Encouraging Managed Grazing in Michigan

2006 Annual Report for FNC05-580

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,245.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Grant Recipient: Straub Family Farm
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Howard Straub
Straub family farm

Encouraging Managed Grazing in Michigan


On-farm demonstrations of pasture management activities to reduce the risk of converting to managed grazing will include pasture fertilization, estimating dry matter availability on a regular schedule, and strategies to plan and manage grazing. Tools will be developed and tested for grazing record keeping, a forage management calendar, and a Michigan Pasture Stick for dry matter estimation.

A. On farm Demonstrations and Pasture Walks- Unique Pasture Management Strategies.
1. Hosted 2 pasture walks: 32 participants- 13 female, 19 male.
2. Demonstrated use of irrigation for perennial ryegrass pasture management. The rainfall in spring and summer 2006 was more than adequate to support excellent forage growth. The producer did not utilize irrigation and no clipping data was collected as there was no need for irrigation and no difference in forage yield. Irrigation tractor was demonstrated at the pasture walk.
3. Demonstrated perennial and Italian ryegrass use. Exclusion cages were used to collect yield data. The summer of 2006 was extremely dry in this part of Michigan. Yield data is not yet summarized. Visual observation suggests that:

B. Pasture Stick as a management tool
1. Coordinated update of dry matter measurements with MSU Extension and Dr. Rich Leep.
2. Ordered/purchased 1000 plastic sticks for $3233.43.
3. Distribution of pasture sticks to graziers in process.

The summary of evaluations from the 2 pasture walks indicates that the audience we are reaching is primarily the livestock producer with grazing as a component. We are also educating hay producers and agency personnel that work with livestock producers.

Pasture acres ranged from 20-50 acres for those who attended the first pasture walk. Data was incomplete for the second pasture walk. Current livestock numbers on average for attendants at the second pasture walk were: 40 dairy cows, 60 dairy heifers, 60 beef steers, 190 ewes with lambs, and 290 ewes.

The range that producers traveled to attend a pasture walk was 35-50 miles. Reasons for attending were to gain more specific information about the unique strategies and to have questions answered about the strategies. Meeting other farmers who use the techniques was also a reason to attend the pasture walk.

Participants of the first pasture walk demonstrating using sorghum sudan grass, turnips, and pasture irrigation indicate that:
10% agreed that the practices would be practical on their farm;
Only 5% had tried either turnips or sorghum sudan grass;
16% were confident that the turnip or sudan grass practices demonstrated would work on their farm.

Participants at the second pasture walk demonstrating grazing height management, rotational grazing with sheep, and turnips to extend the grazing season found:
21% agreed that both grazing height management and rotational grazing would be practical on their farm;
14% had already adopted grazing height management;
21% had adopted rotational grazing;
No participants had tried turnips on their farms;
Over 50% were confident that grazing height and rotational grazing management would work for their operations.

There is an opportunity to improve the adoption rate of managed grazing strategies as indicated by the low percentages of early adopters at these pasture walks.

The Pasture Stick will play a role in adoption of grazing height management and implementation of rotational or managed grazing periods.

A. On farm Demonstrations and Pasture Walks
1. Summarize yield data from clipping trials with Duane Tirrell and Dr. Joe Rook.
2. Layout fertilizer and compost comparison plots and arrange for application of compost.
3. Coordinate pasture walk with Howard Straub to demonstrate watering facility options.
4. Host pasture walk to demonstrate fertilizer and compost comparisons.

B. Legislative Tour
1. Michigan GLCI planning committee selected.
2. Farm stops and tour itinerary selected.
3. Collect and summarize economic data, prepare fact sheet.
4. Make personal contacts to Michigan legislators.
5. Publicize
6. Hold event prior to July 15, 2007.

C. Forage Management Calendar and Record Keeping Booklet
1. Develop record keeping format.
2. Coordinate with printing service.
3. Booklet available prior to start of 2007 grazing season.

On farm demonstrations were explained at pasture walks. Thirty two individuals participated in pasture walks in 2006.

Results of the ryegrass study are expected to be summarized for an article in the Michigan Hay and Grazier newsletter.

Data can be shared in presentations during the Michigan Forage Council alfalfa and grazing workshop March 8, 2007. Pasture sticks will be distributed to Graziers at the workshop. Follow up with those receiving the pasture sticks to determine how sticks are used by survey and field visits is planned for summer of 2007.

Grazing information, use of tools such as the pasture stick, and on farm research trials will be part of the Legislative tour.