Management Intensive Grazing: Foundation of Sustainable Agriculture in the South

1996 Annual Report for LST96-009

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1996: $33,762.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $109,463.00
Region: Southern
State: Louisiana
Principal Investigator:
H. Alan DeRamus
University of Southwest Louisiana

Management Intensive Grazing: Foundation of Sustainable Agriculture in the South

Summary

Objectives
The objectives of this project were to provide comprehensive management intensive grazing (MIG) to national Cooperative Extension Service (NCES), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel, and innovative livestock producers stationed in the humid, temperate and subtropical Gulf South through a training project.

The specific goals were to: (1) Demonstrate via lectures and hands-on field training the economic, environmental, and agricultural benefits of MIG compared with conventional agriculture. (2) Illustrate the role of MIG in comprehensive sustainable agriculture planning. (3) Train participants to assess farm suitability (soils, pastures, buildings, equipment) for MIG. (4) Train participants how to teach field management to other farmers. (5) Develop and distribute fact sheets on MIG in the South for use by participants and clientele. (6) Development and distribute training videos that will supplement participant knowledge of MIG systems.

Approach
The concept of Management Intensive Grazing is needed in the South to efficiently utilize the abundant forage biomass produced annually. The method of educating the trainers should have been more interactive from the grassroots. If producers had demanded the extension service provide this type training, the county agents would have gotten their educational information. However, it seemed that producers were willing to bypass the extension service and use the agency (NRCS) that was willing to accept a more sustainable production approach.

A viable approach is currently being conducted in Virginia with pasture clubs and interactive training being conducted in grazing management.

Invitations were extended to NRCS and extension state offices in the 13 southern states. Announcements were published in regional and national publications and invitations were extended directly to NRCS and Extension Service personnel.

Since each state now has a sustainable agriculture advisory committee, more emphasis is being placed on educational training in this area. The extension service in the southern region has only sent token representation to participate in this particular education training endeavor. Most of the participants involved in one of these previous workshops indicated a desire for additional training in MIG. To accommodate those requests the advanced workshop was conducted in May 1996. All former participants were invited to return to this advanced workshop.

Methods
Workshops were conducted in April, May and September of 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 to train participants in management intensive grazing (MIG). Participants included producers and Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel from Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alabama and ten Cooperative Extension Service County Agents from Louisiana with one each from Kentucky and Florida. The workshops were conducted for three days with both classroom and field sessions.

The itinerary included:
__Oral presentations in the classroom__
* The science and art of grazing management
* Environmental management
* Plant growth basics: energy flows, nutrient cycling, fundamentals of growth
* Understanding soils and the landscape
* Resources of the farm
* Economics of management intensive grazing
* Forage quality, animal requirements, and intake
* Meeting nutritional needs of livestock
* Matching livestock and forage resources
* Forage system strategies for year-round nutrition
* Controlled rotation grazing: putting it all together
* MIG on my farm
* Grazing Land Applications and nutrition balance

__Field demonstrations with hands-on experiences__
* Participant groups grazing demonstration
* Biodiversity
* Water systems
* Keeping pasture records
* Forage quality
* Field pasture assessment
* Forage harvest efficiency
* Fencing equipment
* Forages for year-round grazing
* Soils in the field
* Quantity measurement and species identification
* Forage management practical applications

Workshops were conducted in early spring on cool-season annual forages and in summer and fall on warm-season perennial forage. Information fact sheets in support of grazing management were written and included in a notebook for all participants.

Fact sheets:
“The role of ruminant animals in sustainable agriculture” — Alan DeRamus
“The forage growth and its relationship to grazing management” — Alan DeRamus
“Four Factors in the Application of Management Intensive Grazing (MIG) or Controlled Rotation Grazing” — Alan DeRamus
“Understanding soils and landscapes” — Lee Burras
“Estimating forage yield” — Matthew Mattox
“Grazing dynamics of beef cattle” — Jenny Hafley
“Resource Inventories and Evaluations for Planning Purposes” — Dan Caudle
“Proper grazing use” — Dennis Thompson
“Fringe benefits of rotational grazing” — R.L. Dalrymple
“Economics of management intensive grazing” — Leon Labbe
“Forage management practical applications” — R.L. Dalrymple
“No substitute for good management” — J.D. Roussell
“Determining winter pasture stocking rates” — R.L. Dalrymple

Video
A video on MIG is currently being produced. The funding from this grant was not sufficient to complete the exhaustive training video in grazing management. The video is being completed with funding from other sources and will be available to SARE. This video should be beneficial to trainers as well as producers interested in MIG practices.

Impacts and Contributions
Preliminary results of the workshops held have indicated a definite need for additional educational training of agency personnel in sustainable methods of livestock grazing management. Training programs in sustainable agriculture have not been readily available in the South. The concept of “Management Intensive Grazing” (MIG) as a program for livestock producers has had some misconceptions.

Pre-workshop and post-workshop surveys have been conducted to determine the participants’ perception of the importance of numerous topics that affect livestock production. The participants ranked the constraints against setting up intensive grazing management systems. Personal management expertise of livestock and forages and knowledge of fencing systems have been ranked as the most important constraints against implementing MIG.