Sustainable Forage and Livestock System for the Island of Tinian

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: Northern Mariana Islands
Principal Investigator:


  • Agronomic: peanuts, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: citrus
  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine, poultry, goats


  • Animal Production: housing, feed formulation, feed rations, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Pest Management: chemical control, cultural control, precision herbicide use
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Project Relevance

    The increased human population in the CNMI requires that research in feed production and utilization must be intensified to ensure an adequate supply of food of animal origin. In the CNMI, Marianas Public Land Authority (MPLA) manages and distributes pastoral leases to local farmers to promote and revitalize the cattle industry. However, island farmers are reluctant to invest their time and money in economic ranching, because of the low productivity of cattle raised on poor quality pasture, animal health problems, and the lack of government technical support. Grass and legumes exist in abundance in the tropics including the CNMI; however, no definitive study has been performed locally to establish its efficacy on growth or performance, or its potential toxicity to livestock. The goat industry is ideal on the CNMI due to the small land area and the increasing demand for goat meat. The price ranges from $200 for a 5-month-old goat to $300 for a cull doe or buck. The most common practice for goat raisers is to graze in poor/undeveloped pasture and supplement feeding with alfalfa hay or grains. It would take at least 10 to 12 months for a goat to reach market weight. Some producer do a daily cut and carry system that takes them to drive at least 5 to 10 miles from their farm. These practices not only increase their production costs but also reduce farm efficiency. Emphasis on pasture managements must be done in order to maximize the usefulness of this local natural resource. Pastured poultry must be investigated for possible alternative enterprise for CNMI farmers. In addition, it will promote and facilitate the efficient adoption of forage-livestock systems and introduce the concepts of sustainable agriculture among Pacific farmers. Several studies have been performed in the U.S., Europe, and Asia regarding ideal grass/legumes efficacy as staple feed in livestock, but no documented work of this kind has been conducted in Micronesia. The project will help Pacific farmers increase net profit by increasing yield of animal products per acre. At the same time, it can reduce cost of machinery, fuel, and facilities; reduce supplemental feeding and pasture waste; improve monthly distribution and pasture yield; improve animal waste distribution and use; improve pastures’ botanical composition; minimize daily fluctuations in intake and quality feed, and allocate pasture to animals more efficiently, based on nutritional needs.

    Project Outcome

    A. Increasing Producer knowledge base, awareness, attitudes, and skills: The project will initiate sustainable feed production and utilization for smallholder livestock enterprise. It will also establish and increase prevalence of safe, economical, and sustainable grazing management systems based on farm integration of goats and cattle to increase profits, to elevate food supplies, enhance long-term land productivity, and preserve and restore native plant species and biodiversity. It will also maximize the use of the locally available natural resources such as grass and legumes and raise awareness of the role of legumes in providing soil fertility in pasture areas. Farmers will be equipped with up-to-date grazing technology and pasture management. The project will provide options and alternatives to goat producers in improving goat production and encourage pasture development to be an option for disposal of manure from farms. The project will also promote collaborations with other land-grant institutions that will complement past projects on environmental stewardship.

    B. Information dissemination. For the outreach program, initial assessments will be done on what type of medium of information dissemination is highly acceptable to each locality. Local agencies together with farmer/ranchers, schools, and universities will be consulted for this goal before the actual technology transfer application occurs. Possible options are: (1) Farm Demonstration at each island with farmers given the opportunity to see the field sites. Regular farm visits together with lectures will be performed to strengthen the program. Field demonstrations with hands-on experiences include participant groups grazing demonstration, biodiversity, water systems, keeping pasture records, forage quality, field pasture assessments, forage harvest efficiency, fencing equipments, forages for year-round grazing, soils in the field, quantity measurement and species identification, and forage management practical applications. (2) Results will be disseminated in the region through network publications in the form of brochures, flyers, and compact disc (CD). The brochures and factsheets will be available for academic institutions and will be used as a tool to promote pasture management by extension agents to farmers. (3) Workshops and educational training programs will be conducted in collaboration of NMC CREES, USDA-NRCS, and DLNR to other local farmers, 4-H groups, and other interested individuals. Slideshows and overheads may also be produced. News articles will be prepared and sumbitted to local newspaper and newsletter will be published by the Cooperative Extension Service of the Land Grant and WSARE. (4) Inclusion of radio and television public service announcement will be used in the project to influence the farmer behavior toward acceptance. (5) Community involvement will be encouraged through the hosting of a Pasture Improvement Field Day in each local Agricultural and Food Fair with the collaboration of the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), CNMI Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Tinian Mayor’s Office, and Tinian High School. The Field Day program will entail agriculture sustainability addressing specific activities at particular sites as well as presentation of information on meat/beef production and management and an overview of happenings at the other sites. Field day demonstration for groups of farmers or other interested parties will be conducted at the demonstration site along with farm tours for individuals or parties by cooperators. During the first year, an outreach plan will be developed as it progresses. Information details as well as the tools produced will be disseminated in neighboring islands. Academic institutions within the Pacific countries will be provided with copies to assist with continuing education. Technical details will also be available and included in their websites.

    C. Resources Impact: For CNMI, about 6,800 hectares of pastureland/rangeland of the CNMI could potentially benefit from this pasture improvement project. This includes roughly 8 percent of Saipan, 43 percent of Tinian, and 6 percent of Rota. Tinian has 4,420 hectares of pastureland. Initially, there are about a hundred (100) ranchers and farmers, 6,000 head of cattle, 5,000 goats, and hundreds of horses in the CNMI that will benefit from the project. These cattle are confined on pasture areas or tethered around residences. The meat goat industry is slowly developing. Goat farms vary from 2-40 does. Goats are tethered or free grazing. Development of this project will open doors for rancher/farmer to get involved in the livestock business. Thus, livestock farmers for CNMI will decrease their feed cost, save time in their farm operation, and improve their general farm situation. Producers will realize that an improved pasture/legume grazing system is sufficient over buying imported hay and alfalfa. A change from cut and carry grasses that may take them at least 5 miles from their farm to planting legumes around their farm will avail farmers more time to attend to the breeding and attention to their animals. This grant will supplement a future genetic upgrading program through artificial insemination and educational training to livestock ranchers. With this project, we envision that CNMI’s cattle and goat industry will multiply far more once the improvements and technologies are adapted.

    D. Economic and Quality Life Impacts. Growing period to slaughter of meat will decrease from 12 to 8 months. The improved grass/legume combination will improve the current growth rate of finishing goats and cattle. A rancher with an average of 4 cattle can produce 250-300 lbs live-weight of beef if fed on a quality pasture (grass /legumes), compared to the existing grazing system, which yields 100-150 pounds per head: a projected increase of 100-200 pounds per head, resulting in the additional revenue of $180 to $360 per head. The cost of beef in the CNMI is approximately $1.80/lb. With the future development of a slaughter and processing facility, local farmers can supply beef requirements locally and have the possibility to revive exportation to Guam and neighboring islands, which will expand the livestock business and create more jobs for our island economy.

    2) Producer Involvement:
    The project site will be conducted at the CNMI Department of Land and Natural Resources and cattle/goat ranchers. Selected fields sites will be planted with Guinea grass; Sesbania, and Desmodium sp. Farmers will facilitate the process of evaluation during the entire project. They will be responsible for the preparation of the pasture area, fencing installation, planting of grass/legumes, maintenance of pasture, rotational grazing, husbandry management, record keeping, and data gathering as well as the dissemination of information in the outreach program. The project farmers will also play a key role in the trainings and workshops for the other farmers in their locality. They will be directly involved in the production of publication materials, public radio and television announcements, farm visits and tours, and community involvements in the forage field day event. Rancher/farmer’s produce can compete with the Annual Agricultural and Food Fair thus promoting product quality and competitiveness among themselves.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Goals

    1. The main objective of the project is to undertake forage evaluation and demonstration trials to develop a management and grazing system in the island of Tinian by incorporating adaptable forage grass and legumes species into a pasture improvement management plan for ruminant and poultry production systems;
    2. To raise the level of technical knowledge and management skills of beef producers; and to provide the extension and information service and training institutions with appropriate information on pasture and cattle management.
    3. Develop a goat industry as an additional source of income for small farmers. Provide options and alternatives to goat producers in improving goat production.
    4. Awareness of the role of legumes in providing soil fertility in pastures areas. Encourage pasture development to be an option for disposal of manure from farms; continue to educate each other as well as other livestock owners about structural improvements that protect natural resources.
    5. Explore methods for improving pasture and extending the grazing season in ways that are economical and efficient for farmers and ranchers.

    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.