Promoting sustainable range-livestock enterprises through partnerships which develop producer mentoring networks for best management practices

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $93,006.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Paul Nyren
North Dakota State University Central Grasslands

Annual Reports


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


  • Animal Production: range improvement, grazing - rotational, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships


    The project began in April 2005. A steering committee comprised of producers and researchers was established to direct the program. Producer awareness of the importance of monitoring rangeland health was increased through workshops, presentations, articles in the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center (CGREC) annual report, field days, and the producer mentor network. The model farm was created and utilized rotational grazing on tame and native pastures as well as crop aftermath grazing, creep feeding, backgrounding with forages and grains raised at CGREC, and steer finishing. An economic analysis of the livestock management section was performed after the cattle were finished in August 2006. The steering committee decided that calves weaned in October 2006 should be backgrounded but not finished. This was due to drought during the summer of 2006 which created budget constraints and concern about the markets. The vital importance of record keeping soon became evident and questions were raised regarding the best management practices to be used in a whole enterprise management system (WEMS). The committee had agreed at the start that leisure time and profitability were crucial to quality of life on a ranch. It became apparent that finishing cattle may increase risk, record keeping, and the need for adequate facilities in winter while decreasing leisure time. However, the project also points to the potential to add value to home-grown feed. Collaboration and cooperation with federal agencies and private producers will continue to be encouraged and utilized as a medium of information dissemination.


    Why conduct research on Best Management Practices (BMPs) for livestock operations if producers don’t know how to implement those practices? The North Dakota State University Central Grasslands Research Extension Center (CGREC) near Streeter, North Dakota, asked this question. With over 20 years of basic and applied research of livestock, forage, soils, grazing, and resource management, CGREC staff knew they could meet a need that area livestock producers had expressed: a sustainable, implementable, BMP-based management system that would provide profitable results for their operations.

    In 2004, CGREC received funds from a USDA Sustainable Research and Education (SARE) grant and from sources administered by the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust to create a model farm. The model farm would be the first of its kind. CGREC dubbed the term “Whole Enterprise Management System” (WEMS) to describe model farm operations, which would address the entire livestock production process, from calving to sale, and would implement best practices gleaned from producers and research studies. The model farm would be used to teach producers how to implement these research- and experience-based best practices in their operations.

    Project objectives:

    Short Term Outcomes:
    1) Increase producer awareness of the potential economic returns from a properly managed forage base.
    2) Assist producers to assess the productive potential of their rangeland through the use of soil maps to determine range sites.
    3) Teach producers to set up and maintain a rangeland monitoring program on their land. 4) Assist producers with development of computerized records of livestock inventory, performance, and sales.

    Intermediate Outcomes:
    1) CGREC will develop a whole enterprise management system (WEMS) to be used for public instruction and viewing.
    2) Formation of a producer mentoring network to assist producers with WEMS development on their farms.

    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.