry

Summary

In order to improve the sustainability of working ranches and enhance the quality of ranch life in western Nebraska, the project will provide young ranchers and ranch managers wise and innovative counsel related to drought and/or trial and error management decisions and enhance the understanding and use of forage resources, livestock nutrient requirements, and livestock markets.

[Editor’s Note: The following is a press release about this project that was released by the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.]

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University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources news stories and information are on the Web at: www.ianr.unl.edu.

NEWS RELEASE FROM IANR NEWS SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
— Grazing and Ranch Management Mentors Teach Sustainable Grazing Practices

Sept. 20, 2006

Grazing and Ranch Management Mentors Teach Sustainable Grazing Practices
LINCOLN, Neb. — A rancher-organized and driven grazing and ranch management mentor program is providing grassland guidance and counsel to those new to ranching or to western Nebraska.

The program, sponsored by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition and Nebraska’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, started about two years ago with the goal to minimize grassland management disasters, said Pat Reece, extension rangeland ecologist at UNL’s Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff.

“The group wants to help other ranchers — outside or young — avoid career ending mistakes,” the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources specialist said.
“Land ownership has changed a lot in Nebraska’s Sandhills,” said Lynn Myers, who along with his wife, Marlene, are grazing and ranch management mentors and run the family’s cattle operation near Lewellen. “Some people don’t understand or have any idea how fragile the Sandhills are.”

To contend with these changes, Myers and nine other western Nebraska ranch families offer their expertise on what’s worked for them.
“We felt there was a need out there for ranchers helping ranchers,” said Brent Plugge, UNL Extension educator in Buffalo County. “They have the experience in a number of different areas and are willing to offer their assistance. It’s basically neighbors helping neighbors.”

The group uses rotation grazing systems and is diverse enough in its operations that no one operation is the same, thus having an abundance of information to give to those participating in the mentorship program.

“The concept is one where ranchers that have been successful are wanting and willing to provide information to other people that are considering some of the management practices that they have tried in the past or are using,” Reece said.

Reece added the grazing and ranch management mentors are highly respected and have been in business long enough that they are clearly knowledgeable experts in their area and their areas of expertise.

Some going through the mentor program have never sought information from the University of Nebraska, and a group of ranchers noticed this and wanted to do something about it, Reece said. If the mentors don’t know the answer to a question, they can call advisers, university faculty and extension educators.

Plugge said the program also provides educational opportunities for the mentors.
“Another important reason the mentors started talking about offering this program was because of the progressive increase in the average age of ranch owners. They realized the average age of ranchers in their ranch communities keeps going up. So, there is an outreach to young or new people coming in,” Reece said. “We really want to help the next generation of ranchers.”

Brad Beguin, a senior at Chadron State College who participated in the program, said the hands-on experience the program offers is the best way to learn.

“You are out there with the producer and he’s making decisions that will affect him 5 to 10 years down the road,” Beguin said. “That is more important than sitting in a classroom. I know you’ve got to learn both ways, but this is an outstanding program. The mentors are very successful ranchers and know their stuff.”

Beguin visited three ranches during his mentorship, including those owned by Myers, Chris and Sherry Vinton, and Jack and Carol Maddux and their son, John Maddux.
Beguin said he learned about everything from rotational grazing to fish and animals.
The fifth-generation rancher from Rushville said Myers was able to show him a lot of grasses he didn’t even know about, while at the Vintons he learned about their livestock mineral program and at the Madduxes he learned a lot about cattle handling.

“My generation has to be so much more efficient, these guys are so ahead of the game when it comes to being efficient,” Beguin said. “I want to keep ranching, and I know there are a lot of ways to do things besides Dad’s way.”
Another substantial component of the program is participation in UNL’s Nebraska Ranch Practicum. The group awards scholarships for participation in the intensive educational program for ranchers.

“The opportunities for young people are very tough on these ranches,” Myers said.
“I really want to give something back to this industry,” Myers said. He added although he won’t make millions doing what he does, it is a good life, which he hopes others will have the opportunity to enjoy as well.

“It’s really quite an outreach. The whole mentorship program is rancher organized and driven,” Reece said.

The effort also is supported by a grant from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education organization, and the group hopes to receive another grant so the program can be offered statewide.

For more information about the grazing and ranch management mentor program, visit the group’s Web site at http://www.ranchmentors.org/.
# # #
9/20/06-SAK Sources: Pat Reece, Ph.D., professor, rangeland ecology,
mentorship. (308) 632-1242
Brent Plugge, extension educator, Buffalo County,(308) 236-1235
Lynn and Marlene Myers, (308) 577-6356,
mmyers@neb-sandhills.net
Writer: Sandi Alswager Karstens, IANR News Service,(402) 472-3030, salswager2@unl.edu
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