Development of a Forage Establishment and Management Curriculum for Extension Agents and Mentor Farmers

Project Overview

SPDP21-04
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $77,469.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2023
Grant Recipient: Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Leanne Dillard
Auburn University
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Michelle Elmore
Auburn University
Ken Kelley
Auburn University
Dr. Kim Mullenix
Auburn University/Alabama Cooperative Ex
Dr. Rishi Prasad
Auburn University
Dr. Soren Rodning
Auburn University
Max Runge
Auburn University
Dr. David Russell
Auburn University
Dr. Jason Sawyer
Auburn University
Dr. Sonja Thomas
Auburn University

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, genetics, grazing management
  • Crop Production: nutrient management
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, mentoring, curriculum development
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    The development of this project will enhance productivity, environmental quality and profitability in agricultural production systems in Alabama and the Southeast through development and delivery of educational resources. This initiative is a collaboration among Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) specialists and Auburn University College of Agriculture faculty. The goals of this project are: 1) provide in-classroom training and hands-on demonstrations to educators for tools and related concepts to increase productivity, sustainability and profitability of forage-based livestock production systems, and 2) develop decisions tools (forage quick reference guide, webinars). These tools will address forage, soil, economic, and livestock market considerations in the region. The curriculum will also include topics on sustainability and resilience of forage-based systems considering climatic and economic issues (e.g. prolonged droughts and COVID-19 pandemic) in the region which have increased the need to improve management strategies and incorporate new technologies. Short-term knowledge gained will be accessed through pre- and post-knowledge surveys applied during trainings to attendees (NRCS and Extension agents and farmers). After completion, selected farmers (n = 3) will be invited to participate in a follow-up recorded interview to measure adoption rate of management practices from educational trainings and resources. Potential barriers will be noted and used to structure future curriculum development and trainings. This project includes web-based delivery of trainings if required to follow COVID-19 pandemic guidelines. Since Mar 2020, our Extension program has remained active and provided educational resources and content (e.g. Alfalfa in the South) and engaged through social media to reach broader clientele.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives are to develop an updated forage establishment and management curriculum for a reference guide and educational material and training for Extension agents from the Southeast region, NRCS agents and mentor farmers aiming to increase productivity, resilience and feasibility of forage-based systems. The specific objectives are:

    1) Educational Trainings and Network: develop educational resources on forage, beef, soil, economics, nutrient management, animal genetics and marketing strategies for forage-based livestock operations. Target tool for development of this project is to provide in-classroom training and hands-on demonstrations for Extension agents and mentor farmers on tools and concepts related to increase productivity, sustainability and profitability of forage-based livestock production systems. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, any in-person program delivery will be subjected to current guidelines at the time and will follow physical distancing and face covering regulations. If needed, trainings will be held on-line, and hands-on demonstrations will be held live through media resources using internet connection through portable routers (Hot Spots). PowerPoint presentations, handouts and other materials will be compiled and given to each attendee for further use, including local Extension activities and programs.

    Outcome: Increase educational resources available to improve forage and beef production, environmental sustainability, soil quality, and profitability in livestock production operations. Knowledge gained in sustainable production practices and application of concepts following training events.

    Evaluation plan: Pre- and post-knowledge surveys will be given to all attendees. After completion, a follow-up survey will be sent to mentor farmers to assess rate of implemented practices and concepts. Similarly, a follow-up will be conducted with agents to assess the transfer of knowledge to clientele and main barriers they are facing. The information gathered will serve to improve training quality and serve as basis to improve quality of following programs.

    2) Reference Guide Development: Create content and distribute reference guide to clientele. This guide will address forage identification, establishment and management, soil fertility and improved management practices, agricultural economics concepts, marketing and beef-related considerations.

    Outcome: Provide an easy to access guide that will serve as toolbox for decision making agricultural operations. Provide improved agronomic, environmental, economic and sustainable knowledge of forage-based systems.

    Evaluation plan: As distribution of resources occurs, we will monitor web-metrics to determine access to related content and reference guide distribution numbers. Thus, attendance and access of content pieces, Extension publications and trainings (in-person and web-based) related to topics from the guide will be monitored.

    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.