- Animals: bovine, sheep
- Animal Production: grazing management
Problem and justification
Pasture is often one of the most under-utilized resources on the farm and a poorly managed pasture can be subject to overgrazing damage, soil compaction, and nutrient run-off, providing minimal feed value to livestock. Farmers who are under-utilizing their pastures, or not utilizing pasture at all, have higher production costs. However, with a paradigm shift by the farmer to understand pasture as a crop to be managed, they can produce high quality forages that support livestock production at lower cost and improve soil health and water quality. To achieve healthy pasture ecosystems, the producer must understand the relationship between the soil, the pasture plants, and livestock grazing behavior. When farmers consider adopting new or improved grazing practices, they typically have a grazing plan written by a technical service provider, but rarely is it combined with extensive education or one-on-one continuing support that increases the likelihood of success. Without farmer engagement or service provider support, an otherwise good plan may fail. Livestock farmers, whether dairy or meat producers, are operating on slim margins and need to be empowered to create their own grazing plan and improve their management to reduce feed costs and capture any available market premiums.
Solution and approach
Farmer engagement in the planning process is critical for successful implementation. The purpose of the grazing and pasture management course is to provide a small group learning opportunity where farmers who are considering grazing as a new management practice, or farmers who would like to improve their existing management can gain an understanding of the fundamental concepts of grazing and have an active role in the planning practice.
This project will continue the work of the previously-funded project LNE17-355 (Improving Pasture Resource Management with Farmer-Engaged Planning), in which each farmer develops a grazing plan tailor-made to their operation that accounts for differences in landowner goals, land base, soil type, forage species, livestock breeds and genetics and management practices. While each farm will have an overall goal of maximizing forage intake through grazing, there will be differences in application from farm to farm. Classes and field days will complement a one-on-one approach to develop a well-designed and well-managed system that will collectively reduce barriers to farmer adoption and success.
Performance targets from proposal:
Thirty-six livestock farmers complete a pasture management course and develop their own farm-specific grazing plans to gain an in-depth understanding of grazing concepts, which results in the implementation of new or improved grazing practices on approximately 2,160 acres and reduces feed costs per animal by $1.00/day during the grazing season.