Degree Day Modeling and Economic Considerations of Insects and Weeds in Sheep Grazed Alfafla, Grain, and Range Production Systems

2013 Annual Report for SW11-086

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $206,700.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Hayes Goosey
Montana State University

Degree Day Modeling and Economic Considerations of Insects and Weeds in Sheep Grazed Alfafla, Grain, and Range Production Systems


We have completed the second and final field season of the project. As scheduled, the project was implemented on both private stake holder properties and the Montana State University (MSU) agriculture experiment station property. The same five locations used in 2012 were again used as 2013 field locations, with the same experimental objectives in place at each location.

Briefly, location one addresses the objectives 1b, 1c and 1d. Locations two, three and four address objectives 1a, 1c and 1b. Location five addresses objectives 1b, 1c and 1d.

We implemented the pre-test to our target audience during the 2012 Montana State University Extension Service Pest Management Tour. We had anticipated implementing the post-test to producers during 2013; however, we are experiencing logistical difficulties and will need to continue our follow up work at a later date. We are proposing, as the K-12 educational component of this project, to assess student knowledge gained and behavioral changes over an 18- to 24-month period in students who are exposed to facility modifications and curriculum changes as part of a USDA Farm-to-School grant award to the district. This will allow us to track student educational choices as a result of district changes which introduce sustainable agriculture education and provide modified facilities for hands-on learning.

Objective 2 will be addressed during the coming months now that field work is completed. Objective 3 was primarily addressed at locations two,three, four and five and was accomplished through our past and future Extension seminars and hands-on work with the Livingston School Districts.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1) Compare various intensities (0-200 DD) and model results of sheep grazing (fall and spring) and a no-input control on:

a) pea aphid and ASC populations in alfalfa.
b) change in alfalfa field plant community and alfalfa aftermath.
c) pollinator, predator and parasitoid populations in alfalfa.
d) Carabidae spp. diversity between sheep grazed cropland, improved pasture and rangeland.

2) Develop an economic decision support tool to evaluate long-term cost-benefits of sheep grazing in alfalfa production.

3) Develop and conduct large, multi-farm demonstrations. Communicate results to producers, students, scientists and the public on the advantages of incorporating prescriptive sheep grazing into alfalfa and cereal production systems.


We have just begun to process the samples collected to meet objective 1a. Processing these samples was intentionally delayed because they require the least amount of time, and our team agreed it was logical to process these last so that we had sufficient time to complete the identifications of larger and more complex samples. We are anticipating having all samples process by the beginning of 2014.

We have completed the field work to meet objective 1b and have preliminarily analyzed the 2012 data. Supporting documents are attached. All data are currently being analyzed for final presentation.

The specimens necessary to meet objective 1c are also contained in the samples which were taken to meet objective 1a. Sample processing began December 9, 2013, and all specimens will be classified into functional groups. Again, we are anticipating having these processed by early 2014.

The effort to meet objective 1d yielded a massive sample set which has comprised the bulk of our processing time. Sample processing from both 2013 and 2014 field seasons was completed November 26. Given this, we have yet to perform any analyses and so do not have any results to present at this time.

The economic decision support tool which will be used to meet objective 2 was developed from a previously funded Western SARE proposal. Now that sample processing is near completion, we will be using this tool, in the coming months, to conduct an economic assessment of the grazing systems.

We are anticipating having much of the analyses completed in early 2014. We foresee that much of the extension work will need to happen in the coming months.  Specifically, the 2013 MSU Pest Management Tour, where we had intended on conducting much of the follow-up work, was overbooked with participants and so our team did not participate; however, we are slated to participate in fall 2014. Additionally, the post-exposure follow-up conversations yielded minimal data due to low producer participation. Therefore we are proposing that the solution will be to once again participate in the MSU Pest Management tour in fall 2014 and use these seminars as a follow up sample to our 2012 work.

We are currently working toward a common goal with the Livingston School District, which just received a USDA Farm-to-School grant award. We have partnered with the district to measure changes in student knowledge gained and behavioral changes as a result of facility modifications and curriculum changes. This effort had to be postponed by one school year due to the delay in funding of their USDA Farm-to-School grant award. Additionally, the district experienced a personnel turnover in their Americorps vista volunteer position, who was our contact within the district. The district has since filled the vacancy and will be implementing the curriculum and facility changes over the next 12 months. Our team will be implementing our K-12 instructional component in February 2014 and, over the next 18 to 24 months, measuring student knowledge gained and educational behavioral changes.

Finally, we helped sponsor the 2013 ‘Yellowstone Food Festivals’ in Livingston, MT. These local events include our team’s target – at the local level, individuals interested in sustainable production practices. The project PI, Hayes Goosey was a guest speaker at the 2013 festival and used his time to increase the knowledge base of integrated livestock grazing systems.  

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The project impacts of 2013 can be measured in similar way as was reported in the 2012 annual report. The total contribution from the agricultural community has been access to over 21,000 hectares of land for research, on which over 3,000 head of domestic sheep and 2,000 head of domestic cattle graze. This reflects the value producers place on this research.

Additionally, the willingness of the Livingston public school administration to work in conjunction with our MSU team also reflects their understanding of the importance of sustainable agricultural education at the K-12 level. Having access to such a resource has dramatically increased the outcome potential of this award, and we are working daily to continue helping move the concept forward. Only through education does change come, and access to the K-12 level provides our team many youthful minds eager to learn. Therefore, many of the accomplishments, in terms of the educational value of this award, will be realized in the coming 18 to 24 months.

The team’s graduate student, Mr. Sean McKenzie, who was financially supported by this project, will be completing the requirements for his M. S. degree in May 2014. His contributions to the field of sustainable agriculture have been many, including his poster and oral presentations at multiple regional and national meetings. Also, his successful completion of all his course work along with two years of field work marks a major milestone and outcome of this project in terms of its success.

Finally, as our team completes the sample processing and data analyses phases of this project, we have our goals set on contintuing to present at regional and national meetings with eventual scientific publication in topic specific journals. This end result not only adds, in the short-term, to the knowledge base of sustainable agriculture practices but also to the long-term understanding and scientific support of integrated crop and livestock production systems.    


John Baucus

Box 1683
Helena, MO 59624
Office Phone: 4064589468
Dr. Rodney Kott
Montana State University
Wool Lab
Bozeman, MT 59717-2900
Office Phone: 4069945602
Duane Griffity
Assistant Professor
Montana State University
210 B Linfield Hall
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069942580
Dr. Kevin O’Neill
Montana State University
Marsh Lab 20A
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069942333
Bob Lehfeldt
Box 175
Lavina, MT 59046
Office Phone: 4066362731
John Helle
1350 Stone Creek Rd
Dillon, MT 59725
Office Phone: 4066836686
Dan Durhan
Soil Conservationist
402 S. Main
Sheradin, MO 59749
Office Phone: 4068425741
Dr. Fabian Menalled
Assistant Professor
Montana State University
Leon Johnson 719
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069944783
Dr. Greg Johnson
103 ABB
Bozeman, MT 59717-2900
Office Phone: 4069943875
Les Thomason

Box 12
Terry, MT 59349
Office Phone: 4068532494