Values and adoption in regenerative grazing practices and associated wellbeing outcomes for cow-calf producers

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $249,999.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Matt Raven
Michigan State University
Dr. Jennifer Hodbod
Michigan State University

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: grazing management, grazing - continuous, grazing - rotational, rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, quality of life, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Cattle production accounted for $67.1 billion in cash receipts in 2018 and supported 913,000 US operations, of which 728,00 were small beef farms and ranches, commonly cow-calf operations on grass with under 50 animals (NCBA, 2020; USDA, 2020).  Therefore, grasslands are a crucial part of the US agricultural sector and yet demonstrate increased degradation and thus decreasing ecological wellbeing. The difficulty of making management decisions on this degraded resource base is compounded by decreasing social and economic wellbeing for producers. However, given the cultural importance of cattle production, producers continue to engage with it, putting the resource base and their livelihoods at potentially greater risk.

    Regenerative grazing has been posited as a solution to this environmental, social, and economic risk. However, although the evidence base of successful regenerative management is increasing, particularly in grazing, there is little long-term study of the environmental, social, and economic benefits following adoption, and none within the North Central region. There is also little adoption of regenerative grazing across the producer population in the US. It has been hypothesized that barriers to adoption include a lack of knowledge about wellbeing outcomes (including ecosystem services, producer quality of life, and economic profitability), producer values, and uncertainty around how to adopt.

    Our research and education project, ‘Values and Adoption in Regenerative Grazing Practices and Associated Wellbeing Outcomes for Cow-Calf Producers’ will create knowledge, awareness, and skills for 15-20 cow-calf producers by training them in regenerative grazing. In order to explore suspected barriers and conduits to adoption, a long-term approach is proposed including training in self-monitoring of economic, social, and ecological wellbeing and values. A control group of non-adopters and a group of established adopters (10+ years) will also participate in wellbeing training and monitoring, creating further knowledge, awareness, and skills amongst these groups. Values are crucial as there are no studies monitoring how values change through the adoption process - a long-term project will show whether values change as producers adopt regenerative methods (i.e. becoming more open to change) or whether producers need to hold these values to consider adopting such adaptive methods.

    Understanding barriers and conduits to adoption will allow us to tailor education materials, fostering increased adoption of regenerative grazing in the medium-term benefiting stakeholders such as Extension and the beef and regenerative agriculture sectors, but in the long term benefiting wider society through a more sustainable cow-calf sector.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our objective is to understand pathways to the adoption of regenerative grazing. There are multiple outcomes for multiple audiences:

    • Learning outcomes:
      • Knowledge, awareness, and skills for cow-calf producers:
        • Regenerative grazing methods
        • Methods for monitoring wellbeing:
          • Ecological - Ecological Outcomes Verification
          • Economic - enterprise budgets and improved record keeping
          • Social– values and quality of life
      • Knowledge and awareness for Extension, university researchers, beef and regenerative agriculture stakeholders:
        • Values and wellbeing
        • Barriers and conduits to adoption
    • Action outcomes:
      • Regenerative grazing adoption
      • Wellbeing monitoring
      • Regenerative grazing network
    • System outcomes:
      • Extension tools to increase adoption and wellbeing
      • More sustainable grazing practices.
    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.